I just wanted to jot down some thoughts about series 3 of Broadchurch, of which the second episode aired last night. Spoilers behind the cut.
I'm going to do this right and put the tl;dr at the top.
tl;dr: I am eager to find out whodunit and see how they handle this most delicate of topics, but the drama and the humanity that made series 1 (and to a lesser extent, series 2) so good is completely missing.
If you didn't already know, S3 deals with sexual assault. From the first moment of episode one, you're watching the victim, Trish, as she goes through the police process. It's a terrible, harrowing experience. Miller and Hardy deal with her as delicately as they can while trying to gather the evidence they need before it goes completely stale, and honestly, doing this violates her again. The show made no apologies. It tried to be as honest about the woman's experience as it could while remaining within the acceptable boundaries of prime-time television.
From there, Miller and Hardy start to work on the case. Trish had been assaulted while attending a friend's party held at an old manor house: she was knocked out and dragged somewhere on the grounds, and woke to the man raping her. Her eyes were covered so she couldn't see him, and he knocked her back out again. She later found herself walking home and reported the assault two days after the attack.
The detectives start investigating the grounds and the guest list at the party, plus other people that were known to have access (such as the taxi driver who was shuttling people to and from the party), so we are introduced to a whole slew of people from Trish's life. While this is happening, we catch up with characters from the previous series. Hardy is back to being DI and his teenage daughter Daisy is living with him now. Ellie's son Tom is also happily living at home, though he is caught by his school distributing porn from his phone. Beth and Mark are separated and Beth is working as an assault counselor (and is assigned to Trish). Paul is concerned that church attendance has dropped to nil. Maggie is living with the lawyer from last series (can't remember her name) and is battling the closure of the Broadchurch Echo.
And that's it. The show is about as dry as the paragraph I wrote above, and this is the problem. It is not engaging. We're learning information from each scene, but there's nothing to make us care about what's going on. Once the opening scene of Trish's examination by the police is done and Hardy and Miller take her home, there are infrequent shots of her alone and upset. Yes, this is accurate and true to life, but it's not compelling. Trish has a daughter, Leah, who was out of town at the time of the incident. Leah came home in episode 2 in a scene that lasted maybe two minutes. Trish tells her what happens and cries, and they hug... and that's it. We see nothing else about their relationship or how they are coping together. Trish appears once more in the episode, in the last scene, later that evening, and Leah is not even there.
And that's really where the show is not living up to its reputation. Think back to series 1. What was it that made Broadchurch so good? It was that the characters were solid and we got to watch the town fall apart and reform, stronger than before, as secrets came out during the investigation. By the end of episode 1, we had a pretty good idea of who all the characters were, and we were eager to see how they would cope with the murder of Danny Latimer. Episode 2 of series 3 has ended, and all we have is a bunch of notes about how each of the male suspects are related to Trish. I believe we have only twice seen one of them talk to someone that wasn't Hardy and Miller.
The show feels disjointed, like it simply has too many characters and not enough time to deal with them. It doesn't even have enough time to deal with the characters it brought from the previous seasons. Hardy's daughter is living with him - but we don't know why. What happened that caused her to leave her mother and move in with her father? It feels very much like she's there simply to give him someone to worry about with a sexual predator loose in the town. Maggie's thread with the Echo closing down came from out of the blue, and I'm sure it'll somehow tie into everything (because why have an unrelated story muddling everything up otherwise), but like everything else in this show, we'll find out about it later.
And that's the crux of the problem. There's so much stuff going on - dull procedural stuff - and so far, the way it's dealt with the sexual assault has been well done, that you feel like it's going to be complicated and interesting and shocking... someday. There's no Beth Latimer running onto the beach screaming and the police dragging her away from her son. There's no Joe Miller sitting in a glass box proclaiming himself to be "Not guilty." There's nothing holding your attention now.
I am still enjoying it and am looking forward to the rest of the series, but it really needs to return to its roots and hook us back in with good character drama and development soon.