This article comes from Den of Geek UK.
This review contains spoilers.
“It’s a scarily wide net right now” said Miller about the search for Trish’s rapist. She’s not wrong. This week’s episode was all about the depressingly high number of plausible suspects. Ian doesn’t have an alibi. Cath has reason to think it could have been Jim. We were left thinking it was Lucas. Then there’s Ed, Leo, the caterer, the band, the owner of Axehampton House and roughly fifty other men, all of whom have yet to be ruled out.
Ellie’s moment of apprehension about that hooded dog walker showed just how widely the suspicion spreads. The bleakness of the picture was summed up by Cath and Trish’s crumbling certainty about the attacker not being somebody they knew. “A few drinks…” started Cath, letting us finish her thought that any man, given the right (or wrong) circumstances, could be responsible.
Cath and Trish’s conversation recalled Beth’s hardened “We know” to Miller’s series one protest that the list she and Mark had drawn up of Danny’s potential killers comprised only their friends. If Broadchurch had one overarching lesson it might be that you never know what ordinary people are capable of.
That applies both ways, of course – to horrific acts but also to resilience and strength. Beth’s “we will not let them win” speech after Trish offered her condolences for Danny’s death was this week’s most moving scene. It was also heartening to see Trish take Beth’s advice and turn to her friend. I hope anyone watching who felt similarly isolated would do the same.
It does feel as though there’s an element of public service about this series of Broadchurch. Beth’s gentle, straightforward approach to Trish offers a helpful template for how to talk to people going through trauma, and the ongoing discussion of the case provides useful dos and don’ts when discussing rape. Do give the survivor credence, don’t assume—as Ed does—that rape only happens to a certain kind of woman, do remember that, in Ellie’s words “it was about power and control, not sex”… Real care has obviously been taken to ensure that the subject is treated responsibly.
Perhaps though, a little too responsibly for realism. Without criticising wholly admirable intentions, it has felt over the previous three weeks as though we’re being schooled in the correct attitude towards rape instead of watching it play out with recognisable ugliness through the town’s community. Rather that, of course, than the story promulgating harmful stereotypes, but there’s still something a little too perfect and unimpeachable in the response we’ve seen so far. One of Broadchurch’s joys is in grounding unimaginable crimes in a real-feeling world (Olivia Colman eating a scotch egg on a sea wall is all I’ve ever wanted from television), and this feels like one area where good intentions may be clouding the drama’s credibility.
As a crime mystery, the nature of the beast does that well enough on its own, especially at this slightly wearying everyone’s-a-suspect stage. The fog of suspicion settling over multiple heads may be a requirement of the genre, but it doesn’t half make it difficult to see people’s faces.
Making us suspect everyone is a trick designed to draw an audience in, but it also distances us. Instead of meeting new characters like Trish’s husband Ian, we put them under surveillance, mentally going through their bins for scraps of evidence and analysing each cough and pause to see if They Did It. Scenes are written to create the maximum ambiguity, not to reveal the maximum human truth. Ian’s response to learning his wife had been raped was contrived to keep us guessing, not to show us anything real.
That’s where the continuation of the series one characters pays off. Mark, Beth, Miller and Hardy are all allowed to get on with being characters and not suspects; they provide the pain, pathos and warmth while we play the guessing game with everybody else.
That’s not to say the investigation is only there as a device; it’s also building something thematically meaningful. From Leo’s workplace pin-ups to Tom’s fascination with the porn on his phone to the dubious contents of Ian’s laptop to Lucas’ serial adultery—and all of it under the shadow of the attack on Trish—Broadchurch is painting an unflattering picture of modern male sexuality. The case is making Hardy ashamed to be a man? It’s little wonder.