Deadwater Fell, episode 3 recap: Tom is clearly a very bad husband – but does that make him guilty?
The penultimate part of the psychological thriller saw more secrets come to light and the series left agonisingly poised. Here’s everything that happened in the third episode.
More flashbacks showed extent of Tom’s abuse
We learned last week about the chillingly controlling behaviour of GP Tom (David Tennant) towards late wife Kate (Anna Madeley), which included his predatory sexual targeting of her two best friends. Now we got more glimpses of exactly what a wrong’un he is.
He lurked intrusively while she was on the phone to best friend Jess Milner (Cush Jumbo) and when Kate came to bed, forced his flinchingly reluctant wife into sex. As if that wasn’t abusive enough, he aggressively asked her “Did you come? Jess came when I f---ed her.” Was this how he told her about their illicit tryst? Either way, it was horribly callous and coercive.
At breakfast the next morning, Tom handed Kate a glass of water and some pills with wordless efficiency, as if this was their daily routine. Were they anti-depressants? Painkillers for her hangover? Or something more sinister?
Most awkward mother-in-law meal ever
Preparing supper in the kitchen later that day, Kate summoned up the courage to ask her husband: “Why Jess? Why Sasha? Why is it always the friend I love the most?” He coldly gaslighted her, snapping: “I hope you’re not going to be like his when Mum gets here.”
Cue a tense, excruciatingly awkward three-way dinner with Tom’s mother Carol (Maureen Beattie), during which Kate picked at her food, head bowed, in near-silence. When Carol wanted second helpings and offered to serve herself, Tom barked at Kate: “Get her some f---ing food!”
We knew he bullied her but this was the first time we’d seen it in front of other people, where he usually kept up a jocular exterior. It didn’t go unnoticed by the quietly watchful Carol, who we later saw telling Kate: “He shouldn’t speak to you like that. I don’t like it.” One got the impression that Carol knew exactly what her son was like. Could his father have been the same? And just me or were there echoes of the Sally Challen coercive control case?
Police interview had shades of Line of Duty
The episode opened with stony-faced Tom waiting in a police interview room, while his friend - or more accurately, former friend - Sgt Steve Campbell (Matthew McNulty) watched through a one-way mirror. Having discovered his girlfriend Jess’s one-night stand with Tom, Steve had his own reasons for wanting to see his neighbour put under pressure.
In a scene reminiscent not just of Line of Duty’s trademark interrogation scenes but also Tennant’s recent role in Netflix crime drama Criminal - in which he played another villainous doctor - DCI Spencer Collins (Gordon Brown) and DC Gemma Darlington (Laurie Brett) arrived to grill their prime suspect. They showed him that ominous home video of him staring into camera, taken just 24 hours before the fatal fire. “You look quite emotional,” said DCI Collins. “As if you’re trying to get something off your chest.”
Tom described how, after she’d drugged their daughters, Kate injected him with insulin which she likely obtained from his own medical bag. “I let her do it,” he said. “I had nothing left to fight for. My three children were dead in front of me.”
Steve joined the interview and asked Tom about the pine needles in daughter Emily’s feet. She’d been seen running through the woods 15 minutes before the fire - before Tom dragged her home, scared and screaming. “Who told you that?” he demanded.
Yet Steve had more, pointing out that he didn’t find Tom unconscious with the children “dead in front of him” but alone in the master bedroom. “Is everything you’ve said here a lie, Tom?” asked Steve. Not only was Tom on the ropes but he showed his sharp side with both women present: solicitor Nicky (Anneika Rose) and DC Darlington. This monster’s mask was starting to slip.
Tom was in money trouble too
When his lawyer visited him in prison, Tom rudely ordered her to find out the identity of this mysteriously woodland witness. Nicky also hinted at a possible financial motive for the murders: “Circumstantial evidence, the mortgages, debts… there’s a lot going against you.” “F--- you,” snapped Tom. Charming.
There were further hints of money issues when Carol arrived for a visit. To fund the hiring of a better lawyer, he asked her to call the bank about remortgaging her farm - not for the first time, we learned - and even see if Kate’s parents, Callum and Ruth, could help. Even though, it seemed, he already owed them money too.
He wasn’t only bullying his mother but Tom had a history of financial problems. What was he spending it all on? Beard trimmers and tailored knitwear?
Steve was unravelling with guilt
All wasn’t well with our heroic local copper. Steve was drinking too much and suffering panic attacks. He was heartbroken by Jess’s betrayal and feeling emasculated by his ex-wife’s new partner playing stepfather to his children. He even made a clumsy pass at DC Darlington.
In his compulsory police counselling session, he admitted he’d been feeling anxious since the fire. During another flashback, we saw why. After Kate flipped her car and failed a breathalyser text, she had a heart-to-heart with Steve.
“Tom has me on these pills,” she told him. “I don’t know what I’m doing half the time. He’ll kill me one day.” No wonder Steve had been desperate to rescue her from the fire and overly keen to see Tom brought to justice - he was feeling guilty that he should have saved her.
Witness Dylan’s lie was exposed
Last week’s twist was that local teen tearaway Dylan Denham-Johnson (Lewis Gribben) hadn’t told the truth about what he saw in the woods. With a key witness this unreliable, it was a matter of time before the truth came out. When DC Darlington replayed the video of Dylan’s police interview, his twitchy mannerisms seemed to confirm he was lying.
Dogged DC Darlington hauled in Dylan herself and uncovered the lie. Steve was promptly suspended from duty for coercing a witness in his desperation for Tom to be convicted. “He f****d your girlfriend,” she said to Steve with a rueful shake of the head. “Is that what his comes down to? Men and their f---ing egos.”
Steve went looking for his own retribution. “It was doing my head in!” protested Dylan as Steve beat him up, confiscated his drugs and ended up in the woods, taking them himself. Writer Daisy Coulam’s running theme of toxic masculinity had seen another male character veer off the rails.
Tom went home to mother
When Carol failed to turn up for prison visiting time, Tom was shown crying. Did she know deep down that her son was guilty? Were we supposed to have a flash of sympathy for him? He’s currently the primary antagonist but all four central players in this psychodrama are morally compromised in some way.
Instead Carol was emptying her Post Office savings account and posting several thousand pound’s worth of cash through Ruth and Callum’s letterbox. Settling her son’s debts, presumably.
She was about to get a surprise, though. Out on parole, Tom arrived on her doorstep and hugged her while grimly muttering “Love you.” It was a creepy moment, especially now he believes she’s turned against him. Surely poor, long-suffering Carol can’t be next?
Must-see finale next Friday
Next week’s fourth and final episode finds the villagers trying to rebuild their lives and finally be honest - both with themselves and each other. But will they ever get to the truth and will justice be done?
It could go either way and promises to be a fascinating conclusion to what’s arguably been the standout TV drama of 2020 so far. Let’s reconvene here to dissect it.