This review contains spoilers.
Like an orange-cagouled lamb to the slaughterhouse, Ellie Miller’s aggressive pursuit of the Sandbrook case after her heart-rending meeting with Tom led her to a grisly discovery. Was that agricultural incinerator the final resting place of Lisa Newberry’s body? Or is it simply another sleight of hand misdirection?
Not yet being in possession of all the facts, we viewers are at a loss when it comes to rationally sifting through them. Better to let the revelations and diversions tumble out at our feet over the remaining episodes while we let the series’ distracting beauty drift over us. And boy, was this episode beautiful.
Whether we have the arrival of The Railway Man director Jonathan Teplitzky or cinematographer John Conroy to thank for it, episode five was Broadchurch as an art-house flick. It’s always been a handsome, expressively filmed series, but this week’s style was something else. In an hour freighted with tense one-on-one confrontations, the shots matched the dialogue for drama point for point.
Scenes were stuffed to the seams with meaning. The camera continually retreated to a distance and sought out tiny silhouettes overpowered by their wide-shot surroundings and circumstances. Shoring up the theme of different versions of the truth, characters were repeatedly filmed through glass, their faces reflected and distorted. And echoing the mystery and unease in the script, shots eavesdropped from behind beach huts, stealing in from low angles and creeping out from behind church pews, industrial equipment and country stiles.
The depth of field was so shallow and the glow so honeyed in the court scenes that they looked almost romantic, a sort of Rumpole rendered by Monet. And as for the light in that blinding white prison visitor’s room, where are they holding Bishop’s son? Heaven?
Speaking of which, Reverend Rory’s church has never looked so imposing or divine. I don’t think I’d noticed that stained glass or those arches before they became the backdrop to his and Bishop’s bible-quoting tussle over redemption and forgiveness. Not to mention the symmetrically mirrored, highly stylised chessboard shot of opponents Bishop and Knight having that balcony fag, the overhead shot of Susan Wright’s umbrella, slow-mo scenes of Pippa Gillespie playing, or that yellow football drifting ghostly down Beth’s road.
Taken as a whole, it felt otherworldly, heightened, and just disorientating enough for this stage in a whodunit.
Because this is the part in the mystery where we’re being voluntarily spun around blindfolded. There are multiple possible culprits in the Sandbrook case – Lee, Claire, Ricky and even Lisa – none of whom are telling the whole story, most of whom seem to have been involved in some kind of steamy suburban swinging deal.
Philandering, drug-smuggling Ricky Gillespie’s currently in the frame, but is he a real suspect, or just a way of wrapping us all on the knuckles for being so easily swayed by the suggestion of guilt? Having been there from the start, none of us think Mark Latimer could possibly have killed Danny, but from the outside, how easy it is to believe that Ricky, with his changing alibi and dirty rap sheet, may have killed Pippa and Lisa? The Sandbrook murders are still proving a dramatically useful corollary to the Broadchurch case, as well as becoming more absorbing in their own right.
As series two accelerates to a conclusion, the emotional themes – forgiveness, blame, responsibility – previously drowned out by a gushing torrent of revelation, scandal and retreading old ground (Jocelyn called Susan Wright’s surly appearance a mistake, and I’m minded to agree with her) are being pulled to the surface. It’s not being subtle about it, as Beth’s paedo parade and Hardy’s will-making illustrated, but nuance is always the first casualty of a series overcrowded with incident.
Broadchurch‘s political theme – the relationship between the legal system and justice – is being better handled. Beth’s “I worry the truth won’t be enough” was, for me, the line of the episode.
As devastating as it was to have our worst suspicions about Joe confirmed at the end of the last series, it’s equally crushing to think that we may now see him go free. Would Chris Chibnall do that to the nation? He might, you know. He just might.
Read Louisa’s review of the previous episode, here.
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