This review contains spoilers.
Welcome back to Broadchurch, or, to call it by its Chinese translation, Terrible Things Happen in Beautiful Rural Locations. This week, a gorgeous cornfield joined the bucolic, rolling grounds of Axehampton House as a site of human misery. Following new testimony and a fresh lead thanks to Beth’s mentor, it’s looking as though the man who attacked Trish is a serial rapist.
Episode five opened on a distressing interview with Laura Benson, the woman who came forward at the end of last week’s hour. Two years ago, she was attacked by a rapist with a strikingly similar MO to Trish’s attacker, but chose not to report it for fear of being monstered and discredited by a hostile system. Later, Beth’s supervisory meeting inadvertently led to the discovery of a third rape survivor—also unreported—and potentially by the same man.
Laura’s scenes were a sensitive start to a solid episode that showed simmering tensions coming to a head and relationships breaking down. Her pain and unfair sense of guilt were foregrounded, while the idea that not all rape survivors are treated with the respect and professionalism displayed here by Hardy and Miller was broached without cruelty.
Cruelty was a theme of episode five, which saw several characters verbally and physically attacked, and have threats made against them. Jim threatened Trish (“you have no idea what you’re letting yourself in for”) and Clive (“I can make your life a lot more miserable than it must already be”), while he in turn was threatened by Cath (“I could set fire to your life whenever I choose”) and finally beaten up by Ed, who, having learned about Trish and Jim’s fling, decided to finish what was started at Cath’s party.
Ed is clearly in love with Trish, a love expressed chiefly through the gift of bacon. My fondest hope for this series is that Ed is entirely freed of suspicion and those two end up together, soothing each other’s hurts. Don’t take that as a prediction though – it’s worth bearing in mind that at this point in series one, my fondest wish was for lovely Ellie and lovely Joe to live happily ever after.
A prediction I will venture is that Aaron Mayford spent the night of Cath’s party at some kind of S&M brothel. Thinking back to his porn collection and gag-inducing (no pun intended) “I like to play”, there must be decent odds that he was out paying for sex, and thus in breach of his probation terms. As the third attack took place while Mayford was in prison, it doesn’t look as though he’s our man, despite a fair chunk of this week’s episode being devoted to showcasing his extreme unpleasantness. “Just because he’s an arsehole doesn’t mean he’s a rapist,” Hardy reminded us in typically earthy style. Fair point. It’s just a pity it isn’t illegal to lie about mackerel.
More smarmy unpleasantness was witnessed from swaggery young shit Leo, who’d coached his girlfriend to provide him with a (surely easily disprovable?) alibi for the night Trish was attacked. High-five to Miller, incidentally, for delivering that breezy “basically…if you’re lying you’ll go to prison for perjury” line with the biggest of grins.
Leo’s girlfriend Danielle wasn’t the only woman sorting out her man’s problems this week. Beth complained to an increasingly frustrated Paul about “still having to think about clearing up after [Mark’s] shit”, while a deeply hurt Cath said of Jim, “God forbid he should ever clear up his own mess”.
The scene between Trish and Cath was the episode highlight. Both Julie Hesmondhalgh and Sarah Parish were on great form bringing to life writing that felt real. Cath’s disbelief, realisation, injury and cruelty were played so recognisably that you could see the pain underneath her ignorant “of all the women at that party…” comment and almost forgive her for it. Ditto for Trish’s shame and anger. The domestic drama surrounding this series’ central case is honest and very watchable, just as it was all the way back in series one.
Speaking of which, please don’t do it Mark! Fingers crossed he reads those letters he wrote to Danny and thinks the better of taking that hammer and Stanley knife out of his suitcase.
Back to the case at hand. The football sock revelation towards the end of the episode is another black mark for Leo, though it can hardly be considered watertight evidence, especially considering how intertwined the men of Broadchurch are. The suspects in Trish’s case have more connections than a switchboard: Jim and Leo know taxi driver Clive. Ian (last seen breaking in to Trish’s house presumably to steal an incriminating laptop) used to be Leo’s teacher. Aaron did Ed’s IT support. Jim’s business sponsors Leo’s football team… Small towns obviously breed happenstance affiliations, but the stage could certainly be set for a conspiracy of some kind.
And then there are the outlier suspects, one of whom is Axehampton House owner, Arthur. I’m ruling him out now if only because the sheer audacity of having Miller bemoan the lack of progress on the case and complain “all we need is one name” only for him to immediately ring up and say “Arthur Tamworth” would surely cause the universe to explode should it to turn out to be him.
Series three of Broadchurch is such an engaging mix of investigation and down-to-earth drama that when you remember it’s supposed to be the show’s swan song, you start to feel prematurely bereft. After Chris Chibnall has had his fun with the TARDIS, couldn’t the door to this little town be left ajar instead of permanently closed?
Read Louisa’s review of the previous episode here.