After three episodes of buildup that slowly unfolded the characters and relationships of Broadchurch (a friend described it as people drinking tea, looking at the ocean, then crawling into bed under heavy covers), episode four shoots the whole series into high gear. A mad shuffling of interplay between seemingly disparate characters related to the murder of 11-year-old Danny Latimer elevates the tension and action to the highest level since the première. There are so many new alliances and uncovered secrets, my home Broadchurch flowchart is getting extremely complicated: Hardy and the psychic have a few flare-ups; we see Ollie’s troubled mother, hinted at last week; there’s a confrontation between Nigel and the surly trailer lady, of all people; Pastor Paul reveals he helped Danny and Tom with a computer club at school; and best of all, flirty Becca has to pose at Hardy’s wife at the hospital after he passes out in his bathroom at the inn.
This week’s suspect spotlight shines on elderly Jack, the newsagent and local leader of the Sea Brigade, which sounds like the Broadchurch version of Boy Scouts. Intrepid news reporter Ollie finds out Jack has a conviction for underage sex, but Jack still tries to maintain his innocence, even going to the Latimers with Danny’s mobile, which he found in the boy’s newspaper bag. But if those pictures of the brigade he burns at the end are so harmless, why is he destroying them?
Each week, Broadchurch uncovers more and more secrets: Seemingly everyone in town has them. A whodunit is one mystery, but by opening up hidden sides of the people in the town, the drama becomes much more compelling as the show introduces new questions to explore. Why did surly trailer lady Susan Wright change her name from Elaine Jones? What is her connection to Nigel? Is Jack as innocent as he claims? What was Paul the Pastor doing on the beach the night the boat burned? And what is up with Psychic Steve?
The detective team of D.I. Alec Hardy (David Tennant) and D.S. Ellie Martin (Olivia Colman) remain at the center of this network of brewing scandals and possible red herrings. At the beginning of the episode, on the spooky Broadchurch beach at nighttime, Hardy is frustrated by the inability to access the burning boat shown on the water at the end of last week, potential evidence going up in smoke as he watches. In the morning, a member of the forensics team chastises Hardy for his unfriendliness: “On Earth, we say good morning and how d’you do.” “I’ve told him, it makes no difference,” Ellie confirms. Actual clues are found in the charred boat, strands of hair that eventually turn out to be Danny’s, and Hardy is gleeful, which is disconcerting to Miller. He thinks the attempt to burn the boat means the murderer is panicking. It also means the murderer is extremely close by. This revelation is all the more chilling when we see all the players in the same place twice this week, at a town meeting and at church (leading to weird pairings like Psychic Steve sitting near Karen the Herald reporter, or Becca and Hardy in adjacent pews). Surely the killer must be among them.
Hardy shows yet another side when he takes the Millers up on Ellie’s awkward dinner invitation from last week. In a community where everyone has seemingly known each other since birth, it’s fascinating to witness a town outsider getting to know these people. Are you married, do you have kids, where did you two meet?: These questions chip away at the crisp façade of strangers until they finally reveal a glimpse of what’s underneath. Hardy tries to dodge the question of whether he’s married (“not anymore”), then takes an audible breath before admitting he has a 15-year-old daughter who lives with her mother, then gulps a huge swallow of wine afterward. His façade finally cracks when he gets Ellie’s husband Joe to admit she doesn’t like working with him. It’s maybe (probably) the wine talking, but the two men laugh, and the result is downright delightful.
Compare this meal with the Latimers’ and Millers’ Sunday lunch, cooked by Nigel. It’s one of the first glimpses into how happy the Broadchurch community must have been before the death of Danny. The lunch is clearly an occasion the families have pulled together often, and their interactions are familiar and seamless, but there’s now a very definite gap. Danny’s mother Beth feels this most acutely and needs to hug his best friend Tom: “I miss his hugs.” A possibly ill-advised family interview with the Herald leads to the press invading this domestic oasis; the Latimers are trying to use the press coverage to lead to more information for the investigation, but they’re now also more exposed than ever. Then Beth lobs a truth grenade at her husband Mark before they walk into the press conference: She tells him she knows about his affair with Becca Fischer. As secrets bubble to the surface in Broadchurch, no one remains unaffected, and the ramifications become all the more severe as we head into the second half of the series.
- Official tagline exclaimed by Broadchurch characters once their secrets are uncovered: “That’s got nothing to do with this!”
- Saying I’ve never heard before but is bound to come in handy sooner rather than later: “Better to have you inside the tent pissing out than outside than the tent pissing in, I suppose.”
- Favorite shots this week: After the Latimers agree to a press profile, there’s a view of them from Danny’s room, as if he’s looking over them. Also, as Psychic Steve pleads with Beth to get the police to listen to him, we see a heartrending view of a group of boys playing soccer underneath Broadchurch’s wide skies. And the creepiest moment of the series since the first episode: Susan Wright accosting editor Maggie in the dark newspaper office.
- The Hardy/Miller banter remains a Broadchurch highlight: “What about you then, are you religious?” “Yep, I pray nightly you’ll stop asking me questions.”