Was the Bodyguard finale just too absurd?
The final episode of the hugely popular BBC1 thriller made for great telly – but stretched the bounds of plausibility, says Eleanor Bley Griffiths
As more than eight million of us remove our closely bitten nails from our mouths and unstick our sweaty shirts from our armpits, we emerge shellshocked and reeling from a six-week-long collective experience.
We have finally discovered the answer to the big question that has been troubling the nation: 'Who killed Bodyguard's Julia Montague?'
But now it's all over, we're also asking other questions. Was it a satisfying conclusion? Did the explanation make sense? And in the end, wasn't it all kind of brilliantly ludicrous?
To be clear: it's not a question of inaccuracy. Sure, there have been a whole load of articles in the past few weeks trying to prove that Bodyguard is "unrealistic" or "inaccurate," but showrunner Jed Mercurio has struck back at those claims with a fury – and rightly so. He and his team have drawn heavily on the advice of proper, bona fide experts with real-life experience in creating this drama, and also: it's not a documentary! It's a TV drama! That's the point!
Still, while TV drama doesn't have to be 100% "realistic" or "accurate", it does have to be plausible – and it has to make sense on an emotional and logistical level. So let's talk about all the twists and turns in the Bodyguard finale, which was 75 minutes of brilliant (and slightly absurd) telly.
First up: Nadia Ali, the terrorist mastermind. Surprise! Just after you thought the culprit (Luke Aitkens) was already caught, it turned out there's a second working in tandem and providing all the bombs. Confirming the "multiple conspiracies" fan theory, it was revealed that Nadia's terror cell had aligned itself with Luke's organised crime ring in an unholy alliance of hatred and violence. Why have one baddie when you can have two – or even three?
But do we buy Nadia as a terrorist mastermind? Not completely. Bringing this all back to Islamic terrorism right at the end seemed somehow unsatisfying. If anything, Nadia also played her part too well – from her tears in the train toilets (genuine, but perhaps not for the reasons David Budd thought) to her meek nods and head-shakes in the interrogation room. Even in retrospect it's impossible to see traces of the moustache-twirling villain she suddenly became in the last few minutes of the final episode.
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Another thing bothering us is that the police let David walk all the way from somewhere in London's financial district to his flat (filmed at the Whittington Estate, backing on to Highgate Cemetery in North London). That took him through some extremely densely populated areas which cannot possibly have been fully evacuated in time – putting many more lives in danger than just Vicky Budd's.
Surely they'd have just shot him before he could leave the square, especially if they still thought he was the "inside man"? Vicky's death would have been unfortunate, but less risky than allowing him to parade through the built up capital.
Then once David was in position round the back of his flat next to Highgate Cemetery, he got everyone to pull back while he cut the final wire, before vaulting over the wall and making his getaway. Somehow, despite the huge police presence in the area (and, presumably, helicopters on standby), he was able to get out of his explosive vest, evade capture, and belt across London to Chanel's flat (side note: he had her address??). He was then able to tail Luke to Lorraine Craddock's house – completely undetected.
Is this plausible? Only if you assume that everyone else involved is fairly incompetent and under-resourced, including the police and prison and security services... which, to be fair, is perhaps not a giant leap...
David's getaway is a case in point. Then there's the fact that it took everyone so long to work out that Andy Apsted and David Budd had served together. Then there's the fact that Nadia was able to run her operation from a prison cell, and nobody clocked that she was an engineer with – presumably – a university degree to her name.
What about the security services? Even the "kompromat" was a bit of a balls-up. Richard Longcross told Julia that she'd need new log-in details after a certain point, and that he'd be able to provide them to her – but apparently this window of time was so vague that he couldn't be sure the information on the tablet was properly password protected. Instead he had to hunt down the actual physical device in case the material inside hadn't yet disappeared. Come on! Even Game of Thrones scripts these days are set to self-destruct to prevent leaks.
There are holes to pick in the final episode, but we must say: thank goodness we didn't get a cliffhanger. At the end of episode five we wondered how on earth Mercurio was going to plot his way through to a satisfying conclusion, but the showrunner delivered such a fiendishly complex explanation (and tied up so many loose ends) that we're still trying to get our heads around it.
Mostly we got our answers. But there are a few niggling questions playing on our mind. Did David really need to get Luke's attention by trying to buy an untraceable PSL rifle, when the invitation from Chanel already showed that Luke had his eye on him? What was David's actual plan when he set off for his "date" with Chanel? Would Luke have come to find David and put him in the suicide vest if David hadn't gone to find him first?
More questions: did the Prime Minister tell Roger Penhaligon about the kompromat, and send him to retrieve it? Did Tahir set off the pressure sensor at St Matthews College and how would it have detonated if he hadn't (coincidentally) been there?
And then there's the matter of "inside woman" Lorraine Craddock (Pippa Haywood) and her boss Anne Sampson (Gina McKee). Why did Craddock take David off Julia Montague's team of bodyguards after the truck attack on his kids' primary school, thereby removing her "fall guy" from active duty? What would she have done if Julia hadn't insisted on having David back? And all that stuff about Sampson being reluctant to investigate crime boss Luke Aitken: does she also have links to him (that haven't yet come out) – or was that a complete red herring?
Still, it was definitely brilliant telly. The jeopardy! The fiendishly plotted conspiracies! The chemistry! All of it left us with so many watercooler moments that British office workers can hardly ever have been more hydrated. Thanks for the radiant skin, Mr Mercurio. It was kind of an absurd finale – but what a ride he's taken us on as a TV-watching nation.
This article was originally published on 23 September 2018