The major revelations came so frequently during the seventh and penultimate episode of BBC America’s Broadchurch that a viewer can barely keep up. No sooner had we learned that Susan Wright’s husband was molesting her daughters than it was revealed that Nige Carter was her long lost son. And that was just the tip of all that stuff that happened as BBC America’s crime series nears its conclusion. Next week’s episode will be the final one, during which viewers will find out, along with Detective Inspector Alec Hardy (David Tennant) and Detective Sergeant Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman), just who killed 11-year old Danny Latimer and left his body on a beach in Broadchurch, a small coastal town in Dorset.
Here’s what happened in Episode Seven:
Ellie visits Alec in the hospital the morning after he collapsed while chasing a suspect who’d broken into the cliff house overlooking the murder site. (The suspect got away.) Alec’s health issues are finally revealed: he has a weak heart and may not have long to live. Alec waves off Ellie’s anger at his hiding of his illness and her concern for his well being. “I have to finish this,” he says of finding Danny’s killer. “I can’t let the family down.”
Alec, though clearly weak and on the verge of collapse, checks himself out of the hospital and returns to work, where Ellie is running the investigation. “You’ll kill yourself,” she tells him, surprised by his return.
“If that’s what it takes,” Alec responds.
Ellie grills Susan Wright (Pauline Quirke), who finally talks only after Ellie threatens to have Susan’s dog, Vince, put down once the cops find the canine. (Vince was dognapped in the previous episode by Nige Carter, the plumber’s assistant who works for Mark Latimer, the dead boy’s father.) Susan tells Ellie that she was out walking Vince in the wee hours on the night of Danny’s death and saw his body lying on the beach. She smoked a few cigarettes while gazing at the body, “He was all splayed out. His skateboard was next to him. He was beautiful,” she says, and then left, presumably taking the skateboard with her since she had it in her closet. (This also explains the cigarette butts found near the body in an earlier episode.) “I knew he’d be found. I didn’t want to get involved. You people destroyed my family,” Susan says.
When Ellie presses her, Susan finally tells her story and we learn what was contained in all those yellowing newspaper clippings about Susan that were dug up by Maggie Radcliffe, the editor of the local paper, in the previous episode. Many years ago, Susan’s then husband sexually abused their older daughter and then killed the girl when she objected to his abusing her younger sister. Susan’s husband was arrested and her younger daughter was taken away. Susan swears to Ellie that she didn’t know that the abuse was going on but says her husband told the police that she did. He was later found guilty and hanged himself while in prison.
“I was pregnant. Social Services came and took the baby. They said I wasn’t a fit mother,” Susan says mournfully. “Death, once it’s got its claws into you, it never lets go. When I was standing on that beach, looking at that boy’s body, I just kept wondering if my girl looked that peaceful after he killed her. I don’t think she did.”
Alec requests a meeting with Steve Connelly (Will Mellor), the psychic he had earlier dismissed as a con artist. Alec pleads for help in finding Danny’s murderer.” I’m running out of time,” the cop explains. Steve, who talks to dead people, says Danny told him that the killer was someone he knew, someone close to home.
Mark and Beth Latimer (Andrew Buchan and Jodie Whittaker) meet with the Rev. Paul Coates (Arthur Darvill), the local minister. They’re hoping he can counsel them in coping with their continuing anger and grief over their son Danny’s death. Rev. Paul offers what wisdom he can: “God has sent you this life”, meaning the baby that Beth is carrying, “and perhaps he’s sent you not what you want but what you need.” Cut to a scene of Beth and Mark at the doctor’s office where the pregnant Beth is undergoing her first ultrasound scan. The Latimers hold hands and smile joyfully as they gaze at the black and white image of their unborn baby, its little heart beating valiantly, on the screen.
Susan is still talking. She now says she saw a boat come ashore that night. A man emerged from the boat carrying Danny’s body and laid it on the beach. He then returned to the boat and went off. She tells Ellie the man was Nige (Joe Sims).
The police rush over to Nige’s place, where he lives with his mother. They find Nige, Vince the dog, and a small arsenal of guns, ammunition and a crossbow.
Alec questions Nige at the station. Nige denies killing Danny. Then why, Alec asks, is Susan fingering him? Nige says she has been harassing him. “She says she’s my mum,” he tells the detective, dropping a bombshell.
Now it’s Ellie’s turn with Susan, who tells her that Nige is the baby who was taken away from her all those years ago and she finally tracked him down. “He reacted badly,” she says. “He didn’t want anything to do with me. He threatened me with a crossbow.”
If Susan is Nige’s real mother, Ellie wants to know why is she saying he was the one holding Danny’s corpse. “I’m a mum and whatever my child had done, I’d want to protect him,” Ellie says, a sentence that may prove prophetic given that viewers have reasons to believe that her son Tom is hiding knowledge about Danny’s death.
Susan gets all huffy. “I am protecting him,” she says, says she’s afraid that Nige may take after his father, her former husband, and she can’t let that happen.
In another room, Alec gets Nige to tell him what he was really doing the night that Danny died. Nige, it seems, was poaching pheasants on land owned by a local farmer, birds he later sold to a butcher. When Nige realized that his van was out of gas, he siphoned diesel from the farmer’s tractor. “But I cut through the barbed wire fence to make it look like a break-in,” Nige says. (Viewers may remember that this was Alec’s first case at the start of the series, but that his questioning of the farmer was interrupted by the discovery of Danny’s body on the beach.)
A new piece of evidence comes in. The phone call from the night before, the one to the police reporting that someone had broken into the cliff house, was made from Danny’s mobile. “Oh, my god, the killer phoned in,” says Ellie.
“Why would they do that?” asks Alec. “Why tell us where they are and then run? That doesn’t make sense.”
Rev. Paul phones Alec, who visits him posthaste. The vicar hands over Tom Miller’s laptop, which he caught Ellie’s son trying to smash in the woods at the end of the previous episode. When Alec refers to Danny as Tom’s best mate, the vicar corrects him, saying he didn’t see much evidence of the boys being BFFs. “I had to break up a fight between them,” Rev. Paul says. “Tom was really, really laying into Danny and he’s much bigger. I reported it to both parents. I though Ellie would have told you.”
“No, she didn’t mention it,” says Alec, looking thoughtful.
Susan has been released from police custody and reunited with her dog. Ellie asks Susan one last question, about not knowing that her husband was abusing her daughters: “At your own house, how could you not know?” asks Ellie.
Alec meets with local journalists Maggie Radcliffe (Carolyn Pickles) and Olly Stevens (Jonathan Bailey). They have learned about Alec’s weak heart and, after nosing around on that and Sandbrook, want him to give them the straight dope. (Sandbrook is a murder case from Alec’s previous job, where he apparently messed up. It has been much mentioned but viewers are still mostly in the dark about the specifics.) “Maybe you’re right, maybe it’s time,” Alec sighs.
He tells his story: the cops had a suspect in Sandbrook but only circumstantial evidence until a pendant belonging to one of the dead girls turned up in the car that the suspect had just sold. It clinched the case. The detective sergeant who was taking the bagged evidence back to headquarters stopped first for a celebratory drink with another cop with whom she was having an affair. While she was boozing, her car was broken into and her radio, purse and valuables, including the pendant, were stolen. “We couldn’t make a case after that. So he’s still out there,” Alec says, referring to the killer.
So why is Alec the fall guy, asks Maggie? “It happened on my watch,” he says. Then he explains the real reason: “This detective sergeant, she was my wife. And we have a daughter and I don’t want her knowing that about her mother.” (He’s now divorced.)
Maggie and Olly say the story needs to be corrected, that the stress of taking on the blame has made Alec sick. Alec asks that his wife not be named and that Maggie and Olly tell the family of the dead girls first before printing the story. “Tell them I haven’t given up on Sandbrook yet,” he says.
Nige, who was also released, slips into Susan’s trailer. He tells her to clear out of town or he’ll kill her dog. Susan replies, “If I go, I’m not coming back. We’ll never see each other again. I can do that. I’ve done it plenty of times.”
Nige tells her she has to tell the police that she made a mistake, that it wasn’t him that she saw holding Danny’s body.
Susan says no dice. “You’ve the spit of him, Nige,” she says, meaning her dead husband. “You’ve got him in you. And it was you I saw.”
The Latimers are having a family dinner with Dean Thomas (Jacob Anderson), daughter Chloe’s boyfriend. Chloe (Charlotte Beaumont) tells Mark not to worry about Nige, that his assistant can’t be Danny’s killer. Dean volunteers that Nige and Danny got along. “I saw it every time that we went out,” he says.
Mark and Beth look puzzled. Dean explains that he and Danny regularly joined Nige on his poaching runs. “Danny said it was okay. Nige said you knew,” says Dean.
“No, no, we didn’t know,” says Mark, obviously troubled.
Alec and Ellie match a boot print on the hill leading from the cliff house to a print in the house. It’s a man’s size 10, which matches Nige’s foot size. Was he the one who ran away from them the previous night and who called on Danny’s cell?
Then Alec casually asks Ellie, “Oh, by the way, your boy and Danny, did they fall out?” Ellie says no.
“The vicar said they did,” says Alec.
“Are you saying I’m covering up for my son?” says Ellie.
Alec asks her to bring Tom’s computer (which, of course, Alec already has) into the office the next day.
Susan, alone as always, leaves town on foot, clutching a suitcase in one hand and Vince’s leash in the other.
At her house later that night, Ellie rummages around Tom’s room, her son is asleep, looking for his computer. Her husband Joe (Matthew Gravelle) finds her and reminds her that it’s two in the morning. She can find it tomorrow, he tells her.
“That’s you,” Ellie says, lashing out at her husband. “Do everything bloody tomorrow.”
“What have I done?” asks Joe, puzzled.
“That’s it: nothing!” says Ellie. “You can’t even finish painting this room. It’s been six bloody months.”
(The walls of their bedroom are indeed patchy-looking.) Ellie has hitherto never seemed the least bit frustrated with her stay-at-home hubby. What’s really going on?
Alec had earlier asked someone on the phone, to whom he was clearly about to hand over Tom’s laptop, to send the findings to his personal email. Now Alec is reading something on his computer screen. Is it a report on what was recovered from Tom’s hard drive? Alec’s eyes light up. “Of course,” he says, making like Newton being struck by the falling apple. “Sh**!”
The final credits roll.
Just one more episode to go …
Cast your vote: Whodunit? (No fair going on-line to read reports from when the show aired earlier this year in the U.K.)