The finale of Broadchurch‘s final season brought viewers an unexpected conclusion to the investigation of Trish Winterman’s rape, a sad but loving end to the marriage of Mark and Beth Latimer, and in closing, the perfect encapsulation of Hardy and Miller’s relationship. To break down the episode, Yahoo TV spoke separately with creator Chris Chibnall and star David Tennant.
The hour focused on three key suspects: Ed Burnett, who finally admitted that he’d been sleeping near Trish’s home each night because he “failed her” (once news broke of her assault, he realized that was what he’d overheard from across the lake, not drunken sex as he’d assumed); cabbie Clive Lucas, whose DNA was on the sock used to gag Trish and whose account of his whereabouts that evening kept changing; and “swaggery little s**t” Leo Humphries, who, thanks to some great detective work by Miller, was revealed as the person who planted the bag of bloody twine on Ed’s property.
The big twist came when phone records revealed that Clive’s stepson, 16-year-old Michael, had phoned Leo the night Clive was arrested — and that all three of their phones were in the same location on the night of Cath’s party (because Clive had stumbled upon them walking away from Axehampton and gave them a ride).
What we saw unfold in flashback: After watching Clive raise a hand to Michael while playing soccer (remember Leo is in charge of the uniforms, which explains why he’d have Clive’s socks), Leo — whose difficult relationship with his own father had been established — took Michael under his wing. He gave him porn. He got him drunk and took him to the cemetery to lose his virginity to Leo’s girlfriend (“I’m lettin’ you borrow her. … She does what she’s told. … It’s only sex,” Leo said).
Michael thought they were just going to crash Cath’s party that night, but Leo came prepared with his “party kit.” When Leo knocked Trish unconscious from behind with the cricket bat, Michael was horrified, but he still helped Leo move her and watched him tie her hands behind her back and gag her. Leo said he was doing this for Michael: “You’ve had a young one, now try something else. … She’s ready.” Michael knew it was wrong, but after Leo smacked him when he said so, Michael succumbed: “Go on, Michael, be a man,” Leo insisted. He filmed the assault on his phone. Leo filmed all four of his rapes, one a year when he came home from university.
“It became very clear, the more we storylined and the more I wrote, that this is a story about the next generation,” Chibnall says. “The issues of the proliferation of technology, of porn, of the attitudes to women that seem to have taken a step back in the last 20 years, the sexualization of society — all issues that are swirling around and were things I wanted to write about seemed to come to a kind of a fusion in the character of Leo. The sense of entitlement that that character has. He’s talking about a sense of loneliness, a kind of pointlessness. Those things all ganged together into that character very, very early on. I think if you re-watch all eight episodes, thematically and narratively and character-wise all roads are always leading to Leo.”
The statements Leo made in his confession were chilling: “They’d all had sex before. Why does one more time make a difference?” (“They did not get the choice. Their bodies are not yours,” Miller told him.)
“That scene absolutely draws from real life — not from one person’s assault, but from a lot of research our team did across a lot of areas,” Chibnall says.
In the end, Clive tried to get Hardy and Miller to say he did it instead of Michael, because he knows he should have been there more for him. Miller knew that Michael was giving porn to her son Tom, and Hardy knew that Michael was one of the boys harassing his daughter, Daisy. Is one of the season’s messages the importance of parents being present in their children’s lives? “I think that the whole show is about community, and responsibility, and family, and the trickle down of that,” Chibnall says. “It resonates with Mark Latimer’s story, it resonates with Hardy’s story, it resonates with Ellie’s story. It’s a show about how we’re all connected, and we all have to help each other through the difficult things in life. All three [seasons] with these crimes, it shows the tragedy of them — not just for the victims, but the terrible ripple effect.”
Mark and Beth’s marriage
Neither Beth nor Mark was able to sleep when they returned home after his suicide attempt. Their conversation about their future — she needs to move on, and he needs to sort himself out somewhere where the memories don’t surround him — was calm and rational. “I love you,” she said. “Yeah, I love you, too,” he answered.
“Again, so much of this is based on research of real-life cases, and the parents of murdered children very rarely stay together is the terrible tragedy of it,” Chibnall says. “I wanted to dramatize the slow burn of that, and to show two people who were still in love but couldn’t be together because of the differing ways that grief has affected them and they’ve dealt with it. So that was why, particularly in this episode, we sort of stopped the whole investigation to have this two-hander between Andy Buchan and Jodie Whitaker. I always knew what that scene was, and I always knew that they would absolutely knock it out of the park. That was just utterly wonderful, and heartbreaking, and warm, and emotional. David and Olivia [Colman] rightly get a lot of praise for their amazing work in the series, but Andy and Jodie have always been equally the heartbeat of Broadchurch, and remained so until the very final images.”
Hardy and Miller’s final scene
Our last moment with Hardy and Miller found them sitting on a bench, in front of the series’ iconic cliffs, decompressing after a job well done. “I could do with a drink. Do you want one? We could go to the pub. We’ve never been to the pub,” Miller said. Pause for Hardy to consider it. “No,” he replied.
“I wanted there to be a laugh in there. That felt very important after a very dark episode, and I wanted it to end with hope,” Chibnall says. “But also, I wanted it to end with everything you love about Hardy and Ellie’s relationship still in play. So there was the refusal to go to the pub, which harks back to his reluctance to come to dinner in the first series in that amazing scene where she asks him and he’s really stubborn and rude about it.”
So instead of a pint, we got this final exchange.
Hardy: I should get back to Daisy.
Miller: I should get back to my boys… So you and Daisy then, you’re gonna stay, properly now? You don’t hate it that much?
Hardy: I’ll see you tomorrow, Miller.
Miller: Fine. See you tomorrow.
And they walked away.
Chibnall says he knew that would be the final line of the series before he even sat down to begin writing Season 3. “I absolutely had the final image and that final line in my head, and that sense of somewhere out there on that coast road, in that car, those two are still out there bickering, and talking about work, and driving into the sunset,” he says.
Tennant more than approved. “I think the journey that Miller and Hardy go on is so beautifully summed up in that final scene,” he says. “They’re both broken people, really. They’re people who don’t have anyone other than each other. They’re sort of the closest thing to best friends that the other one has. They’re both kind of disconnected from their families, and they’ve been through some terrible, bruising experiences. They feel like slightly incomplete human beings. They found each other in this world, and yet even then they can’t quite connect.”
That moment would also seem to definitively dash the hopes of those fans who ship the detectives. “I don’t think anyone on the show has ever conceived that Hardy and Miller would get together. It’s just not who they are. It’s not what they do,” Tennant says. “They’re sort of diametrically opposed human beings, and yet, at the same time, they become mutually dependent on each other. I think that’s why that relationship works. I think if you started having some sort of Moonlighting-style will-we/won’t-we, you break the series immediately. It’s funny — it is brought up in interviews now and again. You sort of go, ‘What? Eh? How? Have you seen the show?‘”
For the record, Tennant doesn’t believe Hardy continued to see the woman he met online in episode 4: “We received the scripts just before we shot them, so we filmed that date scene and I had no idea if it would be followed up. I did wonder, ‘Is this Chris setting Hardy up for a happy ending?'” he says. “But it never transpires, and I think it would be wrong, actually, if we saw Hardy walking off into the sunset hand-in-hand with anyone. I think there’s an inevitable misfire when Hardy tries to get his personal life on track.”
What does Tennant picture as Hardy’s future? “In the short term, he’ll just come to work the next day, and he’ll probably go back to dealing with small-town crimes that will infuriate him and make him annoyed that he’s not in some bustling metropolis. Although on one level, of course, he’ll be delighted and relieved because it means that there aren’t any more terrible events going on in this town that’s had its fair share,” he says. “I think he’ll settle back into a life of complaining about his life, probably. And rolling his eyes at the small-town mundanities of it all. But as we find out in this series, he’s clearly decided that this is where he’s meant to be and that that’s where he’s going to stay. Unless something changes. I guess much will [depend on] Daisy and where she goes and what her life becomes, because I think that’s his final salvation, really — his daughter. And probably his Achilles’ heel as well.”
That brings us to our final question: Could we ever see Hardy and Miller reunite again on screen? Chibnall is, of course, taking over showrunner duties next season on Doctor Who (which will feature Whittaker as the 13th Doctor), and Tennant and Colman are never not in demand. “One should never say never to anything because when you do, it’ll only bite you in the bum. But there are certainly no plans. That’s not anything we’ve considered or imagined,” Tennant says. “I think you’d have to be so careful to do something like this. It’s been a delicate modulation to make sure that Broadchurch is about the community as much as it’s about the whodunit or the thriller aspects of it. I think you have to make sure that you own the voracity of what that community would be. If you keep going back and you keep telling stories about more terrible events that happen in this small town, it just becomes implausible quite quickly.”
Now it’s Chibnall’s turn to concur. “I said this was gonna be the end because I don’t have another story in that world. We’ve told one story of a murder, one story of a trial, one story of a sexual assault — I wouldn’t want to go back and repeat things,” he says. “So it’s difficult to think of what other story to tell. But if, years in the future, I’m walking down the street and one pops into my head, I’ll be sure to get on the phone to David and Olivia straight away.”
In the meantime, Chibnall wants to leave fans with these words: “Thank you to everybody who has watched this show from the start to the finish. To see it go around the world this way, and for people to take it to their hearts, has been an incredibly emotional, meaningful experience for all of the Broadchurch family. And it really did become a family. So it’s been wonderful.”
Read more from Yahoo TV:
• ‘Broadchurch’ S3, E7: Creator on Mark’s fate, Hardy’s tirade, Trish taking back the night
• ‘Broadchurch’ Season 3, Episode 6: Creator Chris Chibnall on Mark’s Big Moment
• ‘Broadchurch’ Season 3, Episode 5: Creator Chris Chibnall on Cath’s Chilling Line
• ‘Broadchurch’ Season 3, Episode 4: Creator Chris Chibnall, David Tennant on Hardy’s Date
• ‘Broadchurch’ Season 3, Episode 3: Creator on ‘Seeing Hardy in a New Light’
• ‘Broadchurch’ Season 3 Episode 2: Creator on Season 3’s Growing List of Suspects
• ‘Broadchurch’ Season 3 Premiere Postmortem: Creator Chris Chibnall on the Final Case
• ‘Broadchurch’ Final Season: David Tennant Previews Hardy and Miller’s Slight Role Reversal