The season 2 premiere established two inevitabilities if nothing else: the two murder investigations in Alec Hardy’s life at the moment would cross paths, and everything would go horribly wrong. It doesn’t take too long for that to happen. In fact, that’s exactly what happens in the Wednesday, March 11 episode of “Broadchurch,” only the second of the season.
It seems like everything is happening at once and fast. Broadchurch may still be reeling from Joe pleading not guilty, but the trial is already beginning. Claire was just introduced in the premiere and Alec just revealed his plan to Ellie to use her to lure Lee in, and his plan is set in motion here in episode 2. Alec takes the stand and sets up Claire and Lee’s meeting all in one afternoon. “Let’s not waste any time,” season 2 seems to be saying, and that’s a good thing. (At least it is for now; only time and the rest of the season can tell if they maintain that pace.)
Before the trial even begins, Jocelyn comes across an obstacle: Ellie’s encounter with Joe at the station – and namely, that she left bruises that have been documented – and that Alec even let her in there with him in the first place. It can be seen as police brutality and a confession through violence, even though the confession came before it and Alec had Ellie removed quickly. Something else that will probably end up hurting the prosecution, though they don’t know it just yet, is that Paul is still visiting Joe and no one knows it. Paul wants him to change his plea, but instead, Joe uses the time to ask for a photo of Fred and for Paul to tell Tom he loves him and will be home soon. Joe even asks him, “Whose side you on?” as he wonders why he’s there.
Being newbies to the legal world, the Broadchurch residents don’t realize that they shouldn’t all gather at the Latimers’ and call Jocelyn over for some pre-trial advice. A criminal trial is a detailed, unpredictable process, she warns them. If you’re called, don’t confer on the evidence and never lie because lies are exposed in court. In this town, even though Beth says none of them have anything left to hide, it’s the perfect stage for everything to be revealed.
In fact, the first two to take the stand reveal a couple of things not everyone knew about, as Sharon brutally cross-examines Beth and Alec, doing her job but doing it in such a way that it’s painful to watch after getting to know these characters in season 1, seeing how it all played out and feeling for them, especially because of Jodie Whittaker’s performance as Beth in every episode. Sharon questions her about her marriage until she says that Mark slept with Becca, Danny knew and Mark hit Danny once. It’s what Sharon both wanted and needed to hear, and that’s just the beginning.
When Alec takes the stand, Sharon focuses on the means by which he got Joe’s confession – namely, she accuses him of coercing him into saying he killed Danny and even suggests that he just found Danny’s phone and was going to bring it to the police when Alec jumped to a false conclusion to suit his purposes: he was under pressure and needed results, having just been labeled Britain’s worst cop by the press. She then brings up Ellie’s actions when he allowed her to see Joe, which went against procedure, and suggests that Alec used violence to get the initial confession as well. Why should they believe him after he admitted to standing by and watching a colleague beat up a suspect, she asks. The defense wants the confession excluded, and even though the confession was on camera, before his injuries, the judge agrees with the defense. This trial is off to a horrible start for the prosecution.
Meanwhile, Alec’s stuck in a boring teaching job, making sure potential offers will meet the required standards, and he may not be fit for the job he wants, but that doesn’t stop him from being right in the middle of everything. Lee has already shown he’s not the kind of guy to sit on the sidelines and just wait, and that continues in episode 2. He leaves Claire a voicemail (“I want you to know I love you. I’ve been thinking of you all this time. …I’m close now. See you soon.”) and continues to follow Alec. He wants to know where Claire is and he lets him know that he knows about his health. Everything’s coming together for Alec’s plan.
But first, Alec needs to get Claire on board, but seeing Lee is the last thing she wants to do. Introducing Ellie to Claire may turn out to be the best thing Alec has done because while the women may have different jobs, may have met their husbands in different ways and ha different relationships with them, they do share something in common: their husbands are a prime suspect (Lee) and a confessed murderer (Joe). When Ellie asks if Claire thinks Lee is capable of killing the two girls, Claire responds, “I don’t know, do you think your husband was?” Ellie tries to essentially guilt trip Claire into the meeting by bringing up the Sandbrook families, but for Claire, seeing Lee again would be like going back to a drug she had been addicted to and never wanted to take again. That doesn’t stop Ellie from pushing, promising to look after her and explaining this is something she can put right – and that’s something she desperately needs to do with her old life gone.
Ellie’s words work, and Claire agrees to the meeting, but would she have if she had any idea what was going to happen? (Maybe, because there seems to be something just a bit off once Claire and Lee are alone in a room together.) For some strange reason, Ellie’s empty house is chosen for the meet, but it’s the last place it should happen and not just because Nige sees Ellie there and tells Beth. It means that the two murder investigations in Alec’s life are not just meeting each other but overlapping, crashing into one another and right where they shouldn’t be: occupying the same space.
Alec has set up recorders and cameras in the living room to keep an eye on the Ashworths while he stays in the kitchen and Ellie is right outside the front door. However, while Lee’s checking Claire for a wire, Beth confronts Ellie in the street, going so far as to accuse her of beating up Joe because she knew it would give him a chance in court. Then, everything descends into chaos. Lee notices Beth and Ellie in the street. Beth’s water breaks. Alec finds the living room empty. Lee and Claire are gone.
“Broadchurch” season 2 airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on BBC America. What did you think of episode 2?