Bodyguard, the binge-worthy BBC terror-thriller concludes this week, but there’s plenty of reasons to get up to date before the finale.
Bodyguard is the hot new show that everyone is talking about. It has bits of everything you could want in an action-thriller, but when things move past the ‘intro’ stage it essentially becomes a gritty crime drama. It centers around the Royalty and Specialist Protection branch of London’s metropolitan police. Its main character, David Budd (Richard Madden – who you have seen on GOT as Robb Stark), is a decorated, but damaged, war veteran that works for the specialty division, and who is put in a serious ethical dilemma; battling whether or not he should follow his duty or his beliefs. He must protect Julia (Keeley Hawes), the powerful and dangerous Home Secretary, who is in direct opposition of these beliefs, and who is also exceptionally hard work.
Here’s 5 reasons why you need to watch Bodyguard in its entirety before the whole plot of this week’s highly anticipated finale is blurted across the internet…
Amazing First Episode.
The first episode grips from the kick-off, with an absolutely ball-tearing opening sequence. It focuses on the attempted bombing of a London train on which the main character and his children have boarded. It takes up an entire twenty minutes, a whole third of the pilot episode’s hour-long running time.
An early sense of uneasy quiet quickly builds to almost sickening levels of suspense in a set-piece superbly orchestrated by veteran showrunner Jed Mercurio.
We know Richard Madden’s highly capable character, David Budd, is going to survive – he’s the series co-lead after all. Still, you never know with this show – anyone could die at any time for any reason. The fact David’s kids are on the train adds an incredibly heightened element of suspense to this whole introduction.
We don’t want to give much away. All we will say is that it is by far the best episode of the series so far, and is well worth a watch.
Unpredictable Storyline, Great Star.
Knowing that decorated writer/director Jed Mercurio is willing to take serious risks, just like he has on other shows (Line of Duty, Bodies), gives the show a sense of unpredictability unlike other English crime dramas.
Quite often Bodyguard conveys a tremendous amount of emotion with barely any dialogue, and the atmosphere is so thick with tension it can be enjoyably stifling.
Besides the sharp scripting and deft direction, Bodyguard’s key hook is Madden’s incredibly believable performances in the lead role. In the wake of Game of Thrones he ran the risk of being dismissed as ‘pretty, but bland’ – as he literally played Prince Charming – but Bodyguard sees him displaying previously unseen depths, and he breaks any potential type-casting.
Commandingly professional and powerful when the job requires it, but also painfully vulnerable behind the confident facade, Madden’s ‘Budd’ is a multi-layered and flawed James Bond without the bells and whistles.
Solid Backstory, Worthy Antagonist.
Budd’s backstory – haunted by visions of war, drinking the pain away, a strained relationship with his estranged wife and kids – could veer on cliché, but the performances of Madden and Sophie Rundle as his wife Vicky lend a raw authenticity to a somewhat familiar set-up.
She might describe herself as a “total cow,” but Keeley Hawes’s Julia Montague is a formidable and believably frosty antagonist, with some heart. You don’t know whether to love her or hate her. The moral balance afforded by Mercurio (he’s on record as saying he sides with neither character) and natural charm of Hawes allow you to like her just a little, even as Bodyguard simultaneously tees up suggestions that it could be Montague herself who poses a more significant threat to David than the terrorists.
A lesser show would focus entirely on the sexual tension between the two, as opposed to the genuine belief-orientated tension that Bodyguard brings into play – as she constantly voted in favor of military action in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he, a decorated veteran who fought in the Middle East, has a problem with that. A rather large one, it seems.
It’s frustrating that by the close of the first episode we still don’t know what Bodyguard is truly about, and who is good and who is bad – but this ironically just makes you come back for more. You know all will be revealed in time. All the same, viewers are left wondering if the story is essentially that of a fractious relationship between two very different people with very different views, or of an unstable man plotting to kill a high-ranking politician?
Great Twists Throughout.
There’s numerous twists and turns in Bodyguard, but an obvious standout is when Julia is mercilessly attacked in broad daylight and David must protect her at all costs.
Getting shot at in a bullet-proof vehicle, Julia’s twisted frame jolts as each bullet thumps into the superstructure of her armor-plated car; an image of fear that is exceptionally well portrayed. Blood, brains, screams and desperation rule the moment.
The pace with which this pivotal scene gets executed is breath-taking. We’d seen Julia and her entourage routinely driving around incident-free, always safely varying the routes, so many times that we were utterly unprepared of the sudden attack by an unknown sniper or snipers. Nothing in the previous episodes suggested this was even a possibility.
Within seconds her driver and others are dead, and the supposedly attack-proof car is careering out of control.
This is high-quality thriller stuff – possibly even more ball-tearing than the suicide-bomber-on-a-train attack in the first episode.
There is also a rollicking episode that shows a gang of suicidal Islamists trying to ram a lorry bomb into an infants’ school (where Budd’s children were in the playground). You wonder how much more spectacular the scene could have been if the BBC had the budget of a Hollywood production. Bodyguard though, from the script up, is quality TV – no extra dressings needed.
A Little Romance.
We are still perplexed by Montague’s intentions towards Budd, and vice versa. Jed Mercurio’s excellent script spins around how their uneasy professional relationship evolves into a slightly more comfortable unprofessional relationship, and things turn somewhat raunchy. Having spent the first episodes butting heads, the shared trauma of the terror attack and a certain mid-life/broken-relationship loneliness puts them both on a new plain. Is it true affection or maybe something more sinister?
Many people will welcome the romance, and many will find it unnecessary. In terms of the story, it has extreme potential to severely backfire – and hopefully does – in turn adding more tension to the whole ‘thriller’ aspect of Bodyguard. Will there be more heartache, death and betrayal as a result of the affair? Our guess is – yep. Bring it on.
Bodyguard starts strong and gets a little slow in places – but – there is a pivotal scene each and every episode, in turn somehow making it unpredictably nail-biting.
Like many contemporary English dramas, it skirts the borders of extreme political correctness, yet somehow doesn’t quite go there in its entirety. Thankfully it takes a realistic and worldly view of different social dilemma’s – not taking any sides.
As stated, it’s brilliantly put together, and breaks new ground for English episodic TV.
The show is only aired on the BBC at present, but has been snatched up by Netflix for global audiences, and will be available to the wider world from the 24th of October this year.
We aren’t going to give it a rating yet, as the final episode has not aired, but if it is not a giant letdown along the lines of Wentworth Season 6, Dexter or The Soprano’s – then Bodyguard is shaping up to be a solid 4 stars. Highly recommended.
The Bodyguard finale (episode 6) airs on BBC One on the 23rd of September 2018.