Pretty much as soon as episode six begins, you get the feeling it will be a strong one; after an exposition-ladened introduction which makes sure all elements are aligned in the audiences mind, they infer that although the suspect list is large, they are slowly but surely narrowing down the field, crafting an intensity almost immediately. While the audience know of the forthcoming reveal regarding Katie's relationship with one of the main suspects, the way it plays out is absorbing; the reaction from Miller and Hardy in particular is feverish, with the sudden realisation of the implications her dishonesty may have in the court case echoing back to Danny's case extraordinarily, with all three actors delivering. Miller's unfolding anger later in the episode towards Katie's speedy path to success beautifully uncovers this new side to Elle we are seeing more of, with Olivia Colman passionate deconstruction of her self-entitlement both thrilling and uncomfortable to view. Colman receives another chance to shine, with a confrontation between her and Tom over his porn obsession, in a storyline that still feels important to the plot despite the supposed end-point it appears to reach. Beth's vehement towards a possible victim and her shrinking silence is captivating, once again depicting Jodie Whittaker's brilliance and control, while Trish's sharpness towards Cath reveals a new side to her character, with the writer's having us question whether this has been deep inside of her, somewhat bitchy and scathing all along, or whether it is simply the consequence of such a life-changing event in your life. Tonight's terrific script brings this notion to the forefront, but has anyone else noticed a slight diminishing likability to her character? It seems purposeful and while we unconditionally root for her perpetrator to be caught, a slightly nasty side seems to be emerging from her over the previous few weeks... Hmmm. Following the press conference, a fire seems to have been set under many of the suspects, included in a brilliant montage of the main players, and I can only hope the brilliance of this episode catapults the series forward, hoping that the remaining two episodes continue the fierce momentum it has built up over this sublime hour. For all the darkness it builds up though, the script writers remember to bring us the humour that makes the central duo so enjoyable to watch, summed up this week in Miller's 'bollocking'.
Mark Latimer's quest to avenge Joe Miller came to a head this week in the episode's most touching moments, showing the fragility of each of the men for very similar reasons (losing their loved ones), despite the very different actions that lead them to it. It's brilliant that the show, while showing the toxicity of masculinity in one storyline, can then demonstrate the frailty of them elsewhere, wonderfully utilising opposing representations so efficiently and effectively. I've continually remarked how much Andrew Buchan has impressed me (this season more so than ever) but nothing could have prepared me for tonight's masterclass - from those opening moments, so clearly a dream but so harrowing nonetheless, to the phone call that evokes memories of Danny atop of the cliff in season one and that haunting, powerful final shot of a man reduced to desperation and resolution - is utterly extraordinary. Both Buchan and the director manage to sell every single moment of his pain and subsequent collapse, with that lingering final shot so painful to witness. This season's career-defining performance from the talented actor is sensational, completely and utterly shattering your emotional wellbeing and leaving the week ahead until the aftermath and fallout almost unbearable. Heartbreaking, agonising and heart-wrenching, I'm beginning the campaign for (at least) a BAFTA nomination for Buchan after tonight's episode.
The only slight weakness of the episode though is the decision to place Ed Burnett as a prime suspect so close (but so far) from the end - in terms of representation, I'm pretty sure they won't have the only notable black man in Broadchurch as the town's serial rapist, so it seems like a damn obvious red herring to throw in so close to the end. That said, the unfolding investigation surrounding his character in no less compelling and will be just as interesting to see how he is pardoned or excused from the investigation after the mounting evidence against him. On the whole though, Broadchurch's beauty shines once again this week, including some excellent camera work (again, that final shot will not leave me for WEEKS) and scenery, with a more notable use of Olafur Arnald's mesmerising score recapturing its power after fading slightly over the previous few weeks.
Broadchurch returns to peak potential and it feels excellent to have the show on top, back where it belongs. It pulled on the heartstrings, spurred the central mystery on and still manages to develop characters, after all this time. The cast, the script, the storyline, the production, the scenery, the direction and so, so much more is all combined in the most stunning episode of the series to date and pushes the show forward into the final two hours of the show and - if the remaining two episodes are of the same quality as this one - it may be enough to convince me that season three is the strongest Broadchurch season of them all.
It's penultimate episode time! Broadchurch's seventh episode of the final season, rather than solving some of the show's mysteries in preparation for next week's series finale, actually gives us more to consider. It always has something to do, with new suspects thrust into the spotlight between every ad break, keeping audiences on our toes and waiting with baited breath - yet it doesn't seem to have actually revealed anything new or enlightening. It refuses to rule suspects out and adds little evidence to the fold, stumbling around until next week's expectedly explosive finale. Particularly when compared to last week's stellar effort, this penultimate instalment is somewhat unsatisfactory in Broadchurch terms; that being, it's solid but not to the high standard we have come to expect.
Rather than narrowing down the suspect list, Broadchurch's refusal to do so leaves the field so open that anyone could still emerge as the perpetrator - and that's actually rather frustrating. When you look at the early stages of the series and compare them with this latest episode, no one has been inexplicably ruled out or pardoned; new evidence has come into the frame, with each new piece altering the likelihood of the perpetrator and turning the heat up on certain individuals, ensuring the intensity is high throughout - but the waters are just as muddied with absolutely no clarity at this (very) late stage in the game. It's so up in the air that it's actually becoming irritating. Yes, I want to still be guessing and yes I want to be enthralled with the unfolding mystery, but there are far too many suspects in the frame and everything delivered at this late stage seems to appear only as a red herring. A lot of the revelations we see here (Leo installing the spyware on Trish's laptop for Ian, the taxi driver in possession of Trish's keys and Jim's choice in condoms, to name just a few) are known to the audiences and it is simply a case of aligning the characters in play with the evidence, meaning the element of surprise is somewhat lacking due to our prior knowledge. Nothing feels illuminative and the episode plays out as a courtesy, perfunctory filling the hour before next week's finale.
It's not that episode seven is a completely empty instalment; Hardy's lambasting of his daughter's bullies is terrific television, with great script work and a reliably committed performance as a father rather than a detective from Tennant; the chemistry between Tennant and Colman is great, with Elle stealing Alec's toast a wonderful touch to demonstrate how their partnership has blossomed over the show's history, alongside Elle's excellent translation from delight into bamboozlement when Alec reveals he is 'being too nice'; and the beautiful parallelism between Beth awakening on the day of Danny's death and Mark's suicide attempt, representing the attention to detail the Broadchurch team pays to the show. All of this is solid, solid television work, with this perhaps being the most beautiful episode of the season yet (from the soft sunlight penetrating the interview scenes and some lovely sweeping shots of the coast) and impressive performances (again) - but it is not penultimate-episode quality. Mark's suicide attempt, framed so beautifully at the end of last week's episode, returns on a note as damp as Mark after spending, what, ten minutes in the sea? I do not mind he survived (in fact, I breathed a sigh of relief) but to have him return on this wimper is so underwhelming and a wasted opportunity more than anything, despite first-rate performances from Jodie Whittaker, Andrew Buchan and Charlotte Beaumont. Plus, as well-intentioned and symbolic as it tried to be, the 'solidarity march' was poorly executed and disappointing, shoehorned in and standing out for the wrong reasons, delivering an important message in a frustrating way.
Frustrating is how you sum up this entire episode actually - it's far from bad and actually enjoyable as a sum of its parts; but breaking it down, and looking at it from a critical viewpoint, the episode doesn't stand up to a) what came before it, b) what we expect from the show and c) for the fact this is the penultimate ever episode of Broadchurch. It stumbles far too often, fails to rule out any suspects and retreads ground too regularly to be deemed a success, delivering the season's weakest episode at the poorest time imaginable. So many plot points need clearing up (who owns the house next to the river? Where is the porn coming from? What was the light Trish was able to see as she was being raped? Oh, and that mystery of who raped Trish Winterman...). I can only hope that next week's finale is closer in quality to last week's chapter than this week's instalment. I want this show to go out on a high more than anything but right now, it's pretty 50-50 as to whether it will or won't.
Stepping into the final ever episode of Broadchurch was tinged with an apprehension and a sadness; the show has, in all honesty, been my favourite British television series of all time - gripping from day one and consistently good. Chris Chibnall's coastal drama-thriller is of such a high quality that whenever the show dips somewhat in quality, as the penultimate episode did last week, its downfalls are only more pronounced. Last week's mediocre episode happened to follow the series' strongest chapter this year, so knowing what to expect from the finale was very uncertain.
To my absolute relief, Broadchurch's series finale delivered what has made the show a national phenomenon in a one hour slot: an episode of unwavering intensity, heartbreaking emotion, simultaneous beauty and darkness, with a stunning score and terrific tonal work closes the entire series out on an almost perfect note. As well as wrapping up season three's rape plot in a satisfying way - one that was both foreshadowed and partially unsurprising, combined with some genuine shock twists and turns - while closing out the overarching Broadchurch citizens across the three seasons nicely. It registers in the top-end of the season regarding episode quality and pay-off, landing on an optimistic note as our favourite seaside town fades into the sunset - and what a beautiful moment it was by the time we reach the credits.
(Spoilers below so look away if you are yet to see the finale episode)
Michael Lucas' (Deon Lee-Williams) involvement in the rape has been somewhat clear for two weeks now and absolute concrete within the first two minutes of the episode, with Lee-Williams bringing some tremendous nuance to his character throughout the episode after being overlooked throughout. Incorporating the theme of grooming was a surprisingly dark turn that makes perfect sense in retrospect, musing on the consideration of consent across the season and the toxicity of masculinity manifesting as the case has progressed. Leo Humphries (Chris Mason) seemed like an obvious red herring for the majority of the season so his involvement - and complete vulgarness - was more surprising but convincing when the darkness began to seep from him during the interrogation scene. Despite the script making some of these moments a little too striking and forced, with some revelations seemingly coming from nowhere, Mason's performance is sickening and a few little subtleties (including the timings of the attack) redeem this slight flaw, crafting some of the most brutal scenes of the entire show - and my god do they boil your blood and have you repulsively gasp. Most of the elements slotted into place and while a few holes were left uncovered, they were minor enough to be forgiven in the long-run - particularly considering the extensive ground the episode was required to cover (both as a season finale and a series finale). Thematically, it was a well-balanced and capacious piece, with a lot of the darkness counterbalanced by a certain pairing...
Ellie Miller and Alec Hardy, as expected, have been terrific all-series long, mainly because of the wonderfully-developed chemistry between the once mis-matched pair and Colman and Tennant's sharp performances; quips are expertly timed, the emotion is restrained when needed and liberated when required, with the final moments between the pair an absolutely beautiful way to close out the show and the central partnership we have come to love and admire for all its differences. Another important pairing of the series, Beth and Mark's fraught relationship, comes to a bittersweet head in this final chapter, with some heart-wrenching scenes acting perfectly as an salient tonal shift, offering extended periods of silence and reticence - a notable departure from the franticness of Plot A. Of course, Andrew Buchan and Jodie Whittaker sell this for every penny it is worth and deliver an emotional and conflicting end-point for the pair who experienced such rocky waters - although heartbreaking in its final moments, it is refreshing to see the writer's avoiding the 'happy ending for all' cliche. Admittedly, this final episode had so much to cover that it physically couldn't include every main and supporting character across the series - but we were stretched so thin with our time that some characters were entirely dropped in this final stretch, confirming an opinion held across the entire season: we had too many suspects in the frame. Jim Atwood - arguably the very first suspect - was nowhere to be seen, Cath was nothing but a flashback, Tom Miller might have muttered a few words and Katie was disappointingly absent for the majority. Even Trish, after Julie Hesmondhalgh's powerhouse performance in the first half of the series, was under utilised in this conclusive instalment but you can't win them all.
Once again, it was an episode of complete beauty; despite its prominent night-setting, the camera and director manage to pick out some genuinely stunning moments, from the gloomy lighting of the flashback sequences to the majesty of the cliff sequence, always leaving you in awe. The cinematography has forever been one of the series' high points and this absolutely proves that, with the final sequence - between Miller and Hardy at the forefront of the cliff-face that has become a character in its own right throughout the show's course - is one that captures everything special about Broadchurch. Olafur Arnards' haunting and evocative score transforms into its own tonight after its insufficient use elsewhere across the season, truly emphasising key moments effectively and really rather beautifully. As mentioned, some of the writing felt a little too forced, particularly from characters who didn't appear to have the intelligence to actually believe the metaphors they were spewing, but the tonal work and thematic content is more than solid, delving in far deeper than expected - with some wonderful musing on impressionable young minds, masculinity and parental impact. All of this, presented brilliantly by Chibnall, ensures and prevents the episode from coming across as if it is preaching and painting all young people with the same brush, evident in Miller and Hardy's affirmations. It's thoughtful, subtle and tremendous work from the scriptwriters and performers who handle their material expertly.
I am so, so thankful Broadchurch ended on such a positive note. It is well-earned, emotionally-driven and satisfying conclusion to a series that has so often nailed the genre. It slips up on a couple of occasions, mainly because of how much ground the final episode was left to cover, but Episode 8 perpetuates and wraps up the show to the high-standard we have come to expect from the Dorset-set series. The acting and performances, writing and scripting, filming, directing, score and cinematography were all nailed in this final chapter, working tremendously well as a season and a series finale, culminating three seasons' worth of hard-work in this conclusive chapter that wraps up the stories they have told very effectively. Our parting shot of the Miller and Hardy, framed so beautifully by the cliffs, demonstrates everything that works about this show and what a ride it has been. Thank you Broadchurch and goodbye.