Bodyguard episode 6 review: Shock twist made for compelling viewing

Sean O'Grady


So, it was a conspiracy then, and a weirdly multicultural one, involving Islamists, a bent copper, and some trad gangsters. And there really was a murder.

Steely-but-vulnerable home secretary Julia Montague (richly nuanced by Keeley Hawes), has indeed been assassinated – and not stored in a BBC props cupboard/secret service safe house, awaiting a dramatic reincarnation as was widely, and wildly, speculated. Blown to bits, she was. Not sure what that means for the second series… seeing as Hawes/Montague was the best thing in it.

Still, Bodyguard was compelling viewing, smashing records. It made Sunday night TV great again. Bonnets and breeches were banished to the costume drama warehouses whence they sprung. Jed Mercurio’s topical, breathtaking, lively script was matched by peerless performances. A hard act to follow, Bodyguard, even for Mercurio himself.

Despite earlier hints, Sergeant David Budd (Richard Madden), Montague’s protection officer/part-time lover/PTSD sufferer/chauffeur/potential assassin was not just innocent, but brought those responsible to justice. It would have been too bizarre for him not to, I suppose – the skill was in making the possibility of betrayal seem so creepily possible for so long.

And the killers? Hiding in plain sight. Montague had to die because she was going to pass tough anti-terror laws and give more powers to the security services. An organised crime boss, Luke Aitkens (Matt Stokoe), fearing that the new laws would make life impossible, therefore organised a conspiracy to get rid of them, and her. We know this for absolute certain because when Budd confronts Aitkens about why he “killed Julia”, Aitkens says “it was business” (a line much better delivered with a Chicago accent).

Aitkens got a police officer he had corrupted already to frame Budd as a fall guy for the assassination. This was Chief Superintendent Lorraine Craddock (Pippa Haywood) who no one took much notice of, but lived in a suspiciously grand house. It was she who appointed Budd, having checked out his CV, and leaked the home secretary’s itineraries to Aitkens. He then teamed up with some Islamist extremists, who needed no encouragement. He supplied the money; they found guns, built and planted the bombs, and skilfully misled the police about a non-existent “traitor” within the security service.

Instrumental in this organisation was Nadia, the timorous suicide train bomber we met in the first episode. Then, to tie things up, literally, Budd is abducted by Aitkens and fitted out in one of Nadia’s bespoke suicide bomb vests, and dumped on the streets of London to take his chances with trigger happy armed police.

Most of the final episode was concerned with bodyguard Budd’s desperate efforts to guard his own life. To most reasonable eyes, as Craddock and Aitkens intended, Budd was the assassin, or an accomplice to one. He had served in Afghanistan with his friend who had tried to shoot Montague dead in an earlier instalment, he had a history of mental illness, and was always close enough to Montague to put a bomb under a podium.

The scenes where Budd was defusing the bomb strapped to his torso were as tight and tense as anything before. He manages, of course, to free himself, but maybe Mercurio killed the wrong character off.

The thing about Budd, in all honesty, is that he is very dull. He’s got nice little buttocks, and everything, and his adventures are obviously thrilling. But Budd himself? Brave but boring. Now he is getting counselling for his PTSD, and is reconciled with his wife and children – but this only eliminates the two remotely interesting facets to his story. He might as well be a traffic warden, albeit an exceptionally violent one.

If there is to be another run, I can see a bigger role for Gina McKee, the top cop who turned out to be (as far as we can see) a hero. Not since Leonard Nimoy’s Spock has an actor been able to lift one eyebrow with such effect.

Most of all though, I yearn to see Nadia grow into the monster she so clearly has the makings of. Now, cornered and accused, she mocks her police interrogators for assuming she was just “an oppressed Muslim wife”. She isn’t. She is generally running the terror show, opportunistically using the information Budd gave her about his own kids during the “October 1st” train attack to launch a ruthless lorry bomb at the kids’ school. This mousey little woman in a hijab roared in the interview room: “I am an engineer. I am a jihadi.” It was one of the best delivered lines in the whole series. Anjli Mohindra deserves special recognition for that amazing transformation, a reverse superhero, and for a fabulously evil future ahead of her in Bodyguard – cast against type, as the best villains sometimes are.

There were so many unanswered conundrums left over from the previous action that it looked as if the producers had had to tack on the extra quarter of an hour to this finale just to run through them all. I didn’t quite see why the new home secretary didn’t just crack on with Montague’s anti-terror laws, say. The plot wash-up was done a bit clunkily, with “explainer” dialogue, which tested even Gina McKee’s cool demeanour, but it scooted by so fast we scarcely cared. The emotional exhaustion induced by Bodyguard was complete. McKee could have started on about “lizard people” and the Bilderberg Group and we’d have not minded. More, then, please.