Watching this season of Broadchurch, it’s hard to not reach the conclusion that men are terrible. It seems like an especially valid and overt theme in this week’s episode, which gives us ample reason to despair at the behavior of Broadchurch’s male contingent. Pretty much all of them.
Yes, even Alex Hardy has a couple of moments that he’ll probably regret … because he actually goes on a date. He is delightfully roasted by Miller later, after it’s all gone terribly, albeit endearingly. Hardy wears a suit, quickly asking his very patient date if that’s “wrong.” He then quickly lands a one-two punch of “I have a daughter” and refusing to laugh at her bad joke. It’s a nice, light little respite from the episode’s oppressive A-plot, highlighting just how lost at sea Hardy is with anyone he can’t boss around or shout at.
Meanwhile, he cuts a relatively sensitive figure during Trish’s immersion experiment in which she goes back to the mansion where she was attacked, retracing her steps throughout the night. There aren’t many big reveals here, except for the curious case of the missing cricket bat — remember, Trish was knocked unconscious with “wood” before her assault — and a mysterious, bright light that she saw during the attack itself. A light from the nearby cottage? A camera phone? A stationary taxi, perhaps?
As ever, darkness prevails throughout this well-paced episode. After last week’s installment, which treaded water with its reintroduction of the main players and their various motives and/or alibis, we get a few very important wrinkles here: a new, wonderfully disgusting suspect, and a couple of revelations that will hopefully give the back half of the season more momentum. Along with Trish’s resurfaced memories from the assault, we finally have the identity of the person who’s sending those anonymous, threatening texts: It’s Ian’s girlfriend, who was unaware of the attack and truly just wanted Trish to “shut up.” Can’t argue with that. I do love a good red herring now and again. Ian may still be shifty as hell, but he’s all but crossed out on my “definitely did it” pool.
The new Creep of the Week comes in the form of self-employed IT consultant Aaron Mayford (played by Peep Show alum Jim Howick), a convicted rapist who just so happened to have moved to a nearby town just two months back. Unlucky, Mayford. His alibi isn’t airtight (he says he was fishing), and he uses words like man cave, but it’s too neat a character introduction for him to be anything other than a further representation of the abuser mind-set. According to Aaron, even his rape conviction was a mistake — yes, he did tie a woman to a bed and have sex with her, though he says it was consensual and she only “freaked” the next morning. Nevertheless, he’s definitely off. A later scene sees him get into Harford’s car while she’s staking him out, and tell her, in no uncertain terms, he’s DTF and that he “likes” her watching him. Oof.
Elsewhere, rocketing up the suspect list is the endlessly creepy Clive Lucas, the neighborhood cab driver with a penchant for extramarital affairs, and his stepson, Michael, who’s big into porn and doesn’t care who knows it. A quiet character moment happens during the episode’s seaside soccer game, in which it seems the townspeople have intentionally organized an exhibition match between “Guys Who May Have Raped Trish Winterman FC” and “Other Guys Who May Have Raped Trish Winterman FC.” During the warm-up, Lucas shows off his dribbling skills, ignoring Michael as he asks him to pass the ball. This, in the industry, is what we call symbolism. Shitty Net Shop Boy Leo also shows up to antagonize Miller and generally be a wonderful mini-villain for the show. I’m keeping an eye on this kid, whose only alibi is his girlfriend, lest we forget.
We also get some good old-fashioned plot movement. The solution to “who did Trish Winterman have sex with the day of her party?” is finally revealed — and boy, it’s a doozy. It was none other than Jim, Cath’s husband. No one makes things easy for themselves on this show, do they? Expect that to blow up a good deal of the support Trish has so far received from one of her closest friends. Perhaps that fight between Jim and Ed Burnett was about more than just Cath’s work schedule?
Meanwhile, Mark Latimer manages to track down Joe Miller, so he tries to rope Paul into a road trip to … kill him, I guess? Understandably, the local vicar is not down with murder. I don’t care about this story line and I doubt anyone else watching the show does, either. At least Mark finally gets a nice moment with Beth, however brief. And let us all take a moment to formally congratulate Jodie Whittaker, who has done excellent work this season, on her new role as The Doctor. She and Chris Chibnall are demonstrably excellent collaborators, and I can’t wait to seem them move their talents to one of the biggest franchises in TV history.
Back to the business at hand: the requisite Broadchurch cliffhanger that ends this episode. At least, there’s a new break in the case as Miller and Hardy come back to the station to discover a woman who, two years ago, was tied up, gagged, and raped much in the same way Trish was. Her final line, and the final words of the episode are “I was raped and I didn’t tell anyone,” which isn’t so much an inciting plot point as it is an inevitable theme of the series. Hardy and Miller are putting their all into a case, into a system, where the current continually works against them. Where victims are so often stripped of any and all power or agency. This woman feels shame in not reporting her rape, just as she would have been shamed had she reported it at the time. This is a cruel, unfair cycle that Trish, Beth, Hardy, and Miller have been forced into. Despite their procedural progress, they are plummeting into a deeper, ever-spreading, inescapable horror.