This article comes from Den of Geek UK.
This review contains spoilers.
You know why Mark Latimer couldn’t die, don’t you? Because Broadchurch couldn’t do it to Beth. You don’t create a character with her strength and courage and pain then do something like that just before going away for good. Not if you’ve a heart, anyway.
And God, Broadchurch has a heart. Yes, it has the worst things happen, but it’s about the people who survive them. It’s about Beth and Chloe and Ellie and Trish and Leah. It’s about Cath, Daisy, Laura Benson, DC Harford and—may she get out of that garage alive—Lindsay Lucas (I’ve already used up all my TV wishes keeping Mark alive. Don’t make me regret not leaving one in reserve for her).
What links the above names? They’re all women wronged by cowardly, selfish men. That’s been the theme of series three. It’s been a parade of male weakness and female strength, presided over by Hardy, who increasingly feels like the last decent man in town, and Miller, who’s resilience and grit personified.
Time and again this series we’ve seen male characters cheat and lie, break their marriage vows and simply break down. Men have threatened women, leered at women, objectified women and invaded their privacy, all of these acts orbiting like moons around the gravitational pull of the central rape investigation… Episode seven’s crowning moments weren’t a castration threat and a display of female solidarity for nothing.
There’s also a reason we’re still left with so many rape suspects this close to the end (it has to be Jim though, doesn’t it, for reasons of closure?). As well as keeping us all guessing, this series has felt pretty disgusted with aspects of straight male sexuality—namely porn, and male violence.
That’s not to say Broadchurch’s creator is a self-hating man. If I had to, I’d suspect that Chris Chibnall’s research into a theme like sexual violence might have caused him to feel something like Hardy, ashamed of the behaviour and attitudes of some of his gender, from the teenage lads who harass their schoolmates to the porn users and older men who assume that all men would cheat on their wives given the chance.
It’s not just men who are the problem, this series has been fair enough to point out. Women like Maggie’s new boss, who doesn’t call herself a feminist and colludes in female sexual objectification, are also responsible for keeping harmful attitudes alive. And men certainly don’t have the monopoly on ugly views about rape. Cath and DC Harford are proof of that.
What links most of the men in series three is that they’re all pathetic in the original sense of the word. Repeatedly, their wives, girlfriends and daughters have had to shore them up and display the strength they’ve lacked.
Episode seven saw a slight shift in the portrayal of two such characters: Ian and Leo, who were revealed as more vulnerable than it previously seemed. Ian, wrongly, spied on Trish because he was lonely. Leo might have killed himself over his parents’ divorce if it wasn’t for Ian’s friendship and support. See? This show is so big-hearted it can even make you feel compassion for swaggery young shits.
Broadchurch doesn’t only have a heart, but also a conscience and powerful misgivings about where it feels we’re veering off-course. That much is clear from Maggie’s triumphant revolt in the face of her “algorithms and analytics” new boss. “Please tell me you’re not the future”, she told her, before resigning in a blaze of glory, her final act as a journalist protecting the pain of a suffering family (this, in a world that, inexplicably, keeps writing bigger and bigger cheques to real-life newspaper editors who hacked the phones of grieving parents). Let’s hope Maggie isn’t the last of her breed.
She isn’t of course, not in Broadchurch at least. Fifteen-year-old Leah Winterman is a Maggie in the making. She symbolically continued the “screw you, petal” attitude by mobilising the town’s women in a genuinely moving scene. In a moment that echoed the lighting of beacons for Danny at the end of series one, the night walk was an act of defiance against Trish’s attacker. You won’t win, it said. We’re strong and you’re weak.
Speaking of strength, this has been such a strong series, the last two episodes in particular. All the thematic work aside, it’s deft stuff that’s kept so many plates spinning for so long.
We may still be left (sort of) guessing, but the penultimate episode had multiple satisfying moments, from Hardy’s transcendent “I’m a father speech” to Maggie’s glorious rebellion to the ‘take back the night’ gathering in which a community stood together in defiance of cruelty. That’s what should be headline news on the next Broadchurch Echo.
And Mark lived. He lived! Whether it was a fisherman, a lifeboat or a contrivance that saved him, I don’t care. I’m too grateful. For this episode, and for this series as a whole.
Read Louisa’s review of the previous episode here.