Bodyguard's 'big, bold, bravura' finale - what the hell will we do on Sunday nights now?
Relax, it’s all over. You can start breathing again. In, out, in, out, slowly and deeply now, right down to the pit of the stomach, that’s it.
After five episodes that kept more than 10 million viewers in Britain and who knows how many more in Ireland enthralled on Sunday nights, Bodyguard creator and writer Jed Mercurio had promised to bring things to a satisfying close.
And, boy, did this specially extended 75-minute finale deliver on that promise. It was a big, bold, bravura finish, an outrageous thrill-ride that never took its foot off the suspense pedal for a second.
At the heart of it was a terrifically tense, protracted set-piece featuring our bruised, battered hero David Budd (Richard Madden) waking up to find himself strapped into a suicide vest, his thumb taped into a “dead man’s trigger”: if he released the pressure on the detonation button even slightly, he’d blow himself and everyone else around him to smithereens.
Having scattered around enough red herrings to fill the hold of a Norwegian trawler during the previous episodes, Mercurio threw in a few more that kept viewers on edge and guessing almost to the very end.
All the questions that needed to be answered were answered. The biggest one concerned whether hawkish Home Secretary Julia Montague (Keeley Hawes) had really died in the bomb blast. There was speculation that she had survived and was lying low in order to draw out the culprits.
After all, her funeral had a closed casket and we never actually witnessed her death or saw her body. As it turned out, this was just a classic bit of Mercurio misdirection of the kind we’re familiar with from Line Of Duty.
Big question No 2 was who actually murdered Montague? Viewers already knew that snarky, smarmy Chanel Dyson (Stephanie Hyam), the PR adviser Montague sacked back in episode one, was linked to organised crime boss Luke Aitkens (Matt Stokoe). Budd snapped her climbing into Aitkens’ car outside a coffee shop.
Aitkens, who had also been glimpsed at the veterans’ meeting where Budd met disturbed old army buddy Andy Apsted (Tom Brooke) – who later tried to assassinate Montague – had every motive to want Montague dead, since her tough new anti-terror laws would also have cracked down on his criminal operations.
So it didn’t come as too much of a surprise to learn that Aitkens, who’d strapped Budd into the vest, planted the bomb. But he had collaborators.
When Budd, having disabled the suicide vest and made a dangerous run to prove his innocence, led the cops to Aitkens, we finally discovered the identity of the “inside man”.
All along, the finger of suspicion had pointed at various characters: hatchet-faced MI5 boss Stephen Hunter-Dunn (Stuart Bowman); sneaky counter-terrorism minister Mike Travis (Vincent Franklin); and chief whip (and Montague’s sniffy ex-husband) Roger Penhaligon (Nicholas Gleaves).
In the end, the “inside man” turned out to be an inside woman: Budd’s immediate boss Lorraine Craddock (Pippa Haywood), who was an old-fashioned corrupt copper who’d set the unstable Budd up as the perfect fall guy.
Typically, Bodyguard saved the biggest twist for last. In a gripping interrogation scene (and what would a Jed Mercurio drama be without one?), Nadia (Anjli Mohindra), the supposedly terrified naif who had been manipulated by her terrorist husband into almost blowing up a train, revealed herself to be the bomb-maker and mastermind behind the entire operation. It was a brilliant subversion of expectations.
Mercurio left enough loose threads dangling (the identity of Budd’s estranged wife’s unseen boyfriend, for one) and shifty characters standing (Gina McKee’s untrustworthy Met officer Anna Sampson) to fuel a second season, but there’s one question that remains unanswered: what the hell will we do on Sunday nights now?