Bodyguard creator Jed Mercurio really knows how to up the tension in what sometimes feels like a transitional episode, but works as a slow burn as well. It’s remarkable how much this program has conveyed the increased threat level in the U.K. over only three episodes, opening with a suicide bomber on a train and then only increasing the tension from there. It helps greatly that the tension this episode also comes from within as this is primarily an episode about lying. David Budd and Julia Montague’s falsehoods are stacking up to an increasingly disconcerting degree, and then Mercurio has the nerve to literally drop a bomb in the middle of his six-episode season.
Who’s telling more lies? Yes, Home Secretary Julia Montague is clearly operating some sort of covert power play in her country and withholding the truth about having known about the school attack last episode before it happened, but the brilliant twist in this show is that David isn’t exactly straight with anyone. He’s lying to his superiors about his relationship with the assassin from the Thornton Circus shooting and exactly what happened on the roof. He’s also choosing very carefully what to reveal about Julia’s activities, which he’s supposed to be monitoring. He’s lying to everyone, including himself, about the degree of his PTSD, which leads him to nearly strangle Julia in the middle of the night. And the final shot implies he may be telling even greater lies.
Let’s get that out of the way now. Who planted the bomb that went off, killing students and at least injuring Julia Montague, in the final scene? There are a number of fascinating exchanges in the minutes leading up to the explosion that are designed to essentially create a lineup of suspects. Let’s review them:
Tahir — The new guy who was brought on board Julia’s PR team after the sacking in episode one feels like a patsy, the minority who could easily take the fall in the next episode. Remember, he’s the one who thinks Julia’s speech is ready to go but has to bring her a briefcase at the last minute. Was there a bomb in it? If there was, did he know?
Rob — Tahir’s superior acts incredibly suspicious, telling Tahir that the speech is ready, leaving, and then phoning him to say there was a problem. Or did he? We don’t know for sure that it was Rob on the other end. Still, his absence when the bomb exploded makes him a prime suspect. This is a major moment in Julia’s political life. Why wouldn’t he be there?
The Security Service — The Powers That Be in the Security Service are more than a little worried that their puppet has cut her strings, especially when they learn she made a late-night visit to Chequers. Would they really go as far as to put her life at risk to make sure she does what they need?
The Police — By the same token, Sampson and Craddock are increasingly furious that Julia is taking control away from them, keeping them out of the loop again and again. Would they conceivably strike back?
Roger — Julia’s ex-husband can’t stand the power grab going on and even says that something must be done about her.
David — Which brings us to an obvious suspect, David Budd himself. Think about it. There have been several scenes that make clear there’s a leak in the system. Someone leaked the info about David’s children’s school. Someone told Andy what the route would be for the assassination attempt. David knew that route. Andy had an accomplice. Could it have been David? Was he just trying to finish the job at the University of London, running the moment he knew he could in order to make it look like he was still working protective service without getting hurt?
Hopefully, the bomber is not David or Tahir. Those feel like easy conclusions which the other characters on the show might come to next episode, but which would likely just be diversions from the true identity of the terrorist. Not only is Tahir too obvious of a suspect, but David feels too inconsistent. At least in the manner in which Richard Madden performs the role, it’s clear that his genuine feelings for Julia are increasing scene by scene. However, the best moment this episode came when Julia snuck up on him in the middle of the night and David nearly strangled her to death. There’s a beat there where it looks like David is unable to stop until he suddenly becomes aware of what he’s doing. What if he’s orchestrating all of this and doesn’t even know it? That sounds like the twist of a less sophisticated show. Let’s hope Bodyguard doesn’t go there.
As for the rest of the action this episode, it was a really well-constructed hour as Julia and David determined, scene by scene, what to reveal to one another and what to withhold. How interesting that Julia chose to tell David right before the speech that she knew about the threat on his children’s school. And then, to take it a step further, she suggests that he leave his protective duty and that they become a public couple. Actually, if you buy the out-there theory that David was about to blow up Julia, perhaps this explains why he ran to try and save her? If she hadn’t confessed, would he have let the bomber get closer?
We’re getting distracted again. Where are we? David’s PTSD is not getting better, likely enhanced by the manner in which he’s increasingly being manipulated by his superiors and even by his lover. Julia seems to be honestly trusting David more and more — and Keeley Hawes does her best work of the season so far, this episode — but she could be playing him, too. They all could be playing each other. Only time will tell who plays best.
• Director Thomas Vincent deserves a lot of credit for this episode, one that lacked the action set pieces of the first two but somehow maintained a growing sense of dread.
• Having said that, from a realism standpoint, does anyone doubt that Julia would actually have given that speech, given the recent assassination attempt and the intelligence that the would-be assassin wasn’t acting alone?
• The “Previously On” is neat, placed within the credits as the show reminds you what you need to know and gives you cast and crew names at the same time.
• Julia tells David that multiple schools were targeted. That’s a lie, right? It was just David’s. Even when she opens up to him, she can’t tell the complete truth.
• If you missed exactly where Julia was at the end of the episode, it was William Beveridge Hall at the University of London. Which was used as the Ministry’s Press Room during WWII, making it a perfect setting for a show about propaganda, modern fearmongering, and the manipulation of world events.