The fourth episode of Bodyguard proved you don’t need explosions – or a government minister sticking her hand down her pants – for gripping telly.
While episodes 1 to 3 of the BBC drama clung to a familiar formula (terror attack + sexual tension = TV gold), the fourth instalment applied the brakes and focused on emotional fallout.
You don’t always require an action scene to produce shocks, and the latest slice of drama from Line of Duty writer Jed Mercurio had them in abundance. Take a deep breath…
WARNING: This article contains spoilers of Episode 4 of Bodyguard.
1. And now… the news
Bodyguard must be delighting those in the higher echelons of the BBC. Not only is it pulling in more than 10 million viewers a week, it’s also a perfect purse-pinching petri dish of the corporation’s news and drama departments.
It can’t go two minutes without lashing up a report from one of its real 10 o’clock news stars, so Episode 4 kicks off with Laura Kuenssberg recapping the end of Episode 3.
While the constant interrupting news cycle is an effective conceit to make the world of Bodyguard all the more believable to viewers, it does become slightly wearing… and… whisper it… lazy. I’d be amazed if staff in the Home Office and Metropolitan Police watched this much TV in real life.
2. And the news is pretty shocking
Towards the end of Episode 3, Sergeant David Budd (Richard Madden), the personal protection officer (PPO) to home secretary Julia Montague (Keeley Hawes) sprinted towards a college stage just before a bomb went off right next to her.
In this episode, the police suspicions fall on her advisor, Tahir Mahmood (Shubham Saraf), who was on the side of the stage carrying a briefcase when the bomb went off. There’s a quick rattle through some CCTV footage of the incident, but it’s all a bit inconclusive.
So far, Mahmood seems like the ultimate red herring – perhaps he was trying to warn Montague, not blow her up – but the police haven’t ruled out Budd as a person of interest either. He was supposed to be guarding the home secretary, after all.
The finger of blame is totally forgotten, however, at least for a few minutes, when it emerges that Montague did not survive the attack. HANG ON… WHAT?! THE HOME SECRETARY IS DEAD?!
Her death is revealed in such a casual manner – by a doctor to a relative, conveniently within earshot of Budd – that it just can’t be true, right?! It’s a ballsy move halfway through the series, regardless of how the rest of it pans out.
Budd’s bodyguarding colleague, Kim (Claire-Louise Cordwell), was also killed in the blast, mainly because she spotted the threat before he did.
3. “You had your job and you failed”
Sergeant Budd takes Montague’s death very badly, and in the second WOW moment of the episode, responds by shooting himself in the head. An already dark show just got even darker.
His suicide attempt cuts quickly to a scene of police checking CCTV, and for a few minutes the audience is left believing the BBC’s biggest hit for a decade has killed off its two lead actors in the space of seconds with two and a half episodes left in the bag.
— Andy Wells (@MrAndyboy) September 9, 2018
But it turns out Budd is okay, only because, as he tells his wife Vicky (Sophie Rundle), someone has switched the real bullets in his gun for blanks.
The audience are left in tatters, mainly because of the little details. There are the suicide notes addressed to Budd’s wife and two children in the background, followed by the awkward and heartbreaking family chat over so-so pizza, while Daddy wears a baseball cap to cover up his head wound.
When Budd mumbles to his kids, “I just need a hug”, you believe him, no matter how cheesy the line.
4. Police Interview A
Line of Duty fans are in for a treat in this week’s Bodyguard – they get not one, not two but three police interrogation scenes in which to sink their teeth. It’s also a chance to enjoy excellent supporting turns from Ash Tandon and Nina Toussaint-White as detectives Deepak Sharma and Louise Rayburn.
First, a dazed Budd is quizzed about his inactions – or inactions – in the seconds before the bombing. Just how thoroughly did he examine that briefcase? And why on Earth did he commit the biggest crime in 21st century Britain… turning off his mobile phone?
Madden is given an opportunity to really demonstrate his range in this episode. While the first half of the series showed he is perfectly adept at giving darting glances in every direction and saying “Yes, Ma’am” ad infinitum, here he gets to play little boy lost, and is utterly convincing.
Gone are the tight ties and starched white shirts of his PPO days, now he melancholies in a scrubby looking green hoodie, and after all that’s happened, you can’t blame him. The guy needs a holiday.
— BBC One (@BBCOne) September 9, 2018
5. Police Interview B
In the second interrogation, Montague’s slippery special advisor Rob Macdonald (Paul Ready, just as wonderfully weaselly in this as he was as dimwit dad Kevin in Motherland) gets a right grilling.
He gave Mahmood the briefcase after all, although police commander Anne Sampson (scenery-chewing Gina McKee) seems very suspiciously disinterested in that rather pertinent fact.
Macdonald has also been briefed by the new acting home secretary (MONTAGUE IS DEAD!!) Mike Travis (Vincent Franklin) to stick to his story, whatever that means, when talking to the police. It’s hard to have much of a clue about what the heck is going on, but that often makes good drama – all the pieces are on the move now.
Some very intelligent friends of mine are currently live tweeting #Bodyguard, taking everything they see at face value, and sounding like unhinged whackjobs. Please stop it.
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) September 9, 2018
6. Police Interview C: The girl on the train
And so, we must go back to the start. Budd is reunited with would-be suicide bomber Nadia (Anjli Mohindra), who kicked this whole thing in motion at the beginning of Episode 1 when she and her husband tried to blow up a train from Glasgow to London.
“That was scary, on the train when we met,” recalls Budd, in the understatement of the century, sounding like he’s referring to out-of-date sandwiches on the food cart rather than potentially being blown to smithereens.
Budd has been tasked by Sampson – for reasons that remain unclear – to help the detectives interview Nadia, who offers them some vague details about a mysterious man who gave her husband something in a car park before the planned train attack.
Could this man be the bomb-maker? Or is Nadia leading them on a merry dance? Has she been playing Budd all along? Or is Budd leading Nadia’s responses in the police interview? Damn those amazing piercing eyes!
Okay, you can relax and breathe normally again now. What a stirring hour of television.
For much of the previous episode, Bodyguard threatened to veer into silliness, but this episode left those connecting hotel rooms far behind and replaced them with something a lot more hard-hitting.