‘Broadchurch’ review: Season 3 Episode 4 is confident, mostly elegant storytelling

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This isn’t a particularly Trish-centric episode of Broadchurch, but she is still far and away the best thing about it; if Julie Hesmondhalgh isn’t showered with gongs come award season, it’ll be criminal.

The opening quarter of this fourth instalment sees Trish returning to the scene of her assault at the Axehampton party. This detail is powerfully conveyed, and despite my general reticence towards flashbacks as expressed last week, they work well here, as the superb Daniel Nettheim – a veteran Doctor Who director – wrings every ounce of contrast out of the transition: upbeat, boozy Trish at the party and the broken woman who stands now in the empty house, as though on two different sides of a huge divide.

The moment where she lies down in the exact spot where the terrible crime occurred, feeling the earth beneath her and hearing the same sounds she could hear then, is a brilliant piece of uncomfortable, awkward physical acting, complete with the immediate and visceral vomiting that follows.

Elsewhere, the episode progresses the investigation forward in some interesting ways, while still allowing time for some texture and character beats that ensures it isn’t solely about the procedural side of things. The big, well-shot set piece – a community spirit football game down on the beach – sees Trish making the first tentative steps of rehabilitation into society, the first time she appears in public after the attack; the moment Cath runs to her side and tells everyone “Carry on, it’s only Trish!” is a quietly cathartic one.

By this point the Hardy and Miller rapport is so well-honed that Tennant and Colman could do it in their sleep, but it’s as watchable as ever, and Chris Chibnall comes up with new avenues to explore in the form of Hardy’s date, all teenage nervousness and dating app uncertainty. We also get a brief moment between Daisy Hardy and Chloe Latimer that implies something has happened to the former at school – paralleling Tom Miller, what is going on underneath Hardy’s roof that he’s unaware of?

We learn quite a bit more about Lenny Henry’s Ed Burnett this week: the obvious ways in which he cares for Trish, keeps asking after her, makes meaningful eye contact with her a couple of times… I’m going to stick my neck out and suggest he is interested in her but never told her, and that he sent the flowers and card we saw at the end of Episode 3.

Also competing for Trish’s affections – it would seem – is Cath’s husband Jim, who, it turns out (in a rare moment of a reviewer predicting something that actually does come true), was indeed the man she slept with on the Saturday morning. Mark Bazeley plays his interrogation scene well, with enough defensiveness to make Jim a slippery customer, but enough naïveté and vulnerability to make the audience unlikely to have him pegged as the assailant (for one thing, he seems to be under the false impression that rape is usually about desire rather than violence and power).

The main oversight in the script – and it is a pretty daft one, even if it didn’t occur to me for a while and thus comes under ‘fridge logic’ rather than ‘immediately obvious’ – is: why on earth didn’t Hardy and Miller grill Jim about where he was at the party? They had him in the police station, under interrogation for his DNA match on Trish’s clothing, and had only just heard from Cath that she didn’t know her husband’s whereabouts at the party… surely they would have asked there and then?

This will probably come up in Episode 5, but sadly feels like a moment of plausibility being sacrificed at the altar of plot mechanics: bit of a fumble from Chibnall there. While I’m complaining, the Fifty Shades of Grey line is a tad on-the-nose too.

Chibnall makes up for this elsewhere, mind, both in the red herring subplot of the abusive text message Trish received – a smart way of leading us up a blind alley whilst not skipping lightly over the fact that these are the sorts of messages assault victims really do receive, and which the police take seriously – and in the deeply, deeply uncomfortable new character of Aaron Mayford. Played to chilling perfection by Jim Howick, Mayford is a convicted rapist the detectives decide to place under surveillance. The scenes of his threatening advances on Georgina Campbell’s DC Harford (“I like you watching me”) are sickening but well-done.

One lapse of logic aside, this is another strong Broadchurch instalment. It’s superbly shot and edited, with Nettheim displaying a real talent for giving the beautiful Dorset scenery a bleak edge and for framing tiny individuals against huge vistas of cliffs, as though showing us the intrinsic fragility of human beings.

This is confident, mostly elegant storytelling.

Aired at 9pm on Monday 20 March 2017 on ITV.

Buy the Season 1-2 box set on Amazon here.

Order Season 3 on DVD on Amazon here.

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Tom Marshall blogs about literature, TV and sci-fi here.

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