This review contains spoilers.
As a pervasive film of the moment teaches, there can be pleasure in pain. When DI Hardy muttered that eureka-like “Of course!” at the end of series one’s penultimate episode, the agony was delicious. For one stupefied week, we stumbled around in a bubble of speculation, asking strangers in bus queues and GP’s waiting rooms, “Are you watching it?”. It hurt to be made to wait, but the anticipation was glorious and the reward was worth it.
Playing the same trick this week, Broadchurch blew it. Teasing tipped over into frustration, suspense tipped over into annoyance, and the audience was left asking ‘how much longer?’ in miffed tedium and not delighted countdown. In the battle of the cliff-hangers, will-Joe-go-free versus who-killed-Danny is simply no contest.
It isn’t that we already know what the verdict will be in the Broadchurch trial, more that its consequences are inconsequential. If Joe’s judged guilty, then everything goes back to the beginning. If he’s judged not-guilty, then Mark and Bishop are right – the system stinks and it’s all been for naught. The first option makes series two redundant and the second option erodes the resolution of series one. Whatever happens, we’re going to be left dissatisfied.
Which, presumably, is why yet more Sandbrook scandal was waved in our face this week – it’s the brightly coloured toy being used to distract a fractious child. Murder, stalking, suicide attempts, date-rape drugs, adultery, domestic violence, alcoholism, secret abortion, sex games… The Sandbrook case now has enough juicy headlines to fill a bumper bank holiday issue of That’s Life magazine (“I Was Married To A Child-Killer” Secret Suburban Swinger Reveals Risky Rohypnol Raunch).
What the Sandbrook investigation lacks is any urgency if ‘Quarrel’ and Hardy’s dilatory approach is anything to go by. Both spent the hour catching up on connections the audience had made weeks ago. “I always thought she was lying to protect you, maybe it’s the other way around” Hardy told Lee Ashworth. “How about we finally bother calling that number you wrote down from Claire’s mobile in episode three?” he told Miller (I’m paraphrasing).
Hardy’s post-operative new lease of life might have left him angry, cocky, and any number of other alternative Disney dwarfs, but it hadn’t helped his persuasive talents. Alec’s had Claire holed up in Broadchurch for months now and squeezed barely a drop of evidence from her. She has one clifftop chat with Rev Rory (“My Homeless Booze Hell” Rat-Arsed Reverend Confesses) and immediately starts throwing incriminating jewellery right into Hardy’s hands. The vicar should clearly have been the investigating officer all along – this whole mess would have been wrapped up weeks ago. And he’d probably have finished Lee Ashworth’s clifftop fence to nowhere while he was at it.
After Lee tried to drown her, Claire parted ways with her hubby for good, and now seems ready to talk (we knew things had got serious when she was wearing her flashback hoody). What though, will her story be? What are we to make of Lee’s incinerator memory? Who here is protecting whom?
“You’re so stupid”, Claire told Lee prompting the question of whether he was actually the “other half” she rhapsodised about in that speech to Hardy – not pillow talk, we now realise, but him supporting her through a pregnancy termination. Perhaps Pippa or Lisa was really the object of Claire’s love? That would be a twist. (“I Lived Next Door To My Secret Murdered Child” Horny Hairdresser Reveals All).
It was Lee’s words though, that provided the most intriguing hint as to what next week might bring. Nobody knows him on the continent, he told Claire, “Well, almost nobody”. Another red herring, or a bonafide clue that Lisa Newberry is alive, well and living la belle vie en France? (I’ve not forgotten my promise, by the way. Seeing that Lisa didn’t, as predicted, turn up fresh from a P&O ferry at the end of this week’s episode, the minute I finish typing, I’ll be toasting my words to a nice golden brown before humbly tucking in.)
There was celebration as well as frustration to be had in the hour. TV needs more romantic middle-aged gay picnics and more scenes of flippant Junior QCs being told off for treating people’s lives like game shows. It also needs many, many more expertly delivered speeches from Charlotte Rampling. God, she’s good.
Overall though, episode seven felt very much like what it was: a placeholder prelude to a drawn-out ending. It teased us, eclipsed the series’ few affecting emotional stories with a liberal scattering of even more titillating Sandbrook gossip, and ultimately, left us peeved.
Can I suggest a strapline for the DVD release of this series? Broadchurch 2 – The Folly Of Having Your Cake And Eating It.
Read Louisa’s review of the previous episode, here.
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