It was the explosive opening that nobody, and I mean nobody, saw coming in the first episode of The Bay’s second season run: Stephen Marshbrook (Stephen Tompkinson) was enjoying a summer garden party with his family. The doorbell rang because, like so many of us during lockdown, there was a package to be delivered.
But, when Stephen opened the door to sign for his package, the stranger shot him dead. Which…
Well, which has to be something of a record when it comes to ‘least time on screen’ for such a well-known actor as Tompkinson (maybe he’ll show up in a few flashbacks, eh?).
Who killed Stephen Marshbrook?
The only witness to the murder was Stephen’s traumatised-for-life young son, Oliver (Leo Ashton). And, while the little boy wasn’t able to talk that much about what happened he did manage to communicate one key detail about the killer: he had a recognisable two-headed eagle tattoo, which he handily left fully visible for everyone to see.
It wasn’t long before troubled police officer Lisa Armstrong (Morven Christie) locked onto that tatt as a big fat clue.
However, I can’t help but think that this series isn’t really about who shot Stephen. Not really, anyway.
Or, rather, who hired that man to kill Stephen Marshbrook?
This series is less about who the murderer is, much more about who hired him to pull the trigger. And we suspect that it’s someone very close to our dearly departed friend, especially as Lisa found a few shreds of burnt paperwork in the barbecue.
Could Bill Bradwell or Rose Marshbrook have had a hand in the murder?
Viewers have already done Lisa’s work for her and narrowed it down to two suspects; Stephen’s father-in-law Bill Bradwell (James Cosmo), or his grieving widow Rose (Sharon Small).
Their reasoning? Because they seemed “definitely dodgy,” apparently. And, to be fair, such gut assumptions have served us well in the past (here’s looking at you, Bobby Beale).
And what’s the deal with Grace Marshbrook and Frank Mercer?
Despite this compelling evidence, though, it’s worth noting that Lisa’s ex, Andy (Joe Absolom) – father to her children Abbie (Imogen King) and Rob (Art Parkinson) – returned at the end of the last episode after partaking in some distinctly dodgy dealings. Coincidence?
Stephen’s daughter Grace (Amy James-Kelly), too, seems more than a little suspicious, particularly as the family are so reluctant to talk about why she’s estranged from them. And her boss, Frank Mercer (Owen McDonnell), was very quick to provide his favourite employee with an alibi. Almost… too quick, you might say.
Could Stella and Mark Bradwell have organised the hit on Stephen Marshbrook?
If we’re going by the rule of thumb used in most crime dramas, Sunetra Sarker is a prominent actor playing a seemingly small part in Stella Bradwell. Could it be possible that they hired her so that she could employ all of her talents to… well, to dazzle us with her murderous motives?
It’s a theory that holds even more water when you consider the fact that Stella and her husband, Mark (Steven Robertson), had a lot to gain – financially, at least – from Stephen’s death. And that, as Lisa learns in the first episode, Mark has been overlooked as a partner in the family business for some time.
What have writers said about that shocking season premiere twist?
Speaking to Digital Spy about the “arresting” opening, writer Daragh Carville says it’s all about subverting audience expectations.
“It was about creating a new kind of crime story where our team would be plunged in at the deep end with a sudden shocking crime that shatters a family,” he explains.
“So it had to start from something like that and I was delighted when Stephen came on board. That made it even more exciting.”
We guess, then, it’s far too early to predict who’s behind Stephen’s murder. Fingers crossed that next week provides us with a few more clues, eh?
ITV’s The Bay airs on Wednesdays at 9pm.
Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.