This review contains spoilers.
Last week, the Latimer family was drowning in sympathetic platitudes from their neighbours, this week; it was flowers, cards, and home-cooked food. Not that episode three lingered in the domestic for long, unusually for Broadchurch, we spent much of the hour inside an all-too-familiar location in crime drama: the interrogation room.
It was four days since the discovery of Danny’s body, and suspicion had fallen at the feet of father Mark, revealed – as many suspected – to be in the early stages of an affair with local hotelier Becca Fisher. Beth’s discovery of Mark’s infidelity in the episode’s closing moments would have left Broadchurch on a soap-style revelation, were it not for that gorgeously eerie final shot of the looming cliff, the almost occult candle-lit memorial site, and the blazing rowboat.
Fittingly for an episode that charted the course of mistrust running between Beth and Mark Latimer, episode three of Broadchurch was bracketed by two scenes of the couple in bed. The first concluded with them holding hands, while the last saw them back-to-back before Beth asked Mark the question that had been stewing since last week: “Did you kill him?” “It’s only episode three,” Mark seemed to reply, “What makes you think I’d tell you now?”.
The episode was punctuated by atmospheric landscapes that showed Broadchurch’s postcard prettiness to have been altered by Danny’s murder. Doctor Who director Euros Lyn gave us the illuminated white murder hut in the background of blue-black rolling waves, as tainted and alien a presence in the once-bucolic scene as that luminous SOCO evidence tent on the tourist-favourite beach. Beth’s walk through the wind-blown sea-grass was framed with a similar otherworldly ambiance, and made her seem like the vulnerable quarry to ‘psychic’ Steven’s predator, which, if you share my opinion of charlatans like him who prey on the recently bereaved, is exactly what she is.
The “never-ending sky” wasn’t a hit with everyone, as DI Hardy’s hate-filled monologue told us. There was something poetic and theatrical, Shakespearean even, about that speech, as the character laid out his inner angst for the audience’s benefit. He hates Broadchurch, the air, the sound, the stupid people… “So why is he there?” asked his doctor pal. One word: penance. The events of the enigmatic Sandbrook case, of which journo Karen reminds him daily, anchor him to Broadchurch. He has to solve Danny’s murder to atone for his actions – however exonerated – on the previous investigation.
Olivia Colman’s DS Miller remains a fantastic foil for Hardy, disrupting his brooding, cliff-top, tortured hero act with her orange cagoule and cheery thermos. Her quick-tongued, down-to-earth warmth anglicises Broadchurch beautifully, ensuring that for every shot of Tennant’s character framed as a handsome tormented hero alone in a bleak Scandi-landscape, there’s one where she calls him a knob and offers him a chip. She should be hired out to deflate the self-importance of stand-offish, traumatised detectives throughout TV land. Imagine her aggressively inviting Wallander to come round for dinner at hers, or taking Sarah Lund out for a pint of prawns and a Real Ale. Crime drama needs more Ellie Millers, and it needs Olivia Colman to play them all.
So who do we think did it? Broadchurch is positioning its clues, twists and red herrings at such a steady rate that assessing the evidence this early on seems a fool’s errand. So much remains unknown, including the true nature of most of the surrounding players – Pauline Quirke’s loner, Will Mellor’s psychic, Arthur Darvill’s vicar, even Miller’s young son Tom… Theorise by all means, but I’m happer to sit back and let Chris Chibnall dangle any number of poorly concealed crossbows and burning boats in front of us while he tells Broadchurch’s still-captivating human story.
As I’ve said before, one of the most engaging aspects of the drama is the inside-out perspective we’re shown on small-town murder. In real-life cases, we would see headlines, news reports, and weeks of often unscrupulous speculation in print, but Broadchurch places us right in the eye of the grief, giving us the raw materials of the press hoopla for us to reverse engineer based on years of exposure to murder in the media. Mark’s colleague Nige for example, remarking harmlessly to journalist Karen that “Nothing’s perfect” in reference to the Latimers’ marriage is a snippet you could imagine reproduced and repeated within the columns of a tabloid, sparking uninformed speculation around the country. The same goes for Karen’s interest in the marital status of newsagent and sea brigade volunteer Jack Marshall, a character so immediately identifiable as a modern-day tabloid bogeyman that Broadchurch would have to pull a triple-bluff if he actually turned out to be responsible for Danny’s death.
Despite being barely closer to solving the case, some progress was made this week. Mark’s affair is finally out in the open, journo Karen was revealed to be a maverick with a grudge to bear, and DI Hardy even made Miller a cup of tea. Oh, and who wants to bet that Hardy’s dislike of water will return come Broadchurch’s eventual conclusion? See you next week.
Read Louisa’s review of the previous episode, here.
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