Warning: This contains spoilers. Not caught up with Broadchurch Season 3? Read our spoiler-free review of Episodes 1 and 2 here.
DI Hardy on a date. That’s the most unexpected twist yet in Broadchurch’s twist-filled third season. Chris Chibnall’s drama, which is firmly back on Season 1’s masterful form, still finds wonderful ways to surprise us, often in the smallest of ways. Here, it’s a brief detour into Hardy’s love life, as we join him for a dinner with a woman from Tinder.
Did any of us predict seeing that in Season 1, or even Season 2, of Broadchurch? Not at all, but it feels entirely natural that we should eavedrop on his evening – a sign of just how well Chibnall knows, and writes, his characters.
David Tennant is brilliantly awkward, from his flustered, downbeat line delivery to his grizzled facial hair. It’s a fantastic little touch that everything bad about him can still be seen by Zoe (Elen Rhys) as positive and attractive – his beard is in fashion, while his suit, which is taken to be sign of him dressing up for the occasion, is actually an indicator of how much he lives in work mode. Taking time out from a murder investigation to coo over Hardy’s cute romance? It should be jarring, but Broadchurch is actually able to pull it off, with Tennant helping to help the show juggle such contrasting tones, moving smoothly from nasty and gripping to warm and fuzzy.
But don’t think for a moment that Broadchurch is taking a week off – the plot is still rushing forwards at one heck of a pace. Unexpected turns fly thick and fast, with the episode finally revealing a big piece of the puzzle: who Trish (Julie Hesmondhalgh) slept with on the morning of her rape. The answer’s almost as shocking as seeing Hardy on a date: Jim Atwood (Mark Bazeley). Yes, the mechanic and husband of Cath (Sarah Parish), Trish’s colleague and host of the party where she was attacked. Trish and Jim are both keen to establish that it nothing more than a physical fling, but it’s a tryst that sends ripples through the whole community; Trish, we now know, is capable of going behind her best friend’s back, while Jim is even less likeable than before.
Parish’s cuckolded spouse is quietly heartbreaking, as she answers Hardy and Miller’s questioning about their marriage, describing it as “loveless”. Olivia Colman is typically superb as Miller, gently pressing Cath for more details on that, while still feeling incredibly uncomfortable about having to do so. But Cath’s blunt assessment of their failed bond only makes her claims that she didn’t know where Jim was during the time of Trish’s attack less trustworthy; he may be a nice person, but he’s not going to be the culprit. As he puts it, rather coldly: “If I wanted to have sex with Trish, I could. And I did.”
There are plenty of other incriminating bits of evidence to be getting on with, though, as DC Katie Harford (Georgina Campbell) reveals that a convicted rapist – Aaron (Jim Howick) – has recently moved back to Broadchurch, putting him firmly at the top of Hardy and Miller’s list of interviewees. “He sounds like a delight, can’t wait to meet him,” quips Miller, with a darkly funny sarcasm.
Sure enough, Howick is horribly unpleasant even outside of jail, from his consensual bedroom tendencies to his attitude towards women in general. With a disturbing grin, he forces himself into DC Harford’s car, while she’s trying to surveil him, refusing to leave and enjoying being intimidating.
Evidence is also undercovered that Trish was likely knocked out by a cricket bat, while Trish herself recalls that she could smell vodka at the time. Does that absolve Charlie Higson’s Ian, who was downing tequila that night? He is let off the hook slightly by the discovery that it was his girlfriend, Sarah (Charlotte Lucas), who sent the “shut up or else” threats by SMS to Trish after her attack. But what was she referring to? And why is Ian so keen to get his old laptop, now used by Trish? We gather Leo (Chris Mason) once installed something nasty on it, with Ian already approaching him to have it removed – is it some kind of spying software? Despite his claims that he just wanted it to get a work file off the hard drive, his daughter, Leah (Hannah Millward), was clearly not convinced.
Hesmondhalgh, once again, shines in her tragic role, but also gets a chance to dazzle as the old Trish, before her attack, thanks to some effective flashbacks to Cath’s party, as Trish dances through the room, flirts with Ed (Lenny Henry), and has an all-round good time. Cutting from that to her at the sight of her attack, haunted by the smell and other fragmented memory makes for a harrowing study of trauma in action – and also reveals a new detail, that she saw a bright light during her rape. Was it the nearby cottage? Or was it someone filming with a camera? If the latter, does that tie in to Tom Miller’s watching of adult material on his phone?
Broadchurch saved its biggest surprise until the end, though, as the newspaper runs with a story about Trish’s assault, prompting another woman to come forward and say that she was raped in a similar manner two years ago. It vindicates Hardy’s theory that there’s someone dangerous still at large in the area – and that this isn’t a standalone attack. But it also reminds us of the impact of such brutal crimes upon a close-knit community; a wonderfully awkward game of neighbourhood football on the beach demonstrates how people can come together through trauma, as Cath welcomes Trish to the gathering, after play is briefly suspended. But Broadchurch’s painstaking research into sexual crimes also captures the way that such crimes can bring people together in the sense of inspiring other victims to come forward.
That was captured subtly by one last scene, as Chloe Latimer (Charlotte Beaumont) visited Trish’s daughter, Daisy, to offer and support to another relative of someone suffering an ordeal. “You’re new here, it’s hard,” she says. “I thought you might need a friend.” It’s those small gestures that really make Broadchurch such a rewarding, moving watch, as it manages to bring the humanity out from behind those horrifying news headlines time and time again. Miller and Hardy are at the centre of that heart, colliding in the street after his date – a moment of initial suspense, that soon descends into teasing affection. A gripping crime mystery, a sensitive exploration of trauma, a bit of Tinder action, and funny, sweet character drama? Broadchurch would make us swipe right any day.
Broadchurch Season 3 is on ITV at 9pm on Mondays, with episodes available for 30 days after broadcast on ITV Hub.
Season 1 and 2 are available on DVD and pay-per-view VOD, or on Sky channel ITV Encore. Don’t have Sky? You can stream them through NOW TV, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.
Where can I watch Broadchurch on pay-per-view VOD?