This review contains spoilers.
Welcome back to Broadchurch, a place where so much happens in slow-motion that come the series finale, the town will lag a full hour behind Greenwich Mean Time. This week’s visit was about getting back to normal when there’s no such thing, and narrowing the field of murder suspects.
DI Hardy’s subconscious has that group reduced to just four: Steve the psychic, Nige the plumber, Paul the vicar, and Mark, the victim’s father, all of who appeared in Hardy’s dream standing in the surf like a nineties boy band reunited a decade after their prime. At this stage, we have to add at least Joe Miller to that line-up, and potentially a few others: young Tom, the blink-and-you’ll-miss-him-but-oddly-in-the-previously-on-Broadchurch-edit-this-week postman, perhaps even Brian from the King’s Arms… To be frank, at this stage I’d hear an argument for taking Danny’s Nan down to the station for one of Hardy’s Scottish swab ‘n’ sermon combos. That is, if we can discount Hardy himself.
It’s eight weeks since Danny’s murder, and the change in season has forced the Latimers out of stasis (remember those stopped clocks in episode one?) and into forward motion. Chloe went to school, Mark went to work, and Beth, self-tagged the “dead-boy’s mum”, went to meet a potential version of her own future – a bereaved mother whose family didn’t survive the loss -, an encounter that prompted Beth to choose life. Despite the hair-pulling frustration of the Sandbrook mother’s “There’s so much I want to tell you but I can’t” line, the scene was well-played, and its take on grief insightful. It doesn’t grow any smaller. You do just learn to live with it.
“Toxic” Hardy’s professional reputation at this point is about as robust as his health, which is to say, he’s at death’s door. Dubbed “the worst cop in Britain” by that Daily Mail-clone rag (anyone else note the cheekily retrograde Mail-aping ‘Career and family: can women really have it all?’ feature on the cover?), things are not looking swell for him. Reverend Coates’ impassioned speech to Hardy on faith may have been a little on-the-nose, but he had a point. Faith in Hardy’s ability to fulfil his episode one promise of catching whoever killed Danny has significantly dwindled, both in the town, and amongst the programme’s audience.
Such was the inertia of Hardy’s investigation that he suffered an after-hours office breakdown, during which time he was reduced to looking for Danny’s killer in his colleagues’ desk drawers. The collapses are becoming more frequent too as the whodunit enters the home stretch. His symptoms seem to be finely timed with narrative cruxes and breakthroughs, as if he suffers from a particularly infelicitous medical condition that makes him specifically allergic to clues.
And clues there were. More information came to light about some of the key players, not least Reverend Coates, now revealed to be a recovering alcoholic with an accidental child assault in his past. After some mud-raking, Susan Wright was also outed, this time as the wife of a now-dead “monster”, and had presumably come to Broadchurch to stake out an isolated life away from the tabloid furore. After learning of Jack’s tragic family life last week and listening in on Hardy’s phone call to his estranged daughter this, it makes you wonder if the town of Broadchurch is on some kind of ley line convergence point for secret grief. Was it really just the coastal vistas that prompted Echo editor Maggie, and Cardiff-born paramedic Joe to move there?
The revelations continued, thanks to young Tom’s outburst about hating Danny and poorly thought-out decision to smash up his laptop in the woods behind the church. What evidence was Tom attempting to destroy? And what had transpired between the boys to turn them from best friends into enemies?
A similar change in affection had gone down between Joe Miller and former “new bloody mate” Hardy. Miller is becoming more and more suspicious as the weeks go on. After Olly’s paintball revelation, we know, as does Ellie, that her husband is capable of keeping secrets from her. Should Welsh Joe actually turn out to be Danny’s killer, this week’s ‘interrogate me’ flirtation at the skate park will register off the dramatic irony chart on a re-watch.
Once we know the killer’s identity, will Broadchurch warrant a re-watch? The performances are certainly good enough, and some will no doubt enjoy trawling for missed clues on a repeat viewing, but personally, I’m watching now to see how it ends, not to spend any more time in the emotionally fraught, heightened world of the drama.
On the subject of endings, the close of episode six upped the ante significantly, with our first bona fide cop pursuit. Who was inside that black hoodie? Was it them who made the call that distracted Miller so they could make good their escape? If so, it must have been someone who had her number… Fingers crossed, the next two weeks will reveal all.
Read Louisa’s review of the previous episode, here.
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