On the face of it it was just another detective story. There are so many on TV it’s as if creative drama ideas have gone into a double-dip recession. And unusually for ITV, it wasn’t a Morse spin-off. But Broadchurch has surprised me – ITV-drubbing snob that I am – by holding my attention across all 8 episodes.
** plot spoilers ** don’t read if you haven’t seen it yet!!
Broadchurch got better with each episode, as it exposed the flaws in the characters and peeled back the hidden layers. And the final episode was extraordinary, I think, for a 2013 drama. It was told simply, powerfully. The ‘reveal’ was patient, and even though I had guessed who it was 2 episodes ago (never trust the minor character with a speaking role) it actually didn’t matter. This was no Poirot-style shallow quick-fix nonsense, nor was it cliche-driven histrionics.
Paedophilia. There is nothing – nothing – that lights the touch-paper in our culture quite like it. Rarely is the subject covered in anything other than a sensationalist way. Rarely do we get an insight into the gradual beginnings of unhealthy relationships. Rarely do we get a chance to catch our breath before the mob are shouting about the categorically evil ‘other’ who can do this sort of thing.
Real life is complicated. Real relationships are complicated. Real life doesn’t contain the simple black and white categories our (predominantly) unthinking culture (and media) would like us to have. Real life is a broad church of broken and breaking people, of healed and healing people, of people with hearts of glass who shatter and cut and who can be – really can be – restored, though always scarred. The scars are important.
The broad church that we try to be, to hold together, following Jesus in our own uniquely broken ways, this broad church is one in which we sob with the broken. When worlds fall apart, whether through bad decisions or external circumstances, we try to be the ones who find a way to sob too. Sadness is universal. Broadchurch showed families torn apart, and maybe it got to me because that is what I see.
Broadchurch left me sad, but it did not leave me feeling hopeless. Not just because for once the vicar wasn’t the easy target. But because the story did not end with mob justice, but a community of broken people standing together (I know it was cheesy, but we needed something!). And there was no easy resolution between the two families, because there is no easy resolution in real life. Rarely is a series able to hold these two in tension. Rarely are we, the people, given the trust in ourselves to be able to see this.
“You wanted easy answers, and scapegoats, and bogeymen. The world’s more grey.” [DI Hardy]
Following Jesus means that we cannot mete out cheap justice. Following Jesus means that we face impossible situations head-on. Following Jesus means that we shoulder the burdens of the world but we do not do it alone. Following Jesus means that we see into the hearts of all people and by the grace of God we can carry on, we can even find love for those we understand the least, for those we want to hate, for those who confuse us because they do not fit, and those who make us angry because, as the question was asked twice: how could you not know?
Evil is not ‘other’, darkness is not ‘over there’. But in the darkness – from within it, not from outside of it – shines the light. From within the darkness there is always hope for – and even from – a broad and broken world, and a broad and broken church.
I have written previously about a more personal encounter with this subject in reputation