This week on Broadchurch, the plot doesn’t thicken so much as it expands. It’s a little much to say we’ve veered into wheel-spinning territory, but this is a “zoom in and enhance” kind of episode, mostly focused on adding a few new wrinkles to the central mystery and deepening a few relationships we’ve already seen developing.
Not that that’s a bad thing. There’s room, at last, for Detectives Hardy and Miller to breathe a little more in their rapport. A pleasant, much-needed light subplot involves Ellie’s constant disapproval of Hardy’s eating habits. “Are you really going to drink that disgusting stewed tea?” she asks near the beginning, as Miller pulls out a mug from the microwave. Let us not forget, in rural England, not using a kettle for tea is tantamount to a crime in itself. Later on, in desperation for him to eat something, she offers a scotch egg. “I’m not hungry,” he says. “That’s why you’re so tired,” she says, “you look terrible.” The pair don’t mince words with each other. Seriously though: Hardy, you had ACTUAL HEART SURGERY last season, you idiot. Eat the damn egg.
Hardy’s irritability comes into play in the episode’s main plot, too. He’s growing impatient with Trish, who still won’t give the identity of the man she slept with the morning of her attack. As we’ve seen, time and again on Broadchurch, doing right by a victim and doing right by the case can be in conflict with each other. Trish is still shattered and sensitive, but the clock is ticking. “We are probably gonna retrieve his DNA from your bed sheets anyway,” Hardy tells her bluntly. Trish stands firm. “I should be allowed not to tell you,” she counters. The great tragedy of Trish is that, in seeking justice for the brutal violation she suffered, she must suffer further violations. She must give up all pretense of privacy if she’s to help Hardy and Miller in their case. That isn’t fair, but none of this is. “What did I do to make this happen?” she asks Beth. It’s a heartbreakingly understandable impulse as the case wears on with a seemingly insurmountable suspect list.
It’s a small mercy, at least, that the suspect list doesn’t grow much further this week. As ever, Broadchurch has cast a wide, well-constructed net of potential villains. By introducing more characters and more problems, this episode slows down to ensure we remember who all these incredibly shifty middle-aged men are. Losing the “I definitely didn’t do it” battle hardest this week is Clive Lucas, the taxi driver whose radio mysteriously wasn’t working the entire night of Trish’s attack. The evidence stacks up so neatly against him, I can’t help but rule him out in my mind already, but it turns out he’s held a flame for Trish for a while. They went out, in fact. Not only that, but he was accused of harassment by a previous female passenger. In his interview with Hardy and Miller, Lucas admits to picking up a fare from an unidentified man on the side of the road the night of the attack so he could pocket the entirety of the cash and not tell the cab company. Even more damning, he has a set of Trish’s keys.
Let’s be clear, though: There’s no way the answer is as straightforward as “Lucas did it.” He definitely knows more than he’s letting on, and I’m getting the sinking feeling that Trish’s attacker didn’t act alone. “Do you know what I hate about this case?” Hardy asks Miller as they leave Lucas’s home, after Lucas’s wife reveals he’s been cheating on her for over a decade. “It makes me ashamed to be a man.”
Elsewhere in toxic seaside masculinity, the Tom subplot picks up steam with his porn-sharing friend, Michael, who just so happens to be Lucas’s stepson. Curiously, it’s Tom who appears less ashamed of his actions, even when he’ll have a furious Ellie Miller to deal with when he’s once again caught. He lifts his phone from her room, and moments after they’re done with helping Paul at the church, Tom and Michael fire up some new porn to watch on their walk home. Ah, to be young.
Meanwhile, over at Latimer HQ, there’s a B-plot brewing and I don’t like the look of it one bit. Jodie Whittaker has been fantastic as Beth this season, carving out a new, stronger character in a show that didn’t really need her anymore. Mark Latimer, however, is a different story. He’s been in a state of despair for three seasons now. It’s old and tired. Beth and Chloe think so too. Mark is still determined to pursue Joe Miller to the end of the Earth and get justice for Danny (which to him, presumably means putting Joe in prison or a coffin). His refusal to let go of the past is tiresome, even when Chloe tells him as much, if only because it mirrors the flaws of Broadchurch itself. This show is admirably committed to weaving together old and new, but every time Mark Latimer appears onscreen, it feels like we’ve been brought to a screeching halt, and into a much worse show.
And so the episode ends not unlike episode two, only with some more intense visual metaphors. Harford has assembled a whiteboard of every man at Cath’s party, presenting an obstinate wall of suspects that must be methodically worked through before we get close to an answer. It’s a bleak image and a tough proposition for the two detectives, who have already been brought to their knees by an emotionally and physically draining case.
Trish, meanwhile, receives yet another ominous message, this time in the form of a bouquet of flowers and a card reading “Thinking of you.” It’s perhaps the creepiest possible anonymous message to anonymously receive in the dead of night, with a message of dread that looms in the near future. This wasn’t a blockbuster episode of crime storytelling, but all the pieces are now firmly in place. Let’s get to work.