BBC One’s ratings giant Bodyguard surprised us all again this week. But this time, the real bombshell was the total absence of… well… a bombshell.
There were no explosions or shoot-outs in the fourth chapter of Jed Mercurio’s thriller, which nonetheless still delivered plenty of intrigue and the game-changing announcement that Keeley Hawes’ Home Secretary had succumbed to her injuries from the RIPA ’18 attack.
But is everything as it appears? Here’s what we’re chewing over after the latest instalment.
1. Could Julia still be alive?
The latest Bodyguard opens with Julia Montague “fighting for her life” – but shortly afterward, we’re informed that the surgeons couldn’t save her and that she’s died in the operating theatre.
Now, we don’t actually witness Julia’s passing. In fact, last we saw her, she was lying unconscious in the immediate aftermath of the bombing, her prognosis uncertain. And while some of those caught up in the blast didn’t make it (RIP Kim!), others like Budd escaped relatively unscathed.
Quite possibly Julia is gone for good. Advertising the series with Keeley Hawes as co-lead only to bump her off midway through is certainly a very Jed Mercurio thing to do. But then again, having Montague fake her death to fool her opponents and make a triumphant comeback in episode six would be every bit as devious.
If she is alive, Mercurio’s playing the long game – there’s no end-of-episode reveal confirming her survival as you might be expecting.
2. Did Tahir Mahmood set off the bomb?
Tahir (Shubham Saraf) “died instantly” in the blast, but the departed PR adviser remains SO15’s chief suspect, with “no CCTV of any of his backstage activity” existing to either absolve Mahmood or prove his guilt without question.
MI5’s Stephen Hunter-Dunn (Stuart Bowman) insists that the evidence against Mahmood is “circumstantial” and that he had no obvious link to terrorism, having been “vetted thoroughly” prior to his hiring.
But what if, as Budd (Richard Madden) implies, Tahir wasn’t vetted correctly? What if somebody on the inside planted him as a mole?
More on Tahir, and his possible guilt, below.
3. Was the bomb in the briefcase?
Not actually the same question as “Was Tahir guilty?” – it’s possible that he was an unwitting patsy, with no knowledge that he was carrying an explosive device.
The briefcase is originally assumed to be the source of the explosion, but when SO15 rewatch frame-by-frame footage of the bombing, it’s impossible to determine the origin point of the blast and the latest Bodyguard ends without resolving the issue.
That said, if there was a bomb in the briefcase, why didn’t Budd spot it? He looked inside and tells SO15 that the only contents were “Home Office documents”, but is pulled up for not carrying out a more thorough inspection of the case, and for not searching Mahmood.
Was Budd simply careless, costing Julia her life?
4. Was Budd involved in the bombing?
There is another possibility, of course. Perhaps, despite all the distractions, Bodyguard really is going down the path we all expected from the series opener: the story of an unstable veteran targeting the pro-war Home Secretary.
Maybe Budd saw what was inside Tahir’s briefcase and allowed the attack to go ahead? SO15’s DCI Sharma (Ash Tandon) certainly isn’t ruling out Budd as a suspect, repeatedly pointing out that David was PPO – Personal Protection Officer – on both of the attacks on Julia. “Either you’ve got rotten luck,” he sneers. “Or it’s a coincidence.”
But which is it? Budd’s guilt at the news of Julia’s death seems real enough, but what exactly is he feeling guilty about? His failure to protect her? Or the role he played in her demise?
5. Did Mike Travis and Rob Macdonald plan the bombing?
Julia’s shifty special advisor Rob Macdonald (Paul Ready) was the one who delivered the briefcase to Tahir, with CCTV images of the exchange, plus phone records of a call taking place between the two men shortly before the bombing, being used by SO15 to haul Rob in for questioning.
He insists that the case was Tahir’s all along and that he was simply returning it. But even if he’s lying about that, that doesn’t neccessarily mean that Rob handed Tahir a bomb: as established elsewhere in the episode, with no footage of Tahir’s backstage activities, it’s entirely possible that he inserted the explosive device later, or swapped the case out for a duplicate.
More damning though is an exchange between Rob and Mike Travis (Vincent Franklin), the acting Home Secretary. “It wasn’t even my idea!” protests Rob, when he learns he’s under suspicion. “They won’t find anything,” insists Mike. “There’s a simple, plausible story for you to stick to – and you will stick to it.”
Why are Mike and Rob lying? Is it telling that newly-promoted Mike – who displays a more menacing side to his character this week – immediately places responsibility for the terror investigation back into the hands of the police, undoing Julia’s recent agreement with MI5?
6. What next for MI5?
MI5 had, it appears, struck a deal with Julia, providing her with damning evidence to oust the PM in return for her giving them increased powers once she took office.
Now that Montague’s out of the picture, possibly executed by a force wanting to keep her out of 10 Downing Street, should Stephen Hunter-Dunn be worried that he’s next on the list?
MI5 is now under fire from all sides, with a rogue Budd uncovering evidence that footage was excised from the CCTV in Julia’s hotel, to allow the engimatic Richard Longcross (Michael Schaeffer) to pay a secret visit to her suite.
Will SO15 follow up on Budd’s discovery and dig up more about Longcross and his conversations with Julia?
7. Who is the bomb-maker?
With no further arrests since Budd convinced Nadia (Anjli Mohindra) to give herself up on October 1, she remains the investigation’s key witness, with SO15 allowing Budd to lead her questioning in the hopes of exploiting their connection.
Nadia does open up to Budd, revealing that her bomb vest wasn’t constructed by her husband, but was “a gift” from an unidentified third party. Nadia’s husband once took her to a car park, where he meet the bomb-maker – an Asian man, according to Nadia, though apparently not Tahir Mahmood, since she fails to pick him out of a photo line-up.
SO15 suspect that the various terrorist incidents we’ve witnessed across Bodyguard‘s four episodes so far “could be connected under a single conspiracy” – but who is the still-at-large bomb-maker, and is he “the mastermind behind it all”?
Bodyguard continues next Sunday at 9pm on BBC One.
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