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Sunday, 9 September 2018

The focus shifts to the police as Bodyguard pulls the rug from under us AGAIN

Ordinarily, I'm not a fan of those '10 burning questions we have after...' that most websites rush up after an exciting piece of TV. It is fair to say that the third episode of Bodyguard left us plenty to ponder.


For those with painfully short memories let me refresh you. The third episode ended with a bomb ripping through the room where Julia Montague (Keeley Hawes) was delivering a passionate speech on her 'Ripper 18' bill. Our twitchy Bodyguard David Budd (Richard Madden) had discovered her aide Tahir Mahmood (Shubham Saraf) loitering in the foyer clutching a briefcase. Budd demands to see inside the case, but its contents are kept hidden from the audience. He gives the OK and the pair return to the hall. As Tahir appears on the side of the stage, we see Budd's colleague Kim Knowles (Claire-Louise Cordwell) run towards the stage. Budd sees this, and races toward the stage too, but as Julia looks to the side of the stage, the hall, and millions of living rooms across the country is rocked by a massive explosion which sends David flying and leaves many in the room dead. The episode ends with our Bodyguard covered it cuts and bruises but writer Jed Mercurio keeps the fate of our second protagonist shrouded in mystery. So, we are left with a seven-day wait to find out the following:
  • Did Julia miraculously survive her injuries?
  • Who planted the bomb?
  • What was in the briefcase?
  • Who is the mysterious 'Richard Longcross' who Julia met with and who David can find no trace of?
  • Who did Tahir talk to on the phone?
  • Did David see an explosive device in the case and let it happen?
  • Will the police work out David's connection to the gunman in episode 2?

Jed Mercurio's focus for this fourth episode sees him in more familiar territory with the spotlight placed on the police investigation into the bombing. The same police David Budd has been interviewed by before,   Deepak Sharma (Ash Tandon) and Louise Rayburn (Nina Toussaint-White) are tasked with unravelling the mystery surrounding the explosion and find out whether anyone in the Home Secretary's inner circle has been compromised.  The pair track Budd down and take his phones and laptops for forensic testing. In the interview room, the police pair informs Budd that Kimberly Knowles (the other protection officer who referred to Budd as 'Skip') died of her injuries. Visibly shaken by the news, Budd explains he saw Mahmood carrying that now infamous breifcase. He tells the police, he saw home office documents. Whether he's telling them and the viewer the truth is yet another question we have to ask ourselves.

The police question why Budd didn't have Mahmood removed from the hall and reminded him that this was the second attempt on the Home Secretary's life in the time he has been her 'Principal Protection Officer'.Coincidence? They're not sure and to be honest neither am I. The search into his devices reveals the search he did in Julia's Parliamentary voting record, which we were privy to in the first episode. He puts this down to 'curiosity' but one thing we've known from the start is that in vehemently disagrees with protectee's politics.


Speaking of politics, I have to confess that that's where I lose slight enthusiasm for Bodyguard. As intriguing as Julia is I found the show's look at politics rather uninspiring. In Julia's absence, the PM has asked Mike Travis (Vincent Franklin) to assume the role of Home Secretary. He is informed by the shady Anne Sampson (Gina McKee) that Tahir Mahmood is the presumed suicide bomber. Key members of Mahmood's family are in custody with Sampson's belief that it is too early to exclude anyone. She believes Mahmood smuggled the device into the venue leading to hostile questions from the Security Services. Sampson believes that all the recent terror attacks, the one David foiled on the train. the one outside his children's school and the bombing at the college could be linked with the devices made by a single bomb-maker.  Under Julia's sayso, the job of looking into all of these acts of terror was to be handled by the Security Services but the balance of power shifts to Sampson and her team as Mike Travis believes it to be a 'police matter.'

Mercurio makes his anxious viewers wait almost half an hour before finding out that Julia Montague has died from her extensive injuries. Some might think it revolutionary to kill off someone who up until this point was the joint-lead of the show at the midway point but Mercurio isn't one who plays by rules of main characters must always survive. This marks the second time he has killed of actress Keeley Hawes after shooting her in the head in an equally unexpected and shocking scene in the third series of Line of Duty.  Interestingly, in the week I had been speaking to be people who are as invested in the story as I am and they were all completely adamant that Julia would survive. It hadn't even occurred to most of them she wouldn't. "She's the lead," one told me quite insistently. "It's Keeley Hawes and there's three more left," said another. What these people hadn't banked on was Jed Mercurio. He has toyed with more so often over the years I knew that making such cocksure assumptions wasn't the best thing to do. That's not to say his decision to kill off his lead didn't have an impact on me. I might've suspected he'd pull the rug out from under me, but it was still incredibly shocking when he did.

The news of her demise hits our already damaged Bodyguard especially hard. I'm not entirely sure whether the feelings he felt for her during their brief but intense sexual encounters were genuine but her death leads him down a very dark path. Returning to his flat he reaches for his gun, hidden away above a light fitting. Leaving notes for his estranged wife Vicky and their two children, he neals down, places the gun against his temple and fires. As the camera pans to the exterior of the flat we're left wondering whether Mercurio has done the unthinkable and killed off both leads in the same episode.


Back at the station, the police examine CCTV of Mahmood and see Julia's advisor Rob MacDonald (Paul Ready) handing the briefcase to Mahmood. Was he aware of there being a device inside? That's another question to add our ever-expanding list. When news  MacDonald's possible involvement reaches Anne Sampson she makes a mysterious call to Mike Travis. With Julia out of the picture, it would appear that Mercurio is setting up a much wider conspiracy that reaches further back into the government and one that Budd is just a pawn in rather than a key player.

When we see David again, he is in one piece but not through lack of trying. Vicky (Sophie Rundle) finds him with brass fragments from the bullet casing embedded in his face and a  burst eardrum after his suicide attempt failed. The bullets in his hidden gun were replaced with blanks. Who would replace his bullets and why? Another question. Is someone keeping count of this??

Rob MacDonald is next for the interview chair with Sharma and Rayburn questioning his relationship with Mahmood. MacDonald is visibly shocked when is handed a picture showing him handing Mahmood the briefcase but he insists the case was Mahmood's and it contained government documents. It's here that one of the questions listed above gets a plausible, if not completely believable explanation. The call Mahmood took just before the speech came from Rob's phone. He assures the detectives the call was just to check that everything was OK with the speech.

NEWS: Bodyguard breaks rating record!

Mercurio packs a lot into each of his series. Later on, it's Budd doing the investigating into the mysterious Richard Longcross. For those, uncertain he's the shadowy man who gave Julia a tablet which contained an equally shadowy 'read-only' file who David questioned leaving the hotel where the pair were staying. Upon returning to the hotel, Budd is as perplexed as the audience to discover that all traces of Longcross's presence at the hotel has been erased.

In another call back to the early part of the series the police, under the guidance of the ubiquitous Anne Sampson take David back to meet with Nadia (Anjli Mohindra), the woman he managed to convince not to blow up a packed train during that tense opening sequence of the first episode. This is another example of what Mercurio does better. A lesser writer would disregard a character like Nadia. I had naively assumed she was just a way to open the series in an exciting manner and we wouldn't see her again. I should learn never to assume ANYTHING when Mercurio is at the helm. Budd uses the same gentle and reassuring tone with Nadia he did on the train and she recalls that her husband (the mastermind behind the terror plot on the train) met the bomb-maker in a carpark. She doesn't remember where, nor does she pick out Tahir Mahmood when his picture is shown to her as part of a lineup. Despite not seeing her since the first twenty minutes of the first episode, it could be, that Nadia could prove crucial for the rest of the series as the police uncover who is behind the manufacturing of these bombs that have caused such devastation.

Another important, but less clear part of tonight's episode is a cryptic conversation between Travis and a twitchy MacDonald. Travis calmly assures MacDonald to 'stick to the story'. Leading me to wonder whether the bomb had been planted by the government to get rid of Montague and put poor Mahmood in the frame for it. The ending of the episode is also a bit of a puzzler. Rayburn is examining yet more CCTV of Budd before the bombing. She appears to zero in on either his facial expression or something about his body language and the credits roll. Perhaps because we're conditioned to expect a BIG cliffhanger to each episode I felt a little unsure as to why the episode ended in such an abrupt fashion.

So, here are the questions I'm left pondering over the next week:

  • Who changed the bullets for blanks in Budd's gun and why?
  • What does Anne Sampson know about the wider story and what did she say to Mike Travis about Rob MacDonald?
  • Have we already met our bomb-maker?
  • Who is Budd the Bodyguard for now that Julia has died?
  • WHAT WAS IN THE RUDDY CASE!?

This fourth episode may have been the most sedate of the series, but it was no less engaging or surprising. It continues to keep me on my toes and the week-long wait for another episode is no less agonising despite the rather sudden ending. Bodyguard continues to be the must-see drama of the autumn and we've only got two more left. Whatever happens, I'm happy to be along for the ride.

Bodyguard Continues Sunday 9.00pm on BBC One.

3 comments:

Daryl said...

I'm going to guess that Julia isn't dead. Her death has been faked and she's in a safehouse somewhere to keep her safe from the plotters who tried to kill her.

It's probably the security services who want sweeping surveillance powers and are willing to facilitate some terrorist attacks to stoke the fear necessary to get them. Julia may just have been playing the role of pushing for the RIPA bill to flush out conspirators in the security services. They had blackmail material on the PM which Julia tried to secretly warn the PM about, but the conspirators found out anyway and tried to kill her.

David's bullet was swapped out by whoever is keeping Julia safe. To keep her safe, everyone must believe she's dead. Even her family and David. The people hiding her knew David was a suicide risk if he blamed himself for her 'death' so swapped out the bullet.

The golden rule on TV is that if you don't see them die - they're not dead.

Daryl said...

Possible variation on this theory. After Julia went to Chequers which looked like it would result in a reshuffle, Penhaligon said "we need to do something - fast". Maybe he meant protecting Julia.

Security services had blackmail material on the PM to get RIPA passed. I think the bill went through. This being accomplished, Julia went further and used the material herself to "snatch the keys to Number 10". This was unacceptable to the security services because they'd then have a PM they couldn't control.

David saw the blackmail material, but did not share details with his superiors as he judged it too dangerous for *anyone* to know about.

Julia did not know the security services facilitated the terrorist attacks, so did not imagine they might try to harm her. Penhaligon and his partners knew, so realised Julia was in danger and moved to protect her - but too late, as the bomb went off. They then redirected her ambulance on the way to the hospital and faked her death.

If this is right (and if Julia turns out to be alive, I think it would be right as Penhaligon was at the hospital to control events) then there's one thing I can't explain. Why would Penhaligon's group send Tahir to the event with the briefcase? At first sight, he seems to be a patsy for the bombing. Mercurio is so tricky, I'm sure something else was going on - but I can't figure out what.

Deborah Shrewsbury said...

I see where you are coming from, but if she were still alive it's doubtful that the authorities would make her family go through the trauma in public. It would be very hard to keep that under wraps - it would mean that all sorts of non-government employees (or ex-employees) would have to sign non-disclosure details of some sort as they wouldn't be subject to the Official Secrets Act.

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