If there’s one clear rule about any Jed Mercurio drama it’s that no character can escape their fate. Incompetent medics find themselves undone at the last, corrupt cops meet desperate fates and – it turns out – power-hungry politicians do not walk away from bomb blasts unscathed.
The death of Home Secretary Julia Montague at the drama’s half-way point was a bold move, but I’d argue, despite the hole it now leaves, a brilliant one. Keeley Hawes was fantastic in the role, but this is a political thriller rather than a Press-style romp about politicians and, with Montague’s death, the stakes just got considerably higher.
With Hawes’s Sean Bean-esque exit, the weight of the story fell firmly on Richard Madden’s shoulders, and he proved more than equal to the task – just as he did in Game of Thrones in a similar situation. As David’s life continued to unravel at pace, leaving him increasingly unable to juggle the lies he’s told with the secrets he’s hiding, Madden did a fine job of showing us a shellshocked man desperately scrambling to keep the demons at bay. The scene where he finally surrendered to his guilt over the deaths of Julia and Kim, placing the gun to his head while staring horror-struck at a picture drawn by one of his children was possibly the most shocking moment of a series that has been full of them.
Julia’s death has created a vacuum, one which it turns out sneaky Mike Travis is all too eager to fill. Interestingly, his first act as acting home secretary was to prefer the police over the security services – or as the acerbic Anne Sampson put it: “It seems the acting home secretary isn’t as susceptible to your bullshit, Stephen.” The suave Mr Hunter-Dunn wasn’t the only one unnerved by this unexpected changing of the guard as it began to dawn on the slippery Rob that he might be more expendable than he presumed. Meanwhile, the embattled PM lives to fight another day, but for how long, given the vipers circling?
Anne Sampson might claim that we are looking at one conspiracy here, but it can’t be as simple as that. As expected, Tahir got the blame for the bombing – he was killed in the blast too – but it’s clear that there’s something rather more complicated going on. The scene between Mike and Rob suggested that they were behind the attack, as did the fact that Rob handed over the briefcase while it was also hinted that Anne may have known this. Counter-balancing that is the fact that David saw the contents of the briefcase and insists they were bomb-free and, for all DCI Sharma’s scepticism, it seems unlikely that he’s lying about this.
Of course, it is possible that the bomb was there, Tahir did or didn’t know and David didn’t check the case thoroughly, partially because of the weary way in which Tahir rebuked him beforehand. But I think it’s more likely that the case is a bit of a McGuffin, a way of getting Tahir on stage and disguising the fact that the device was elsewhere.
So is Mike acting alone? And where do the security services come into it? I think David is right that it’s them who searched his flat but why replace the bullets with blanks? What about the original suicide bomb and the attack on the school? Are they really part of the same conspiracy? Because my feeling is that its more complicated and less tidy than that.
Finally, why is Anne Sampson so keen to neatly tie everything up? Is she merely covering her back or is something more murky in play? At the moment, there’s definitely the sense that someone shadowy is pulling the strings but as to who and why, well your guesses are probably quite a lot better than mine …
I genuinely thought that David had succeeded in his suicide attempt, and spent a good ten minutes thinking: “Wait, did this show really just kill off both the leads? What the hell is going to happen now?”
I’m prepared to cut Jed Mercurio a lot of slack in the “good drama trumps reality” stakes, but a clearly unfit-for-duty David being allowed to interview Nadiya did have me rolling my eyes (though not as hard as DCI Sharma).
That said, the interrogation itself was well done and I liked the realisation that Nadiya must be very young indeed if an appropriate adult had to sit in on the interview.
I also like the way that Mercurio continues to draw parallels with Nadiya and David, both of them pawns in a much bigger game.
Sophie Rundle continues to do a lot with her scenes – Vicky’s quiet despair at her estranged husband’s state was one of the most moving parts of the episode.
I’m increasingly fond of the no-nonsense DS Rayburn, apparently one of the few people on this show without a dark secret to hide.
I’m beginning to feel that I should have a screen-hogging BBC reporter of the week slot – this week’s lucky winner was Laura Kuenssberg who popped up to pontificate about whether Julia had been intending a power grab on Number 10.
Nerve-wracking moment of the week
With Julia’s death happening off screen, there is only one contender this week: the tense and desperate scene in David’s flat was incredibly difficult to watch, particularly as it became obvious that he really was going to go through with the attempt.
Villain of the week
Just when I had Mike Travis pegged as a slightly sardonic jobsworth happy to snipe from the shadows he goes and confuses everything by turning out to be both power-hungry and a possible criminal mastermind.
Unsung hero of the week
“This is some grade-A bullshit” – DCI Sharma wins the hearts of cynical viewers everywhere with his dismissal of the decision to allow David to interview Nadiya.
So what did you think? Was Julia’s death a shock? What about David’s suicide attempt? And where does the show go from here? As always, speculation welcome below…
In the UK, Papyrus can be contacted on 0800 068 41 41 or text 07786 209 697, and the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international suicide helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org