I was going to start with another instalment of Things People Have Been Saying About Broadchurch, because there really isn’t any shortage of material, but let’s not. Enough. Instead, let’s get to the action. We start with the verdict in Joe Miller’s murder trial, and it’s a not guilty. Oh dear. So Jocelyn needn’t have bothered coming out of retirement after all. For some reason Joe thinks he can hang about in Broadchurch, but after hiding out at the church he gets dobbed in by Paul Whicker the Tall Vicar, and Mark and Nige abduct him.
They don’t kill him, though. In a memorable scene in the very first episode Mark walked through the friendly, smiling Broadchurch community. The community has turned out again, but this time it’s to make it clear to Joe that he isn’t welcome – obviously, you might think – and Paul has arranged, apparently through a network of similarly hooky priests, for him to be accommodated in a halfway house in Sheffield. Which on one view brings this storyline to an end. I’m not sure it does, though; we aren’t much further forward than we were at the end of season 1, and I’d say that should the show require it we aren’t yet absolutely clear on who killed Danny, still less on motive.
Still, at least the trial is over. And in response to the assertion that it doesn’t matter if the trial is run under the court rules of Bizarro World: well, perhaps it doesn’t. Unless you’re going to use your second season to criticise the procedural inaccuracies of the first, in which case you should probably at least try to make a better job of procedure in the second. And until someone is found not guilty because his confession has been incorrectly treated as inadmissible. That isn’t writing; that’s cheating.
In Sandbrook news: they all did it, and that shared knowledge kept them all quiet. At least we got flashbacks as well as confessions: one head banged off a floor; one head roofied and smothered; secrets kept for years. It could have been worse, but I’m not sure it was a story which needed to be told at all. And the final scene was, presumably, designed to show that family and friends can overcome hideous loss and pain, but looked a little awkward: would you really hang out with the wife of the man who murdered your son?
So what to make of Broadchurch? Actually, I think the critical reaction to this season has perhaps been unduly harsh. Season 1 was overpraised. But season 2 has been unfairly criticised. Admittedly episodes 2 and 3 were rank, and the idea of using your second season to reassess the dramatic choices of your first was stupid. But all that’s happened is that an above-average British TV drama has regressed to the mean and become an average British TV drama; no more, no less. Although some viewers have been shed along the way there will be a season 3, which really doesn’t feel necessary.
I suppose Joe will return to Broadchurch, and the murder of Danny will be reopened. I also have a lingering concern about Sandbrook. Yes, they’ve confessed. But as we know from this season that means nothing. For example: Claire’s confession was given to two police officers. One actually works as a traffic cop in Devon, pretended to be her friend, and went on the pull with her, while taking the first opportunity to seize and examine her phone without getting a warrant. The other works at the police training college and was, at best, funding his own informal witness protection arrangement for her. She accused him on tape of raping her and imprisoning her. What sort of a confession is that?
They couldn’t. Could they?