Broadchurch viewers left dangling after cliffhanger – episode seven review

Two bombshells, clumsy exposition and urgent court scenes set the stage for a mouthwatering finale

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Don’t do it! Please don’t do it. Oh my, they are going to do it… 

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Yes, they ended the penultimate Broadchurch episode just as the jury forewoman was about to deliver the verdict against Joe Miller. Grrr. How irritating was that?

Ok, ok, let’s calm down a bit. Did any of us honestly think that the fate of Joe Miller would be decided before the credits rolled at the end of episode seven. Really? And writer Chris Chibnall can be forgiven this cheap plot device because there was much to commend in tonight’s episode, which has set the stage for a mouthwatering finale next week.

The court scenes came into their own, with beautiful sweeping shots of all the protagonists and bewigged drama that was not weighed down by ponderous and unconvincing legal wrangling. Barrister Abby’s bombshell revelation (gleaned while snooping during her one-night stand with Olly Stevens and delivered with typical venom by Marianne Jean-Baptiste’s Sharon) must have been ringing in the jury’s ears.

It concerned the £1,000 Olivia Colman’s Ellie gave her sister Lucy (Tanya Franks) in series one. Was it a bribe to keep her quiet and testify that it was Joe she saw dragging Danny’s body into the beach? True or not, it was clever plotting that had all the hallmarks of the sub-T.S Eliot Broadchurch tagline that “the end is just the beginning”.

But it was a hospital pass for an actress who has the least nuanced role. She snarls nastiness at everyone she cross-examines and – while Jean-Baptiste acts with fight and passion – the fact remains that Sharon’s case that Miller and Hardy were having an affair and wanted to frame Joe is a bit fanciful. This armchair jury member is pretty sure it won’t wash.

Jean-Baptiste also seems to be given all the clunky exposition – this time explaining to Abby that she needs three jury members to opt for an acquittal to avoid a unanimous verdict. Are we honestly expected to believe that a barrister colleague would need that explained? It was the kind of blip that marred the early episodes, but thankfully didn’t spoil things too much this time round in an instalment that had urgency, drive, tension and excitement.

We learned the Claire had an abortion, with Chibnall floating the tantalising (though unlikely) possibility that David Tennant’s Alec could have been responsible for the terminated pregnancy. Claire also gave the stolen Sandbrook pendant to an understandably furious Alec in a potentially revelatory move. Would a killer admit to stealing the crucial bit of evidence in the case?

If anything, the flashlight of guilt was picking out the features of Lee again in this episode. He admitted that he and Claire both have secrets they are keeping for each other. Is she, as we suspected all along, hiding his guilt? Lee also dropped a rather stunning bombshell, but you had to be alert to pick it up.

Musing about a possible return to France he said that nobody knew him across the channel, adding. “Well, almost nobody.” Could this mean that Lisa, the missing 19-year-old from Sandbrook, is living there? Was she the killer of 12-year-old Pippa? Is she (was she?) Lee’s lover? And if so, who is protecting her?

Aside from all the high drama, there were other nice touches. Jocelyn and local newspaper editor Maggie Radcliffe (Carolyn Pickles) emerged as the leading candidates for romance of the series by sharing a lingering kiss on a sun-drenched beach. It was a lovely scene.  And there was the brilliant moment when Jocelyn’s junior Ben (William Andrews) finally snapped and told a stunned Abby that she was a “truly horrible person”. Go Ben. 

This reviewer’s verdict: next week’s finale really will be worth waiting for…

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Series two of Broadchurch concludes on Monday February 23rd at 9pm on ITV