If you at all want to watch Broadchurch and be surprised by the arguably EPIC plot twist at the end of Season One, go binge watch that now because I’m about to talk mainly about character’s behavior in the second season. I’ll try to phrase things delicately, but I can’t make promises. Honestly, if you hate spoilers, look away.
You have been warned.
In the town of Broadchurch, there’s a vicar. Isn’t there always? If British TV has taught me anything, every small British town has one church and one vicar, which is weird. Even in the tiny town of Armada, there are at least two churches of different denominations. The same goes for Richmond, MI. America abounds with more options than we can process.
Anyways, my reaction when I see clergy on TV is to flinch. Mostly, the reaction is inward. I don’t flop about on the ground. Still, I find it moderately painful only because I know that at some point, their doctrine is going to be so astonishing wrong that the emotional pain will be like a lash from a whip. I try to tell myself that they’re English. They’re Protestant. They aren’t proclaiming to believe what I believe. Still, I want to shout at the screen, “Jesus never said that!”
Regardless, I wanted to like this vicar. He’s played by the guy who plays Rory Pond from Doctor Who, brilliant because David Tennant stars in this show as well. The Doctors are mixing companions, oh my. Also, and this is weird, but he looked fantastically attractive in his clerical and thick sweaters. What? I feel awkward. JK, not really. All in all, I was hyper vigilant when he was on the screen.
He was good in the first season, but I think he got interesting in the second season. At least, to me he did. The murderer from the first season goes on trial in the second. He’s a well-known member of the community, and it’s devastating to everyone in the town. I can’t express how terrible it is. As expected, this murderer is ostracized from everyone in the town. No one wants to mention his name unless it’s in plans to tar and feather, draw and quarter him. The vicar is the only person to visit him in prison.
What is interesting is the fight that the vicar has throughout the whole season. As a human, he thinks this guy is guilty as sin. My interpretation is that as a regular human being, the vicar thinks what the murderer has done is revolting and horrific. I think if he’d had any other profession, the vicar would never have stepped foot in that prison.
Yet, he’s a man of God. Unlike everyone else, he offers God’s forgiveness. He meets with the murderer regularly and against his own personal judgement to be there for a sinner who needs God and needs to know forgiveness. He doesn’t abandon a member of his church just because they’ve done what society cannot forgive. He shows that God forgives anything, and wants to impart this to the man.
The season goes awry when the murderer pleads not guilty. You see the vicar struggle harder and harder with visiting the murderer in jail. He is wholly human. He cares what the others in the town would think, especially the family of the boy who was killed. He battles his own revulsion of events. Most of all he struggles as he watches the man grow resolutely unrepentant.
I was captured by this development in character. I feel like we don’t often get to see this sort of inner battle in the clergy on TV or movies. They often are either repellant sinners that are worse than you can even imagine or the very instigators of evil within the church and community. I can safely say that of the hundreds of pastors I’ve known personally and met (and that number isn’t exaggerated) none of them fit that depiction. Or, TV clergy go another way completely. They abandon God’s Word. Everything is all warm and fuzzy Jesus. This was the first time that I’d seen a show even hint at truly hard moments that pastors and vicars and priests face in their church—those moments when they have to step away from their personal views, the views of their community, and the easy ways out to help another child of God.
Loving God is easy when you are faced with a little old lady who bakes cookies for your neighbor, but how do we treat murderers and thieves and anyone else doing something we find abhorrent? Do we let them know that God loves and forgives them too? Or do we take it upon ourselves to withhold forgiveness from them on God’s behalf? Don’t act like we don’t have the audacity to do that. We do it all of the time. Sometimes we do it too ourselves. We believe that what we’ve done is too awful for God to give, as if he isn’t all powerful and supremely loving and merciful.
I enjoyed, amidst the other sundry things that make this show brilliant, watching that aspect of the fall out of a horrible murder in a small town.
I’m going to layout the last few moments of the second season for you.
The vicar does at some point stop trying, but not in the sense that I believe his sinful nature won out. The murderer didn’t believe he was wrong. Maybe to process what he’d done, he’d locked it away in his brain and wouldn’t process it. It held to his plea of not guilty, and eventually when he won his freedom, he wanted to be reintegrated in the community. He wanted the vicar’s help to do so. He thought it was the vicar’s duty, because he had the idea of a warm fuzzy Jesus in his mind where the points don’t matter and the punishments don’t exist.
The vicar doesn’t, and I can’t say whether this is right or wrong. I can say that I understand it. At some point, you can’t force someone to be repentant. You can’t make them sorry for what they’ve done. You can’t be sorry for them. This guy couldn’t truly be helped by the vicar in the way he needed because the murderer needed to get to a point where he accepted that he’d murdered a boy and needed forgiveness. I think we are responsible for being honest with people. I think we should always be open about what God says and his love. I also believe though, that your faith and salvation is between you and God. I can’t believe in God for anyone and nobody can believe in God for me. Faith is only ever going to be a very personal and intimate relationship between a person and God. So, I can see why the vicar got to the point where he knew he hit a wall and couldn’t bring this man into the community again. The man was toxic in his deliberate ignorance.
Personally, I thought the vicar was going to kill him. Don’t ask me why. At some point, he turns to his girlfriend and says, “I just needed to tell someone what I’m going to do to him.” And I was like, “Holy shit. Season Three: Detectives search for the murderer’s killer aka the vicar. Drama ensues.” But he didn’t. He did something far better and more in line with God than my own spiteful need for justice.
He orchestrates the murderer being brought to the place where he killed the boy. He’s forced to face both his family and the family of the boy he killed. He has to see their hate for him and know that they want to kill him, but then they let him go. They don’t even get in a few well deserved kicks. The vicar has paid for a taxi to take him to the train station. The vicar has gotten a fellow vicar to escort him by train to a halfway house (for sex offenders/criminals I believe) far away. Essentially, the vicar has set up a fresh start for this man, which is the murderer’s best option if he wants to remain alive. Let’s be honest. I don’t imagine the father of the boy who was killed being able to next snap and kill the murderer if the murderer were to stay. Just saying.
Regardless, even when the vicar had reached the end of his usefulness, even when he was done with this man, he showed Christian love towards him. He didn’t let violence to him. He gave him a form of forgiveness in that he let the guy step away, and go to an environment that will hopefully rehabilitate him and bring him to a genuine sense of repentance. He also took care of his other parishioners, ensuring separation so they could mourn and maybe one day not want to rip the head off the murderer. It was astounding in my book and far more than I expected from a TV vicar.
Christ forgives us all. We are here not to judge or decided who gets to be forgiven. We are here to show Christ’s love and forgiveness to the best of our ability. We are supposed to imitate Christ with his unfailing help.