Bodyguard finale review: Twists and turns seal BBC show as TV event of 2018

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David Budd stood quaking in a fast-emptying London square, with no leaves on the trees, no grass on the ground and seemingly very little prospect of his lugubrious Scottish accent and tiny but cute heid making it through to the end of the TV event of the year.

David Budd stood quaking in a fast-emptying London square, with no leaves on the trees, no grass on the ground and seemingly very little prospect of his lugubrious Scottish accent and tiny but cute heid making it through to the end of the TV event of the year.

David Budd. Picture: BBC

David Budd. Picture: BBC

Watching this, I was transported back to a deserted Morningside, having been despatched by my newspaper on a futile search for anyone not glued to the TV event of yesteryear. In 1980 and Dallas the question was “Who shot JR?” Last night it was “Who blew up JM?” Julia Montague, the Home Secretary, perished in the third episode – or did she? Never mind JR Ewing, maybe the finale was going to bring her back from the dead just like Bobby Ewing.

Surely not! Bodyguard reckoned itself to be a more sophisticated work, and it has been. A twisty thriller about the “deep state”: collusion between government personnel and the security services to manipulate policy. So twisty, indeed, that with so many potential suspects, conspiracy theories, red herrings and black holes, I was dreading this being people dully intoning explanatory statements to each other in place of dialogue.

It wasn’t. In an extended conclusion, creator Jed Mercurio didn’t hang about. It was as if he’d been ordered by the Beeb’s Director-General: “We need Andrew Marr, Laura Kuenssberg and the rest of our newsroom back for Brexit now – you’ll have to stop giving them cameos as themselves and wrap this up.” The plot sped off in one direction then made a screeching handbrake turn. Mercurio was being mercurial and this was almost our Homeland. Counter-terrorism’s Simpson was fingered as the baddie (“Aha, I knew it was her!”) but mere seconds later – even before he could say “I’m a hunky, gloomy Scot and they’ll be talking about me being the next Bond before this is over” – it was looking awfully like Richard Madden as Budd.

He’d been beaten up by gangster Luke Aitkens and, on coming round, stumbled into the busy outside wearing what looked like one of those classic igloo tents from Black’s of Greenock. Underneath it, though, was a suicide vest. “Madam, don’t be alarmed,” Budd told a wifie, half his face missing. What he should have said was: “Madam, I’m alarmed. One twitch and we both turn into your granny’s mince.”

I must admit I hadn’t been mad about Madden before, although I wasn’t the target audience for that bare-bum shot. But he was brilliant here. What a performance from his left thumb! This was the digit fastened to the explosives but he stayed cool. He pulled out all the stops without pulling out the actual stop. Now presumably, just like Tom “The Night Manager” Hiddleston, Madden goes from bahookie-flaunting, Bond-touted breakout role to a PR-contrived romance with Taylor Swift.

Swiftly gone was Keeley Hawes as Montague. That was bold from Mercurio and potentially reckless. There was a flat patch in the middle of Bodyguard and I missed this character for the truly weird sensation of imagining Amber Rudd bonking her security detail. Who else did I like? Snivelling MacDonald, robotic goon Longcross and MI5 head Hunter Dunn played with terrific creepiness by another Scot, Stuart Bowman – a Dundonian with a side-profile as jaggedly remarkable as the V&A.

I didn’t expect Craddock to be the villain and I certainly didn’t foresee the happy ending for Budd, back with his family. I think Mercurio is losing it. In fact, he may never work in telly again.