Britain’s nail salons are about to get very, very busy.
A fifth of the nation are on the verge of booking a much-needed manicure after the nail-biting finish to BBC drama Bodyguard.
The final instalment of Line of Duty writer Jed Mercurio’s political whodunnit was a fine exercise in the art of tension-dripping, fully justifying its extended running time of 75 minutes.
WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Episode 6 of Bodyguard.
1. The crime boss
Following some super-sleuthing from Sergeant David Budd (Richard Madden), the police have a new line of inquiry in their investigation into the murder of home secretary Julia Montague (Keeley Hawes) – organised crime kingpin Luke Aitkens (Matt Stokoe).
Eagle-eyed viewers (not me) spotted him as far back as Episode 1, picking up Montague’s ejected PR Chanel Dyson (Stephanie Hyam) in a black Range Rover, the vehicle of choice for dodgy geezers and school run mums, and again at the army veterans meeting chaired by Budd’s buddy Andy Apsted (Tom Brooke), who later unsuccessfully tried to kill Montague in a sniper attack.
Has anyone mentioned that the boyfriend of the assistant that Julia fired in ep1 is the same guy who was at the veterans meeting that David went to in the same ep? #Bodyguard pic.twitter.com/6nITp8d2n1
— Paul Rasmussen (@paulrasmussen67) September 9, 2018
It emerges that failed David Beckham lookalike Aitkens provided Apsted with the rifle he used in the shooting, while also swapping out Budd’s bullets for blanks before his suicide attempt.
Budd tries to flush Aitkens out through a basement bar meet cute with Dyson (only a public relations guru would have TWO brands in her name), but is so dazzled by Chanel’s silver jacket and black leather trousers combo that he walks into an ambush. And that’s where things get really interesting.
2. The fall guy
Budd wakes up from the hangover from hell with a sore head, a bloodied face and… uh… a suicide bomber’s vest strapped to his chest. In the eloquent words of 2004 MTV Movie Awards nominee Bad Boys 2, “S*** just got real”.
The bomb is boobytrapped, so Budd must scuttle around various London streets and hope the police don’t get itchy trigger fingers, which might be quite complicated given they now think he was in on the plot to murder Montague.
Anyone else not really breathing much right now? 😰 #Bodyguard
— BBC One (@BBCOne) September 23, 2018
“I didn’t do this!” he squeals to the cops – and probably about half the audience. “You need to believe me!”
This sequence is a gripping reversal of the opening train scene from the first episode, when Budd did everything he could to talk Nadia (Anjli Mohindra) out of detonating her suicide vest. Now he must plead with his own employers to help him out of the same situation.
3. The good wife
And they don’t seem too convinced. “You betrayed everyone’s trust, we won’t be fooled again,” his superior, Chief Superintendent Lorraine Craddock (Pippa Haywood), obviously a big fan of The Who, shouts at him across a residential park.
And when her boss, Commander Anne Sampson (Gina McKee), pulls back her officers, things aren’t looking good for Budd, until his wife Vicky (Sophie Rundle) rushes to the rescue and gives him the human shield necessary to tell his story.
— Jed Mercurio (@jed_mercurio) September 21, 2018
While all this is going on, Budd manages to cleverly entrap his long-time pursuer and all-round secret service git, Richard Longcross (Michael Schaeffer), with a neat bit of radio frequency switcheroo in tandem with Detective Chief Inspector Deepak Sharma (Ash Tandon), who appears to be the last copper who believes his innocence, particularly after his colleague DS Louise Rayburn (Nina Toussaint-White) cursed Budd down a blue streak (“The f***** has played me from day one! Let’s find the bastard!”). Naughty.
Despite being rigged with explosives, Budd is one cool cat. “My flat. Long walk ahead,” he says, matter-of-factly, like someone who’s just missed the last night bus home, not a person with a wheel of explosives running around their midriff.
After the most unbearable build-up of tension on British telly since, well, the first 20 minutes of the first episode of Bodyguard, Budd manages to disarm the device, with the help of explosives officer Daniel Chung, played by Chike Chan, who deserves a mention here for a great cameo.
Not since the halcyon days of Blue Peter has a bit of sticky tape and a thumb been used to such powerful effect in a popular BBC television drama.
That's the stickiest sticky tape in sticky tape history #Bodyguard
— Michael Moran (@TheMichaelMoran) September 23, 2018
4. The inside woman
Budd cuts and runs – literally, snipping the final cable to diffuse the bomb then immediately sprinting off – and tracks down Chanel. He makes her flush out Aitkens again (for a crime lord, this guy isn’t too averse to putting his Beckham-shaped beard above the parapet) for a late-night meeting with his mole in the police.
And when Budd follows Aitkens, he discovers the mole is….. JULIA MONTAGUE! No! Don’t be silly. The inside woman is… Lorraine Craddock!
That’s right, Budd’s seemingly benign boss was selling police secrets to Aitkens, allowing him to bypass security and plant the bomb that killed Montague. He wanted the home secretary out of the way because her RIPA 18 bill would make it easier for MI5 to fight organised crime… or something.
Craddock later gives a full confession, admitting she deliberately placed Budd as Montague’s personal protection officer so he could later take the fall for her murder.
— Jed Mercurio (@jed_mercurio) September 21, 2018
It’s a pretty efficient tying-up of loose ends, but it all feels a little anti-climatic following the tension of the extended suicide vest sequence, a bit like when Keanu Reeves swaps the adrenaline-fuelled bus ride for a lame train fight with Dennis Hopper at the end of Speed.
5. The real villain
Craddock confesses her involvement in the bombing of the home secretary, but says she had nothing to do with the attack at Budd’s children’s school.
So the police drag back Nadia for yet another interview to find out if she has any answers. Oh boy, does she have answers.
Nadia finally drops the “little old lost me lady suicide bomber” act and tells the police, with no little glee, that she was the master bomb maker all along.
“I remembered everything he told me about his children,” she says menacingly of her train encounter with Budd. She built all the bombs, including the one used to kill Montague. “I am an engineer. I am a jihadi,” she spits.
DCI Sharma tells Budd not to beat himself up too much about the big reveal. “It wasn’t just you, mate. We all fell for it.”
Which isn’t strictly true, as without wanting to toot my own horn too much, here I am tooting my own horn quite a bit: I called it that Nadia was stringing Budd along two episodes ago. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.
6. “I am David. I… need some help.”
So, finally, about five episodes too late, Budd reports to Occupational Health to talk about his problems. To be fair, he has been busy saving Britain. He later calls in on Vicky and their children and they all drive off into the sunset.
There’s a dreadful few seconds when it feels like their car is going to explode into a fireball, but luckily the screen fades to black, and you curse writer Jed Mercurio for getting inside your head once again.
A fittingly nerve-shredding ending to a sometimes silly, often brilliant and always ballsy series, Bodyguard constantly shifted audience expectations, evolving from a glossy sexy political drama into a nail-biting police thriller.
Amid the slick production values and bombardment of police acronyms, it’s easy to overlook just how engaging Madden has been as the show’s beating heart, particularly in Episode 4 and in this finale, when he took his character to the darkest of places and constantly convinced.
There’s a lot of talk about him being the next James Bond, but I for one hope he passes on the role – 007 is a dead end for actors (remember how interesting Daniel Craig’s career was before he became Bond?), and Madden is far too good for the part.
He’s already had one brush with MI5 in Bodyguard – he doesn’t need another one.