REVIEW: Broadchurch Episode 3 - An Unlikely Affair

Our review of the third episode of series 2 of Broadchurch is below. Please be aware that the review contains full spoilers for the episode and the series to date.

You can catch up with previous episodes on ITV Player.

Broadchurch: Series 2, Episode 3

Hardy and Miller having an affair? Ludicrous! Surely anyone with an eye in their head can see the animosity that always bubbles just below the surface every time our two Broadchurch protagonists interact. However, this is the latest character-destroying salvo that Sharon Bishop, QC, (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) currently vying for the position of Most Hated Woman on TV, has fired at the prosecution in the trial of Joe Miller (Matthew Gravelle). It’s another twist in the convoluted drama as the plot ramps up a pace and more twists and secrets reveal themselves.

It's generally not going well for poor Alec Hardy (David Tennant) in this third episode of the returning BAFTA winner. He seems perpetually on the point of expiring as the stress levels rise and he pushes himself to his physical limit. His evidence against Joe Miller is being picked apart in court and he came close to losing his suspects in the Sandbrook case. Yes, suspects, plural, as he admits that he’s long considered Claire Ripley (Eve Myles) as culpable as her husband Lee Ashworth (James D'Arcy), a theory that seems to be corroborated by the pair of them running off back to Claire’s safe house as soon as they can give him the slip. It’s the darkly charismatic Lee who looks to have control in this case at the moment. He even seems to have some weird hold over Hardy who, uncharacteristically, lets go an assault and some bending of the law as Lee turns lead detective in his quest to clear his own name. However, the web is still tangled and Lee is nowhere near out of the frame. Was the older girl more involved with him than some teeny flirting from her bedroom window might suggest? How can he explain the pendant? And is their any truth in Claire’s new claim that she was home with Lee and he’d drugged her – especially as she revealed this to Ellie (Olivia Colman), herself known to have been in a chemically induced slumber the night of Danny Latimer’s death. Yet Claire seems to be very keen to keep Lee in Hardy's sights. Is she hiding the truth about someone else?

Broadchurch wouldn't be Broadchurch if the characters didn't have secrets to reveal, and no doubt the truth behind the toxic relationship between Claire and Lee will unfold in due course. The participants in the Miller trial were also starting to show their hidden backgrounds. Continuing with the ongoing theme of the lost child, defence QC Sharon Bishop was revealed to have a son who is currently serving a sizable sentence locked away in a Young Offenders’ Institution. Perhaps this is the falling out point between her and Jocelyn Knight (Charlotte Rampling). Knight herself has an elderly relative, presumably her mother, to care for but herself faces financial difficulties. There’s also the previously hinted at issue of a sight problem (curtains drawn at home, talking books) which seems to affect her ability to cope with bright lights and to read through evidence – she depends greatly on barrister Ben Haywood (William Andrews) to support her with this.

The questions keep piling in, of course, around both cases. Are we looking at other suspects in the Sandbrook abductions? Who sent Claire the bluebell if it wasn't Lee? What’s with the colour yellow, vividly beaming from the walls of Ellie's and Claire’s homes and now the Broadchurch Echo office? Could anyone else have sent Danny messages from the Millers' laptop and Joe's mobile? And how did Beth (Jodie Whittaker) appear in court looking anything but a physical wreck only a couple of hours after giving birth? And that’s all on top of ongoing questions about Paul's (Arthur Darvill) visits to Joe and Mark's (Andrew Buchan) clandestine liaisons with Tom.

Fortunately it wasn't all bleakness and stress this week. There was a rare happy event as Beth gave birth to her baby, a healthy girl. It was an emotional moment that gave hope that the Latimer family might be on the way to recovery. However, there's still a long way to go. “God's not in this house, surely that's clear by now,” snapped Mark to Paul as the vicar attempted to bless the new arrival. And there’s still no love for Ellie from Beth, in spite of the assistance that she gave her during labour. Ellie did manage a bit of respite for herself during a girl's night out with Claire that ended with a sexual encounter with a nameless partner, but it was ultimately unfulfilling as even he couldn't give her the affection that she craves. Still nobody believes her. How could she not know? And it's upon this incredulity, this unlikely ignorance that Sharon Bishop bases her destruction of Ellie's testimony and her counter-accusation.

It was signposted earlier on that Sharon Bishop and Abbie Thompson (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) had 'some ideas' about how they could get at Ellie during her testimony, but accusing her and Hardy of an affair seemed particularly contrived and underhand. And yet it was still credible enough to sow the seeds of doubt in the minds of all court attendees, including the Latimer family, and Beth will certainly devour any character slur about Ellie that she can. So what were Hardy and Miller doing in those late night sessions in the police station? We all know that they were actually eating fish suppers and passing on awkward dinner invitations, so to a viewer the suggestion is ridiculous, infuriating and insulting. But in terms of the drama, it doesn't matter what the viewers know or think as long as Bishop is going to be able to convince the jury. It's another cliffhanger, of course, but one on which the whole trial could turn. Is the accusation credible enough to stick? 

Find out if Ellie and Hardy can clear their names and get the trial back on track in episode 4 of Broadchurch airing on ITV on Monday 26th January 2014.