Broadchurch was the best TV crime drama of 2013, on that I think there is a widespread consensus. The screenplay by Chris Chibnall did something relatively fresh and certainly impressive with the whodunit concept. As a result, there was a massive commercial imperative to make a second series, and I was one of millions of people looking forward to it. After tonight's final episode, how do I feel about it?
The first thing to say is that expectations often shape our reactions in a very unfortunate way. Many fans of the first series have found the follow-up deeply disappointing. And to an extent, I am among them. What I find more difficult to figure out, at least in terms of my instant reaction now that I know the outcome, is the extent to which this is because I admired the first series so much. The second series was bound to be different - did I give it enough credit on its own terms?
There were undeniably positives to take from the second series (sorry, the temptation to slip into footballer jargon proved irresistible.) The acting was very good, the new murder plot intriguing, and the setting visually compelling. Chris Chibnall worked hard to make sure that something gripping was always happening, or about to happen. And that's why I kept watching. But the screenplay achieved its grip at a price.
The first series was subtly written, but I felt the second went "over the top" too often for comfort. I didn't dislike it (some good judges did) but I felt that plausibility was sacrificed, and as a result I cared much less about the characters this time around. The murder trial plot seemed contrived and the lawyers' behaviour simply incredible. It's right to make allowances for fiction, but I found myself unable to suspend disbelief. Too often the storyline veered deep into soap opera territory. Now, soap operas can make compelling viewing, but I think it's a pity that Broadchurch moved so far in the direction of the wildly melodramatic. I definitely don't regret watching it, but something has changed. When I learned there was going to be a second series, I felt I must make sure that I saw it. There is to be a third series, but even with such a good writer, and fine actors, I no longer feel that it's a must-watch. I just hope series three confounds expectations in a very different way..