“What”, asked The Guardian the other day of Bodyguard, “does its mix of politics, terrorism and sex have that other series don’t?” Well, yes. The clue might be in the question. The first three episodes, certainly, were as much Boabyguard as Bodyguard. (I know that joke doesn’t travel well, but it’s all I’ve got.) To that I would add – and it’s a point I’ve made a gazillion times before – that appointment TV only becomes a thing when you have episodes at regular intervals, ideally one per week, rather than letting viewers “binge” (ew) at their own pace. There’s little which has given me more pleasure over the past few weeks, than reading the complaints on social media from people who’re unhappy with waiting a week for each new episode. A week. Come on, folks. We’re not children.
So Bodyguard is a ratings and critical success, and thus far both have been well-deserved. On the other hand, it’s a British drama, which means the ever-present possibility that it will run out of steam soon enough. The most recent example of that phenomenon is the bewilderingly overrated Keeping Faith, which started brightly enough and would have made a good two- or three-parter, but which instead was stretched into eight increasingly pointless episodes. The scenery was nice, though.
Will Bodyguard hit the same wall? Well… maybe not. This fourth episode, dealing with the consequences of episode 3’s bomb blast, was never less than compelling, although it was undoubtedly less thrilling. As we wait to discover whether Julia has survived, Mike Travis happily slithers into her place as acting Home Secretary, immediately handing back control of the investigation to the police, much to Anne Sampson’s joy. (This might be controversial, but I’m firmly of the view that, thus far, the best acting performance in the show is being given by Gina McKee as the magnificently ambitious but inscrutable Sampson.)
David Budd (the excellent Richard Madden, becoming a star before our very eyes), meantime, is unravelling. He’s being pursued by the dogged detective duo Sharma and Rayburn, who have noted that since David took over as Julia’s PPO she’s been the target of two assassination attempts. The first narrowly failed; but, as we learn during the episode, the bomb has succeeded. She’s been killed. Budd’s response to this is to shoot himself. And at this point I was thinking: wow, taking out both of your main stars halfway through a season within a few minutes is quite a baller move.
Except… David isn’t dead: the bullets in his gun had been replaced with blanks, by someone as yet undetermined. And so, despite the fact that Sharma and Rayburn are convinced he’s hiding something – which, of course, at a bare minimum is undoubtedly true of his relationship with Julia – he’s allowed to interview Nadiya, the suicide bomber from the now-famous train scene at the start of episode 1. The theory is that whoever was behind the assassination of Julia was also responsible for the bomb that Nadiya was strapped to. Unhelpfully, Nadiya can’t be certain about who gave her husband that bomb.
But we do have suspects. We’ve seen slimy political advisor Rob handing Tahir the briefcase which is presently presumed to have been carrying the bomb, and Rob and Mike Travis have the sort of elliptical conversation which strongly implies that something dodgy is going on. Then there’s mysterious Richard Longcross, whose presence in the hotel Julia was staying in has been entirely erased by someone from the hotel’s CCTV.
And there are things we haven’t seen. What happened to that sacked PA who disappeared into the big car in the first episode? What was actually in that briefcase? Who do all the documents from episode 3 refer to? And, most significantly of all, we haven’t actually seen Julia’s corpse. She’s not dead, is she?