I hate to say that I saw Jack’s death coming, but it really seemed to be sadly unavoidable — and it was a credit to BROADCHURCH that it was still so affecting. The character was tragically hounded to death after being painted as a pervert, and I really felt bad for him as he had to see the signal tragedies of his life splashed across newspaper headlines by an uncaring press in quest of sales.
The lurid headlines and the mob mentality that swept the community fed off each other and were two sides of the same coin: the mindless rush to an easy conclusion. The producers of BROADCHURCH slyly played on the audience’s smug propensity to try to guess the outcome of murder-mysteries, and Jack’s obvious suspicious behavior might have been a fake-out or a double-blind. And, at this point, although it looks like Jack drowned himself, who says it wasn’t… murder?
The entire town gathered for a reenactment of Danny Latmimer’s last hours — which seemed to consist entirely of Tom (Adam Wilson) riding a skateboard down the main street while everyone followed slowly behind. And that’s it. Jack (David Bradley) gives DI Alec Hardy (David Tennant) Danny’s cell phone, which the kid apparently left in his newspaper bag, but DS Ellie (Olivia Colman) says Danny had a smart phone — and that’s still missing. Later, Danny’s parents, Mark (Andrew Buchan) and Beth (Jodie Whittaker) argue over his infidelity with Becca (Simone McAullay) and she reveals she’s pregnant. Ellie returns home to find her ne’er-do-well sister, Lucy (Tanya Franks), looking for a handout — and dangling the prospect of important information from the night Danny died. Karen (Vicky McClure) helps Olly (Jonathan Bailey) write a story about Jack’s background to run under her byline. Although the piece was fair and balanced when filed, it get rewritten and published as a lurid hatchet job — a fact that Olly and Karen discover after waking up in bed together at the inn, having hooked up the night before.
As Rev. Paul Coates (Arthur Darvill) and Becca discuss her dire financial straits at the inn, Beth bursts in and wrecks the place, warning Becca to stay away from her family. Chloe (Charlotte Beaumont) tells Olly and Karen that her boyfriend, Dean (Jacob Anderson), said Jack used to hug the boys at Sea Brigade, so the dynamic duo write another story. Meanwhile, at an arcade, Susan (Pauline Quirke) approaches Tom and lets him pet her dog, Vince. When the latest salacious Herald headlines appear, Jack begs Alec and Ellie for police protection from the hordes of photographers. Alec forces Jack to recount his tale: Jack was a music teacher with a 15-year-old female student. They had a relationship a month before her 16th birthday. He went to jail for a year, and when he was freed he married her. He was 40, she was 17. At the station, Ellie learns that four relatively rare cigarette butts were found near Danny’s body. Nige (Joe Sims) knocks on Susan’s door and offers her money to leave town, but she refuses.
Nige forms a lynch mob that goes to confront Jack at the Sea Brigade clubhouse. Mark is alerted and heads off the crowd, so he can talk to Jack. Jack tells his story, adding that he and his young wife had a son who was killed at age 6 in a car crash while she was driving. It broke up the marriage. Mark disperses the lynch mob but warns Jack to leave town. That night the mob returns and vandalizes Jack’s home and truck. Olly intends to take Karen out on his father’s boat, but discovers it was stolen. In fact, it was the boat that was found burning off the coast. Ellie asks Alec about the Sandbrook case. He says a mistake was made, but won’t talk about it further. Later, in the wee hours of the morning, Jack sees the day’s papers are splashed with lurid headlines about Jack’s child bride and dead son, upsetting him so much that he collapses in tears. Later, Alec and Ellie arrive on the beach, where another body has been found: Jack.
We know what part Tom played in the reenactment of Danny’s death, but what part did he play in his pal’s actual death? Why did he erase those messages? Why is he interested in the sentence for murder? It occurs that the person we viewers know the least about in the whole town is Tom’s father, Ellie’s husband, Joe (Matthew Gravelle). Why are we being kept in the dark about him? He only ever appears in context with Tom and Ellie, never on his own.
Alec’s annoyance at Jack’s withholding his past seemed to be exactly that — annoyance. It’s obvious that his particular transgression had nothing to do with Danny’s death, so Alec was just angry that Jack hadn’t followed procedure. Or was it annoyance that at fact like a conviction for sex with a minor had gotten past his investigation?
When asked about Sandbrook, Alec said a mistake had been made; but he didn’t say by whom. Viewers probably are supposed to take his reticence as a sign of guilt, but I think somebody else screwed up and Alec took the fall to protect that person. And now it’s weighing on him, especially because it appears the investigation at Sandbrook failed to bring a killer to justice.
Amid the heavy drama of Jack’s storyline, the episode also featured several lighter interludes, mixing tragedy and laughs in a way life so often does. I almost laughed out loud when Becca admitted she didn’t want to spend the night with Alec because she was afraid he’d collapse on her! Tennant played his character’s exasperation and embarrassment perfectly; Alec couldn’t argue after she’d already found him passed out once. And Brian (Peter De Jersey) asked Ellie for a drink, even disregarding that she’s married — until she assured him it was a happy marriage. It was endearingly awkward the way she told Alec about the incident, as if she simply had to tell someone, and he was the unlucky target. Doesn’t she have any female friends on the force?
It was also refreshing to see Mark and Beth continue to deal with their marriage. While they started out icy in the early stages of the episode — “You’re a selfish, childish, egotistical, self-centered bastard,” Beth shouted — they did manage to clear the air. Mark was able to crystalize his motivation for shagging Becca: Living such a routine life in such a small town, Mark not only knew every moment of his past, but he could also see every moment of this future — a dull, predictable future that would play out in very discernable and rigid steps all the way until the grave. And while it by no means excuses infidelity, it did make sense to him: He wanted to change things up ever so slightly. So Beth threw him a curve: She’s pregnant. He urged her to keep the baby, but she was in no mood to listen to his advice.
Thankfully, Nige’s lynch mob was in the mood to listen to Mark for a while. Still, their ultimate goal was accomplished, and Jack’s death — provided it was suicide and not another murder — had to be greatly informed by the expectation that he would be hounded by mobs — either photographers or townspeople — for the rest of his life.
I’d like to take a moment to be sad that Jack’s death means David Bradley is leaving the show. He proved himself to be quite a good actor. I got no sense of him from the Harry Potter movies, but he made an impression as a villain in the DOCTOR WHO story “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship,” and won my sympathy here on BROADCHURCH. I’m looking forward to seeing him in AN ADVENTURE IN TIME AND SPACE this fall.
There are only three episodes of BROADCHURCH left, so I expect Alec and Ellie to start making some real progress soon… and we’d better learn the full story behind Sandbrook and Alec’s mysterious illness soon.