The Many Betrayals of Broadchurch

By Kersley Fitzgerald

Gracepoint is a ten-episode miniseries tightly based on the BBC Broadchurch. So tightly based that the lead character is played by the same actor (Doctor Who's David Tennant) and, despite the fact the American edition is two episodes longer, many of the scenes and much of the dialogue are identical. Both series follow the residents of a small coastal town in the aftermath of the suspicious death of an 11-year-old boy. Broadchurch aired last year; episode six of Gracepoint aired November 6. The producers promised the killer would be different for the American version.

In the first episode, we meet the characters. Tennant's detective (whose name changes from Alec Hardy to Emmett Carver) has come from the big city (London/San Francisco) to take the senior detective position that local Detective Ellie Miller had been promised before her family went on vacation. They meet each other on the beach (south England/northern California) over the body of Ellie's son's best friend, Danny. He's lying face down in the sand by the water; the cliff above is undisturbed. The detectives quickly realize Danny was killed elsewhere, and the body brought to shore in a boat.

Shortly after Ellie meets Tennant's detective, Danny's mother, Beth, appears. She is married to Mark, a local plumber, whom she married out of high school after getting pregnant with their daughter, Chloe. Other characters of note include Ellie's husband, Joe, her son, Tom, and her nephew Ollie/Owen (a local journalist being seduced by a reporter from the big city), Becca/Gemma (the owner of the local hotel), and Jack, a shop owner who leads the boys' conservation group.

There are several recurring themes throughout the series. A predominant one is Tennant's detective's harsh, almost cruel, pragmatism vs. Ellie's more sympathetic approach. Ellie has lived in the small town her whole life. She wants to find the killer, but she knows she will have to live in that town after the killer is caught. She and Joe are friends of Beth and Mark's. Ollie/Owen is her nephew. Hardy/Carver bull-dozes through the investigation, having no problem holding Mark for questioning and risking the livelihood of the tourism-based town to get what he needs. He continually tells Ellie she must see everyone as a suspect. Ellie reminds him that they are also her friends.


In the end of Broadchurch, we learn Hardy was trying to prepare Ellie and the others for the inevitable. Because in such a small town, a murder has to have an element of betrayal, something he's very familiar with. He had left London when his wife, a detective who worked under him, botched the murder case of a young girl. They had the evidence they needed, but it was taken from her car while she was in a hotel room with another man. In the pain of her betrayal — both personal and professional — all he could think about was his daughter. So he took the fall for his wife and went into exile. He saw Danny's murder as a chance at redemption, but he hardened himself against any more painful surprises — and tried to harden Ellie, as well.

This theme of betrayal runs throughout. It turns out Danny was no longer that close to Tom who was pulling away for the attention of the person who eventually killed him. Beth discovers that the night Tommy was killed, Mark was sleeping with Becca. Chloe, through foolishness, and Ollie, through carelessness, publically expose Jack's past, making the whole town turn against him (except Mark). There's even an on-going storyline about Mark's assistant and the mother who didn't know her son was being abused when he was a child.

It's also interesting to see the aftermaths of the betrayals. Beth eventually forgives Mark, and Mark leads his family in healing even before the killer is revealed. Jack can't take the unearthing of a long-ago resolved mistake and kills himself, leaving Ollie, at least, humbled and wiser. Mark's assistant continually pushes away his mother, blaming her for not protecting him. Hardy let his wife's betrayal turn him driven and almost heartless in his desire for justice. But he still covered for her for the sake of their daughter. And throughout the series, he can be seen talking to his daughter's answering machine, seeking some kind of validation for his sacrifice.

The final betrayal is revealed with the identity of the killer. Everyone closest to the investigation is shattered. Their ultimate response is unknown, since there are only a few more scenes given in the show (although Series 2 has been promised).

The series is like a sample platter of how we respond to betrayal. Reconciliation? Avoidance? Despair? A combination of martyrdom and defensive isolation? Beth and Mark have the most biblical response. Beth realizes how much they need each other in the face of their son's death and chooses to work hard to repair their relationship. She doesn't forgive quickly or easily, but she does give Mark enough room to express his regret and his love for her (Galatians 6:1).

Hardy comes in second. Proverbs 17:9 says, "Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends." He covered his wife's offense out of love for his daughter. But he didn't forgive his wife, instead choosing to allow bitterness to color all his relationships and even harm his health (Ephesians 4:31-32). Was that the right choice? It didn't protect his relationship with his daughter, and by the end even he begins to doubt his decision.

The question for me, though, is where is the line between Hardy and Ellie? Is it better to live suspecting everyone, and keeping yourself hidden behind protective walls? Or to believe in your friends and family until absolutely proven otherwise? Hardy moved through life as if everyone around him stung him with a thousand little stabs in the back. Ellie's empathy drove her to find the killer as much as the DI's bitterness, but left her victim to a betrayal she never saw coming.

Gracepoint has three more episodes. I'm getting a headache trying to guess the killer. The second season of Broadchurch promises to show the aftermath of a revelation that tore up a town. I hope they dig more into this question on the other side. What does it take to recover from a betrayal? And what would make someone want to? First Corinthians 13:7 says it's love. "Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."

In the end, the Vicar tells us how when he quotes Ephesians 4:31-32:
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Current-Issues  | Hardships  | Personal-Relationships

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Published 11-12-2014