WHAT A DIRTY ENDING! My late mother’s traditional judgement on the last episode of every soppy, sobby TV drama that didn’t end exactly the way she wanted was ringing in my ears when the final credits bade goodbye to the BBC’s blockbuster Bodyguard series.
Why did the Home Secretary have to die (particularly as she was played by Keeley Hawes, for whom I’ve carried a torch ever since she played that sexily serene Sunday night siren ‘Mrs Durrell’ on ITV)?
Didn’t the eponymous hero ride off into the sunset with the wrong woman? Yes, he DID!
That ‘happy-ever-after’ ending wouldn’t have done even for my mother, whose ‘string-‘em-up!’ views on adulterers topped off a whole range of complex, gender-inspired Commandments that began with “Number One: Only a certain kind of woman is seen smoking in the street” and ran right through to “Number Ten: A man has the right to expect his tea on the table when he gels home from work”.
My mother’s view of writer Jed Mercurio’s fine-if-flawed small-screen masterpiece might have been illuminating but, sadly for me, she is unavailable.
We must settle, instead, for the sage review of my telly-watching fellow columnist JULIAN COLE, whose Man On Ledge blog captured the gripping yet confusing outcome of writer Jed Mercurio’s six-part thriller which was watched, says the Beeb, by an was an average 10.4 million viewers. . .
Mercurio delivers a story at unstoppable pace. The Line of Duty writer knows more about narrative propulsion than a party of thriller writers trapped in a falling lift.
His greatest achievement was to get so many people watching a TV drama in the old-fashioned way: as it went out, once a week in a retro-rush, instead of doing a box-set binge. This was talked-about water-cooler television, even if you got your water from the cold tap in the kitchen. The last drama to attract that many viewers was the finale of season two of Downton Abbey (a denouement that was, by the way, unwatched by this Downton refusenik).
In case you’ve had you head in the fridge for six weeks, Bodyguard is a thriller starring Richard Madden as ex-soldier turned protection office David Budd. Or starring Richard Madden as Budd’s frown, for he does an awful lot of that.
The 75-minute final episode was, strangely, the weakest of the six, mostly down to the extra 15 minutes. While the other episodes were tight and racy, the finale was oddly flabby, until rescued with a final rush of breathless brilliance.
The writing wobbled at times, especially when DS Louise Rayburn (Nina Toussaint-White) turned on Madden, having preciously been Budd’s buddy. Louise started shouting at Budd; a little unkind, I thought, as he had a bomb strapped to him at the time. That bomb didn’t go off, but her acting did.
The denouement, when it came, was fine, even if the action had swerved between high drama and farce, like two cars colliding. And farce left some of its paint on drama’s front wing.
Like many thrillers that start out so well, Bodyguard didn’t quite live up to its opening promise, and threatened to underwhelm. It didn’t do that in the end, but it was a close-run thing.
Fortunately, Mercurio’s skill at wrong-footing his viewers survived until the end. Various theories that rattled the internet turned out to be wrong. Home Secretary Julia Montague really was dead – unless she wasn’t, as some conspiracy theorists think they spotted her at a window in one scene.
What about Budd’s wife’s new boyfriend? Mentioned often but never seen, he was trailed as a potential key to everything. Nope. And that dodgy baldie in glasses (and you should always keep your eye on those) who took Montague’s job – what was he up to?
And what about Commander Anne Sampson (Gina McKee): was she a flapping loose end, or had she been wearing a red herring suit all along?
Best twist of all led right back to the beginning. Suicide bomber Nadia wasn’t a mistreated wife under her husband’s cruel thumb, but a fully committed evil-genius bomb-maker and terrorist. Didn’t spot that one before it rolled through the interview room door, did you?
Did those of us who loved Bodyguard get a touch carried away and were we a little short-changed by the last episode?