The third episode of Broadchurch, which aired last night on BBC America, saw the two bickering detectives on the case, Detective Inspector Alec Hardy (David Tennant) and Detective Sergeant Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman), narrow in on a surprising suspect in the strangulation death of 11-year old Danny Latimer. Finding out whodunit is the focus of the 8-part series, which depicts both how the young boy’s murder affects the residents of Broadchurch, a small coastal town in Dorset, and reveals the dark secrets some of them have been keeping.
Early in the episode, Ellie and her new boss, Alec, survey the murder scene down by the beach yet again. They discuss the fact that fingerprints belonging to Danny’s father, Mark Latimer (Andrew Buchan), were found in cliffside house that overlooks the beach, along with a bloody print belonging to Danny. Ellie, a longtime resident of the town (Alec is a newcomer) and a close friend of the Latimer family, says there could be any number of reasons that Mark’s prints are in the house.
“You need to look at the evidence in front of you and stop behaving like a bloody solicitor,” Alec tells her.
Karen White (Vicky McClure), the pushy reporter from a big national newspaper who has swooped into Broadchurch to cover the murder, visits with Jack Marshall (David Bradley), a news store owner who earlier had given the police a possible tip. When she tries to question him, Jack tells Karen to get lost.
Susan Wright (Pauline Quirke), a local cleaning woman who seems always to be lurking about suspiciously and whom we know from the last episode may have a skateboard belonging to Danny in her closet, witnesses the exchange. She nods approvingly when Jack says dismissively of journalists, “Bloody parasites.”
Alec and Ellie have brought Mark in to the station for questioning. The plumber, who earlier had said he was out on a job on the night of his son’s murder, is now claiming he was out drinking with a mate, his colleague Nige. Alec asks Mark about the cliffhouse. Mark says he fixed a burst pipe there a few weeks back. He says it was an emergency call and he picked up the keys to the place from a woman who lived in a trailer park (that would be Susan). Alec asks him if he owns a boat; Mark says that he does.
Cut to Ellie and Alec in a police boat, weaving past boats anchored near Broadchurch’s harbor. Alec is looking peaked. They come upon Mark’s boat, “The Old Boiler” and Ellie boards it. “Oh, shit,” she says, finding a stain on the side of the boat. “It’s blood.”
Back on land again, Alec and Ellie knock on the door of a caravan (Britspeak for trailer). Susan opens the door and is her usual gruff self. “You woke the dog!” she harrumphs. Ellie asks Susan, who’s the caretaker and cleaning woman for the cliffhouse, whether Mark did a repair job there. Susan says firmly that there was never a burst pipe and she never gave Mark the keys. So which of them is lying?
When Alec questions him, Nige Carter (Joe Sims), Mark’s colleague, initially backs up Mark’s alibi about the two of them downing pints. Ellie, though, has chatted up Nige’s mother and confronts him with the fact that Mum says he was with her that night and then went out with someone other than Mark. Oops. Nige folds.
The two detectives return to the station and put Mark back on the hot seat. They tell him that his stories failed to check out with either Nige or Susan. Mark insists that the two are both lying. Alec then asks about the bloodstains on the boat. Mark has an explanation for that, too. He says he and Danny took the boat out two weeks earlier to go fishing and that Danny got a hook from his fishing line embedded in his foot. Mark says that his 15-year old daughter, Chloe (Charlotte Beaumont), can confirm the story.
Alec has had it with Mark’s lies. He arrests him for obstructing a murder inquiry, reading Mark the British equivalent of his Miranda rights.
To the surprise of her colleagues, Beth shows up at her job at the local tourist center. Maggie Radcliffe (Carolyn Pickles), the editor of the local newspaper, is there and tells Beth that she needs to go home, that she’s not ready to return to work. Beth heads out of the office and ends up on a park bench overlooking the beach where her son’s corpse was found. A man who has been following her sits down next to her. He’s creepy Steve Connelly (Will Mellor), a psychic who barged in on Alec and Ellie and offered his help in the previous episode. “I have a message for you. It’s from Danny,” he tells her. Beth tells Steve to shut up and then she beats a hasty retreat.
Alec is interviewing Tom, who is Ellie’s son and was Danny’s best friend, while Ellie’s husband sits in on the session. (In the first episode, we saw Tom erase messages from Danny on his cell phone and from his computer. We still don’t know what’s up with that.). Alec asks Tom about the dead boy: Did he have a mobile phone? Was he worried about anything? Is there anyone who might have wanted to hurt him? Tom looks like he wants to answer but can’t bring himself to speak. “How’d he get on with his dad?” Alec asks, assuring Tom that his answers are completely confidential.
“He said that his dad hit him,” Tom volunteers.
“Once?” asks Alec.
“Maybe twice. He said that his dad got into bad moods sometimes,” says Tom.
Beth is now back home, where she learns of Mark’s arrest. Chloe, who’s there too, is upset and begins to defend her father. Beth tells her to zip it because they can’t trust anyone and that the two of them will have to stick tightly together from now on. Chloe asks if this united front doesn’t include Mark. “You never really know anyone,” Beth says darkly.
Ellie quizzes her husband on how Tom’s session with Alec went.
“Charming, your new boss, isn’t he?” her husband asks sarcastically.
“Yeah,” Ellie agrees, “I don’t really like him.”
Karen is pumping Olly Stevens (Jonathan Bailey), the tyro local reporter who’s her new lapdog, for information. Maggie, who is Olly’s boss, shows up and snippily informs Karen that she knows that Karen is in Broadchurch on the murder story without her editor’s permission. Karen goes all noble, saying she’s doing the story because she reported on Alec’s involvement in an earlier, highly publicized murder case that went terribly wrong. “I saw that case fall apart. He failed that family and I’m afraid that he’s going to do it again here,” she says.
Alec is meeting, all very cloak and dagger, with a middle-aged man down by the ocean. It turns out the guy is Alec’s doctor and he’s there to tell his patient that a recent set of tests show the police detective is under too much stress and that, combined with his as yet unrevealed illness, could kill him. (The illness explains why Alec was furtively popping prescription pills in the previous episode.)
Alec says he can’t quit until the case is solved. The doctor jokingly asks if Alec likes Broadchurch that much. “No, I bloody hate it,” Alec replies but he’s staying because it’s “penance.” Penance for what, we don’t know yet, but the smart guess would be it’s for whatever went wrong with that earlier case. It also doubtless involves the young woman whose picture Alec keeps in his wallet, which we saw in the previous episode, and a woman’s pendant that was mentioned to Alec by Steve, the psychic.
Becca Fisher (Simone McAullay), the attractive gal who runs the local B&B, meets with Alec and Ellie. Chloe, after hearing of her father’s arrest, had texted Becca to come clean so now she tells the detectives that Mark was with her last Thursday evening. Ellie, winning no prizes for subtlety, asks, “What were you doing?”
“Having sex,” answers Becca. “I know, worst decision of my life.”
Ellie and Alec confront Mark about the fact that he was with Becca on the night in question. Mark admits to it, breaking down and crying and begging them not to tell Beth.
After Steve slips a note under her door, Beth, desperate for a message from her son, calls the psychic and invites him over to her house. He tells her, “Danny wants you to know he’s okay. He’s being looked after now. He says don’t look for the person who killed him because it won’t help. It’ll only make you upset. Because you know the person who killed him really well.” At this, Beth cries.
Having confessed he was indeed doing the horizontal mambo with Becca on the night of his son’s death, Mark is released from police custody.
“What if Danny found out about Mark and Becca’s affair?” Alec posits to Ellie.
“What, so father kills his own son to keep him quiet?” she responds.
Ellie is watching a recording of her son’s interview with Alec when Alec comes into her office to tell her that they should reconstruct the crime scene with Tom present. Ellie, who’s adamantly opposed to the idea, snaps at him, “With respect, sir, talk to me more about it and I will piss in a cup and throw it at you.” Then, in an about face, she follows advice given to her earlier by her husband to smother her new boss with kindness. She invites him over to her house for a family dinner. “I don’t really want to do it but it’s what people do. Just says yes,” she tells him. He agrees to come. “Thank you,” she responds, and then tells him he’s a “knob” (British slang for penis).
Beth and Mark are in bed. She asks Mark pointblank, “Did you kill Danny?” He’s outraged and asks her how she can even pose the question to him. He hops out of bed, dresses and storms out of the house. Beth watches him leave from their bedroom window.
Alec returns to the B&B where he is temporarily staying. Karen, who’s also bunking there, stops him to ask for a progress report and a few quotes. “After what you did to me last time? You will never have anything from me as long as I am breathing,” he tells her angrily.
Karen is equally huffy. “You let that family down. I sat with them after the trial. They still don’t have closure because of you and I’m not going to let you do that to another family,” she says.
Uh-oh. Mark meets up with Becca down by the docks. He thanks her for telling the cops the truth. She tells him their hook-up was a mistake but Mark clearly is still smitten. Becca insists that it’s over though it doesn’t look over when they exchange a passionate farewell kiss. But wait! Who’s that watching from behind a nearby pillar? Beth has followed Mark and witnesses the smooch. She looks shocked and forlorn.
As the episode ends, viewers see memorial candles burning brightly on the beach near where Danny’s body was found and then the camera climbs to show the cliffhouse above. In the distance, a boat–is it Mark’s?–goes up in flames.
As the final credits roll, viewers are left to wonder if Alec and Ellie are any closer to finding the killer, not to mention a civil working relationship? Did Mark kill his own son or is he simply a cheating S.O.B. whose timing couldn’t have been worse? Is Steve a con man and is Beth be his next mark? What exactly is Alec’s illness and what really happened with that earlier case? And where is Danny’s cell phone and will it reveal who his killer is once it is found? All are questions to ponder until next week’s episode.
Who do you think killed poor little Danny Latimer?