Warning: This contains spoilers. Not caught up with Broadchurch Season 3? Read our spoiler-free review of Episodes 1 and 2 here.
“Shall we go to the pub?” Miller (Olivia Colman) asks Hardy (David Tennant) at the end of Broadchurch Season 3 – and, as the show reaches its last ever chapter, it’s hard not to be thinking the same thing. Chris Chibnall’s drama has been taxing, to say the least, both mentally and emotionally, as it concluded with its most harrowing case yet: the rape of Trish Winterman (Julie Hesmondhalgh).
Chibnall researched sexual assault and the criminal justice system’s response meticulously in preparing for this season and it has shown throughout all eight episodes, with Hesmondhalgh’s performance adding to his sensitive scripting, building up a harrowing, moving portrait of the trauma of abuse – and, at times, a critique of the resources made available to the police to tackle such horrendous crimes. If the season started to stretch a little around the edges come its penultimate chapter, as almost every man in the town emerged as a potential suspect, that only reinforces the impact of its conclusion, which less implicates an individual attacker than excavates the toxic masculinity lurking under the surface of society.
As suspected, the season’s conclusion takes us away from the initial red herrings of Ed (Lenny Henry) and Ian (Charlie Higson) and towards the suspicious cabbie Clive Lucas (Sebastian Armesto), whose drawer of apparent trophies from previous fares set alarm bells ringing several episodes earlier. Leo (Chris Mason), the smug twine-selling misogynist, was also involved, we discover, But Broadchurch has one last, devastating twist: Clive wasn’t the culprit. After intense interrogation by Miller and Hardy, he reveals that he’s been covering to protect someone else: his son, Michael (Deon Lee-Williams).
Chibnall’s dialogue is superb, boiling down most of the episode to the back-and-forth interrogation of Clive, with Miller and Hardy becoming increasingly angry and frustrated – a reminder both of the personal toll these cases take upon all connected with them and of the difficulty in assembling a case of evidence that can actually put the people responsible behind bars. Michael, meanwhile, turns out to have had a mentor grooming him for the assault.
That’s where Leo comes in, and Mason sinks his teeth into the chance to be even more despicable than he was the first time we met him, speaking with arrogant entitlement and a proud sneer about how “beautiful” the rape was. “Go on Michael, be a man,” he taunted, horrifically, in a flashback to the night in question. The only thing more shocking than Mason’s loathsome delivery is Olivia Colman’s face, which sums up all the horror and hatred of a national audience with a single, glowering expression.
But Broadchurch is a show of communal grief and strength, not of individual evil; the focus, always, goes back to the wider town. And so the finale takes that usually strangely uplifting approach and uses it to amplify the tragedy: we see a reunion, of sorts, between Trish and Ian, who offers to pop over one evening with a Chinese takeaway, but there’s no shaking off the disturbing steps he took with her laptop; likewise, Ed’s obsessive behaviour, while perceived as well-intentioned by him, is unnerving and unhealthy; and, of course, there’s Clive and Michael, who have seen their lives poisoned by Leo.
“I don’t subscribe to your version of the world, but I do worry about sending my daughter out with men like you in it,” spits Hardy to Jim in the programme’s home stretch, reminding us that even though he wasn’t guilty of the season’s main crime, Jim is still guilty of all manner of other unsavoury views.
“Their bodies are not yours!” yells Miller during one outburst. The detectives’ parental urge to protect their children in this age of online porn and male aggression ties in perfectly to the show’s themes. After waiting for weeks to see how Tom Miller would fit into the frame, he’s left surprisingly absent from the mystery’s answer, but that only makes it more unsettling, as we share in Miller’s creeping realisation that Clive, Michael and Leo’s warped view of male power and disregard of consent will also have filtered down into his life to some degree – something that has happened, all too aptly, without us seeing it.
The result is an important message for the modern world, but, equally importantly, a powerful farewell to a finely balanced ensemble, which still finds its finest moments in that tableau of intersecting sadness, resilience and support. A minor misstep involving Maggie (Carolyn Pickles), who decides to launch her own YouTube channel to cover the truth away from the local newspaper, feels forced, but it’s more than evened out by the space given to the Latimers, still struggling to move on from Danny’s death in Season 1. Jodie Whittaker and Andrew Buchan have never been better than here, as they both tearfully profess their love for each other – while simultaneously agreeing that they need to separate. Arthur Darvill’s Reverend Paul sees the show off with a stirring sermon that reminds people of the importance of sticking together – even as he, like Beth and Mark, reaches the poignant realisation that he needs to part with the town, because he can’t do any more for them.
“All any of us want is love and good deeds,” Darvill’s priest declares, with a smiling, heart-aching simplicity. It’s hard to think of a better way to sum up Broadchurch’s lasting legacy. Outside on that iconic beach, Miller and Hardy grapple with the aftermath of the case. “We got the people responsible. It’s all we can do,” says Hardy, with a gruff determination to carry on. Their double act has been at the core of the show’s success from the off, managing to be both affectionate and friendly yet still taking on the toll of each new trauma they encounter; a balance of humour and spikiness as beautiful as the Dorset coastline behind them. It’s almost enough to make you want a fourth season, if it weren’t for the fact that this is such a satisfying ending. Surely, we hope, as the camera pulls away from them, this odd couple can unite to help spread the love and good deeds everyone needs. “Shall we go to the pub?” asks Miller. Hardy looks at her. “No.”
Goodbye, Broadchurch. You’ll be sorely missed.
Broadchurch Season 3 is available for 30 days after its 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?