BROADCHURCH: Episode 8 Review - Penance

If episode 7 of Broadchurch ended on an audacious cliffhanger, then episode 8 repaid those who had waited a whole series to see Joe Miller's (Matthew Gravelle) fate with a vicious body blow. In the opening moments Joe is declared not guilty of the murder of Danny Latimer. With so many lives revolving around the outcome and so many hopes built on Joe paying for his crime, the shock is seismic. Could the story that had gripped audiences for the previous fifteen episodes be cut off so abruptly? Or would there be a further twist? Meanwhile Alec Hardy (David Tennant) has set a trap for his Sandbrook suspects and the jaws are swinging shut. Would the final hour be enough to do justice to both storylines? 

You almost feel sorry for Joe Miller. What did he think? Did he imagine that if he was acquitted for the murder and released that he could just walk straight back into his old life? It's quickly apparent from his tortured face as he leaves the court that he may not have considered his next step. Desperate, he turns up at the church where even Paul Coates (Arthur Darvill) turns his back upon him. The man too arrogant to accept his own guilt and take his punishment does not deserve protection. And just as Joe realises how exposed and isolated he is, Mark and Nige (Andrew Buchan and Joe Sims) walk in.

In series one this would have been the single thoroughly gripping, edge-of-the-seat moment that anchored the episode. The image of Joe being dragged screaming from the church, ostensibly to face some terrible retribution, possibly involving a cliff, would be uppermost in the viewer's mind, begging to be resolved. Therefore it says much for Chris Chibnall's writing that he totally diverts attention to the second, equally powerful storyline. While the secrets of the Sandbrook case are revealing themselves, the fate of Joe is all but forgotten.

Sandbrook is DI Hardy's driving force, his penance for his failure and the case that has cost him his family and almost his life. The anger of being robbed of the opportunity to close it has driven him to try just about anything to catch the killer. Now he finds his anger is mirrored by that of another and he urges Ellie (Olivia Colman), herself reeling from the court's verdict, to use her own rage as the impetus to help him. With Claire (Eve Myles) already in custody, Lee (James D'Arcy) soon follows, and Hardy and Miller are back in the interrogation rooms where they previously worked their way through most of the population of Broadchurch to find Danny's killer. But gone is their good-cop, bad-cop dynamic. These are now two seriously raging detectives and they're not going to let up until the hear the truth. As Claire and Lee run out of tricks and lies, the extent of their betrayal and their mistrust of one another is exposed and the tragic, horrible tale of what happened that night in Sandbrook unfolds, and not one but three killers are given up. Both Pippa (Hollie Burgess) and Lisa (Eliza Bennett) were killed by the very adults who should have been protecting and caring for them, and Claire and Lee along with Ricky (Shaun Dooley) all had a hand in their deaths. Lisa's death is sudden and brutal, but Pippa's is a tragedy, the poor child putting her trust in a scheming couple who would use her death to ensure their own safety. The final revelation nearly breaks Hardy anew, but at last he has his closure. 

And what of Joe? Fortunately for him there's no beating at the hand of the town posse, or a tragic 'accident'. Instead he is made to face up to what he did. Joe killed Danny. Nobody has any doubt of that. Just because he pleaded not guilty doesn't mean that Mark is the killer, or Paul, or Joe or even Tom. It was Joe, a weak man who lacked the respect to his victim and his own friends and family to take responsibility for his actions. And while those he has damaged and betrayed cannot cause him physical harm they can still hurt him by excising him from the community and from the comfortable world he thought he could go back to. And by casting out Joe, the community can begin to move forward again. Joe's penance is forced upon him. It might not be the outcome that everyone wanted but there have to be some consequences for Joe, and for him it is utter isolation.

"Ultimately we're all alone," Lee tells Hardy, and both of these crimes have certainly cast the protagonists into solitude. The Sandbrook killers live solitary lives while Hardy has become something of a loner in his quest to prove their guilt. Meanwhile in Broadchurch too, the other victims of Joe's crime have all been ploughing their own furrow as they try to make sense of the world as it is now. However, Ellie refutes Lee's statement. There is togetherness and there is hope that relationships can be rebuilt and new friendships can be forged. Human nature is to be together and great trauma, though it may feel isolating to those experiencing it, also has the capacity to bring people together stronger than ever through their shared experiences. Now the Broadchurch families can start to heal and even the two feuding barristers seem on the point of negotiating a truce. However one character still has a choice to make. It is in Hardy's own hands whether he wants to maintain his solitary existence or whether he too is ready to rebuild his own world and remain in a community where, against his probable intentions, he has become a respected member. Being alone is no longer the only option.

David Tennant and Olivia Colman will both be back for a third series of Broadchurch.