At the end of last week’s episode, viewers saw Laura Benson (Kelly Gough) coming forward to inform the police that she was assaulted two years ago in a similar manner to Trish.
Gough does a good job over the course of her brief screen-time; her role in this story was never going to be as traumatic or as powerful as Trish’s, and Chibnall takes us through it perhaps a little too quickly, but the recount of her own attack is delivered well nonetheless, and, as we have all learned long ago by now, what Olivia Colman can’t convey with her understanding, sympathetic eyes isn’t worth conveying.
As ever, Broadchurch condemns the tabloid media but champions local coppers: “I read the papers,” says Laura. “I know how women like me get treated.” “Not by us,” Hardy tells her. Her role in the drama ends on a pleasingly unfinished note – asking the difficult question whether she tells her new husband about her experience or not, a question Hardy and Miller cannot answer.
Beth’s superior, Dawn (Sunetra Sarker), then turns up with evidence of a third attack, eleven months ago, which also went unreported at the time. Though at first it seems as though these developments might help the investigation, for now they only seem to broaden the net – illustrating a wider, more systemic problem about the frequency of unreported rapes and the difficulties involved in being brave enough to come forward.
The Trish/Jim/Cath storyline reaches a high point this week in the brilliant scene between two old best friends, one of the best things about this episode, and Sarah Parish on particularly strong form (“Christ, his standards have slipped” is nasty, but asking a minute or two later why someone would rape Trish “of all the women at that party” is vicious).
Jim’s first thought on seeing Trish again is to save his own skin and reassure her of his innocence, she doesn’t want to see her ex-husband, she’s not comfortable meeting the local vicar, and her best friend hates her – she could hardly be more alone. Just as Season 1 focussed on both grieving over Danny and the sense of isolation which that grief brought with it, so this season continues to spotlight not just Trish’s trauma after the attack but quite how much it drives a wedge between her and the people closest to her.
And between others, come to that, with both Ed and Cath now at Jim’s throat – though in somewhat different ways: Cath’s words are poisonous while Ed simply beats him up. Combined with the way he treats Ian, it looks like Ed has quite some trust issues when it comes to the other men in Trish’s life – but, on the available evidence, that’s fair enough. There’s also the possibility, however unlikely, that Cath specifically asked Ed to intervene on her behalf. I doubt Lucas is going to be a fan of Jim’s in the future either (even if “pull over, or I’ll smack you hard” has to be the least convincingly written and delivered line this entire season).
Meanwhile, Katie arrests creepy convicted rapist Aaron Mayford and watches on in disgust as he lies openly all the way through his police interview with Hardy and Miller. Especially given his former comic status as ‘that guy from Horrible Histories’, Howick does a great job of selling just what a nasty piece of work Aaron is. But as the police discover, the dates don’t seem to line up for Aaron to be their projected serial rapist, however much they (and we) dislike him. Suspicion shifts instead onto cocky young Leo Humphries (Chris Mason), who is not only seen sporting football socks of the kind which appear to have been used to gag assault victims but whose girlfriend provides a very clumsy and dubious alibi.
Elsewhere Beth continues her healing, redemptive story arc, caring both for Trish and others like her but also her two daughters (mostly her youngest; Chloe is now old enough to bring healing of her own, to the troubled Daisy Hardy this time, even if Daisy’s mini-plot feels a little too obviously like a current ‘Issue’ with a capital ‘I’). Mark, meanwhile, falls ever further into his obsession with Joe Miller, and for all that he tells Maggie he ‘always’ looks after himself, his drive north to Liverpool and the way he broodingly watches Joe once he’s found him strongly hint at a crime of his own in a future episode.
It’s all beautifully shot as usual by Daniel Nettheim – the corn fields James D’Arcy’s character Lee stalked through so menacingly in the second season make a welcome return, while fishermen on the beach are swathed in an eerie mist, and the build-up to that cliff-hanger is chilling.
Perhaps no single episode this season has quite topped that opening segment of Episode 1, but at its best, Broadchurch is still a visually distinctive, skilfully woven show, and this instalment is packed full of drama.
Aired at 9pm on Monday 27 March 2017 on ITV.
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