THIS REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
The penultimate episode of Broadchurch gave us shock survivals, powerful punches, and a hilarious Hardy – but very little in the way of substance.
The show wastes no time in revealing Mark Latimer’s fate after his dramatic “death” last week. Spoiler alert: he’s alive, which we’re sure will be a controversial decision. For all his anguish and torment, it still feels as though Mark has learned very little. His run-in with Joe Miller amounted to nothing, and now so has his suicide attempt. While it would have been a sad farewell, it does make us wonder why Chibnall opted to keep him around. Short of a sudden happily-ever-after reunion with Beth next week, we can’t see where else Mark could go from here. At the very least, it gave Jodie Whittaker the chance to play some beautiful scenes as Beth Latimer. One highlight later in the episode saw her venting her frustrations to Reverend Paul Coates. Mark is selfish, Mark is weak – and, now more than ever, he needs to redeem himself by the time Episode 8’s credits roll.
In the grand scheme though, Mark and the Latimers serve merely as side-story. It’s been a recurring theme in Series 3, seeing the old Broadchurch pushed aside in favour of the new recruits. Happily, we do get to see a little more of newspaper editor – sorry, former newspaper editor – Maggie. She rebels against the modern media in the most resounding fashion and all power to her. We fully agree with her scathing sentiment: “please tell me you’re not the future”. But it’s only a small drop in the big Broadchurch ocean, and her scenes are over as quickly as they begin. Of course, Trish and the investigation need to be the focus, but when it’s so at the expense of what we’ve come to know, they could have really struck a better balance.
Speaking of Trish, is it just us or are we seeing less and less of her? For the series’ primary character, she pops up surprisingly little this week. Although, in fairness, when she does it’s used effectively. There’s a moving, almost iconic scene where she and her daughter go for a walk late at night. And they’re not alone. Every woman in Broadchurch is on the march. They hold their phone lights up to the night sky in a strong showing of solidarity. The man who did this won’t scare them.
But just who is that man? This is where the episode (and the series) falters, feeling as if it’s just stalling for time now. The “previously” recap at the beginning shows us key scenes of all the suspects, and in turn, they all get a moment in the spotlight. Ed Burnett’s interview continues – he’s an obsessive stalker, but he would “never hurt Trish”. Ian finally confesses (after a little persuasion) he had spyware put onto Trish’s computer so he could feel close to her. Who said romance was dead, eh? Leo also comes under fire for installing the spyware in the first place, though his plea seems genuinely apologetic.
Rather, it’s Jim Atwood who is thrust back into the frame as suspect number one. All his secrets are (rightfully) unearthed in a 60 minute dressing down of his character. Not only does he have a connection to Laura Benson, he has no alibis for any of the reported sexual assaults. Or at least, until he admits his failed fling with a waitress at Cath’s birthday party. A violent and sexually frustrated man wandering the woods where Trish was attacked… surely it can’t just be a coincidence? (Although, it probably is, if we know our Broadchurch!)
Yet, despite the imminent megatons, our undisputed star of Episode 7 was easily David Tennant as Alec Hardy. At the start, he’s still struggling with his own family issues. His daughter Daisy, scarred by her leaked photo scandal, is desperate to get away from it all. Hardy wants her to stay so he can step up as a father, but he reluctantly accepts her decision. Yet, a choice comment from Miller and a chance encounter with some bullies change his mind. In probably the best scene of the episode, he well and truly puts Daisy’s oppressors in their place. It’s raw, it’s angry, and it’s bloomin’ brilliant.
It’s pretty darn funny too, with some razor-sharp dialogue that sadly can’t be repeated here. In fact, Hardy gets quite a few zingers in this one – “I’m too nice to people!” being a particular favourite. Miller’s face says it all. We’re used to seeing Olivia Colman as “the funny one” opposite David Tennant’s grumpy, stoic detective. But, after three full series, his character development is finally blossoming, and the roles are cleverly reversed. Outside of the investigation, anyway – let’s not try to pretend that Hardy is anything but tough when questioning suspects.
So, seven episodes in and just one more left to go. We’re still wondering whodunnit, and it could still realistically be anyone. That’s one perfectly reasonable gripe we can level at Series 3 – it hasn’t really gone anywhere. There have been massive developments, for sure, but the same four or five people have been in and out of suspicion like clockwork. Luckily, it seems we’re finally about to know the truth. Rather conveniently in the dying moments of the episode, more DNA results from the scene arrive – and some if it belongs to a man! With one last montage of our targets, we’re left with the threatening arrival of Clive as his wife discovers his secret drawer…
We won’t lie, we’re a little concerned. There’s just one hour left to wrap up three series of Broadchurch and it feels like there’s still a lot to get through. There’s a definite disconnect between what’s happening now and what happened then – can Chibnall do it all justice? The pressure’s on and two months of theories are about to reach fruition. Last chance to place your bets folks, the clock is almost up.
In the end, if this week did do one thing right: it made next week’s finale really, really unmissable…