‘Broadchurch’ review: Season 3 Episode 7 lacks the punch of last week’s ep

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The fact that Mark Latimer turns out to be alive after all, after the high drama ending of last week… isn’t actually a disappointment, somewhat to my surprise.

Plenty of suicide plans don’t come off, for one thing, so there is a certain bathetic realism to it in that respect, but perhaps more importantly the Latimer storyline is much more interesting with a bitter, disappointed, broken Mark who thinks he is so terrible at life that he can’t even kill himself properly than if we go back through the familiar motions of grief we’ve already seen them go through.

The latter would be both too well-trodden ground in this particular series, but also a potentially too sizeable development this late in the game, as it could threaten to overshadow the ongoing investigation into the question of who attacked Trish.

Instead, the scenes between Mark and Beth work fairly well. Chloe’s piercing question “Why aren’t we enough?” – four simple yet devastating words – might be the best line of dialogue this week, whilst keeping Mark around to be able to explain his actions last week to his estranged wife allows us to see more of just how unable to find closure he truly was; Beth condemns Mark’s suicide attempt as “selfish and weak”, which seems both fair yet harsh at the same time, and the complexity this adds to proceedings is welcome.

It really casts a pall over any hopes for Trish, in that by presenting the relentlessly ongoing consequences of a brutal act that took place several years ago (both in reality and in the show’s time-frame), Chibnall illustrates that – as I said way back in my review of Episode 2 – these things never just go away.

As for Trish, her first appearance in this episode sees her gardening angrily just after Beth has begged her husband “live in the present, please!” It’s doubtless unintentional that this reflects the sentence with which Voltaire ends Candide – “il faut cultiver le jardin” – and the idea that, come what may, you simply have to cultivate the garden out back in the end, a metaphor for just getting on with life. But nonetheless it’s an oddly good fit: Trish quietly spends her time trying to just get on with it. And the solidarity vigil towards the episode’s end is an excellent statement about not letting the attacker win – probably the episode’s finest moment.

The ongoing subplot of Daisy Hardy remains a little limp and on-the-nose, but it does at least give us Hardy’s fiery rant aimed at the three teenage boys most responsible for his daughter’s situation, a rare chance for Tennant to properly flex his angry-face muscles (well known to viewers of Doctor Who). Hardy remains a fascinating parallel with Mark Latimer – Mark dwells on pain and grief at the expense of caring for his wife and daughters, whilst Hardy makes visible efforts, week in, week out, to put his daughter still more front and centre and do what’s best for her.

Then again, Hardy hasn’t gone through the trauma that Mark has, which is in part where the richness of the comparison comes from; how might Hardy behave, were he in Mark’s position? Or, indeed, in Jim’s or Ed’s? Differently, we might like to think. He’s – literally – a good cop. But we probably shouldn’t be so certain. Joe Miller, after all, was no murderer … until he was.

Elsewhere, “we are funded by advertising.”/”But you can choose what advertising you take!” could be the most meta Broadchurch joke yet. Chibnall has never shied away from digs at the media – faithful viewers will recall the scorn his Season 1 scripts poured on the hounding tendencies of the press and their role in John Marshall’s death – but an outright joke at ITV’s expense (dressed up as a FeMail reference though it may be) is a step still further.

This and the later scene in which Maggie rejects her boss Caroline “and her declining industry” are a sharp indictment of the media but do at least paint Maggie in a very positive light indeed; terrific stuff from Carolyn Pickles. In fact the acting throughout – with the regrettable exceptions of Becky Brunning as Lindsay Lucas and Charlie Higson as Ian Winterman, neither of whom can sell the weight of their material this week – is reliably solid.

In terms of the ongoing investigation, suspicion shifts from Ed to Jim Atwood, thanks to some helfpul sleuthing from Cath, while Ian’s skin-crawling habit of spying on his wife via his webcam also comes to the fore. The evidence stacked up against Jim seems overwhelming for most of this episode’s run time, but final twists of the knife – in a somewhat overdone montage that sees half the cast discover VITAL new evidence in the space of about a minute – cast further suspicion on Ed and Clive the cabbie. For the record, my money’s on Clive.

A decent penultimate instalment, but on balance last week’s packed more of a punch.

Aired at 9pm on Monday 10 April 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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