This third series of Broadchurch provided seriously good crime drama, with a confronting subject, dealt with honestly and compellingly – sexual assault. In fact the series did much more than detail a specific crime of rape, but rather used its characters to canvas a range of issues about how men relate to women. Given this country’s own recent heartaches over some young men’s horrendous attitudes and actions towards young women, the showing of this crime drama couldn’t have been more appropriate. I’d argue that viewing this series of Broadchurch should be part of high school sexual education, dealing as it does with issues of consent, and general (mis)behaviour of young men towards young women. There are several teenage characters in the series, and they’d provide a focal point for a school age audience.
So as detectives Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) and Alec Hardy (David Tennant) hunt for a serial rapist in their small seaside community, they uncover all manner of men’s views of women: the husband who’ll have sex with another woman on the morning of his wife’s 50th birthday party, and then have sex with another woman (a stranger to him) at the party, because, he says, she was interested; the former husband whose way of still caring for his ex is to have spy technology secretly installed on her computer; a male friend of the raped woman who also wants to support and protect her, but by effectively stalking her; the young man who has raped several women and says they wouldn’t have minded because they’d have sex sooner or later anyway; the teenage boy groomed by this same rapist into committing a rape of his own; and the teenage boys hungry for pornography. And so it goes.
In confronting all this, Miller reacts often with barely contained anger, and Hardy at one point says he feels ashamed to be a man. And, having a teenage daughter of his own, his own sense of outrage also spills out of control.
The final episode, broadcast on TV1 this week, cleverly tied up the story. The community that was severely unsettled by the cloud of suspicion and doubt hanging over its head was given the opportunity to heal itself, and most grabbed the chance to do so. But not all. And this leads to another serious topic Broadchurch has dealt with throughout its three series: the death of a youngster in a family and how that family then deals with its grief. In this case the family was the Latimers, whose son Daniel’s death was the catalyst for the series itself. Seldom will a drama have taken the trouble to examine how grief and loss play out over such a long period. Again, this has not been easy to watch, but any parent who has experienced such a loss will know it is not something that you conveniently move on from after a short period of time. It is there for the rest of your life and may well define that life. Broadchurch showed the mother Beth and the father Mark dealing with this in different ways. Mark ended the series still battling with his demons. It’s to the credit of the writers that they allowed all this to continue over three seasons.
I did express some reservations when I wrote a review after the very first episode of this third series. One can identify the Broadchurch formula for handling its storylines and placing its clues. That was present in this third series, but in the end it mattered little. More important was the story itself, well delivered by its actors (I hadn’t seen Lenny Henry in a serious role before but he was excellent) and superbly directed and edited. If you haven’t seen this before, it’s worth seeking out online or on dvd/blu-ray later. Highly recommended.