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David Tennant in Broadchurch

Fires bracketed the opening and closing of episode four of Broadchurch while within the small town frustration and dissatisfaction sparked and smouldered and spread as the town’s population began to grumble about the apparent lack of progress of the investigation. But the police had evidence, real proper evidence as SOCO Brian (Peter de Jersey) discovered fibres and hair on the carcass of the burnt boat. DI Hardy (David Tennant) was elated and for a moment he seemed almost about to break into a little Highland jig at the news. He was so happy that he even went so far as to raise a length of police tape to let colleague Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) through in a gentlemanly manner, but his normal levels of misery and general misanthropy were quickly restored when critics at the town meeting reminded him of the Sandbrook case. As he feared, everyone was now getting involved, meaning the press particularly, though he did grudgingly accept a new piece of evidence from the former object of his ire, Olly (Jonathan Bailey).

The press, it had to be said, did more than their bit in stoking up the aggravation in the town. Olly, while no doubt hiding out from his apparently complicated domestic circumstances, indulged in a little late night research which uncovered something particularly unpleasant about Jack (David Bradley). Meanwhile, Maggie (Carolyn Pickles) found that Susan (Pauline Quirke) might not be all that she seemed. Karen (Vicky McClure) caused general mischief to shift a few more copies of the Herald while ensuring that the Latimer family saw her as the person to trust. As the town quickly became overrun with tabloid hacks and paps, crafty Karen manipulated the family and her local colleagues to come to some unfounded conclusions that will inevitably refocus the whole case.


There was a lot of skulking about in the darkness this week. Beth met Ellie for an early hours chat about Mark’s infidelity while the Reverend Paul (Arthur Darvill) loitered around his own church and Nige (Joe Sims) lurked in his van observing an exchange of views between Jack and Olly. Queen of the Midnight Prowlers has to be Susan Wright (Pauline Quirke) who generally raised her profile as a face to watch in the enquiry. Not only does the odd loner have some as yet unexplained connection to Mark’s best mate Nige, but Psycho Susan pulled out all the stops to menace snooping journalist Maggie who had perhaps uncovered a little more about her than she felt comfortable with sharing with the rest of the town. “I know men who can rape you!” she hissed after breaking into the newspaper office, leaving the hack with little doubt that Susan is a genuinely nasty piece of work.

Ellie and Hardy seemed to be falling more into step with one another as they worked each other out. Under Hardy’s tutelage Ellie has, to her dismay, started to become more detached. Looking around the town meeting she suddenly sees not a room full of friends and neighbours but a room full of potential suspects. She doesn’t like what she’s becoming. Hardy shrugs off her concern. “A good detective” he states. “Hardened!” she shudders in response. Their dinner date was as cringeworthy as anticipated, with Hardy awkwardly arriving bearing an abundance of gifts yet still refusing to be on first name terms. As light relief it’s absolutely necessary, but it’s also a sign of their new repositioning. Whether it was the wine, the soft lighting or perfect husband Joe’s good cooking, Hardy even offered up a few snippets of personal information. He’d been married, apparently, and there’s a daughter too. With Ellie out of the room Hardy expresses concern that his colleague doesn’t like him to Joe (Matthew Gravelle), and we even saw the first, genuine Hardy smile. She in turn seemed properly worried at the injury he sustained through his‘accident’ the next day. However, we’re none the wiser either about the nature of Hardy’s medical condition that causes him to black out so dramatically and which he defies in order to prove his worth as a detective.

The Latimer family tried hard to plough on with their normal lives in utterly abnormal circumstances. For Beth (Jodie Whittaker) this is incredibly hard. On the one hand she is grieving for the loss of her son, even asking Ellie’s son Tom (Adam Wilson) for a hug because she misses Danny’s so much. On the other hand she is grieving for her marriage. She now knows that Mark (Andrew Buchan) was unfaithful with Becca Fisher (Simone McAullay). It’s no wonder that she seeks trust, answers and reassurance elsewhere. When psychic Steve (Will Mellor) is debunked as a petty criminal and con artist she turns to Karen as another source of support in a misguided means of raising the profile of the case. And raise the profile it does, though whether that is in the way that she had hoped remains to be seen. Nonetheless, the Latimers and family friends sit down for a model Sunday dinner shot in a gentle golden haze and for a while it’s almost normal. And then, reality bites back. It never can be normal again, not with one person gone forever and not with the arrival of a former friend who could be the killer. And not with Mark and Beth’s brittle relationship on the point of collapse, with the press ambushing them at every turn and the town on the point of exploding in a mess of false accusations as friends and trusted neighbours turn upon one another. It will be interesting to see whether the golden colour palette in which the episodes have been shot so far darkens and changes over the next few weeks.

At the end of the episode, the police have a new piece of evidence in the return of Danny’s phone, the family are the focus of increasing media attention, the first fractures are appearing in the fabric of relationships within the town and one person is burning incriminating items. At this, the halfway point, we are no closer to identifying the killer, but it is more than the need to know the killer’s identity that draws audiences back. The human interest, the complexities of the relationships and the very real characters that are so easy to invest in make this the drama to return to, over and over. It’s TV as it should be – thrilling, gripping and stimulating; something to be discussed and something to be anticipated. Those seven days in between instalments feel like seven weeks.

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