Broadchurch is usually good on those little chinks of humour amid the darkness. There wasn’t much light relief in this episode though, there was no time for even DI Hardy (David Tennant) and DS Miller (Olivia Colman) to bicker, what with seemingly a serial attacker on their hands. Hardy was so busy belittling the potential rapists of Broadchurch that he didn’t even notice that his own daughter was suffering as her (presumably saucy) nicked selfies had made her a target at school. While this episode didn’t quite have emotional impact of last week’s instalment, Sarah Parish was icily brilliant as an acid-tongued wife and best friend betrayed, and there still seems, deliciously, to be about a zillion suspects in the frame.
As for the new victims, there was Laura Benson (Kelly Gough), who we met at the end of the last episode, giving details about her attack. Then we were told of a woman who had (conveniently) confided in Beth Latimer’s mentor, but who had been reluctant to go to report it at the time. My money’s on it being someone already on our radar, perhaps even the force's newest recruit.
All the crimes had grim echoes of Trish’s brutal attack: knocked out from behind, hands tied with fishing twine behind the back, sock gag in mouth and raped by an unknown stranger with booze on their breath.
We’re never allowed to forget that Chris Chibnall’s final series is trying to reframe the way we think about the authorities’ handling of rape cases. “I know how women like me get treated,” Benson sobbed in the interview room as she recounted that she had had a lot to drink on the night of her attack and was dressed up in her party clothes. “Not by us,” said Hardy, in case you hadn’t got that already.
As per, tonight’s episode left us with more question than answers, not least why producers insist on doing those stylised moody shots of the cast staring into the middle distance. The scene in the cornfield (see the main picture) made Miller, Hardy and Benson look like they were shooting album covers for Wessex's answer to The Wurzels, rather than trying to find a serial sex attacker. Anyway, with three episodes left to go, here are our burning questions.
1. What is Jim Atwood's secret?
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned and Parish was excellent as humiliated Cath when she found out about Jim and Trish’s boiler-fixing-turned-shagging-session. Trish’s actions were hard to understand. Horny or not, it just doesn’t seem that likely that she would get down and dirty with known serial cheat Jim and her so-call best friend’s husband on the kitchen floor of a Saturday morning. Our sympathies lay Cath until she got seriously cruel. “Christ, his standards have slipped.” Then: “Of all the women at that party, why would somebody rape you? It doesn’t make sense.” I wanted to cheer when Trish told her to get out. The exchange felt raw, undignified and very real. And we felt the writers’ agenda again: rape is not about sex, it is about power and violence, remember? So why on earth are Jim and Cath still together when he clearly is not good news? Cath told him she could “set fire” to his life whenever she wanted. But why would she stay in a “loveless” marriage with a cheat? Could it be something to do with a dodgy sideline business that pays for that big house, zippy blue convertible and lavish parties that Cath would be implicated in? How would a farm shop job and a failing mechanics business cover all that? And we still don't know what Jim was doing when he was unaccounted for at the party, or why he is so keen Lucas keeps quiet.
2. What was Aaron “Mackerel” Mayford doing on the night of the party?
“Just because he’s an arsehole, doesn’t mean he’s a rapist,” said Hardy. True that, but if Aaron Mayford wasn’t actually catching mackerel on the night of the party down at the beach, where was he? And if he is innocent of the crime, why is he lying to the police? This is a brilliantly creepy turn from Jim Howick, and his skin-crawling insouciance gives us a chance to see Hardy at his most scathing. More please.
3. Is Ed Burnett capable of rape?
We know that Ed (Lenny Henry) has a bit of a thing for his employee Trish, but has it ever gone further than a one-sided infatuation? Either way, Trish's attack has got under Ed’s skin. First he refused to let her ex Ian (Charlie Higson) rent one of his caravans, “I don’t trust you...Trish never trusted you.” Then when he found out about her kitchen shenanigans with Jim, he rushed round to the garage to show the mechanic who was boss. This duffing-up also served to confuse us further: Ed is capable of violence (a risky move, surely, given his daughter in one of the police officers working on the case) and we know he was seen looking angry on the night of the party, but surely he wouldn't attack his beloved Trish?
4. Why, oh why can’t we leave Joe Miller in the past?
Okay, so the subplot involving Mark Latimer’s campaign to get justice for Danny gives the grumpy priest and the even grumpier newspaper editor something to do, but the Joe Miller stuff feels like going over old, tired ground. It was odd to see Mark in a bleak urban, industrial setting rather than a bleak coastal one, but i found it hard to care when he managed to track down Joe Miller (Matthew Gravelle), now apparently working as a security guard. God knows what Mark is planning to do with that Stanley knife and hammer he took on his road trip, but I suppose time will tell. I'm most interested in the impact his reappearance might have on Ellie, but will Joe even make it down to the south west?
5. Is Clive Lucas the only taxi driver in the whole of Wessex?
I know that Uber probably hasn’t made it to Broadchurch, but seriously, Lucas must have to plant a lot of trees to offset his carbon footprint with all the lifts he’s been giving to the inhabitants of Broadchurch and the surrounding villages. And why would people keep getting lifts with a man who thinks nothing of propositioning his punters? We already know Lucas (Sebastian Armesto) is a nasty piece of work who regularly cheats on his wife. He also, more scarily, has a man drawer full of sets of keys, including one that appears to have a picture of Trish and Leah on the keyring. Oh, and his (porn-watching) step-son hates him and he also seems to be lying about where he was on the night of the party.
6. Who else has washed Leo’s socks?
Like most other men in Broadchurch, Leo is dodgy with a capital D. He’s apparently also lying about what he was up to on the night of the party, he has access to the fishing twine. I don't know about you, but I never want to think about fishing twine again after this series ends. He also apparently gets his love interests to wash his manky football socks. The same socks, no less, that appear to be used as a gag in the rape cases, as found in Axehampton's grounds by Arthur Tamworth’s black Labrador (of course the posh man has the posh man’s dog of choice). Surely the sock explanation is too simple? Unless of course one of the sock washers is working with the attacker...
7. What is on Trish's laptop?
We know that Ian Winterman is desperate to wipe whatever it is he installed on Trish's laptop. It could be spyware or something altogether grubbier. Did he let himself into the house at the end of the episode to get the machine? Or is he just after a place to kip after Ed denied him a caravan?
Time will tell.Reuse content