Things take a turn towards tragedy once again in this week's Broadchurch as the country's press and obsession with prying affects the people of the town.
After the revelation last week that Broadchurch resident Jack Marshall (David Bradley) had a conviction for sex with a minor, it soon hits the press. The Daily Herald decides to spice up the story as much as possible despite the suddenly earnest attitude of Karen (Vicky McClure) and Ollie (Jonathan Bailey) and Jack finds himself increasingly victimised by the town's people. Elsewhere, Mark (Andrew Buchan) and Beth (Jodie Whittaker) continue to deal with the aftermath of his affair with Becca Fisher (Simone McAullay) whilst Hardy (David Tennant) and Miller (Olivia Colman) lead the townspeople in a reconstruction of Danny's last movements in the hope that it might jog memories and bring forth new evidence.
As ever with police procedurals, the series has been lacking in any outright antagonist as we continue to try and work out who might be the murderer. With her lurking ways and aggressive threat to Dodgy Nige (Joe Sims), Pauline Quirke's Susan was the closest we got to a boo-hiss type character but there hadn't been anyone present who was black enough to truly dislike. So this week, Chris Chibnall gives us the national tabloid press en masse, sacrificing newsagent Jack on the altar of selling more papers.
Again, like other aspects of this programme, the strength of this narrative development lay in the reality of the situation, particularly with the outcome of suicide after a press witch hunt. It was also infuriating to watch as the entire community leapt to conclusions about Jack's past, assuming he was a paedophile into corrupting little boys based on nothing more than a previous conviction. Once the truth was revealed, Jack's story became all the more heartbreaking and the scene between David Bradley and Andrew Buchan was excellent, with the former pointing to the tragic parallels between the two men.
The situation also showed just how far-reaching the ripples of Danny's death have become, spreading out from the Latimers into the community itself, paradoxically dividing it but also bringing people together. In particular, Reverend Paul Coates (Arthur Darvill - Assorted Buffery favourite and general good egg) is starting to properly ingratiate himself into the community as Beth's confidante and Becca's financial advisor. Are the writers preparing us for a fall perhaps? After all, any outcome of this case has to be a shock, both to the audience and to the community itself.
Whilst the quality of the episode was, as always, excellent, with great performances once again across the board, there were a couple of moments that jarred for me as a couple of characters seemed to go against their previous established motivations. Take Karen for instance; previously she was a ruthless reporter, going AWOL from her post and manipulating the Latimers into speaking to the press in the first place. Suddenly in this episode, she developed a conscience, wishing only to print the truth about Jack Marshall, rather than the over-exaggerated version the paper ends up printing. Whilst this absolved the character of blame, it felt odd for her to react so strongly to the edits, having been so sensationalist herself earlier in the series.
That's a small niggle though because I'm firmly of the view that Broadchurch is going from strength to strength with each episode. For the first time in this series, the audience hasn't been directed to a 'suspect of the week' and it was all the better for it, allowing the human drama and consequences of such a horrific act play out, rather than pointing the finger at a red herring. Broadchurch started with a couple of cliched episodes and whilst I think it will descend into a Poirot-style revelation of the murderer, for now it has been a good time to get to know the people of Broadchurch.
You can read Becky's review of Episode Four here.
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