Broadchurch loves a good cliff-hanger. Typically, the season’s big reveal comes in the first ten minutes of the final episode, leaving enough room to deal with the fallout afterward. That trend continues this week, in an oddly paced and somewhat frustrating episode that paints with broad strokes. It’s an episode that often feels meandering to the point of flippancy. If we’re going to have an hour without much narrative drive, why on Earth would you not fill the time with all the Hardy and Miller back-and-forth we’re going to miss so much come next week? They’re kept apart for long stretches tonight, and the episode suffers for it.
We wake up to some good news, depending on who you are: Mark Latimer isn’t dead! He’s just nearly dead and suicidal. The scene between Beth and Chloe getting the call from the hospital is framed really nicely. Mark’s survival should be a relief for us, but immediately we have to contend with what happened through the lens of his family, who woke up to the news of a suicide attempt, not a miraculous survival.
Family is the theme of the week, moreso than usual. With the Latimers in disarray, we get the timely reminder of Hardy’s daughter, Daisy, and her impending departure. Ed Burnett is still in custody, too, and his situation doesn’t look very promising. While Hardy and Miller lean into Ed as their main suspect, there’s a casual element to their questioning. Maybe it’s doubt, or maybe it’s the knowledge they’ll have a tough time convicting him, thanks to Katie Harford’s antics in the previous episode. Meanwhile, Jim Atwood is also being investigated, after we learn it was, in fact, his tow truck that picked up Laura Benson on the night she was assaulted.
Both Jim and Ed’s depositions speak to a continuing theme of the season: the psyche of men, and masculine sexuality. On learning Ian Winterman had accused Ed of sexually harassing Trish at a holiday party years before, Ed responds, “If she was so bothered, why did she keep working for me?” It’s a logically warped justification that sounds like it’s coming from a child more than a villain. Similarly, Jim’s insistence he didn’t try to have sex with Trish at Cath’s party because he’d “found a better option” with a waitress is pitiful more than it is menacing. These men may be entitled, invasive, and (possibly) violent, but Broadchurch warns us to make no mistake: These are acts of weakness.
A disappointing element to the show’s portrayal of these men, which has been overall very impressive, is Hardy’s disgust toward them being filtered through the age-old “I’m a father” complex, which feels unnecessary and reductive. Hardy trots this “badass dad” persona out a few times this week, but with his unerring focus on Trish’s case and Daisy’s extremely vague characterization (just what is that sexting story line?), it all feels a little bit out of nowhere. The Hardys, such as they are, have been on the fringes of the entire season as a familial unit, and are now brought to the fore. On top of that, Ellie’s son, dad, and baby are completely absent from the episode. It’s either an act of restraint on the part of Chris Chibnall not to draw too bold a line under the whole “family” thing, or a weird oversight.
At least Beth finally gets her due. In a season that saw her nicely integrated into the A-plot, before suddenly being relegated as a supporting character in the Mark Latimer tragedy, she gets a great scene with Paul here, railing against Mark’s weakness and selfishness. “He crowds my grief,” she says, “My grief is as strong and alive as his, but I don’t let it win.” In a small way, this is another inevitable example of a woman’s story being hijacked by a man.
Beth’s focus on Mark also pulls her away from Trish’s support system, but luckily, daughter Leah fills the void. She hasn’t put a foot wrong this season in her quest to honor her mother’s trauma and return the Wintermans as much as they can to normalcy. There is, however, only so much she can do. Trish feels increasingly disconnected. Her scenes with Hardy and Miller have become fewer. Her isolation is palpable.
“Everything’s closing early,” Trish says, feeling like a prisoner not only in her own mind, her own home, and her own town, but her whole world. “How is he allowed to do that? How is he allowed to control our lives like this?” Despite stumbles this season in its basic storytelling, Broadchurch has been nothing but respectful and sensible around its victims and subject matter. In a show that all too often can be brash and sensational, that’s to be applauded. The women’s march through Broadchurch is a nice touch here, too. It may be on the nose, but the sight of Hardy, Miller, Trish, and Leah standing together while residents hold their phones aloft in a show of Hunger Games–esque solidarity is a beautiful image. It’s a moment that lets us breathe.
Not for long, mind you. We’ve only got a few minutes to wrap this episode up, so we need some momentum and intrigue going into our series finale. With that, here is where we stand with the major suspects in Trish Winterman’s case:
• Ex-Husband Ian comes clean about what he had Leo install on Trish’s laptop: spyware. He got access to her webcam to … watch her sleep? It’s gross and small and the actor who plays him has very kind eyes, but he’s still a more credible attacker than …
• Ed Burnett is all but exonerated in the final moments of the episode. He for sure has an unhealthy and dangerous fixation on Trish, but seems incapable of directing that level of sexual violence toward her. He also alerts Harford to the smoking gun, which is a bag of blue twine because this is a show set in rural England, covered in what we must assume is Trish’s blood.
• Jim Atwood fares less well. As Hardy puts it, the vice is closing in around him: A search of his house reveals Cath was away on both previous dates of the 2014 and 2015 rapes, and his bragging about having sex with the waitress the night of the party turns out to be a lie. It all feels a little neat, but maybe that’s what they want us to think. Oh Jim, even if you are innocent, you’ve royally screwed this one up, haven’t you?
• Cabdriver Clive features little in this episode, but comes in hot in the final stretch, after his wife discovers him watching a very tame “porn” video of a woman dancing in lingerie to music. (I love when TV shows have to imply pornography with PG-13 music videos.) Clive is menacing here in a way we haven’t seen from our other suspects. “What else are you hiding from me?” his wife asks. “Do you really want to know the answer to that?” he says. Something tells me we’re going to fill in a lot of the gaps in Clive’s story next week.
• And, of course, my favorite Shitty Twine Salesboy Leo. Turns out he’s not only lying about his alibi, but he was literally at Axehampton for Cath’s party. His outright, groveling contrition, in the face of everything we’ve seen from him previously, does not convince me in the slightest.
All in all, the show’s attempt to pull focus away from Leo and Clive is a little clumsy and obvious. We’re obviously going to follow them the most in next week’s finale, especially with Clive’s wife discovering Trish’s keys in his drawer at work. Until then, we get one final cliff-hanger: Trish’s DNA matches the sock, and it’s also got traces of a man’s DNA! Whose will it be? We’ll find out soon enough. I’m sure we’re in for a fittingly emotional good-bye to a good season of TV, and, more importantly, one of the best crime-drama acting partnerships I’ve ever seen.