This post contains spoilers for each season of Broadchurch.
“You know what I don’t like about this case? It makes me ashamed to be a man.”
Detective Alec Hardy feels the need to make that confession to his partner Ellie Miller during season 3 of Broadchurch. Male viewers probably felt the need to say it as well.
The groundbreaking detective drama forces viewers to come to grips with the depravity of man, but more specifically the depravity of men.
On the coastal town, we quickly learn not to trust men, as Hardy and Miller search for a potentially serial rapist.
While only two individuals are held responsible for the crime, virtually every man ends the season worse than he started.
Despite any innocence related to the rape, the cast of suspects are all revealed as weak, cowardly and deceitful, yet full of false male bravado. And in most cases, they learned it from their dad.
If any Bible verse captured the essence of Broadchurch, it would be the last half of Numbers 14:18: “visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.”
Fathers don’t hang around in Broadchurch and even when they do they abandon, ignore, and abuse their children.
Fifteen-year-old Michael Lucas is eventually charged with rape, but only after we see him hit by his stepfather Clive and groomed by Leo Humphries, a young man running a family business because his father is too busy playing golf.
Miller is still trying to keep her family together after season 1 revealed her then-husband Joe murdered Danny Latimer, an 11-year-old boy who rebuffed his sexual advances.
Danny’s father Mark can’t move past his son’s murder and Joe being acquitted for it in season 2. After confronting tracking Joe down and confronting him, Mark attempts suicide causing his estranged wife and teenage daughter to feel as if they aren’t enough.
Even Hardy struggles as a dad to his daughter, missing lunch dates and forgetting about her needs as he relentlessly chases after yet another criminal that seemingly matters more to him.
There is none righteous, no, not one. And Broadchurch won’t let you forget it.
After Miller and Hardy listen to Leo cooly and creepily describe why he raped women and encouraged Michael to do the same, Miller is brought to tears outside the police station.
Hardy tries to reassure her, “He is not what men are. He’s an aberration.”
“I hope so,” Miller replies. She still wants it to be true for her 15-year-old son Tom, who she worries will reap the consequences of her ex-husband’s sins.
Earlier in the season, she discovers pornography on Tom’s phone and computer—given to him by Michael who got it from Lucas. She realizes it’s entirely likely her son could be the next in line.
She wants to believe Hardy’s comforting lie, but it rings hollow in the face of three seasons worth of evidence to the contrary.
The show closes with Miller and Hardy on a bench discussing the case, reassuring each other they caught the bad guys and stopped the cycle.
But instead of getting a drink together as friends, both decide it would be better to go back home to be with their children. “See you tomorrow, Miller,” Hardy says before he walks off.
Because that’s just it, there’s always more crime. Justice is never finished.
Broadchurch rightly recognizes that man is fallen beyond belief. Men (and women) are sinners who will keep on sinning.
But it misses that hope is not pointless. Justice will eventually conquer and end injustice. Depravity has a time limit.
Afterall, the first part of Numbers 14:18 says, “The Lord is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression.”
As great of a story as Broadchurch can tell (and it is one of the best shows on television), it only gives us half the story.