Two things have mesmerised Britain this summer: Gareth Southgate’s waistcoat and Bodyguard.
Roughly 11 million people watched last night's final episode of the absorbing BBC political drama, fronted by Richard Madden. To put that figure in context, over 24 million people watched England’s World Cup semi-final against Croatia and 12.8 million people voted for Labour at the 2017 general election.
Needless to say, the popularity of Bodyguard has been accompanied by rave reviews. The series managed to sustain epic, heart-stopping sequences – leaving you physically and emotionally exhausted by the end of each episode.
Indeed, the excruciating tension of Bodyguard was reminiscent of Argo, an exceptional film about the effort to rescue American diplomats after the Iranian revolution (which probably shouldn't be watched if you already have high blood pressure).
The acting of the main characters was also exceptional. Richard Madden’s character, David Budd, was incontestably authentic. He was stubborn, vulnerable and compassionate: all qualities that were carefully cultivated to develop an emotionally-rich, believable protagonist. While many of the other characters were exaggerated imitations of real life, Budd gave the programme much-needed plausibility.
Madden’s performance was perfectly complemented by Keeley Hawes, who played the deceptive and ambitious Home Secretary Julia Montague. She successfully portrayed the power and gravitas of a senior minister, while revealing the seditious inner core of British politics.
But here comes the meat of the shit sandwich.
The job of the final episode was to wrap up the plot in an unexpected and coherent way. We wanted some plot twists, and some exhilarating action scenes, but we also wanted the story (the basis of the six-hour intrigue) to make sense.
Unfortunately, on the third requirement, the final episode failed.
The plot holes essentially stem from two sources: the culpability of MI5, and Nadia’s role as mastermind. To save you some time (after all, you’ve spent almost a whole working day watching the programme already), I will quickly run through each of the things that left me puzzled:
1. The head of MI5, Stephen Hunter-Dunn, was fired at the end of the programme, because the press had been leaked sensitive information about him – information from the kompromat. But Richard Longcross, a shady staff member at the intelligence agency, provided the kompromat to Julia Montague in the first place. Why would he include information that implicated his boss?
2. This kompromat was provided to Montague so that she would take down the Prime Minister and enhance the powers of MI5. However, there were others trying to sabotage Montague and save the PM, namely: Minister of State for Counter-terrorism Mike Travis, Montague’s former boyfriend/adviser Rob MacDonald, and ex-husband Roger Penhaligon. Despite this, Travis had a close relationship with Hunter-Dunn, encouraging Hunter-Dunn to submit a court order requesting the release of Longcross (even in the knowledge that Longcross had conspired to take down the PM). Meanwhile, MacDonald was barely investigated, yet he was the only suspect who expressed a plausible motive.
3. How did Nadia manage to plot several attacks on one of Britain’s leading cabinet ministers, from (presumably a high-security) prison? Did she have superpowers? In which case, why didn’t we ask for Iron Man's help?
4. Nadia also claims she made all the suicide vests personally. But, after the train incident, surely the police would have searched her premises, monitored her contacts and uncovered these devices. Though of course she could have been hiding them under an invisibility cloak.
You might think I am nit-picking. Many people on Twitter say that we should disregard Bodyguard’s flaws, because it was entertaining.
I agree that it was compelling – at times spectacularly so. And I am willing to give creative license to programmes that are so richly entertaining. I don’t really care that Budd diffused a suicide vest and evaded dozens of highly-trained, armed officers by jumping over a low wall. But this creative license is not a free ticket to bulldoze the boundaries of reality. It is reasonable to feel disappointed when, after five episodes of carefully-constructed drama, you can drive a bus through the plot holes in the final act.
To its credit, Bodyguard kept a nation enthralled for six weeks. I just wish, like the World Cup, it had a more satisfactory ending.
A Backbench report by Sam Bright