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David Tennant in Broadchurch


The theme of self-punishment featured strongly in episode three of Broadchurch as the clues stacked up and the police pulled in their first real suspect.

All evidence seemed to point towards accused father Mark Latimer (Andrew Buchan), who maintained that he had been out with a mate that night. Detectives Alec Hardy (David Tennant) and Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) pushed his shaky alibi aside with ease – asking the world’s worst liar to account for his whereabouts was probably a big mistake on his part –and there was no professional explanation for him being in the hut either. So, did the police have their culprit? With another five full episodes to go, common sense would say no. It would seem relatively easy for Latimer to name his witness and save his own skin, but his dream in the opening moments and his own breakdown in the interrogation room indicated that he considered himself worthy of punishment. He betrayed his family on that one occasion, and it was the occasion on which his son had needed his protection the most. In his mind his incarceration was a deserved penalty.
 
DI Hardy too was apparently making amends for past deeds. Journalist Karen White (Vicky McClure) has hinted at the extent of his failure in his past job. A clandestine meeting with his doctor (Moray Hunter) showed that he is a sick man, but he refuses to step down from his role. He hates the job and the place and the people, and the stress could kill him. But whatever the circumstances are behind his transfer to Broadchurch, Hardy has set himself a purpose for continuing with his investigations. It’s penance, he explains, weightily, brooding in the semi-darkness over his past deeds and his own fate. David Tennant, as we know, does tortured brooding particularly well.

Meanwhile, self-proclaimed psychic Steve Connelly (Will Mellor) is targeting Beth (Jodie Whittaker) with what appears to be some typically exploitative guesswork. Beth is certainly after some sort of sign, and the platitudes offered by vicar Paul Coates (Arthur Darvill) aren’t going to be enough, so against her better judgement she lets Connelly into her confidence. However his message to Hardy last week must have hit a nerve as the otherwise sceptical detective is inspired to follow up on his boat comment. Yes, it turns out, Mark has a boat. The boat is smeared with blood. The blood is Danny’s. Mark has been violent towards Danny in the past. And is that coincidence – in a seaside town it’s not beyond credibility that many of the residents will own a boat – or does this mean that Steve’s messages are going to be treated with some credibility? A boat is burnt at the end of the episode. It could be Mark’s. Or it could be someone else’s, spooked that the investigation in the harbour is getting a little close for comfort.
 
So with Mark Latimer, for now, seemingly off the hook, a number of questions are still left unanswered. There’s that skateboard that oddball loner Susan (Pauline Quirke) has in her cupboard. Danny’s perhaps, but then every kid in town seems to hang out round the skate park, so it could belong to any one of them. How was it that Mark’s daughter Chloe (Charlotte Beaumont) knew about his liaison with hotelier Becca (Simone McAullay) but wife Beth was clueless? What else is she prepared to cover up for her father? How did Mark’s fingerprints come to be all over the hut? Why does a plumber’s mate have a crossbow in his van? What does paper shop owner Jack (David Bradley) have against the press? Why does Olly (Jonathan Bailey) seem so twitchy over that business with his mum? And can the Miller family, Ellie and husband Joe (Matthew Gravelle) really be that nice and decent and perfect, or is their a darker side to them too that we have yet to observe?

Amongst all the relentless grimness there are moments of lightness. Police family liaison officer Pete (Marcus Garvey) is never without a soothing cup of tea to hand and an inappropriate comment tumbling from his lips. And Hardy and Miller are still rubbing one another up the wrong way, and at times their sniping provides the some of the scant comic relief – Hardy’s horror at being asked to dinner raises a welcome smile in a fairly tense episode. His never-ending capacity for rudeness and inability to converse even on the most basic terms with normal, decent human beings exasperates even the most forgiving woman in the world. “Knob!” she mutters as they lurch to the end of yet another awkward and mismatched exchange. Still, she got one up on him on the boat, him crouching terrified on the RIB as she hopped confidently from vessel to vessel.
 

Big hearted Ellie - and surely someone so personally close to the suspect wouldn’t be allowed to be anywhere near that interview room in her professional capacity - is loath to believe that any of her friends could be guilty of the crime. But, the increasingly short-tempered Hardy is fast losing patience with her: she’s more like Mark Latimer’s solicitor, he accuses. In turn she is horrified of his insensitive handling of her own son’s feelings. He hates the over-familiar way that they work in Broadchurch, and she hates his icy detachment and his refusal to acknowledge that they are dealing with real people and not just suspects.

There are five more episodes of Broadchurch to go, yet it hardly seems long enough to unpick all of the secrets of the town and its residents. But one thing is for sure, someone knows the darkest secret of all and it’s only going to be a matter of time before that person shows their hand.

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