Oh, Broadchurch – it was all going so well.
Last week, we wrote how sad dad Mark Latimer's journey had reached "a natural and affecting climax, which wasn't always a given. Let's hope it sticks and that he's not pulled from the ocean early next week."
So, of course, that's exactly what happens. The question casting a shadow over this entire episode is: why?
It's hard to stifle a groan when, five minutes in, we're greeted with the sight of Mark recovering in a hospital bed. Sure, the scenes that follow feature strong work from Andrew Buchan and Jodie Whittaker as a bitter Beth, but really, what more is there to do or say with the Mark character?
He wanted "justice fer Dan" – but when it came to it, he couldn't go through with making his son's killer pay. Frustrated and lost, Mark took his own life. Tragic, but a fitting end. He says it himself: "I saw Joe. I talked to him. There's nothing left."
Wrapping up the Danny Latimer storyline, a carryover from the first series of Broadchurch, also seemed to clear the way for the last two episodes of this final run to be all about Trish (Julie Hesmondhalgh), which was no bad thing.
Again, as Beth herself says, "Put things to rest, and live in the present."
Yet, Mark Latimer lives – and, bar some improbable happy ending where he finds inner peace and gets back with Beth, we can't see what writer/creator Chris Chibnall is hoping to achieve by keeping him around.
Right now, it feels like Broadchurch has bottled it, though we still live in hope that its got one more surprise – a pleasant one, this time – up its sleeve.
It's not just Mark's story that feels like it's going nowhere fast. The hunt for the seaside town's serial rapist turns up a new chief suspect: Jim Atwood (Mark Bazeley), who has links to the three women that were attacked and no alibi for any of the assaults.
His wife Cath (Sarah Parish) finds condoms in Jim's car – the same brand used by Trish's attacker – and a suspicious-looking porn stash. Even Jim's cover story, that he used the condoms having sex with a waitress at his wife's party, comes back to bite him when she reveals he got "rough" during their encounter.
So Jim's a certifiable creep, but does that make him a sexual predator? The same question applies to Trish's estranged husband Ian (Charlie Higson), who, it's revealed, installed spyware on his wife's laptop because he "missed" her. Eurgh.
With one episode left, we know that Jim is almost certainly not the culprit, yet Broadchurch still refuses to conclusively rule out any suspects. Even Ed Burnett's sketchy alibi – he's supposed to be tee-total, while Trish's attacker smelt of cheap spirits – is undone, as we see Lenny Henry's oddball shopkeeper back on the booze.
A good whodunit should narrow a long list of suspects slowly, giving viewers a fair (if long) shot at guessing the culprit, not just pull a rabbit out of a hat.
Seven weeks down and we're no closer to knowing who attacked Trish than we were at the end of episode one. Broadchurch has stalled, going round in circles: it's Ed, it's Jim, it's Ian, it's Clive, it's Leo... and round again.
Next week, we fear that the spinning bottle will rather arbitrarily land on one of them, for no other reason than it's time to make the big reveal.
Except... there's still a glimmer of hope that this last ever Broadchurch will prove to be something more than a middle-of-the-road whodunit. Miller (Olivia Colman), Hardy (David Tennant) and their parenting crises continue to hint that this series is about something more.
Content at first to let his daughter make her own decisions and her own mistakes, Hardy later takes a page out of his partner's book – forbidding her to leave Broadchurch and giving the boys who'd been bullying her a righteous bollocking.
Hardy's struggle, and Miller's own efforts to control her horny teenage son Tom, are either a totally unrelated sub-plot, or the key to the whole thing – and one option would be immeasurably more satisfying than the other.
After a strong start, Broadchurch now has one hour left – and a whole lot of work to do. It's not totally sunk, but is definitely treading water (no pun intended, Mark Latimer).
Only powerful performances and the odd rewarding moment – like cocky Leo's moment of honesty –help to prop up what is, plot-wise, a rather shaky penultimate chapter in this final series.
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