How many times in this episode did you say, “It wasn’t in the briefcase!!”? So much of this excellent episode of Bodyguard hinges on the investigation into the bombing’s belief that the explosive device was in the briefcase handed to Tahir by Rob and taken onstage before exploding. Not only does the CCTV footage make it look like it came from several feet in front of the stage or at least closer to Julia than Rob in his offstage position, but it would have been just too obvious for it to have been in that case. Not only did David Budd look in there, but it would have been too easy on a narrative level. We’d have to believe that David didn’t see the bomb or failed by not searching the case more thoroughly. However, it’s also clear at this point that Rob and new Home Secretary Mike Travis are behind something greater and possibly terroristic. Did they use Tahir as a suicide bomber the way Nadia’s husband tried to use her? Or at least frame him in a way that people would believe? And how will David Budd figure it out?
Most of all, how many jaws dropped when it was revealed that Home Secretary Julia Montague is actually dead?!?! Yes, Jed Mercurio pulled a Sean Bean, killing off one of his leads, totally reshaping the back half of the season. It turns out that Montague was no mastermind; she was a pawn in a much greater scheme involving domestic terrorism. She was a part of a power play that resulted in her death, and it makes the first half of the season more heartbreaking. It would even be interesting to watch that first half again with the knowledge that she was being used and was not just the puppet master viewers presumed. Maybe she just needed someone to trust her and she would still be alive had David protected her more thoroughly.
At least that’s what David believes. He’s so distraught over Julia’s death that he tries to kill himself, taking the gun he hid in his overhead light and putting it to his temple. That he pulls the trigger illustrates how far Mercurio is willing to go, and some people likely wondered if he had just killed both leads! It’s a brilliant move to place that scene so shortly after the reveal that Julia is dead — who would have been totally surprised if the show featured different leads altogether in its back half? This show seems willing to do anything.
What’s even more interesting is that David’s suicide attempt turns out to be not just a dark piece of character development; it leads to an actual clue. There was a blank in the gun. Someone tampered with the weapon of the man protecting the home secretary, so as to make him less effective at doing so. David’s realization of this fact gives him new purpose. Now it’s clear that the cover-up is coming from very high-up and he’s going to take the whole system down.
As the investigation into the bombing gets closer and closer to confirming Tahir as the Lee Harvey Oswald of this dynamic, the cops also start to theorize that all four attacks are related. Could the same group be behind the attempted train bombing, the school attack, the sniper shooting, and the bombing at St. Matthews College? The cops think so, although it seems difficult to get so many different factions together. Could Nadia and Andy be working for the same person?
David tests this theory in a fascinating interrogation scene with Nadia. Let’s get over the fact that there’s no way he’d be allowed in an official interrogation given there are some who suspect he may have looked at a bomb in a briefcase just before it went off — it’s still a great scene. He gets Nadia to admit that she and her husband got the bomb from someone in a car park. The most interesting beat comes when the cops lay out a photo lineup and David seems to be encouraging Nadia to pick Tahir. Why? He definitely looks at Tahir’s photo and even slightly nods. Is he trying to frame Tahir? She doesn’t bite. She says no. Why did David want her to say yes? And if it wasn’t Tahir, who was it? If it was someone like Travis or Rob, wouldn’t Nadia say that it was not someone of Middle Eastern descent?
There was another interesting development this episode that could be called “The Mystery of Richard Longcross.” Remember the man who came to Julia’s hotel room and acted all sketchy in the middle of the night? David wants to know more and so he goes to look at security footage, only to find 15 seconds missing from all of the recordings. How is that possible? Even the guard in charge of the footage doesn’t understand. Someone very high up wants to keep Longcross’s identity a secret.
So where do we go from here? It seems clear, now that David Budd has hit rock bottom and tried to kill himself, that he’s willing to do whatever it takes to find the truth. It also seems clear that any residual concern that David may have been somehow involved in these attacks was unfounded. That would have been a severe plot twist already, and impossible now. So who’s behind it all? Could it be someone as simple as Travis, the man who seemed like just another government stooge in the first half of the season but now seems to know way more than he lets on? And what about Sampson, who wants to bury the footage of Rob handing off the briefcase? She’s definitely hiding something. And David is going to find out what.
• Who’s stunned that they killed off a BAFTA-nominated actress? Just as Hawes was getting more interesting and human, they offed her, reminding us that this was always more of a political thriller than a romantic drama. It’s a very smart move, although I almost wish this was a weekly show and it could sink and earn the program some buzz, which doesn’t happen as much on Netflix, where plot twists get swallowed up in binges.
• Forced to carry the show on his own now, Richard Madden did his best work to date this episode. There have been some rumors that he’s under consideration to be the new James Bond, something that really didn’t seem like a good idea until I saw Bodyguard. I’m still not 100 percent sure he could pull it off, but I’m getting much closer.
• As long as we’re passing out kudos, Gina McKee deserves some for the icy, complicated way she’s played Sampson. The star of Notting Hill, Mirrormask, and In the Loop is doing fascinating work, keeping viewers unsure of how much they should trust Sampson, and how involved she has been in the terrorism up to this point. I don’t trust her one bit.