Bloodlands, episode 4 recap: after that thrilling, twisty finale, could Goliath reemerge?

The revelations – and deaths – came thick and fast in a breathlessly tense climax for the County Down crime drama. Here are all the answers from a thrilling fourth and final episode.

Tom Brannick was Goliath after all

Ever since that shock gunshot rang out across Strangford Lough in episode two, we’d feared the worst: that protagonist DCI Tom Brannick (James Nesbitt) was the legendary assassin known as Goliath. So it proved. The long-dormant killer was hiding in plain sight as the officer leading the investigation. A fittingly dark twist to conclude this dense and haunting slice of Northern Irish noir.

The killer cop’s deadly secrets all came bubbling up to the surface when Dr Tori Matthews (Lisa Dwan) – illegitimate child of one of his victims and the mysterious “Goliath hunter” who’d been edging ever closer – threatened to expose him to beloved daughter Izzy (Lola Petticrew). Brannick had spoken all series of his desire to protect Izzy. He didn’t just mean from physical danger but from the knowledge of who her father truly was. 

In early 1998, during the build-up to the Good Friday Agreement, Brannick came home to find baby Izzy screaming alone in her crib. Protestant paramilitary godfather David Corry called to say that he had Tom’s wife Emma, a military intelligence agent who’d infiltrated Corry’s loyalist terror operation. If he ever wanted to see Emma again, Tom had to “do certain things” – namely take out IRA quartermaster Joe Harkin and gun-running Catholic priest Father Simon Quinlan.

As an RUC officer, Tom was well-placed to track the republican pair’s whereabouts. He ambushed them on that pivotal island in the lough, where they were awaiting delivery of a weapons shipment. He then lay in wait for Corry to retrieve the high-powered sniper’s rifles – except he arrived with Emma, who was clearly Corry’s lover rather than hostage. He shot Corry in a jealous rage before burying him alongside Harkin and Quinlan. But what of his wife?

Brannick’s wife Emma was still alive

Brannick couldn’t bring himself to kill Emma as well – she wasn’t just his wife but the mother of his one-year-old daughter, after all – so he told her to vanish instead.

He insisted he had no idea where Emma was now – presumably living under an assumed identity somewhere. Like police pathologist Justin “Dinger” Bell (Michael Smiley) said two weeks ago: “Who’s to say she didn’t engineer her own disappearance? If anyone could, she could.” So it seemed. The presumed-dead spook was out there somewhere.

James Nesbitt

James Nesbitt as Tom Brannick

Credit: BBC

Interview scenes were worthy of AC-12

As this episode began, DCS Jackie Twomey (Lorcan Cranitch) was being treated as the prime suspect. Brannick (James Nesbitt) enlisted a specialist interview team from Belfast, led by Heather Pentland (the reliably excellent Susan Lynch, currently playing another police officer in ITV’s Unforgotten). Pentland’s innocuous exterior belied a fearsome inquisitor. In a bravura 15-minute grilling reminiscent of sister show Line of Duty, she took Twomey to the cleaners. 

He claimed he’d never met murder victim Adam Corry (Ian McElhinney). She proved he had. She exposed his serious security breach in running IRA man Joe Harkin as an unsanctioned source. She probed why he had a burner phone for contacting Harkin’s widow Siobhan, despite her involvement in an ongoing case. Pentland accused Twomey of positioning himself to hinder the Goliath investigation and suppress any findings.

However, the only evidence for murder was that Goliath postcard with Adam’s fingerprint on it, which Matthews and Brannick colluded to plant at Twomey’s caravan. It wasn’t enough. Brannick began to get twitchy. 

Niamh rumbled Tom and got Twomey off hook

DS Niamh McGovern (Charlene McKenna, channelling Line of Duty’s Vicky McClure) clocked that her partner was behaving suspiciously. He was too pushy for a conviction, verging on panicky. His co-conspirator Tori kept phoning to check that Twomey would be charged. He pretended the persistent caller was Izzy but Niamh quickly realised he was lying. Even DC Billy “Birdy” Bird (Chris Walley) looked askance at the rattled gaffer.

She began to suspect he’d framed Twomey – especially when forensics concluded that the caravan lock had been forced and the postcard was from a different batch to the original Goliath calling cards. As hangdog Dinger said: “Find the person who’s got most to gain by framing Jackie Twomey.”

Niamh found a cunning way to communicate with Twomey. Taking a cuppa to the interview room, she expressed her concerns in Irish Gaelic (a joy to hear on primetime TV). Twomey advised her to look into Emma Brannick’s disappearance, putting Niamh in touch with a military intelligence contact who owed him a favour. The game was afoot. 

Charlene McKenna as Niamh McGovern

Charlene McKenna as Niamh McGovern

Credit: BBC

Wife’s disappearance wasn’t what it seemed

Emma Brannick had operated under the call sign “Green Finch”. Cross-referencing Green Finch’s files with Tom’s medical records, Niamh realised he took sick leave for that rugby career-ending hip injury around the time she went AWOL. 

Furthermore, there was a two to three-week gap between Green Finch last checking in with her handlers and Tom reporting her disappearance. It was always assumed she was the last of Goliath’s four victims. In fact, Emma was the first to go missing – and Tom suddenly took leave the next day. As a horrified Niamh told Birdy: “Jesus, this all started with the boss and his wife.”

Tom had his hands full with Tori and Keenan

Postcard-planter Matthews was incandescent when Brannick admitted they didn’t have enough to nail Twomey. Getting changed in the hospital locker room, she spotted Izzy’s owl pendant. It matched the necklace found with David Corry’s remains, which Brannick still hadn’t sent for DNA testing. Noting the significance of the “T” and “E” initials engraved on the back, she began to unravel Brannick’s web of deceit. 

Meanwhile, Brannick was ambushed by armed henchmen working for kidnap victim Pat Keenan (Peter Ballance). “Someone will answer for what happened to me,” vowed the ex-IRA man. “With or without you.” OK, Bono. He ordered Brannick to find the mystery brunette (aka Matthews in a wig). He’d await Brannick’s call and handed him a burner phone number. 

Brannick soon heard from Matthews, who’d tricked Izzy into coming to her house in the Mourne Mountains. “Don’t you touch her!” growled Tom, granite-faced to match the craggy scenery. “You have explaining to do,” Tori told Tom. “Come alone or Izzy could always disappear.” Through Dunfolan police precinct window, Birdy noticed Brannick’s frantic dash to his car. They tracked his mobile signal deep into the Mournes before he switched it off and went dark. 

Lisa Dwan and James Nesbitt

Lisa Dwan and James Nesbitt

Credit: BBC

A cottage showdown

Arriving at Matthews’ holiday home (wonder if it’s on Airbnb?), the guileless Izzy figured she was matchmaking her father with her mentor. She delightedly left them to it while she cooked a romantic dinner-à-deux. Brannick desperately tried to persuade Tori they were allies – a bit rich, considering he’d murdered her father. “We don’t have a common cause,” she spat. “You took revenge on the man who stole your wife.” 

Adam Corry had worked it all out, so Tom silenced him. “Killing Adam was the worst thing I’ve done in 22 years,” he sobbed. “I thought I’d moved away from all that but I’m still the same man.”

When the aghast Matthews learned the full extent of his crimes (“There’s a darkness in you”), she told him to hand himself in. Brannick admitted there was a gun that tied him to all four Goliath murders – the 9mm pistol he’d hidden in a trawlerman’s hut on the shores of Strangford Lough. “Leave me to tell lzzy,” he pleaded, playing on Tori’s soft spot for her star student. “It’ll destroy her.” 

When Matthews drove off to fetch the proof, Izzy blithely assumed they’d had a row. “Go after her,” she said. Except she didn’t mean it in the same way Brannick did.

Lakeside shootout took out key players

In a propulsive final sequence, Brannick turned his phone back on and made an ominous call. As the signal came online, armed police scrambled to intercept him. Meanwhile, Matthews found the fishing hut – but the gun had gone. Tom had effectively called in a hit on her. Keenan was lying in wait to take vengeance for his abduction and shot her. Brannick promptly gunned down Keenan, then covered his tracks by tossing the old warhorse’s phone into the lough, just as police arrived to discover Brannick standing over two dead bodies. 

They were quick to deduce that Keenan was Goliath. When Tori finally hunted down her father’s killer, went the story, he shot Tori with the same gun used in the other three Goliath murders. Brannick, in turn, had taken down a dangerous terrorist serial killer. Neither Niamh nor Twomey seemed particularly convinced by this version of events but the latter wanted the case tied up neatly and it all fitted.

So Brannick had assassinated three people in 1998, not the four that police assumed after Emma disappeared. Now he’d coldly killed two more – Adam Corry and Pat Keenan – bringing his death toll up to five (as far as we know, anyway). “Are you convinced that Keenan was Goliath?” asked Pentland and Twomey in his debriefing. After a pause, Brannick replied: “Yes.” The only person who knew his secret for certain had been killed and he’d pinned everything on a dead man. Job done.

Susan Lynch as Heather Pentland

Susan Lynch as Heather Pentland

Credit: BBC

Breaking news: Brannick will be back

We left Tom “Goliath” Brannick cuddling Izzy and staring out moodily at the murky depths of Strangford Lough, grappling with his guilt once again. 

Admittedly, there were narrative niggles. The logistics of Keenan’s kidnapping remained unclear. Both Matthews and the police were implausibly naive towards the end. Yet this was still a nail-gnawing, knotty and ultimately satisfying finale, anchored by a powerhouse performance by Nesbitt.

After attracting 8.2m viewers – making it the BBC’s highest-rated new drama in nearly a year and the biggest drama launch in Northern Ireland on record – it’s just been announced that Bloodlands has been recommissioned for a second series. Writer Chris Brandon said he had the idea for a sequel before this one had aired. Surely it will involve wife Emma’s return from the dead?

As one bent copper drama ends, another begins 

In the meantime, exec-producer Jed Mercurio’s own creation now takes over from its sister show in the schedules. The eagerly awaited sixth series of police corruption thriller Line of Duty premieres next Sunday in the same 9pm slot.  Mother of God indeed. See you back here to analyse all the AC-12 action.

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