This week, Broadchurch wants to remind us of the horror of an attack like Danny’s. Or like Trish’s. Brilliant lives can’t be guaranteed, and all it takes is one night, one action, to upend everything. To change not only a person but a family and an entire community. It’s a fitting framework for a more meditative episode. The theme of the week is family — and, specifically, all the great, awful, screwed-up things families do to and for each other.
Fighting against sheer, grim reality, Hardy and Miller have made some headway since we last saw them. They’ve now eliminated 42 possible suspects on their Big Whiteboard of Suspicion (trademark pending). They spar lightly and, as ever, it’s a delight. Without David Tennant and Oliva Colman dominating the proceedings, I am willing to go on record saying, Broadchurch would be an unremarkable TV show. Perhaps even a bad one.
Following Ed’s bell-ringing of Jim in last week’s episode, the focus is very much back on him as a main suspect. A quick search of his workplace reveals the very same style of card that was attached to the flowers Trish received a couple weeks back, as well as the fact that a lot of his produce is fastened together by — and you won’t believe this — blue twine. If I ever move back to the U.K., I am 100 percent moving to the South West of England and jumping into the twine business. There’s market penetration there like I’ve never seen before.
I’m counting on the twine in this case being a red (blue?) herring because Ed Burnett is brought into the Broadchurch police station for one reason and one reason only: to facilitate the long-awaited smackdown between DC Katie Harford and Hardy/Miller. After she lets the cat out of the bag about her parentage, she’s treated to, as they would call it in local circles, a right, proper bollocking. “If we find out Trish’s attacker has any connection to you, you will have to answer not only to me, not only to the Chief Super, but to the women that he’s attacked,” Hardy yells, before screaming a furious, Scottish-inflected “Get out now!” for good measure. Man, I love it when Hardy yells. Ellie gets in on the action too, later telling Harford, “The one thing a police officer cannot be is selfish.” Truly, watching Harford’s shit-eating, smirking character brought down a peg or two is wonderful to see, but I still nowhere near buy the character motivation for keeping her relationship with Ed quiet. Broadchurch rarely indulges in convenient stupidity for the sake of the story, but it’s hard to tell what they were going for here.
Ellie’s son, Tom, is also caught in yet another porn scandal, this time at the dinner table. I can’t imagine anything more humiliating than your mom watching the porn you downloaded to your phone during a family meal. My heart would go out to the kid if he wasn’t so goddamn stupid. Hardy, too, is having kid problems. His daughter is adamant about leaving Broadchurch, due in part to troubles at school and an alternately absentee/overbearing/very Scottish dad (a terrible combination if ever there was one). She’s packed her stuff and bought a train ticket, but with two whole episodes remaining, I can’t see her skipping town just yet. However the chips fall at the end of this, Hardy will need a win.
Beyond all that personal drama, the backend of this episode is loaded with new little twists. The third (possibly connected) rape victim is still unwilling to come forward, but we learn her car broke down and she called a tow truck before she was attacked. Who is Broadchurch’s foremost motor man? Jim, that’s who. His company logo is even emblazoned on the local soccer team’s shirts, as if to underline the connection.
Speaking of the soccer team, twine boy Leo makes a little cameo. Seems he installed something fishy on Ian’s computer — you know, the one he’s been so eager to get from Trish’s house since the beginning of the season. Is Broadchurch the central hub of an underground porn ring? Does it have anything to do with Trish and the other women who were assaulted? Maybe I’ve been watching too many American procedurals, but that certainly seems to be a plausible direction for the big reveal.
With Ed in custody and the pretty much nailed-on guarantee we’ll get a big break in the case in the series’ penultimate episode next week, things are looking up for our main duo. The same can’t be said for Mark Latimer, who bookends this episode with another tragedy.
You know what’s going to happen the moment Chloe picks up the phone. It’s dark, the wind is howling, and Mark says he’s “just going for a walk.” Having finally tracked down and confronted Joe, he’s realized there is no such thing as true justice for a murdered loved one (which was the established and concluded theme in season two but, oh well). Mark is suddenly rudderless and purposeless, and simply can’t go on. It’s a quiet and devastating end for the character, who simply never got over or learned to live with the death of his son. In its final moments this week, Broadchurch reminds us that trauma doesn’t just break you once, it does it again and again, until you survive or you don’t.