It’s a fair bet that Bodyguard writer Jed Mercurio is a big Batman fan. Specifically The Dark Knight.
The Line of Duty writer loves a gripping interrogation scene, and there is none more grippier than Gotham’s silent guardian grabbing the Joker by the throat in Christopher Nolan’s superhero masterpiece.
And it’s hard to watch Episode 5 of Bodyguard without recalling the Joker’s famous words in that scene: “There’s no going back. You’ve change things… forever.”
After the events of Episode 4 of the hit BBC political drama, there really is no going back. That shocking instalment changed the show completely. Episode 5 is about picking up the pieces and driving it in a new direction.
WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Episode 5 of Bodyguard.
1. Well, she’s still dead
Home secretary Julia Montague (Keeley Hawes) did not magically spring back to life in this episode, leaving thousands of conspiracy theorists hanging until the show’s final instalment to see if their wishes come true.
It has been amazing to be part of #Bodyguard.
Everyone’s enthusiasm for the show has made it so exciting. Thanks again for watching and for the lovely messages.
And Iiiiieeiiiieeeiiiiiiiiii will always love youuuuuuuuuuuuu! @_richardmadden pic.twitter.com/ZkLs8PPhn9
— Keeley Hawes (@Misskeeleyhawes) September 10, 2018
While it’s slightly disappointing that Hawes is no longer lighting up her screens, Montague’s spectre still hangs over everything that happens. She has become the political femme fatale that every character can’t help discussing.
2. Previously, on Bodyguard…
However, Montague does turn up in the “previously…” bit before Episode 5 kicks off, as viewers are reminded of some of her interactions with her protector and lover Sergeant David Budd (Richard Madden) in the first three chapters of the series. And this is where the show’s writing gets a bit problematic.
We get two very pointed references in the two-minute recap (I love the way they blend it with the opening credits each week, by the way) made by Montague that provide huge clues as to what’s going to happen in the fifth episode.
First, we are shown the moment she points Budd to a photo of her and David Cameron, saying: “That was us plotting to build the Death Star”.
— Declan Cashin Big Dec Energy (@Tweet_Dec) September 16, 2018
A few seconds later in the same short recap, there’s that moment when she went to visit the prime minister at Chequers, when she tells Budd: “If i don’t come back, go to the Death Star.”
Hmmm. Either, the home secretary is one of those annoying Star Wars fans who quotes the same lines to her mates in the pub over and over, or that photo of Call Me Dave might come in handy later. And sure enough, Episode V: The MI5 Strikes Back ends with Budd finding Montague’s tablet hidden behind that picture of her and Mr Cameron.
Would viewers have remembered the references from earlier episodes and understood why Budd was hoking in the back of David Cameron for clues without it being signposted in the “Previously”? Hard to know.
But the fact it is hard to know, and that it was signposted, indicates a slight lack of clarity in the writing.
3. Watching the detectives
That previous quibble about the Previously aside, this is a really strong episode. Mainly because it does what most TV dramas are afraid to do: rip up a winning formula halfway through a series, turn left and go down a completely different rabbit hole.
Bodyguard started off as an admittedly winning mix of sexual and actual explosions, but Mercurio is clever enough to know that melange could only grip an audience for so long. After the fallout from the college bombing, we are now watching a totally different show. And Episode 4 was your last stop to decide if you wanted to get off.
Those who stay on the bus are rewarded in the firth instalment with lots of political intrigue and some serious police work. This offers the opportunity for viewers to pore over clues galore and includes some nice interplay between Madden and Nina Toussaint-White, as Detective Sergeant Louise Rayburn, the only copper who seems to believe him.
4. Open and shut case
It turns out the bomb that killed Montague wasn’t inside the briefcase carried by her PR advisor, Tahir Mahmood (Shubham Saraf), who also died in the blast. The police now believe Montague inadvertently activated the bomb, which was planted under the stage, when she walked on to deliver her speech, before Mahmood set if off simply by standing above it.
After the slowest bit of police procedural in TV history (there must have been an offer on at Krispy Kreme that week), the officers finally identify Andy Apsted (Tom Brooke), who tried to shoot Montague about, oh, what, 17 episodes ago?
‘That’s brilliant,’ says a deadpan Budd when he hears the news, mustering up the enthusiasm of a man who has just been told his Ryanair flight has been delayed for three hours.
Surely it won’t take the police long to connect Apsted to his war buddie Buddie?
5. Engaging the audience
Budd does some digging of his own, as well as working with the cops (his access to the investigation, despite being a person of interest in the killing of a government minister, stretches reality at times).
Using the same information Montague did to apparently blackmail the prime minister – although we don’t know for sure exactly what she did with the stuff on her tablet – Budd does some googling at an internet café, only to find the shadowy Richard Longcross, who passed the secrets to the home secretary in the first place, is monitoring keyword searches.
Who is this Charlotte Foxfield mentioned in the tablet files? Is it a person? A code? An anagram? How does it all link to the prime minister?
Your #Bodyguard jargon buster
PolSA = Police Search Advisor
RIPA = Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act
CO = Central Operations (Met) CO19 (Firearms)
SO = Specialist Operations (Met) SO15 (Counter Terrorism Command)
SOCO = Scenes of Crime Officer
— PC Mark Walsh (@HantsPCMark) September 16, 2018
Helpfully, Budd, his boss Chief Superintendent Lorraine Craddock (Pippa Haywood) and Commander Anne Sampson (Gina McKee) play audience surrogates for a few minutes and run through all the possible theories.
There’s a lot of talk about “Kompromat” – what the Russians refer to as “compromising material” about a politician – which will leave viewers doing some frantic googling of their own.
6. On your bike
Montague’s slippery advisor, Rob Macdonald (Paul Ready), gets paid a visit from a crusading Budd, just as he’s about to cycle to work.
‘It’d be redundant for me to say I know where you live,’ he says menacingly, which is enough to cajole Macdonald back into a police interrogation room, where he spills some serious beans.
According to him, the plot was merely political – he, chief whip Roger Penhaligon (Nicholas Gleaves) and counter-terrorism minister Mike Travis (Vincent Franklin) only wanted to embarrass Montague, not blow her up.
“We’re politicians, we’re not murderers,” he pleads.
7. Chanel (in) No 5
Chanel is back! And she’s quaffing a chai tea latte. You didn’t think Montague’s fired PR (Stephanie Hyam) went off in a strop in a strange man’s Range Rover for good, did you?
She and Budd engage in some mild flirting over coffee, kind of like Pacino and De Niro in Heat but without the ketchup, although it’s clear both are looking for answers, not dinner and a movie.
“I wasn’t Julia’s biggest fan but I was genuinely so shocked to hear what happened,” says Chanel, managing an implausible score of -1 on the sincerity scale.
Bodyguard takes something of a body swerve with its penultimate instalment, and it’s a bold move that pays off with some intriguing political webs and plenty of juicy dialogue. Roll on the finale.