Broadchurch Series 3

Broadchurch Series Three

SPOILER ALERT.
I will be discussing details of this series in this article.

Broadchurch is a British small-town police procedural.  Darker than Midsomer Murders or Inspector Morse, it keeps the traditional institutes of local police, church, and schools, but connects them in deeper and darker ways. The relationships are complicated and web-like. This is no less the case in series three of Broadchurch.  This series opens on a women being accompanied as she is processed through the system after she has been raped.  These scenes, which have hardly any dialogue capture a fine balance between the necessity to gather as much evidence as possible, and the detectives compassion for the woman in front of them as the numbing effect of shock begins to wear off and trauma begins to set in.  All too often in detective series the (primarily woman) victim vanishes from the screen after the first few scenes.  They become just ‘The Victim’ and a source of evidence.  Broadchurch keeps Trish (Julie Hesmondhalgh) and her experience at the centre of the narrative.  Though for both detectives there is an urgency to catch the culprit there is a notable difference in attitude.  D.I. Alec Hardy (David Tennent) is characteristically hurried and harried.  D.S. Ellie Miller (Olivia Coleman) tempers her eagerness with compassion.  She sees Trish’s point of view much more easily.  Her need to gather evidence will not be at the expense of Trish’s power and autonomy. Broadchurch has always reimagined the police procedural.  It is not clinical and (somewhat) divorced from people, as some procedurals can be.  It centres on the community and the inevitable links that both hinder and help criminal investigation.  This third series is drawing out the issues and attitudes of men and women, particularly in relation to sexism and sexual crime.  The casual sexism that is part of the everyday is highlighted and called into question.  In a genre that often elides the female experience or is focussed on returning errant women back to the patriarchal fold, these challenges are seem epic to me.  The partnership on screen is equal in importance, though not in rank. D.S. Miller’s experience, skill, and knowledge are as essential as D.I. Hardy’s to the investigation.  The masculinised Tennison of Prime Suspect is not necessary here.  The slow realisation of the men and their dawning awareness of their privilege is encouraging and realistic.  They still don’t fully comprehend women’s experience and are still relating it to the women that they know; friends, wives, daughters. And women get it wrong too.  Society’s assumptions are played out through the young police officer who lacks both training and life experience that might otherwise allow her compassion to be shown.  The sheer volume of suspects, all the men at the party, depicted on a physical list on a wall points to the fact that rape is perpetrated, the vast majority of the time, by men.  It is far more likely to be by someone who knows the victim.  The notion of stranger-rape is quickly highlighted as very unlikely, but not ruled out.  Trish’s agency in the investigation is a strong theme of the series.  Positive ownership of her sexuality is also acknowledged. Trish happened to have consensual sex on the day she was attacked.  The two instances are seen as separate and only relevant in ruling out a possible suspect.  Trish’s only regret of that incident is that she slept with her best friend’s husband.  She is un-ashamed that it is just sex and that she has no intention of a relationship.  It is quite separate from the sexual attack that she has endured, and in fact, highlights how that attack is about power and humiliation and shame.  By not vanishing, Trish negates the shame and wins back some power.

Monday 10pm TV3 / 9pm ITV