‘Broadchurch’ review: Season 3 Episode 3 explores toxic masculinity

If there’s a defining theme that seems to run through Broadchurch 3, but is particularly prominent in this third episode, it’s toxic masculinity. As Hardy says, “it makes me ashamed to be a man”.

Chris Chibnall’s script dwells on the many ways the men of Broadchurch act suspiciously, defensively or even aggressively at the thought of being accused of rape, and on the many insidious ways permeating society at all levels that men objectify, abuse or mistreat the women in their lives.

This is achieved through simple things like Miller’s newly-found fear of walking home alone at night, her son Tom’s porn obsession (“very much not the first”, as Rev Coates comments), Mark distressing his wife by insisting on revenge against Joe, or Hardy’s concern at his teenage daughter hanging around with “the boys”, but also through more disturbing elements of the storyline like Ian’s binge-drinking and dodgy laptop content, Lukas’ womanizing, and Jim and Ed coming to blows over Cath.

Even something as innocuous as the owner of the party venue saying that, as a kid, “down by the waterfall was my place… I’d sit and no one would notice me” sounds a shade sinister in light of what we know took place there. Cath herself comes to doubt her own husband. When it comes to the suspect list, it is – in Miller’s words – “a scarily wide net”.

The heartfelt portrayal of Trish Winterman continues well here, with Julie Hesmondhalgh on excellent form. The episode opens with a shot of her standing outside, staring out at ominous stormclouds and smoking a fag (just as she did on the night she was raped): it almost looks as though we are replaying the attack – but of course we aren’t. No traumatic flashbacks here (let us hope this sensitive approach is maintained throughout), just the long, aching pain of the present day-to-day.

One well-framed shot shows her inside her locked home while through the window we can see her husband standing outside it, reinforcing the twin themes of isolation and the need for security. The moment she lays into Miller and Hardy for telling her that they know what it feels like to go through what she’s going through is another highlight.

“How did I cause this?” Trish wonders, saying she’s just trying to work out how her attack was her fault, a victim-blaming that reveals Trish as victim not just of a brutal attack but societal pressure and internalised misogyny – victim of the kind of society that still permits people to ask questions like how much did she drink? or what was she wearing?, as though the answers will somehow imply that the raped woman was “asking for it”.

Her boss, Ed Burnett (a great turn from Lenny Henry) says later that “[Trish] is not the sort of woman this happens to”, again gesturing at our subconscious biases – and particularly TV’s rather overt bias; namely, that it’s only the youngest, prettiest, or most promiscuous that such awful attacks target. The residents of Broadchurch are undergoing a rude awakening.

Trish’s defensiveness and willingness to protect the man she slept with on Saturday morning points to something she doesn’t want anyone to know, something she’s ashamed of – might she have been having an affair with Jim Atwood, her best friend’s husband? He’s sounded guilty often enough without the clues necessarily pointing to him as her attacker: perhaps he’s concerned that, despite being a consensual partner, he could in some way be implicated? Such a revelation would certainly make for a dramatic moment, if perhaps too tonally similar to the Mark Latimer affair subplot of Season 1.

This week’s Moment That Requires Suspension of Disbelief comes when Tom Miller and a friend are quite happy to watch porn standing in pure daylight in a country lane, which seems odd to say the least. But the friend with which he views the contraband videos is the same teenager who wants to hang out with Daisy Hardy and, furthermore, is the son of the womanizing Clive Lukas, subtly suggesting – as Ellie has already implied about her own son and husband – that many of these broader issues are ones passed down from father to son rather than resolved or bettered.

Right in the middle of this 50-minute look at the failings of toxic masculinity, we get the high point: a well-pitched conversation between Trish and Beth, both victims of trauma, about the ways they cope and how to keep on living, how to face down what has happened to them and not be defined by it… and in the process, how to not let the attackers win.

Aired at 9pm on Monday 13 March 2017 on ITV.

Buy the Season 1-2 box set on Amazon here.

Order Season 3 on DVD on Amazon here.

What did you think of this week’s episode? Let us know below…

Tom Marshall blogs about literature, TV and sci-fi here.

Follow Tom Marshall on Twitter here.