Bodyguard theories: who’s behind the attacks?

Join us to sift through the wreckage in complex BBC One political thriller Bodyguard episode 3 in search of clues. Spoilers ahead…

Warning: contains spoilers for Bodyguard episodes one to three.

At the time of writing, the sole character in Bodyguard I don’t suspect of being part of a triple-crossing conspiracy* is PC Kim Knowles [Claire-Louise Cordwell], the deadpan, gruff-voiced security officer who calls David “Skip” and steals every scene she’s in. Most likely, that means PC Kim is behind it all and has been masterminding the whole thing from inside the minibar of the home secretary’s hotel room.

Should the Kim-minibar scenario not prove to be the case, here are the most likely alternatives…

*Possibly David’s kids are also off the hook too, but let’s not be overly hasty.

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David is trying to kill the home secretary

Motive, means, opportunity – Sgt David Budd has all three. He resents the home secretary’s pro-military intervention voting record, and his time in Helmand has left him with PTSD and a justifiable chip on his shoulder about politicians who send troops to do their dirty work while staying cosily at home. So, is he behind the assassination attempts?

The fact that the Thornton Circus sniper was David Budd’s ex-army pal Andy is incriminating. (Somebody leaked the home secretary’s itinerary on the day of the shooting, it could have been Budd.) That David continues to lie to the police about knowing the shooter’s identity is even more incriminating.

The rooftop conversation Budd held with his friend too, was craftily written for maximum ambiguity. “It’s over, mate,” says David. “For me, not for you,” says Andy. “You’ve got to finish the job. Someone’s got to stop her, get it done.” Was that an expression of surprise on David’s face when he saw Andy’s face, or was he expecting to see him?

Bodyguard certainly wants us to suspect David. Episode three’s last line about the possibility of the Thornton Cross shooter having “at least one accomplice” was heard over a shot of Sgt Budd walking away.

Was David in on the St Matthews bomb? Again, the thriller at least wants us to entertain the possibility. In the lift, Julia noted that David hadn’t opposed her engagement at St Matthews for security reasons and told him, “I think you’ve got an ulterior motive,” setting off the dramatic irony buzzer. She thought he didn’t want to seem overly protective and therefore emotionally involved with her, to keep their affair under wraps. He replied “Busted.” Hmm.

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Just before the speech, we saw aide Tahir receiving a panicked phone call, and David hanging up his phone in the next shot. We also saw David telling another security officer to stay put while he investigated Tahir, then waving the aide on after seeing the contents of the briefcase. Did David’s eyes rest on a load of paperwork, or an explosive device?

In trying to answer this question, there’s also the matter of David attempting to throttle the home secretary in his sleep, but he did seem quite sad about that.

The Security Service is trying to kill the home secretary

The home secretary and the Security Service have an “arrangement” about documents harmful to—we presume—the prime minister. Julia was supplied by M15 with confidential intel about somebody with a drink and cocaine problem and an accusation of serious sexual assault against a woman named Charlotte Foxfield. She used the information to go to Chequers and, we assume, blackmail the prime minster into standing down and handing her over the party reins.

This clearly wasn’t what MI5 had in mind. Episode three showed ‘Richard Longcross’ informing his boss Stephen about Julia’s under-the-radar trip to Chequers and asking him whether he wants a capital letter PLAN put in place. Longcross refrained from drawing an illustrative finger across his throat or throwing out the fingers of both hands and mouthing the word ‘boom’ while offering said plan, but that extra was very much ours to add in. Did the Security Service plant the bomb to stop Julia from further betrayals of their cosy agreement?

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The police are trying to kill the home secretary

There’s no love lost between Julia Montague and police Counter-Terrorism Commander Anne Sampson, nor between Montague and Lorraine Craddock, David’s boss at the Met. The home secretary’s bill would transfer unprecedented power from the police to the Security Service.

Sampson, Montague presumes, gave the executive order to withhold armed units from Thornton Circus, thus endangering the home secretary’s life. Is a police conspiracy behind it?

No. 10 is trying to kill the home secretary

The chief whip Roger Penhaligon—Montague’s ex-husband—and the Minister for Counter-Terrorism Mike Travis were also seen conspiring in episode three. First, Travis confessed his suspicions to Penhaligon that the home secretary was “doing some business off-book for the security service.”

Later, the pair met again at No. 10 following Julia’s RIPA-18 bill passing in the Commons, and discussed her ambushing the prime minister at Chequers. “There’s going to be a reshuffle, a big one,” said Penhaligon, “Julia’s snatching the key to number ten. We need to do something, fast.”

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With the goal of stopping RIPA-18 passing in the Lords, stopping the Security Service and Montague gaining even more power, and saving the prime minster from a blackmail scandal, did these to do “something fast” involving a load of explosives?

Disgruntled aide Chanel is trying to kill the home secretary

“I don’t need their shitty cab,” said former political aide Chanel Dyson in episode one, having been escorted out of the Home Office after making a scene about being fired. And she didn’t need it. A posh, black Range Rover pulled up to whisk Chanel off. Who was driving it? A helpful pal, or somebody who might want to take advantage of the intel a disgruntled aide would be willing to leak?

New aide Tahir is trying to kill the home secretary

Tahir encouraged the home secretary to keep her appointment at St Matthews for the publicity, even though he acknowledged it was a security risk. He also had the silver briefcase, which may or may not have contained the bomb. He received a phone call in a panic before the speech. He was spotted skulking around the auditorium and appeared to arrive in the wings just as the explosion went off. Was the bomb really in the briefcase? Was Tahir aware? Or is he just another political pawn in all this?

Special advisor Rob is trying to kill the home secretary

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If the St Matthews bombing was a political inside job, then it’s plausible Rob was in on it. He made his excuses and got out of attending the speech where the bomb went off. He told two different stories to Montague and aide Tahir about whether or not the speech had been fact-checked, telling Tahir it was all fine and Julia some last-minute checks were needed, then phoning Tahir minutes before the speech to tell him there was a problem with the contents, thereby engineering Tahir’s arrival on stage mid-speech with the silver briefcase.

Since David’s arrival, Rob and his cosy takeaways have slid down the pecking order, and Rob has been hostile to Tahir from the start, competing with him and calling him a token hire. Sensing the end of his own special relationship with the home secretary, did Rob chose to back another horse altogether?

Rob also gave Julia a strange look as she walked away from him to the engagement. Was it a look of concern, regret, vengeance… or was he just thinking about his sandwiches? Writer Jed Mercurio is the master of giving his characters unreadable lingering looks. As ever, it could be villainy, it could be wind.

The home secretary is trying to kill herself

A ludicrous theory, but then this is the age of the ludicrous. “I want the country,” Montague told aide Tahir in episode three. Will she stop at nothing to get it? As in, setting up multiple fake attempts on her own life in order to prove her political point about the need for RIPA-18, and painting herself as a sympathetic survivor in order to win over the support of the country? Silly, yes, but then if Montague really is a sociopath…

Some terrorists are trying to kill the home secretary

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Remember Balaclava Man? The Line Of Duty series four audience devoted serious work to figuring out who was underneath that woollen mask but come the finale, it didn’t matter a jot. Balaclava Man was simply a career criminal with long-standing connections to organised crime. The real drama was elsewhere.

Bodyguard writer-creator Jed Mercurio is a genius at this stuff. He drops clues and dangles question marks and lays out wild goose chases we all run down, making notes. We could very well spend the next three weeks working out which theorised conspiracy is responsible for the assassination attempts when the answer has been in front of us the whole time: it’s terrorists. Obviously.

I mean, that, or PC Kim, crouching behind the Pringles and tiny packets of honey-roasted peanuts. I’m fifty-fifty. 

Bodyguard airs on Sunday nights on BBC One at 9pm. Read our spoiler-filled episode review here.