Broadchurch episode 7 review

Broadchurch's penultimate episode is a belter. Tense, well-structured, and boasting some great perfomances...

This review contains spoilers.

When else in the history of television have the words “Of course!” prompted a nation to throw down the sofa cushion it’d been tensely gnawing on for the past hour, look up to the sky, clench its fists, and scream a prolonged, action-movie-style “Nooooooooo”? Not often, I’d bet.

Seconds after DI Hardy had uttered those eureka-like words, Broadchurch’s theme music arrived to complete the torment, those floaty Icelandic vocals taunting us like a playground ghost. “So clo-o-o-o-ose” to finding out who killed Danny Latimer we might be,  but we’re not there yet. There’s one extended-length episode to go, after which we’ll finally be able to lower our collective shoulder muscles, say “Huh. Thought so” and go about our business.

Because this is the best bit, isn’t it? This is the honeymoon/halcyon/salad-y part of TV whodunits, just before the end, when all our theories and clues could still mean something, when we’re as alert as a cocker spaniel who’s heard the unmistakeable ring of his dinner bowl being placed on the kitchen floor, when we don’t yet know.

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You might think you know of course, and you could well be proved right. A few savvy forum-types predicted the Nige/Susan revelation before this week’s episode, so out there, somewhere, will be a stout, correct theory as to how and why Tom and Joe Miller (the favourites at this point) did young Danny in. Let’s push the predictions into the comments section for now, because there’s a great deal to discuss besides next week’s unveiling.

Parental protection was the theme tying together this week’s multi-stranded episode. It was the motif of Beth’s affecting monologue on the torture she’d endure to keep Danny safe, the reason Hardy shouldered the blame for his wife’s mistake, and why Susan shopped estranged son Nige to the police. Those three were just the warm-up act though, for another protective parent in the wings, one due her starring moment in next week’s finale.

Two lines from Ellie Miller this week set her up for a fall, dialogue that will sing with dramatic irony and subtext if the finale unfurls in the way many are predicting. “I’m a mum, and whatever my child had done, I’d want to protect him”, was the first, and the second – also said to Susan – “Back then, in your own house, how could you not know?”. In my episode four review, I pleaded with Chris Chibnall for lovely, optimistic Ellie not to discover the murderer underneath her own roof, but it’s looking increasingly as if he didn’t listen.

Not that we’re really dealing with the same Ellie as we were back in episode four. Colman’s character is different now, in her own words, hardened. That much was clear in this week’s no-nonsense, in-charge daily briefing, the mirror to her stumbling attempt at leading the troops in episode three. Mark Latimer bemoaned the loss of Beth’s innocence this week, but she isn’t the only Broadchurch mother to have had her optimism drained away. I fear the worst for Ellie. I think we may have seen the last of that cheery orange cagoule.

Remembering the ‘counselling’ session, it strikes me what a capable double act Jodie Whittaker and Andrew Buchan are. Director James Strong captured another terrific performance from both this week, Whittaker especially. That the scene was easily matched by another three-hander in the Echo office is testament to the strength of this episode, and of Broadchurch’s ensemble cast as a whole.

Structurally, this week’s episode was a coup too, and kept its audience in the palm of its sweating hand. Seguing from the yellow-lit briefly fuzzy baby scan to Miller’s cold, blue interrogation room was an effectively rousing clash, and running Nige and Susan’s interviews concurrently another neat choice. The Latimer dinner table scene was also beautifully done, Dean’s revelation about Danny accompanying he and Nige on animal-catching trips dropping into the scene like a stone in a millpond.  

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Like Susan Wright and her sorry tale, DI Hardy finally unburdened himself of the story of the Sandbrook pendant this week, confessing to Maggie and her protégé Ollie that he allowed his name to be smeared to shelter his daughter from her mother’s affair. Let’s hope it was as cathartic and cleansing for his cardiac arrhythmia as it was for the viewers. Who could suspect heroic Hardy now, should he live to fight another day? There’s only the matter of his having been to Broadchurch as a child (the freckly one on the beach in the Who’s Who of Alec’s tormented subconscious that opened the episode) to wheedle out of him now.

Will Hardy live to frown another day? The script took some pains this week to remind us that his time was running out. “I can still solve this, otherwise, why am I still here?” he told DS Miller, inferring once again that the Broadchurch case was some kind of divine mission for the character, a penance that once completed, will allow him to pass over. If Chibnall and ITV do kill off Hardy in these franchise-frenzied days, I won’t rage, but instead will offer them a tip of my fictional hat (I don’t have the face for real ones). Fair play, I’ll think. You had a story to tell, and you told it very well indeed. Now onto the next thing.

Before that can happen of course, there’s a killer to find, and Joe Miller, Broadchurch’s only other “close to home” baldie with access to a boat (and size ten feet?) is the direction in which we’re looking. If we’re right, and Joe acted in some way to protect son Tom (whose animosity with Danny is now well-documented), the question remains how far DS Miller will go to do the same.

Read Louisa’s review of the previous episode, here.

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