Warning: This contains spoilers. Not caught up with Broadchurch Season 3? Read our spoiler-free review of Episodes 1 and 2 here.
“It takes all my training not to punch him in the face.” That’s Beth in the penultimate episode of Broadchurch Season 3. She’s talking about Mark, who, pleasingly, didn’t die in the end, but got rescued by a passing fisherman, after he tried to drown himself last episode. It’s telling, though, that she could easily be talking about any of the men in the show – because as this excellent third run draws to a close, almost every bloke we’ve met has been a wrong ‘un.
Speaking of which, let’s talk about Jim, who emerges as our main suspect du jour. As we guessed last episode, he was called by Nira after her car broke down all those years ago – and he’d towed Laura’s car as well. Why he would rape Trish, when he was already having an affair with her, isn’t quite clear, but it is clear that he has connections to all three victims and that he’s a nasty piece of work: his main description of Laura when asked by the police is “pretty”, while Cath (Sarah Parish) discovered a disturbing piece of evidence in her husband’s car: a pack of condoms and a receipt placing their purchase just a few hours before Trish was raped.
Parish is fantastic here, as the wief who is sickeningly unsurprised by the notion that her husband is being quizzed by the police – only topped by Mark Bazeley, who smiles wolfishly, as he tells Miller and Hardy that he bought the contraceptives to use with a waitress as his wife’s birthday party. The waitress is similarly unashamed, introducing word-of-the-week “DILF”, which gets several outings, but she reveals that she cut short their forest fornication, after Jim got a bit too rough.
Elsewhere, Ian (Charlie Higson) confesses to Trish that he did, indeed, install spyware on her laptop, so that he could keep an eye on her through the webcam – a a gesture he tries to paint as motivated by him missing her, but mostly just winds up seeming creepy.
Leo, meanwhile, admits that he installed the spyware on the laptop for his former teacher, and also that he attended Cath’s birthday party (his girfriend in the ice cream truck will no doubt be terrified that Miller is coming for her). Compared to Jim, though, he doesn’t seem like such an obvious culprit anymore – ditto for Ed, who is let go due to lack of evidence. DC Harford (Georgina Campbell) finds her anti-social father drinking alone, which could put him back in the frame for being the rapist, who reportedly smelled of vodka, but cuts too pathetic a figure (and was introduced too soon as our suspect) to feel like anything other than a red herring. Add in his genuine surprise when he discovers a blood-stained bag of blue twin, and it looks like someone is planting evidence to keep attention firmly on him.
And what of cab driver Clive? He’s also got a laptop with pornography, which his wife, Lindsay (Becky Brunning) unearths, and realises that he’s been supplying it to Michael – and, therefore, indirectly feeding it to Tom Miller too. Discovering his drawer of trophies from past passengers is the final staw: “What else aren’t you telling me?” she demands. Clive sneers back: “You really want to know?”
All this just one hour from the season finale leaves us with more question marks than a Guess Who? game – it’s hard to shake a sneaking feeling that the show is almost stretching the mystery out for the sake of it; after taking such a sensitive approach towards its topic, the idea of keeping the entertaininment going for one more episode has the potential to undermine the series’ strengths. Perhaps that’s why newspaper editor Maggie pops up once again for an entirely redundant subplot, which sees her complaining to her new boss about her instructions to cover Mark Latimer’s suicide. Railing against everything from clickbait headlines to the Daily Mail-esque “sidebar of shame”, it’s a speech that writer Chris Chibnall clearly wants to get off his chest, but it’s so clumsily executed – “As the Americans say, ‘Screw you, petal’,” declares Maggie, despite the fact that no human would ever say those words – that it only feels like padding. As the police discover Trish’s DNA and a man’s DNA on an all-important sock, we’d much rather take a conclusion now, thanks, rather than pile up even more evidence.
Broadchurch redeems itself, though, with a moving climax, as we see Trisha’s daughter, Leah, organise a display of solidarity among the town’s women, who all turn out in the streets at night to show that they’re not scared. “How is he allowed to control our lives like this?” asks Trish at one point – and this demonstration of women refusing to let their lives be controlled by Trish’s attacker is a lovely response. “We shouldn’t have to be scared,” Leah declares, with a pitch-perfect compassion that helps to compensate for slightly less convincing moment of forgiveness shared by Cath and Trish.
That subtly echoes the pangs of grief still impacting the Latimers, as Beth and daughter Chloe (Charltote Beaumont) try to help Mark to focus on living in the present with them. They’re certainly more subtle than Hardy, who tells daughter Daisy that she can’t go back to her mother, then lays into some teenage lads who shared a revealing photo of her, threatening to “cut your tiny cocks off”. It’s these outbursts, driven by character rather than an over-arching narrative, that have powered Broadchurch’s return to form for this third season. Here’s hoping the show remembers that next episode and sticks the landing. But will that landing involve Reverend Paul Coates (Arthur Darvill)?
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?