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Sunday, 16 September 2018

REVIEW: Bodyguard Becomes Very Frustrating in its Penultimate Episode

It's fair to say that Bodyguard has been one of the most-discussed shows in recent memory thanks to the death of Julia Montague (Keeley Hawes) in the middle of the last episode. The revelation of the character's death on the front cover of the Radio Times has launched quite a fierce debate over spoilers and when the right time is to reveal a major plot point. I was certainly one of the people who was shocked over Montague's death, primarily as I felt her relationship with David Budd (Richard Madden) was the driving force of the entire series. After watching tonight's penultimate episode, I believe that I was right as this instalment was lacking the extra element that the David/Julia relationship provided. Indeed, without Julia, Bodyguard feels like a more generic thriller with David presented as the stereotypical man-on-the-edge who is trying to solve the mystery of who was responsible for the death of his one-time-lover.

The episode centres around the continued SO15 investigation into the blast that killed Julia and whether David's version of events can be trusted. To an extent, SO15 can't truly trust David as he's still concealing his connection to Andy (Tom Brooke); the sniper who tried to kill Julia in episode two. The investigation still believes that the sniper was working with those who planted the bomb, even though David knows that they are two separate entities. However, after discovering more wiped CCTV tapes, SO15 officer DS Louise Rayburn (Nina Toussaint-White) decides to believe David about the mysterious man who visited Julia's hotel room in the middle of the night. Louise helps David identify the man known as Richard Longcross (Michael Schaeffer) by having him put an e-Fit together of him. 'Longcross' is revealed to be even more entrenched in the terrorism plot in one of the episode's more pivotal scenes when Nadia (Anjli Mohindra) reveals him to the man who she saw meeting her husband. However, I still don't know how much to believe this revelation as I felt that David was leading Nadia's answers to a certain extent as she agreed with his assertions that she was previously afraid to reveal the ethnicity of the man her husband met.

The general feeling I had whilst watching this episode was one of frustration as Jed Mercurio seemed intent on holding back as much information as he good from the audience. Whilst I am one for dramatic suspense, I don't feel that he provided enough story in this episode to keep me truly invested throughout. Furthermore, David's character appears to have changed from the strong-silent army veteran who is haunted by his past, to a super sleuth who is uncovering information about the prime minister and searching for car number plates on the police database. Whilst I understand that David is a police officer first and foremost, I didn't believe the drastic change in our protagonist even if he is desperate to hunt down the man who killed Julia.

As well as the feeling of frustration that I felt during tonight's instalment of Bodyguard, I was also bored during several points of the episode. This boredom was felt mostly during the exposition-heavy scenes of people scheming in rooms whether it be 'Longcross' and security service head honcho Stephen Hunter-Dunn (Stuart Bowman) or the now acting home secretary Mike Travis (Vincent Franklin) and Julia's slimy former aide Rob MacDonald (Paul Ready). Although I'm sure these scenes will prove pivotal in next week's finale, I just didn't find them interesting enough to hold my attention. Even the revelation of David and Julia's affair, which was presumably leaked by the security service to dent the officer's reputation, felt like an anticlimax. This, coupled with the revelation of David's prior suicide attempt, was enough for him to be discharged at the episode's end with the finale presumably seeing him going full vigilante as the truth is revealed.

I'm trying to think about what I enjoyed about the episode and there isn't a lot if I'm honest. One piece of intrigue that I did enjoy was the reintroduction of Julia's jaded former aide Chanel (Stephanie Hyman), a character who a lot of viewers felt was hiding something. The performances remain superb with the brilliant Richard Madden still managing to anchor the series even if the character of Budd has changed significantly since the series' start. Despite not being a fan of their scenes together, Vincent Franklin and Paul Ready are still convincing in their respective roles whilst Nicholas Gleaves was given his time to shine as Julia's slimy ex-husband Roger Penhaglion. One cast member who I believe still hasn't been given enough spotlight is Sophie Rundle who, as David's ex-wife Vicky, is still being used as little more than a plot device. Whilst one fan theory I've heard is that Vicky's new boyfriend is part of the conspiracy, however, I don't see that especially after the end of this episode.

I think I'd best describe tonight's episode of Bodyguard as a necessary evil. With explosive scenes and an engrossing central relationship in the first half of the series, it was inevitable that there had to be a slower episode to build tension for next week's finale. However, I found most of the scenes in tonight's episode were lacking anything in the way of intrigue. Whilst even the quieter episodes of Mercurio's outstanding Line of Duty always hook me in, I found myself incredibly disconnected from tonight's Bodyguard. Whilst the performances remain solid, I just wasn't interested in most of what tonight's instalment provided. However, I still believe that I'll be hooked by next week's finale and am already anticipating the shocks we'll get when the series' central conspiracy is finally unravelled.

Contributed by Matt Donnelly

Bodyguard Concludes Sunday at 9.00pm on BBC One.


Daryl said...

Not sure where this leaves us. I had thought all of the events had to be part of one overarching conspiracy, as surely only MI5 had the capabilities to pull off such audacious acts.

But so many characters seem to be working at cross-purposes, I think there must be two conspiracies working against each other. MI5 wanted RIPA to pass, so orchestrated a terror campaign to raise security concerns.

A criminal syndicate with ties to the Prime Minister didn't want the bill to pass, so placed Chanel in the Home Secretary's team to get details of her movements. When Montague moved to oust the PM, they tried to kill her to keep their man in power.

That leaves a lot of coincidences and seeming contradictions. I mainly wonder why, if the compromat material against the PM is real, Hunter-Dunn of MI5 seemed so taken aback by Montague trying to use it. Unless they had an agreement not to use it until after RIPA passed, which she reneged on.

And why is Chanel still being ferried around by that criminal? When we first saw her with him, she did not seem like a willing participant. But if she no longer works in the Home Office, she can't still be of as much use to a criminal gang.

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