“Bit lazy, pulling in the local rapist,” sneered Jim Howick’s creepy suspect Aaron Mayford when he was hauled in for questioning by David Tennant and Olivia Colman’s detectives Hardy and Miller in tonight’s Broadchurch.
“Bit lazy introducing a fresh suspect half way through a police procedural”, we could have replied if we were less polite. But let’s put that TV detective solecism to one side and consider the most important question: is Aaron guilty?
I certainly wouldn’t rule him out of being involved in some sort of disgusting crime, but he does seem such an obvious candidate to be the culprit in Trish’s ordeal that, with three episodes still to go, it’s almost as if we can discount him for now.
Though the fact that he lied about his whereabouts on the night of the attack remains fishier than the haul of mackerel he claimed to have caught and cooked (but clearly didn’t – his wife hates mackerel and his freezer contained none of the fish he said were there).
And though I did feel it was a bit of a cheat by Chris Chibnall to introduce such a major suspect so late in the drama’s run, the Broadchurch writer still managed to offer up another gripping dissection of seaside secrets and sinister goings on, with a picture emerging of more horrors.
Rape victim Laura Benson (Kelly Gough), who came forward at the end of the last episode, fleshed out her description of her horrific attack, one which bore a strong resemblance to the rape of Julie Hesmondhalgh’s Trish. She took Hardy and Miller to the scene of her crime – a beautiful cornfield that felt (to my mind) strangely reminiscent of the bluebell wood of series two horrors. Very bad things can happen in beautiful places.
The drama has never flinched from the full and terrible impact of violent sexual crimes, as shown by Laura’s description of what happened to her. But as Hardy and Miller faced up to the fact that there probably is a serial rapist in their town, there was more disgorging of secrets from its dodgy denizens.
Trish confessed to Cath (Sarah Parish) that she had slept with her husband Jim (Mark Bazeley) on the morning of the attack in probably the best scene of the night.
It was painful to watch, but Sarah Parish acted her socks off – her sympathy for her friend turning to acidic contempt in a heartbeat. We never lost the sense of Cath’s weary resignation about the whole thing: the idea that her wayward husband had done the dirty on her again, albeit with the added kick of doing so with her closest mate.
“Christ, his standards have slipped,” Cath spat, lacing every word with a studied, urgent desire to hurt as Trish explained he had “come round to look at the boiler”.
“Of all the women at the party, why would someone rape you… doesn’t make sense.”
It was a particularly cruel line but an effective one which reflected the sensitivity and skill with which writer Chris Chibnall has approached this highly-charged storyline.
Cath is, of course, wrong about why people rape – the crime against Trish was as much about power and control as whether the assailant “fancied” his victim and it was good to see her kick Cath out of her house after such a barbed comment.
We are inching steadily towards a conclusion, as a new-found clue turned the dial of suspicion to Leo Humphries.
A sock retrieved from the crime scene perfectly matches the kit worn by Leo’s football team. Trish also said she was gagged with a dirty sock, and Laura recalled how her mouth was stuffed with thick material – could both have been silenced by the same item of clothing? Plus, Leo is a good friend of creepy cab driver Lucas (do you also have the feeling that there is conspiracy afoot with this crime, not a lone perpetrator?)
In other grim news, there is serious trouble looming for Joe Miller, now that Mark Latimer has found the killer of his son up in Liverpool, working in some sort of customs job. That Mark has packed a hammer and a Stanley Knife does suggests that things will not bode well for Joe next week.
Back in Broadchurch, Ian broke into Trish’s house, in what must surely be a bid to retrieve his laptop. What secrets could be hidden there?
And Lenny Henry’s Ed Burnett gave Jim a vicious kicking – presumably in response to finding out that he had slept with Trish (for whom Ed has a particularly soft spot, according to Cath). But knowing Broadchurch and the people who live there, there is probably a lot more to this – and to grumpy Ed – than meets the eye.