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Broadchurch: “Season One, Episode Five”

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How can you stop history from repeating itself? This week’s Broadchurch is full of parallels, mirror images, and overlapping storylines: In a town this small, with few outside influences, fates are plotted (or plots are fated) to return like the waves on that now-desolate beach until the patterns are broken, but how can the Broadchurchers make that happen?

One of the first views we had of Broadchurch, with its friendly smiling people and beautiful seaswept beaches, displayed an idyllic small town. This week, number five of the British drama’s eight episodes, shows just how very dark life in a small town can get. A downside of a community like Broadchurch is that with no one else to turn on, it starts to turn on itself.


Frustrated by the lack of progress on the murder case of 11-year-old Danny Latimer (despite the episode-opening enactment of the fateful night, starring Danny’s friend Tom), the Broadchurch townsfolk begin to rally against Jack Marshall (David Bradley), the elderly newsagent and head of the Sea Brigade. Last week we learned he’d been in prison for underage sex; this week we find out that the girl in question was a student of his (she was almost 16, he was almost 40), and he married her after his year of confinement.

Nige (Joe Sims) and the rest of the Broadchurchers don’t know or care much about this backstory, however. They’re looking for a scapegoat, and a suspect, and Jack fits the bill. Their emotions are exacerbated by the exploitative national press, which lacks the civil roadblocks that hamper the police investigation (“We learn more from the papers than we do from the police!” one resident protests), and can blow a man’s reputation wide open and capitalize on his past (leading to headlines like “Hugs For The Boys” and “Sea Brigade Monster”).

The situation culminates in a showdown between Jack and Danny’s father, Mark (Andrew Buchan), in which Mark learns the whole story, including the fact that Jack and his wife had a 6-year-old son who died in a car accident when the wife was driving. Grief tore them apart, and Jack moved to Broadchurch to start over. Since Mark’s marriage is pretty much in shambles, he’s basically a younger version of Jack, as the newsagent explains: “We’re the same, Mark. No parent should outlive their child.” This encounter leads to one of my favorite new characters, Pitbull Mark, who screeches at the townsfolk with pitchforks who’ve come after Jack, telling them to go on home. But after a later vandalism, Jack knows that the only home he has now is gone, resulting in the most horrible parallel of all, another death off of the Broadchurch cliffs (remember that suicide ridge ominously hinted at in the première? Yeah, that was bound to show up again sooner or later.) A tight-knit community can become a horrible thing when it turns against someone in its entirety.

The small, boring Broadchurch existence is even blamed for Mark’s affair with Becca Fisher (Simone McAullay), as he complains: “This house, this town, this job of mine: It’s all I’m ever going to be, innit? I know every second of it, and every second of it to come.” In a trite dialogue amped up only by the emotionality of the actors, Mark explains his tryst with Becca by saying she was “different.” Another interesting coupling in this episode besides Mark/Jack (Future Mark): Becca is the anti-Beth (although their names are awfully similar). Becca is a blonde in green, Beth (Jodie Whittaker) a brunette in red. Becca is calm, Beth angry and grief-stricken. Becca is an independent businesswoman, although her business is faltering at the moment; Beth has had “15 years of collecting everyone’s shit and washing it and cleaning it and folding it and tidying it and goin’ back to the start like I’m on a bloody wheel” in domesticity (as a mother myself, I concur that this pretty much sums up the cycle). Pastor Paul (Arthur Darvill) is flirty with Becca, consoling with Beth. Somehow the way these two characters are played against each other makes the scene where Beth storms in to destroy Becca’s place of business (as payback for Becca’s damage to her homelife) exceptionally awesome, as is Beth’s dialogue with the pastor afterward (“Should I pay for it? I’m not going to pay for it.”).


For yet another parallel, how about the Latimers’ daughter Chloe (Charlotte Beaumont), who seems set to relive her parents’ teenage years by dating a 17-year-old? Or are we seeing the horrifying return of a small boy in peril, with the presumably evil Susan Wright (Pauline Quirke) luring Tom (Adam Wilson) with the most sinister dog-walking offer ever?

Broadchurch residents are haunted by ghosts no longer there (Beth and Danny; Jack and his family) and still-present (Ellie and her sister, Ollie’s mother). Even the area’s main outsider, Detective Alec Hardy (David Tennant), can’t escape the shadow of his failure in a similar case, and the fact that the whole town seems to be depending on him solving this one (as Ellie brings up the dreaded Sunbrooke to him this week). Possibly more than any other character, Hardy seems the most desperate to prevent history from repeating itself this time.


Stray observations:

  • Would Detective Hardy have been more successful with his attempted seduction of Becca if he’d just asked her to have a drink instead?
  • Favorite Hardy/Miller interaction this week: Miller (Olivia Colman) seems a bit preoccupied and downtrodden, perhaps despairing how much her life in town would change if she and Hardy are unable to solve this case. It’s also possible she’s found some connection of Tom to the case, given his preoccupation with Danny’s phone. But she gets in one moment of levity when, having no one else to tell, she confides in Hardy about Brian the forensics guy asking her out. “Dirty Brian!” exclaims the astonished D.I.
  • Hey cub reporter Ollie, doing all the research and work on a story but having it run under someone else’s byline doesn’t sound like that great a deal.
  • What was the big mistake Hardy made on Sunbrooke?

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