REVIEW: Broadchurch Episode 7 - Stained By Death

In its seventh episode, Broadchurch gears up for the finale with yet more twists and turns and new suspects as time runs out on both investigations. Will the residents of Broadchurch find closure as the jury deliver their verdict? And will Hardy (David Tennant) and Ellie (Olivia Colman) untangle the many threads of the Sandbrook case and find the killer?

Following his heart surgery, Hardy is back on the case, a man reborn, and he’s determined not to let Sandbrook beat him down again. It’s good at last to see David Tennant giving the opportunity to introduce new elements to Hardy’s character during this series. We've seen Hardy the family man, now we get a chance to see how he must have been before his life took a turn for the worse, when his professional star was in the ascent. This is the pro-active Hardy, sure that he has his culprit and now certain that he just has to stir things up enough to get the reaction he needs. However, reopening the case has just further confused the issue. Hardy may have been setting out to confront Lee Ashworth (James D'Arcy) and drive him into the open, but a visit to Ricky Gillespie’s (Shaun Dooley) office puts him squarely back in the frame as Hardy not only spots the bluebells picture but also confirms that Ricky is the person that Claire (Eve Myles) has been phoning. There's also the eleventh hour introduction of a new suspect, Gary Thorp (Tom Rosenthal), who was obsessed with Lisa to the point of suicide and who owed Ricky money. Hopefully Hardy is now out of the woods healthwise  as with Lee aware not only that he’s on his tail but also that Hardy was involved with Claire’s abortion, the scene is set for a tense final showdown.

Lee and Claire's brooding relationship exploded with the violence it has long threatened. Hardy’s incendiary words have desired effect and Lee, enraged at the loss of his unborn child, turns on his wife in a brutal attack in the surf. Moments before Claire is seen lying flat on her back with stones laid penny-like over her eyes like a Victorian corpse. There’s a lot of talk of death in this episode: Hardy saying that he thought this case would finish him, Hardy describing Lee as tainted by death – could this all be some sort of foreshadowing? Is everyone going to make it to the end of the series? And what is the implication of Lee’s flashback to a moment staring into that burning furnace. However he hints at someone waiting for him back in France with heavy signposting that this could be the missing Lisa. Meanwhile Claire is at her lowest ebb, but after a chance meeting with Paul Coates (Arthur Darvill) she is inspired to come clean to Hardy. It seems now the pendant isn't the smoking gun that Hardy thought it was and he may need to revise his theories.

Over in the courtroom there's no sign of a neat and tidy ending yet. Another loose end from series one was revisited as Sharon Bishop (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) exploited Ellie’s loan of money to Lucy (Tanya Franks) as further evidence that Joe (Matthew Gravelle) was framed. Yet again Ellie was exposed and humiliated in front of the court; another opportunity for Olivia Colman to show what she does best as Ellie’s new-found confidence is kicked away from underneath her leaving her tearful and pleading. As the jury retired for their verdict has the defence done enough to sow seeds of doubt in their minds about the certainty of the case against Joe?

There were thankfully one or two lighter moments among all of the tension, recriminations and stress. The late-flowering love of Jocelyn (Charlotte Rampling) and Maggie (Carolyn Pickles) was a welcome moment, especially in the wake of Jocelyn's tragic news about her mother. And junior barrister Ben (William Andrews) said what we've all been thinking for weeks when he confronted his counterpart Abby (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) with the words "I wanted to say...I think you're a truly horrible person."

On top of that there are more of the gorgeous landscapes and beach scenes that we have come to expect as standard for the show as well as a stunning 360-circuit of the courtroom during Judge Sonia Sharma's (Meera Syal) summing up.

However, we're not sure we're ready to forgive the programme makers for that cliffhanger just yet!