Broadchurch Continues to Satisfy With Depth of Character

Episode 5 of Broadchurch showed that the drama continues to satisfy by providing a depth of character not seen in many crime dramas. Throughout the subtle plot twists and deliberate false trails, the real person behind Jack Marshall is found as common suppositions are stripped away. The intrigue is immense and the acting superb. This review of episode five shows how much thought and planning went into the writing, acting and production of this marvellous drama.

Broadchurch Season 5

Credit: ITV/BBC America

In any murder investigation, the press can sometimes be just as much of a villain as the perpetrator. Well, okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but the fact remains that the media can occasionally become invasive to the point of harassment — and when that harassment results in the death of an otherwise innocent man, who is the real villain?

Broadchurch is often compelling because it depicts the full breadth of human complication: more often than not, the problems faced by these characters are problems of their own making, whether it’s Mark Latimer (Andrew Buchan) getting outed for his affair with Becca Fisher (Simone McAullay), Jack Marshall (David Bradley) receiving an underage sex conviction in his past because he simply couldn’t wait one more month for his girlfriend/pupil to come of age, or whether it’s Karen (Vicky McClure) and Olly (Jonathan Bailey) having their story about Jack Marshall repurposed for attention-grabbing, mob-rousing ends. This latter development, in particular, shows the double-edged sword represented by the media. No matter how noble their intentions, Karen and Olly had to suspect, at some level, that their words could be twisted, given the very delicate nature of the story they were writing. But there’s a lack of foresight involved when ambitious journalists are chasing a potentially career-making story. And it’s this representation of the media, simultaneously well-meaning and careless, that colors tonight’s episode. Even in the best of times, the press can do considerable harm, because the press often elides what prevents tragedy from happening — context.
tumblr mm9a1vYuBf1rf4t4to4 500 Broadchurch   Recap: Fifteen

Credit: ITV/BBC America

The town of Broadchurch misconstrued Jack Marshall’s underage sex conviction as evidence that he was into little boys. From there, the town was all-too-willing to jump to the conclusion that Jack must have murdered Danny Latimer. And even if he didn’t, well, he must be a bad guy if he wants to piddle little boys, right? Except, as usual, the mob mentality found a way to override the better judgment of otherwise reasonable people, leading to the public persecution of a man suffering from past traumas of his own. As we learn, Jack Marshall’s conviction wasn’t for sleeping with an underaged boy, but instead with an underaged girl, a former pupil of his who was 15 and 11 months at the time of their affair. Had he simply waited one more month before giving in to his passions, they would have been perfectly clear under the law. But this wasn’t the case. Jack was tried and convicted for sex with a minor, and spent a year in jail for his crime. However, upon his release, he married the girl and fathered a son by her, managing to build a happy life in the process. But tragedy would soon strike when an automobile accident killed Jack’s wife and young son, leaving him a sad, broken man. He didn’t move to Broadchurch so much as he escaped there, opting to start a new life away from the persecution and tragedy that plagued him in his former stomping grounds.

images Broadchurch   Recap: Fifteen

Credit: ITV/BBC America

Of course, the press doesn’t really care about that. Karen tries to fight the good fight when she rails against her editor for punching up her story to make for a more salacious headline. But it’s a lost cause, and when the papers hit the stoop to Jack’s store, he sees the front page — a family portrait of Jack with his wife and young son, accompanying the headline “Child Bride of Broadchurch” — and decides this isn’t a world he wants to be a part of anymore. The police discover his body at the bottom of the cliff where Danny Latimer’s body was found, the old man having committed suicide rather than endure further emotional torture, about which the police will continue to do nothing. It’s the most poignant, moving episode since the pilot thanks to this central storyline, which also serves as a stern indictment of law enforcement practices, since Hardy (David Tennant) and Ellie (Olivia Colman) don’t do a whole lot to stop this from happening, but mostly because there wasn’t a whole lot they could have done, given how the law protects the press.

BC E5EllieHardy2 Broadchurch   Recap: Fifteen

Credit: ITV/BBC America

The plight of Jack Marshall makes for a fitting parallel with Chloe (Charlotte Beaumont), the Latimers’ 15-year-old daughter who is in a law-breaking relationship with an older boy. Mark discovers the existence of this relationship, and is implicitly forced to confront the moral grey area presented by Jack’s situation. This, without even mentioning the fact that Mark first got together with Beth when shewas fifteen, and has been with her for fifteen years (the number fifteen is a bit of a recurring symbol in this episode, representative of a sort of bridge between innocence and adulthood). It isn’t simply that these issues force the townspeople to turn the magnifying glass on each other, but that they also force citizens to look inward at their own prejudices. Mark is able to dissuade the crowd from practically lynching Jack on the spot in his name. He shows empathy with Jack and suggests that he leave Broadchurch for his own good, but it’s advice that comes too late to do any good. Jack has made up his mind, not unlike the townspeople, or the scandal-obsessed press that drives him to suicide.

Read more at:

Broachurch episode 5 is a captivating work of television art. ITV has outdone itself with Broadchurch and has built a quite substantial audience as a result. This crime drama is more than that, it’s a personality study, a character autopsy. Stay tuned!