A miscarriage of justice, a gruesome solution to an old case – and then a final righting of wrongs. Broadchurch packed a lot into tonight’s final hour of drama and, bar the odd bump along the way, the results were generally pretty satisfying.
After last week’s cliff-hanger, the ‘not guilty’ verdict for Joe Miller was tonight’s first bombshell. The jury had apparently been swayed by his defence team’s rather implausible suggestion that Ellie Miller and Alec Hardy were having an affair and had framed her husband for a crime he didn’t commit.
If Broadchurch were real life there is no doubt that Miller and Hardy would now be facing criminal proceedings themselves and their police careers would almost certainly be over after their chronically bad handling of the Danny Latimer case.
But this isn’t real life. This is a drama that, to my mind, has strained credulity on more than enough occasions. But it has also provided enough dramatic impetus to keep up the interest, especially in the resolution of the Sandbrook case. And tonight that saga finally revealed its truths after David Tennant’s DI Hardy frantically pushed for a resolution.
If this episode belonged to anyone it was the former Doctor Who star, who seized on his character’s new-found energy to bludgeon the Sandbrook protagonists into admitting their role in the murders of Lisa and Pippa.
Thanks to his bold, fearless and at times manic questioning of Claire (Eve Myles) and Lee Ashworth (James d’Arcy) we learned how the two young women met their fate. Teenager Lisa Newberry was babysitting her 12-year-old cousin when she spotted her stalker Gary Thorp (Tom Rosenthal) outside the window. She called on Lee’s aid and he saw Gary off with a swift punch to the face.
Seemingly turned on by his manly intervention and the drawing of blood, they then proceeded to have sex on the floor of the Gillespie house… only to be interrupted by a drunk and sexually frustrated Ricky Gillespie’s return from a wedding party where he had failed to pull a bridesmaid.
Lisa snapped that Ricky was jealous because he had designs on her – something which prompted him to crush her skull in fury. Ricky then forced Lee to help him cover his tracks by saying “call the police and I’ll put it all on you”.
But while he was out fetching a van to dispose of the body, Claire discovered that Pippa had witnessed everything. She drugged her with the contents of Ricky’s date rape-infused hip flask before Lee smothered her with a pillow. Ricky was told she died by accident and her body was also disposed of.
It was all pretty revolting and – I have to say – not entirely convincing.
Are we really expected to believe that Lee would agree to help a murderer simply because he thought he could be implicated? Wouldn’t any normal, innocent person just tell the police what had actually happened?
And is it plausible that two rackety people like Lee and Claire would then suddenly become child killers, cold- bloodedly drugging and killing a little girl in order to cover up a crime that wasn’t even theirs?
Credulity was strained so much that my eyes were popping out.
What saved this episode, however, was the brilliant resolution of the Joe Miller case.
Yes, he got off, but writer Chris Chibnall and his fabulous cast fashioned a quite brilliant climax where justice of a sort was done.
Miller was taken by Mark and Nige to the clifftop hideaway where he committed his crime in series one and was forced to face up to those whose lives he had ruined. The bitter, angry resolution from Olivia Colman’s Ellie (promising to kill him if he ever tried to see his kids again) and Jodie Whittaker’s Beth was born of brilliant writing. In a fabulous and moving speech, Beth said she was not going to be defeated by him. And she meant it.
Joe was then force to walk past every major Broadchurch character to a waiting cab and on to a new life where a “vicar friend” of Arthur Darvill’s Rev Paul Coates had set him up in a safe house. Joe was banished from Broadchurch forever.
After bidding a respectful farewell to Ellie, Alec was ready to jump into a cab and leave the town behind too. “Where to, Sir?” he was asked.
To the third series of Broadchurch, it seems. ITV has just announced there will be a third slice and he will be in it. But you can’t help thinking that his character needs a much-needed rest from heart-breaking police work.
We left the series with the Millers and Latimers finding some peace, playing and laughing together on the beach where Danny’s body was found at the start of series one. “The End is Where it Begins” we were told ahead of series two – and for now at least, the beginning was where it ended.