Despite throwing even more confusing twists and turns at us, and not really getting any closer to divulging any answers, the cinematography and running themes in this episode of Broadchurch made it one of the best for a while.
With lots of shifting focus in shots, more hilltop seascapes and not to mention the eerie fairy lights of the fairground outside Hardy (David Tennant)’s gaff, it actually felt a more like a standalone short film than anything else. Although some elements of the show doubtless continue to be frustrating at best, and at worst totally unrealistic, at least we’re being given a beautiful, almost art-house view of the seaside to keep us going. Even if it is shot through the lens of what is now three grisly child murders.
But I quibble.
As Alec tried not to let Ellie (Olivia Colman) get too caught up in the Sandbrook case (the words bolted, horse and stable door spring to mind) she was allowed an uplifting, albeit momentarily, storyline as she took it upon herself to solve the mystery. Meanwhile, drama between the legal teams increased, Beth (Jodie Whittaker) tried and failed to come to terms with her loss once again, Claire (Eve Myles) admitted to sleeping with Lee (James D’Arcy) whilst left alone at the cottage, and Ricky Gillespie (Shaun Dooley) turned up – although we’re still not too sure of his real motivation. Does he know something about the deaths of his daughter and niece? Meanwhile, it looked even less likely that DI Hardy will survive the series, and James D’Arcy somehow managed to pop up in just about every shot. Could the shock twist of all be that he’s actually some sort of ninja? Time will tell.
Again, this was another episode with a lot of people shouting at a lot of other people, most of whom didn’t really deserve it. We had Sharon Bishop (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) shouting at Charlotte Rampling’s Jocelyn over the latter not taking up her son’s defence as he was put on trial for murder, we had Tom, played by star-in-the-making Adam Wilson (also seen recently in Mr Selfridge and Silent Witness) telling Ellie off for not standing by his murderous Dad, and even Paul (Arthur Darvill) the sinister vicar had a tough time of it.
I know I’ve questioned Paul’s holiness since day one, but the shock from Becca (Simone McAullay) and minor blackmail on the part of Joe’s legal team that a vicar should be visiting a sinner in jail seems a little far-fetched. Err, it’s his job? Give him a break! Whether this is just a ruse to let him off the hook of suspicion himself for a while, I don’t know, but it certainly worked on me.
This all tied in well with what seems to be an ongoing theme not just of justice as a system, but of what it is fair to expect of individuals. Is it fair to assume Ellie knew what Joe was up to just because she was married to him? Is it fair to punish her for what he did? Conversely, is it fair to blame Claire for protecting her husband? Can we really expect Beth to help precisely the sort of offender who killed her son? The list goes on.
Interestingly, Sandbrook has actually now become intriguing enough as a storyline in itself that it doesn’t feel so much like an irritating distraction from the main event. We’re now genuinely caught up in the mystery, to the extent that I for one now have to frequently remind myself that Eve Myles hasn’t actually been in the show since the beginning. Again, more cleverness on the part of Chris Chibnall in that most viewers are now working on two separate theories for two separate mysteries, all from the comfort of their sofas, and will most likely tune in to find the answer to one or the other.
On the downside, Susan Wright’s (Pauline Quirke) re-appearance felt like a bit of a farce. Her attempted revelations became yet another example of the show’s slightly annoying habit of dealing you a cliff-hanger (literally, given the town’s location) at the end of almost every episode, only for it to either never be mentioned again or dismissed within the first five minutes of the following episode, like a dissatisfying rollercoaster. Ellie and Alec’s alleged affair, anyone?
Nonetheless, Broadchurch continues to be well acted, well shot and well written. But as viewers become increasingly frustrated, will it continue to be well watched as we enter the final three episodes? Probably, after all, most of us still want to know whodunit, whydunit and can, in the case of Joe, can they prove he-dunit?
Let’s hope so.