Broadchurch's suspects have the power to make skin crawl - review

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Jim Howick as Aaron Mayford. 
Jim Howick as Aaron Mayford. 

Crime dramas have an unfortunate tendency to sag in the middle, but not the reinvigorated third series of Broadchurch (ITV) which gets stronger with every episode.

The fourth (of eight) was a great example of how to sustain interest midway through a long narrative, with writer Chris Chibnall starting out by taking us back to the series’ beginning to remind us of the horrible emotional impact of the initial crime, and ending with a jolt that made us think the bigger picture might be even more horrific than we thought.

 Mark Bazeley as Jim Atwood

In between, he revisited almost every male character in the story and managed to cast subtle suspicion on each one in turn. It is all such a huge improvement on the second series, with a cast that works as a tightly wound unit of ensemble talent. Julie Hesmondhalgh, in particular, again brought palpable emotional credibility and power to the role of rape victim Trish Winterman, especially in the traumatic opening scenes where she revisited the location of her assault. 

Meanwhile leads David Tennant and Olivia Colman as detectives Hardy and Miller seemed to be accessing an even higher actorly plane. Colman, we know, can convey oceans of compassion with the merest slackening of her jaw, but Tennant matched her all the way, their chemistry crackling with seriousness and good humour.

Hannah Millward as Leah, Julie Hesmondhalgh as Trish, Sarah Parish as Cath and Jodie Whittaker as Beth 

There were plenty of scenes to disturb – notably those involving new character Aaron Mayford (Jim Howick), a convicted rapist with the power to make skin scrawl every time he appears. But entertainment, too, as the story moved relentlessly forward, dropping clues, developing lines of inquiry.

The closing revelation, of a previously unreported assault, was perfectly pitched to both shock and intrigue. A cast-iron guarantee of our willing presence on the sofa next week, dying to know more.

 

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