There is a quote attributed, possibly apocryphally, to the great thriller writer Raymond Chandler, in which he outlines his solution to writer’s block. “When in doubt,” he says, “have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand.” Well, as we steam towards the conclusion of ITV’s Sunday night potboiler, Trigger Point, it increasingly feels like the makers are taking a leaf out of Chandler’s book, albeit with one crucial difference. When in doubt, chuck in another ticking time bomb.
You can hardly blame them. After all, Trigger Point is to bomb disposal what Silent Witness is to pathology. It is not a very holistic view of the police force, and just as an episode of Silent Witness can’t go by without Emilia Fox getting her hands on a nice blanched corpse, nor can Trigger Point take up an entire primetime hour without a single explosion. Last week’s exciting denouement at the Five Oaks pub, which raised a lot of questions about the identity of our spree bomber, is in the past. This episode was really all about Billy.
Billy No Mates
Vicky McClure’s Lana “Wash” Washington has always had a strained relationship with her “mardy” brother Billy (Ewan Mitchell) but the family still show up at his bedsit to celebrate his birthday, only to find he’s not there. “Billy’s not turned up to his own party,” Lana observes. “What’s new?”
What’s new is Billy’s “new friends”, who helped him break the window of a Halal butchers, a drunken act that means he’s now facing charges of racially aggravated criminal damage. And this is all in the context of his big sister and her meh-boyfriend Thom Youngblood (Mark Stanley) investigating white supremacist links to the attacks on the Westhaven estate, the Amburiq mosque, and the LGBT pub. Frankly, Billy should be keeping his nose clean – but he’s not.
At HQ, Ralph Ineson is back as Commander Bregman, who, as the person with the deepest voice in the room, is in charge of the investigation. The big issue that the team are facing is the use of an explosive with the catchy name HMX319, which is manufactured for military use (trivia fans will enjoy the fact that HMX is rumoured to stand for “Her Majesty’s Explosive”). “The working theory is that some of the explosive found its way onto the Dark Web,” says some chump, whichever jobsworth has been charged with suggesting the obviously wrong theory this week. Lana, at the same meeting, is adamant that the wiring demonstrates that the bomber is military.
Persona John Grata
With Billy missing, Lana turns her attention to her colleague John (Kris Hitchen). She already suspects him of being caught up in these bombings, thanks to an annotated A-Z she found when snooping through his locker, and her suspicions are further aroused on a sneaky date with nice guy Karl (Warren Brown). Karl tells her that, after the funeral of Adrian Lester’s Nut, John and Billy got drunk together and headed out, possibly to smash up a Halal butchers. “Him and John started on the flaming sambucas after we left,” Karl discloses. “Nearly set the bar on fire.” Just while we’re on the subject of Karl: I’ve rarely seen a character give off such obvious “he’s a/the bad guy” vibes.
But Lana is fixated on John and, to be totally fair to her, he’s doing a lot of suspicious stuff, like walking around London marking Jewish centres on his trusty A-Z. Lana blithely follows him around, with little attempt at discretion, until Youngblood pulls her up and tells her to stick to bomb disposal. For once, I’m on Team Youngblood. That said, on a grey February evening, it’s lovely to see London in a heatwave.
This all comes to a head when Lana confronts John at New Scotland Yard and, once again, assaults him. This time she doesn’t get away with it: a superior places her on leave. She slips into full Steve Arnott depressed-chipmunk mode, wearing baggy civvies and shooting some more pool with Karl who, for a mechanic, seems to have a lot of free time on weekdays. “This is all I want,” he confides to her. “What?” she responds, “Fizzy pop, crisps and being shit at pool?” If this is how flirty banter is conducted these days, I’ve been in a relationship too long. Anyhow, it works, because soon enough they’re making out, mouths half-stuffed with cheese and onion crisps. But, naturally, the kiss doesn’t last, because it turns out that Trigger Point’s human time bomb, Billy, is in serious trouble.
Billy New Mates
The police know he’s mixed up with The Crusaders (the shadowy cell supposedly responsible for the attacks) and no one can find him. When Lana finally gets through to him, he’s driven his car into the middle of an Antifa protest in Farringdon. Uh oh. But Billy seems totally clueless about why his “new friends” have asked him to come here, or why they fixed up his motor. The reason, he discovers to his horror, is to put a bomb in the glovebox, which, selfishly, doesn’t even leave space for some travel sweets. “Don’t get out of the car!” Lana instructs him, something that feels fairly inexplicable at this point but will shortly become much more explicable. Instead, the cops want him to drive two miles through central London (a journey that would take me about an hour) to a playing field, where damage from the blast will be minimal. To make things more exciting – and you have to praise the bomber for his focus on the UX – a countdown timer springs to life, giving Billy just a few minutes to get out.
He pulls up in a playing field, surrounded by armed police. Lana, despite being on leave, goes in to handle the bomb. She becomes convinced that the timer is a decoy and tells Billy not to get out of the car (how, she says, could the bomber know where he’d be when the timer runs out, so it must be a trap to get him to exit the car; though, surely, the bomber has exactly the same problem with using the timer as a trick to get him to trigger the door switch, no?). Billy – God bless him – tries to listen to his big sister, but he’s only human and can’t face spending another second in a parked Vauxhall Cavalier. He gets out and goes boom. Exit Billy.
Lana is now dealing with another trauma, another dollop of grief. This second bereavement makes her oddly horny (who am I to judge?) and she tups Karl in his workshop. Let’s hope it was worth it because, with a rapidly depleting pool of suspects, she’s going to feel doubly rubbish if it turns out that Karl, the car mechanic, had a hand in slipping that bomb into Billy’s souped-up whip…