Broadchurch season 3 episode 4: the mystery texter exposed and a shock revelation – plus all the talking points

Hannah Millward and Julie Hesmondhalgh in Broadchurch
Hannah Millward and Julie Hesmondhalgh in Broadchurch Credit: ITV

The coastal crime drama reached its midway point with surprise infidelity revelations, developments aplenty in the rape case, more dodgy men than a Trump administration and the world’s weirdest football match. Here’s what happened in episode four…

Catch up with last week's episode of Broadchurch

Now we know why Trish was so cagey

Rape victim Trish Winterman (Julie Hesmondhalgh) had refused to tell police who she had sex with on the morning of the attack. Thanks to DNA results, we now found out – and it was a name that neither viewers nor cops saw coming.

On the Saturday before the party, Trish slept with moody mechanic Jim Atwood (Mark Bazeley) – husband of her best friend and birthday girl Cath. Both Trish and Jim described it as “just sex” and this was the first time it had happened but it was still a sickener, in light of the two women’s endearingly close friendship.

It was Cath (a superb performance from Sarah Parish) who elicited our sympathy here. The twist was made all the more poignant by the proud support she’d shown for Trish earlier in the episode and her heart-wrenchingly matter-of-fact description of her marriage as “loveless”.

Cath had earlier dropped her husband in it by admitting: “I don’t know where Jim was for the last couple of hours of the party.” The grease monkey’s best defence? “If I wanted to have sex with Trish, I could. And I did.” He should seek a refund from that charm school. Does this make Jim more or less likely to be the perpetrator? Less, I’d suggest.

Mark Bazeley as Jim Credit: ITV

The investigation swiftly moved on in the best episode yet

Broadchurch is entering its home stretch with genuine promise because this was perhaps the standout episode of series three so far. It had narrative momentum, surprise developments and plenty of light-and-shade.

We learnt that the weapon used to knock Trish unconscious might have been one of the toy cricket bats that Hardy spotted at Axehampton House. Trish remembered that her attacker smelled of vodka (does this rule out teetotal Ed and tequila-drinking Ian?) and that there was a bright light nearby during her ordeal. It could have been the security light from a nearby cottage but we got a queasy feeling it was a camera and the rapist was filming the attack.

Finally came that sad climactic scene: the call centre worker who came forward to say that she’d been raped in similar style two years ago and never reported it. DI Alec Hardy (David Tennant) has already voiced fears that there’s a serial sexual predator at large. Looks like he could be right.

A potential new suspect emerged

A new name entered the equation in the unsavoury shape of convicted rapist Aaron Mayford (a skin-crawlingly creepy turn from Jim Howick), who recently moved back into the area after serving less than half of his three-year jail sentence.

Smirking, belligerent Mayford was a deeply unpleasant character who used soft porn pin-ups as ”motivation” during his workouts and justified his S&M proclivities thus: “I like to play, so what? Everyone’s reading 50 Shades of Grey on the bus.”

His dark behaviour became downright menacing when he climbed into the surveillance car with DC Katie Harford (Georgina Campbell) and said he “wouldn’t mind being inside a police girl”. Shudder. Even the previously implacable Harford looked shaken.

The phantom texter was unmasked

After suspicion fell on Trish’s ex-husband Ian (Charlie Higson) for those “Shut up or else” anonymous messages to Trish, Ian’s girlfriend Sarah Elsey (Charlotte Lucas) stepped forward and admitted it was actually her. But why? She claimed she didn’t know at the time that Trish has been raped – so “shut up” about what?

Ian might not be guilty of sending threatening texts but he’s certainly up to something fishy with another gadget. It turns out that the laptop he was so spooked about last week is his old one – which is now used by Trish. The teacher got shady ex-pupil Leo Humphries (Chris Mason) to install something dodgy on it. Spyware so he could cyber-snoop on his ex-wife, maybe? It looked to us like their daughter Leah (Hannah Millward) smelt a rat.

Charlotte Lucas as Sarah Elsey Credit: ITV

The flashbacks were a stark contrast to the crime scene visit

We glimpsed a different side to Trish in those brief flashbacks to the night of Cath’s 50th – a popular, fun-loving party animal with spirit and swagger. She casually called her ex an “arsehole” and referred to his girlfriend Sarah as “that slag”. She was flirtatious with her boss Ed Burnett (Lenny Henry), who gazed at her rather tenderly. The biggest surprise in these scenes, though, was that human beings still dance to “Hush” by Kula Shaker 20 years on. Who knew?

In sobering contrast, this was all intercut with Trish’s brave return to the site of her rape in a bid to jog her memory. Her visceral reaction – vomiting when the sounds and smells came rushing back – was powerfully hard-hitting and another reminder of the crime’s seriousness.

Mark’s revenge mission falling flat

A subplot this series has been Danny Latimer’s bereaved father Mark (Andrew Buchan) struggling to move on. First he wanted to pursue a private prosecution. Now he’s hellbent on vigilante justice. Mark paid a private detective to find the address of Danny’s killer Joe Miller (Matthew Gravelle) and is “going on a little trip” to “put things right”. Nice-but-dim sidekick Nige Carter (Joe Sims) suddenly reappeared this week, so he’ll presumably be Mark’s henchman.

You can see what writer Chris Chibnall is trying to do here: bring this third and final series back to where Broadchurch first started, completing the narrative circle. However, it still seems tacked-on and unconvincing compared to the main storyline.

Jim Howick and David Tennant Credit: ITV

Olivia Colman was on top form

Colman was outstanding this week as DS Ellie Miller. She could barely conceal her hatred for rapist Aaron Mayford, drily noting before their visit: “He sounds like a delight, can’t wait to meet him.” She promptly pulled him up on his remark about Trish (“fussy about age, are you?”) and calling a 27-year-old victim a “girl” rather than “woman” – a habit of Mayford’s, it seems, after his comment to DC Harford. Miller’s verdict? “Well, he certainly lived down to expectations.”

Scowling with disapproval whenever she met a potential suspect, Miller was channelling righteous anger on behalf of all the world’s wronged women. If looks could kill, Jim Atwood would also be lying in a chalk outline.

Rather more affectionate was her teasing of Hardy about his lack of management technique (“Was that you being a supportive boss?”) and his secret date (“Did you kiss her?”). Even Miller’s famed orange anorak made a reappearance.

Broadchurch - in numbers Broadchurch - in numbers
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Tentative new relationships for both Hardys

Two pieces of promising news for the Hardy family this week. Not only did dad Alec scrub up for a sweetly “awkz” Tinder date with a blonde lady called Zoe (Elen Rhys) but Chloe Latimer (Charlotte Beaumont) extended the hand of friendship to his troubled teen daughter Daisy.

“I heard what happened,” said Chloe. “You’re new here. It’s hard. I thought you might need a friend.” So what did happen? Her father has already referred to Daisy having had some “trouble” back home in Scotland, hence their move south for a fresh start. I fancy this wasn’t the last we’ll hear of it.

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