Monday, 3 April 2017

TV Review: Even Broadchurch's weakest subplot ends in devastating heartbreak

Contains spoilers.

Oh, Broadchurch. I really can't tell you how good it is to see you on top form again.

Tonight's episode was the best instalment of this show since its series one finale back in 2013. Broadchurch went through a rough patch in its second outing, and even this improved third and final series hasn't quite recaptured the glories of what this show achieved four years ago. Until tonight. This was a tense, focused and deeply moving hour of television.

Episode six gives every main cast member a moment to shine. Broadchurch's best element since day one has been its cast, everyone is uniformly terrific. Tonight's episode finally, finally, brings every major player into the mix and allows them all to let loose, one by one. Jodie Whitaker was forceful and angry when Beth confronted Nira by herself, Julie Hesmondhalgh pushed Trish's harsher side to the front lines as she coldly dismissed Cath Atwood, David Tennant fell back into old memories while screaming at Katie Harford, and Olivia Colman brought powerful untold stories to the surface in one showstopping monologue.

Tonight's star performer, though? Andrew Buchan. Buchan has been terrific ever since Broadchurch premiered all those years ago, even managing to add emotional depth to this series' weakest subplot. As Mark Latimer confronts Joe Miller for the first time since his banishment from the town, Buchan demonstrates a remarkable talent for juxtaposing the uncontrollable anger and deep rooted heartbreak that Mark has suffered for years.

Unless you've been through it yourself, it's impossible to understand what losing your child feels like. Buchan manages to sell it, he makes us feel everything Mark has endured since Danny's death. The loss of his son, the uprooting of his town, the decay of his family. Through Mark's words and Buchan's performance, we feel everything. It's a devastating sequence, but it's Mark's final moments tonight where Buchan really shines.

The phone call with daughter Chloe was pure heartbreak fuel. The camera sticks close to Mark's face to disguise his whereabouts, but anyone paying attention would know he was stood at the top of the cliff side. We almost didn't even need to see it. After some (presumably intentionally) jarring editing work, Mark's body lies lifelessly on top of the sea as the camera pulls up, floating further and further away. Mark's subplot hasn't always worked this series, but its end destination justified every second of it.

What it also does, though, is fill me with scepticism heading into the series' home stretch. Presuming Ed Burnett (Lenny Henry) is a giant red herring - I'll be very surprised if he isn't - the show still doesn't feel much closer to discovering the identity of Trish's rapist. Add in the aftermath of Mark's suicide and you have a lot of ground to cover and not a lot of episodes to make use of. Still, tonight's consistent tension, A-grade performances and soul shattering conclusion prove that Broadchurch still has power behind its beauty. If it can maintain that balance for its final episodes, it'll go out on a high.

  • As well as being near faultless in every other regard, this was probably Broadchurch's finest hour visually this series as well. The huge establishing shots contrasting with the tight close ups were effortless, and the show's locations remain unparalleled.
  • She wasn't really given a standout moment, but Georgina Campbell fully integrated with the cast tonight. Previous episodes have left her a bit on the outskirts, but episode six let her merge. It was good to see, Campbell is truly terrific here.
  • Ellie now knows that Tom's porn is sent to him by the son of the taxi driver who happens to be a major suspect in the case. This seems important.
  • Ed's obsession with Trish came as a surprise, but looking back on it now it all seems so obvious. Damn you, Broadchurch, you hid that in plain sight very well indeed.
  • To be honest, it really could be anyone. It's brilliantly to ugh to settle on one person as the culprit. Rather than drift on and on looking at everyone individually, let's just end with tonight's funniest quote, courtesy of none other than TV's best cop due, Hardy and Miller:
  • "I might put you in charge of bollockings from now on, Miller," says Hardy after watching Ellie's beastly dismissal of Katie Harford. Ellie's reply couldn't be any more telling - "Fine by me." Perfect.

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