If viewers weren’t already totally hooked by Broadchurch, BBC America’s 8-episode crime series, last night’s searing show fully reeled them in. It was a corker of an episode, full of suspense, revelations, fleeting moments of humor amidst the the underlying sense of dread that just keeps building as the series’ two main police detectives, brooding Detective Inspector Alec Hardy (David Tennant) and open-hearted Detective Sergeant Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman), try to figure out who killed 11-year old Danny Latimer.
As the episode begins, the two detectives and Danny’s grieving parents, Beth and Mark Latimer (Jodie Whittaker and Andrew Duncan), are joined by fellow townspeople of Broadchurch, a small seaside village in Dorset, for a reenactment of the events of the night of Danny’s murder. The hope is that someone’s memory will be jogged as Ellie’s son Tom, who was Danny’s best friend, skateboards down the town’s main street just as Danny did on that fateful night a week earlier.
Later that night, as they’re preparing to go to bed, Beth and Mark finally have it out over his infidelity. (Beth has learned that Mark was shagging Becca Fisher, played by Simone McAullay, the owner of the local B&B, the night of Danny’s murder.) “You’re a selfish, childish, egotistical, self-centered bastard,” she tells her husband, demanding an explanation for why, after 15 years of marriage and two children, he strayed.
An apologetic Mark tells Beth that he felt as if he was stuck in a rut and Becca offered the lure of the new. “What I wouldn’t do now to get our old predictable life back,” he says mournfully.
Then Beth drops her bomb: “I’m pregnant,” she tells him. (Viewers have known this for several episodes, but it’s news to Mark.) He urges her to keep the baby but Beth makes no promises.
Ellie’s son, Tom (Adam Wilson), chats with his dad, Joe (Matthew Gravelle), about the investigation into Danny’s death. “How long would someone get sent to prison for killing someone?” Tom asks. Hmmm. What’s that all about? Do viewers need to add little Tom to our ever-growing list of suspects? (We still don’t know why he erased texts and emails from Danny immediately after the murder.) And what about Joe, who seems the very definition of a loving, supportive husband and model dad? Is that all a façade?
Later that night, Ellie’s ne’er-do-well sister, Lucy Stevens (Tanya Franks), who’s also the mother of aspiring local newspaper reporter Olly Stevens (Jonathan Bailey), shows up at Ellie’s door. She wants yet another cash handout (we saw repo men lugging away Lucy’s TV and other possessions in the previous episode). Lucy claims she saw something the night that Danny was killed; for £1000 from Ellie, she’ll yak. “I don’t even know you,” Ellie sighs, waving Lucy into the house.
Karen White (Vicky McClure), the big city journalist who parachuted into Broadchurch to cover Danny’s murder, sweet talks her new lapdog, Olly, into writing a story that will run under her byline about Jack Marshall (David Bradley). Jack is the local newsagent who was revealed in a previous episode to have been convicted years ago of having sex with a minor. After Karen sends the story off to her editor, Olly leans over and kisses her. She calls him a “cheeky bastard” but pulls him in for a longer, deeper smooch.
Rev. Paul Coates (Arthur Darvill), the local minister, chats up Becca. Viewers learn that she is an Aussie who took over the B&B with a male romantic and business partner but that he is no longer in the picture. Paul brightens up at this news and sets to work charming her. “You’re funny,” she tells him. “I never met a funny vicar before.”
Olly and Karen have gone from kiss to hook-up, waking up together in her bed at the B&B. (Olly’s pert bare butt is revealed as he bounds out of bed.) “You are going to use the back entrance, aren’t you?” asks a sleepy Karen.
“You really are one dirty girl,” Olly replies with a grin. Karen laughs and explains she meant the back door of the inn so that there’ll be no gossip. (One has to wonder if this bit of raunchy double entendre will make it into the American remake of the series, which has been announced by Fox for next year.)
Alec and Ellie meet with their supervisor, Elaine Jenkinson (Tracey Childs), who asks if Jack is a credible suspect. He’s at the top of their list, Alec tells her, but so are several others, including Rev. Paul, who has no alibi for the night of Danny’s murder. “Tread carefully. We can do without offending the church,” warns Jenkinson.
The man of God continues to cozy up to Becca. Rev. Paul, apparently doubling as a financial advisor, is at the B&B going over her books with her. It seems Becca is financially underwater and may soon lose possession of the inn. While they’re discussing her money woes, Beth arrives looking for vengeance. She smashes glassware and screams at Becca, “Come near my family again, and I’ll break your f–king face.”
Paul leads Beth outside. “Do you know what she did?” Beth demands of the minister.
“Yeah, I’m getting the gist,” Paul says, though it’s not clear if this has dampened his possible ardor for the comely innkeeper.
Chloe Latimer (Charlotte Beaumont), Danny’s 15-year old sister, learns from her older, drug-dealing boyfriend, Dean (Jacob Anderson), that Jack, as the troop leader of the Sea Brigades, a Boy Scout-like organization, was always putting his arms around the boys. Chloe has Dean share this story with Karen and Olly; the two reporters then get to work on another story about Jack and his possibly pedophiliac ways.
Tom at is a gaming arcade. So is Susan Wright (Pauline Quirke), the gruff housecleaner who has been giving off a nasty vibe the whole series and obviously is hiding some big, dark secret. Tom pets her dog, Vince. “He likes you. He doesn’t normally like kids,” she says. She invites Tom to walk Vince sometime, giving him her address in the trailer park. Does Susan know he’s Ellie’s son?
Karen’s paper publishes yet another front page story on Jack: “Hugs for the Boys” is the salacious headline. Jack, besieged now by news reporters and photographers outside his store, begs Alec and Ellie for police protection. Alec tells him to come clean about his past and maybe they can help. Jack opens up. Long ago, when he was a music teacher, he had an affair with a 15-year old female pupil. “There were no boys involved,” he says. Jack was arrested and served a year in jail. After he was released, he and the girl wed. “She was 17 and I was 40,” he says, ending his confession there.
Back at the station, an investigator tells Alec and Ellie that four cigarette butts from a relatively rare brand of smokes were found near Danny’s body.
“The important thing is, who smokes them?” says Ellie.
Nigel Carter (Joe Sims), the bald-pated plumber’s assistant who works with Mark, knocks on the door to Susan’s trailer. Viewers know from earlier episodes that these two are in some way in cahoots. He attempts to hand her an envelope containing £500 to leave town and warns her that he has a crossbow in his van. Susan says she’s not going anywhere. “We need to find a way of working this out, together,” she tells Nigel.
Mark confronts Chloe about having spotted her smooching with Dean. “Why didn’t you tell me you had a boyfriend?” he says, and then asks if she’s sleeping with the boy.
Chloe answers yes. “But at least we’re using condoms, which is more than you and Mum ever did,” she says, pointing out that Mark and Beth were the same age as Dean and she when they first got together.
Nigel and a group of local men, having formed what is essentially a lynching mob, head over to the Sea Brigade’s club house to confront Jack. Mark steps in front of the men, ordering them to back off. Jack swears to Mark he had nothing to do with hurting his son, filling Mark in on the story he told the cops earlier and providing its ending: Jack and his young bride had a son. The boy died at age 6 in a car accident. The wife was driving and their son’s death drove them apart. “I miss my boy, holding him, touching him,” says Jack, explaining why he hugged the Sea Brigade boys. “We’re the same Mark. No parent should outlive his child.” (Jack’s confession takes on added poignancy because, in the previous episode, Beth embraced Tom at length, saying she missed hugging Danny.)
Mark sends the lynch mob home but advises Jack, “You should get away. It’s not safe.” Mark’s warning proves prophetic, as that night angry locals vandalize both Jack’s truck and his house.
Olly discovers and quickly reports to Ellie that his father’s old boat–his dad abandoned Olly and his mother several years ago–has been stolen from where it was tied down on the beach. “Do you think it was the boat that was burned?” he asks Ellie. (In the previous episode, Ellie and Alec learned that a boat spotted burning in the harbor had been set on fire and that hairs found on it later proved to be Danny’s.)
Olly’s hunch is confirmed when Brian Young (Peter De Jersey), the police investigator, reports to Ellie that it likely was indeed Olly’s father’s boat that was set on fire. Then, out of the blue, he asks if Ellie would fancy having a drink with him some night. Ellie, surprised, blurts out, “But I’m happily married.”
She goes into Alec’s office to tell him about Olly’s father’s boat. He wants to know if Tom and Danny knew where to find the boat. She says yes. Then Ellie, still a little shocked about Brian’s invite, tells Alec about it. He asks her if she’s flattered. “Sort of,” she says, looking sheepish.
Ellie finally raises the issue of Sandbrook, the case Alec apparently screwed up on at his previous job. It has been alluded to repeatedly but never fully explained.
“Did you get it wrong?” she asks.
“A mistake was made. A big mistake,” Alec says cryptically.
“By you?” asks Ellie.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” Alec replies, leaving viewers still in the dark.
Mark climbs into bed with Beth. “You know I love you,” he says.
“I know you say it,” she says.
Mark asks if they can please agree not to bicker for just this one night.
Becca, wearing a fetching little black sheath dress, visits Alec’s room at the B&B to tell him she’ll be letting rooms to journalists covering Danny’s murder. Alec, possibly inspired by Brian’s invite to Ellie, makes a clumsy verbal pass at her. Becca turns him down, joking, “I’d be worried that you’d collapse on me.” (She’s referring to her having found Alec passed out in the last episode from his as yet still mysterious medical condition.) She departs and Alec looks embarrassed.
Beth and Mark have indeed effected a truce for the night. Together, they’re poring over mementos from Danny’s life, such as his little rain boots, drawings and infant bracelet from the hospital.
Early the next morning, the front pages of all the newspapers are plastered with stories about Jack’s dead son and teenage wife. Scanning them, Jack sobs, sashes his bathrobe more tightly and walks down the street.
A little later, Alec and Ellie are called to the beach. There’s a corpse lying in the sand at the shoreline. As they get close, they see that it’s Jack.
The final credits roll.
Did Jack kill himself or was he, too, murdered? Either way, there’s one less suspect in Danny’s death. Still left unanswered, though, are plenty of questions: What happened with Alec and Sandbrook? What is Susan up to? Why did Tom erase Danny’s text and email messages? Where did the £500 found hidden in Danny’s room some episodes back came from? Is Rev. Paul really the bumbling nice guy he seems to be? Will Steve Connelly (Will Mellor), the creepy psychic who in earlier episodes told Beth that Danny had spoken to him, ever make an appearance again? And just who was smoking those ciggies found near Danny’s corpse and will they prove the key to solving the case?
How are you liking Broadchurch so far?