In the 1992 smash hit film The Bodyguard, Kevin Costner has to fight his feelings to stay professional while assigned to look after and protect a very famous woman. Going by an almost identical name some 26 years later, the bound-to-be smash-hit BBC TV series Bodyguard has a very similar premise. Except here, the feelings that professional security detail Richard Madden has for the very famous woman he has to protect are much, much darker…
There are no long, lingering looks, slow dances to old country songs or cosy lakeside snogs on the cards here in this new Sunday night thriller, though. It looks as though the main dilemma facing Sgt David Budd, an ex-soldier trying his best to mask his worsening Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, is whether to actually keep Julia Montague, the Home Secretary, safe at all.
Only you see, Montague, played with the kind of icy aloofness that Spooks and The Missing’s Keeley Hawes does so effortlessly, isn’t hugely likeable. She’s rude, uncooperative and described at one point (actually at two points) by her aide as ‘a sociopath’. Fiercely ambitious, Montague has her eyes on the top prize, like so many sly cabinet members. Throw into the mix that she takes a particularly pro-war stance and she’s a walking target that the battle-fatigued and disillusioned David is less than enthusiastic about keeping safe.
So why is he even in the job? Well, his boss assigned him the position of being a ‘personal protection officer’ as a reward for his bravery. We start Bodyguard with a quite incredible scene that creates some of the most taut and exciting drama we’ve seen on television – or even in the cinema – for a long, long time. It’s an opening twenty minutes (yup, that’s a good third of the entire maiden episode – confident or what?) that glues you to your seat and slowly ratchets up the tension to almost dangerous levels. Seriously, this opener isn’t recommended for anyone with high blood pressure.
In it, we find David Budd and his children heading to London on an oddly comfortable-looking and on-time train service. The man’s so sharp and observant that even while dozing he spots suspicious activity, steps in and eventually foils a terrorist plot to blow the train up. Showing extreme bravery, he puts his life on the line to save the female suicide bomber. He’s just as desperate to see her walk out alive as he is to have the bomb deactivated. He’s a veteran of Afghanistan and has, he explains, seen enough people die ‘for stupid causes and politicians’.
So you can see the irony in his promotion. His quandary is ours too. We’re asked to consider the predicament along with him. What would we do if we were tasked with putting our life on the life to protect someone we hated…?
Of course, you don’t need us to tell you that there’s a wider subtext here. There may have never been a bigger chasm in the ‘us vs them’ mentality between the public and our elected officials. How we deal with the way we’re governed by people that many of us distrust or even despise is an interesting idea to weave into a drama like this. And if there’s anyone who can do it, it’s Line of Duty’s Jed Mercurio.
Budd, we discover, is struggling in his personal life too. He may be the hero of the hour, but he’s estranged from his wife and children and his PTSD isn’t helping. This is a TV drama, so obviously he’s battling a wee problem with the bottle too. But that’s where the cliches end. The man seems, at least in this first hour, to be a fascinating character.
He’s an emotional fellow, still in love with the mother of his children who’s slowly backing away from him. He’s razor sharp at work, as tough as he is brave and smart. He navigates situations with an assuredness and adeptness that’s wonderfully illustrated in a scene where he needs to engineer an abrupt end to a conversation between Montague and an aggressive Chief Whip, who ignores his suggestion that the pair move inside a building where it’s safer. “Call off your monkey,” the Whip barks at Julia. “I’m mixed race,” fires back Budd. Which instantly ends the conversation. “Are you really biracial?” Montague later asks him. “No…”
He’s also a man on the edge. Scarred – physically and emotionally – he’s a ticking time bomb. Is he going to be the hero or the villain of the piece? In this debut hour, it’s all but impossible to tell and we can thank not only Mercurio’s writing but Madden’s excellent central performance.
Strap yourselves in, folks. We’re in for a ride here. It’s only an episode in and we’re already pretty sure that we will always love Bodyguard.
Did you tune in for Bodyguard episode 1? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Still catching up on Bodyguard episode 2? Read Steve’s review of episode 1 here.
After having barely recovered from the manic and nerve-shredding first hour of television’s most gripping new drama, we were instantly whacked with another thumping episode of it. Following on from Sunday night’s tense and stunning opening jab, the next Bodyguard hit us on bank holiday Monday like a huge uppercut, completely flooring us. Thankfully we’ve got a count until next Sunday to get up off the canvas, dust ourselves down and recover. And we’re going to need it.
Sometimes a TV drama will really explode out of the traps (sorry, that’s two sporting metaphors in a row, isn’t it?) and demanded the audience’s attention. Often though, it then calms down and gets into a steadier flow, usually saving up much of the drama for a big finale. Not Bodyguard, though. After its maiden episode dazzled us with incredible tension and high drama, we expected a little serenity. We were not to get it. If anything, things got even crazier in this second episode. Then again, they were always likely to, really.
Let’s not forget that this new Richard Madden and Keeley Hawes-starring series is written and created by a certain Jed Mercurio, the de facto king of high octane and unmissable UK TV drama. Line of Duty used to grab us all by the collective throat and squeeze harder and harder until we were all left on the edge of our seats, virtually breathless. The man’s unique identifier? An ability to create television that’s commanding, thrilling and presented in a way that makes it wildly unpredictable. All while maintaining a rigid veneer of realism. It’s some feat.
That frenetic opening salvo left us with a hacked-off David Budd stewing over his position as personal protection officer to the rather unpleasant and war-mongering Home Secretary Julia Montague. A meeting with ex-soldier friend of his Andy Apsted (Preacher‘s Tom Brooke) seemingly pointing us in the direction that David could be convinced to exploit his close proximity to Montague and assist in an assassination attempt on her. Yet when bullets start raining down on her and him as they drove down a busy London street – in what was another almost impossible dramatic and heart-thumping scene that wouldn’t have looked out of place on the big screen – David put his life on the line to protect her. The power of a contract of employment, eh?
This wasn’t even the only or first impressive theatrical set piece of the episode, either. We’d earlier seen a chase involving police in pursuit of a large van destined to plough straight into a primary school playground. A primary school playground where David’s children were playing… This was no coincidence, either. After his train-based heroics in the opener, Budd is now a target for the terrorists behind the attack. The children were unharmed in the end, but a shocking explosion still killed plenty of counter-terrorism officers.
That’s now three action sequences in the first two hours that all come out of nowhere, build up tension expertly and never once leave you sat there smug, safe in the knowledge that you know what’s going to happen. When David tracks down the sniper that pinned him and Montague down in their car, we discover it’s his forces pal Andy. Before taking his own life, he reminds David that he’s the only one capable of stopping Julia’s ascent to Prime Minister and the carnage overseas that will follow her bagging such a promotion.
David’s willingness to take a bullet and arrest an old friend surely shows loyalty towards his employer, right? Well, perhaps. Especially when you factor in that the stress of the shoot-out seemed to drive David and Julia into each other’s arms. Cue a steamy hotel session. And then another one. But wait…
By the time the second liaison took place, Budd may well have been co-opted by Gina McKee’s devious and plotting police anti-terror head honcho Anne Sampson. Could David’s eagerness to provide particularly ‘close cover’ to Julia be part of a rouse to earn her trust so he can better spy on her? Perhaps it goes both ways, though. Is Julia seducing David to get him on side and render him incapable of speaking out about her conduct? Did Sampson leak the intel about David’s kids’ whereabouts so she could leverage the situation and have him side with her in her battle to take down the Home Secretary…?
Things have gotten more than a little edgy, political and psycho-sexual here. We’re dealing with Line of Duty + The Bodyguard x Basic Attraction. And we’ve no problem with that at all.
Did you tune in for Bodyguard episode 2? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Still catching up on Bodyguard episode 3? Read Steve’s review of episode 2 here.
With last Sunday and Monday nights’ quick one-two punch and episode 3 unfolding just one short week later, it’s not taken us long to get to the halfway point of Jed Mercurio’s twisting, turning and nerve-shredding new drama Bodyguard. We won’t be the only ones sad to see the back of it, either. A not inconsequential nine-odd million people tuned in to watch the opening hour of Specialist Protection Officer David Budd (Richard Madden) and Home Secretary Julia Montague’s (Keeley Hawes) dramatic and steamy entanglement, with plenty more viewers catching up later in the week. It’s safe to say that the thing’s a hit.
The first two hours of Bodyguard were so incredibly tense and tightly plotted, there was little choice but to ease up somewhat here in this third part. The viewers’ nerves wouldn’t have been able to take the strain. Not that the drama remained dialled down for long. As you might expect from the writer and creator of Line of Duty, a big action scene rounded off Sunday night’s episode, with another assassination attempt on Montague, this time via a bomb. One that David couldn’t help stop.
The explosion left Julia unconscious and a shifty-looking line-up of suspects waiting nervously in the wings. Being a much-hated and war-mongering political figure akin to glamorous President Trump certainly encourages enemies. And Julia has those in spades. Who was behind the carnage at St. Matthew’s College? Well, at this point, it could be any one of this shifty lot:
● Julia’s vile and seemingly racist advisor Rob Macdonald (Paul Ready)
● Her new young PR adviser Tahir Mahmood (Shubham Saraf)
● The Director-General of MI5 Stephen Hunter-Dunn (Stuart Bowman) and his rather unpleasant underling Longcross (Michael Shaeffer)
● Gina McKee’s shady and stony-faced Police Chief Anne Sampson
● Julia’s ex-husband the current Conservative Party Chief Whip Roger Penhaligon (Nicholas Gleaves)
● A Veterans for Peace member like ‘Adrian Smith’?
● The Minister of State for Counter-Terrorism Mike Travis (Vincent Franklin)
● A police officer gone rogue
● One of the protestors at the speech
● ISIS – Can’t believe we nearly forgot about those…
At this point, anyone and everyone could be involved. We could even be looking at the possibility that the explosion was a false flag attack, given how useful Julia would find surviving yet another attempt on her life. It would certainly gift her far more sympathy for her path to Number 10 – and justify her hard line on terrorism and privacy.
Shows like Line of Duty and Bodyguard don’t half make you paranoid.
Before the bomb, we had a full fifty-odd minutes of action-less drama. That’s not to say that they weren’t dramatic, though – far from it. Every time David reaches for his listening device to spy on Julia through the walls of their adjoining hotel rooms, your heart heads straight to your mouth.
Why? Well, Bodyguard is a sharp drama that knows how to ratchet up the tension. But also because we’re starting to warm to the previously quite unlikeable Ms Montague. To this point, there had been a feeling that her affair with David may well have been an elaborate ploy to win his trust, but it’s clear that both have real feelings for one another. Call us olds romantics, but we can’t help but hope they get it together properly.
Their relationship certainly makes things tricky for David. His feelings for Julia have him lying to his police bosses about what’s he’s uncovered on her, and to Julia about his true intentions. His loyalty to his family has him bending the truth to them about his worsening PTSD. His knowledge of the sniper assassin has him fibbing to the IPCC about what happened on the rooftop. The man’s under some serious strain.
It’s all heating up nicely, isn’t it? And it’s only going to get better, we’re sure of it. With the writing on the button and crisp, clear direction in every scene, how can it not? We’re enjoying Madden’s performance here a lot, but it’s Keeley Hawes that utterly dominates the screen. The woman is a titan. Strong, devious, clever, vulnerable, formidable, sexy, frightening, warm, she manages to pack a frightening amount into her character here, while keeping her realistic. One minute plotting the blackmail of the prime minister, the next minute indulging in pillow talk with a lover.
She’s an ice queen. A red-hot ice queen.
Did you tune in for Bodyguard episode 3? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW. Still catching up on Bodyguard episode 4? Read Steve’s review of episode 3 here.
About 25 minutes into the fourth episode of Bodyguard, we find out that Keeley Hawes’ stern-but-sexy Home Secretary Julia Montague is dead. She’d died of her injuries following the shock explosion at the end of the previous week’s drama. Less than ten minutes later the other main star of the show shoots himself in the head.
With two and a half hours of the drama still to go, we were left with the prospect of both main characters dying within minutes of each other. It was only the previous episode we were watching them ripping each other’s clothes off. With ten million viewers now tuning into Bodyguard, what better way to shock one-sixth of the entire United Kingdom, eh? But all, as is so often the way with these things, was not as it seems…
David, we soon discover, did not die from his self-inflicted gunshot. Not because he’s an incredibly poor shot, but rather because his rounds had been secretly swapped for blanks by someone without his knowledge. Further proof to a conspiracy and a let-off for the grief and guilt-ridden personal protection officer.
What’s behind that guilt exactly, though? Well, it appears – to all intents and purposes – to be down to his feelings for Julia. But David is coming under some suspicion due to the high number of attacks on the politician he was supposed to be protecting. As Counter-Terrorism Command Detective Chief Inspector Deepak Sharma (Ash Tandon) puts it, “this is the second attempt on the Home Secretary’s life. Both times you were the PPO. Either you’ve got rotten luck mate, or it’s a coincidence.”
We’re expecting plenty more twists and turns to head our way across episodes 5 and 6, so we won’t be hugely surprised to find out that Julia perhaps did not die as we so casually found out here. We didn’t see her die, after all. Nor did David. We’ve not seen her body. Nor has David. We suspect it’s a rouse of some sort.
Or maybe she is dead. And David killed her somehow. Or her assistant did. Or one of her work rivals. Or the Secret Service. Or ex-husband. Or the head of the Police. Or terrorists. Even with this fourth outing been a more reflective and less frenetic hour of drama, we’re still pretty murky on the details of exactly who’s up to what. And, let’s face it, given the people behind are the scenes are those responsible for Line of Duty, we’re not likely to find out until Bodyguard’s no doubt shocking and revelatory finale in a fortnight’s time.
If Julia really is dead, that’s the plot thread of hers and David’s relationship killed rather abruptly. As is the story involving her clawing her way to Number Ten. And, well, any and all things concerning Hawes’ character.
Looking shadier than ever before is the now acting-Home Secretary, Mike Travis (Vincent Franklin). He clearly has everything to gain from Montague’s removal from office/life. Don’t let that little ‘tache/roundy specs combo trick you, he’s a slippery one, for certain.
Episode 4 here might not have featured the action sequences, the tension or the steamy sex scenes of previous instalments of Bodyguard, but it did feature plenty of intrigue and kept the plot rolling apace. It also introduced a weirdly Shakespearean subtext.* Two doomed lovers from different words, one ‘dies’, one attempts suicide. One’s called Julia (Juliet), with Montague as a surname. Alright, so that was Romeo’s last name, but there’s a little wryness there in the script, no doubt.
While we’re throwing out conspiracies and getting a little paranoid, we’re still harbouring a slight inkling that David Budd could be some sort of Manchurian Candidate here. His oddly blank stares could be indicative of fugue-like states and that whole waking up and strangling Julia thing was very odd and tonally a bit off. Has David been programmed in some way? Alright, so it’s not overly likely, but we like it as an outside bet.
Questions need to be asked about who David’s ex is now seeing too, that seems to be a plot thread as yet unyanked on. And let’s not forget the aide who was sacked in episode 1. Her exit in the 4×4 was strange, surely that was something. Especially as the man (her boyfriend?) who picked her up appeared to be at the Veterans For Peace meeting not long after.
*If you really want to dive down the Shakespeare rabbit hole, there’s a ‘Sampson’ in Romeo and Juliet and Bodyguard – a Capulet servant and Gina McKee’s Anna. As well as a character in the play called ‘The Nurse’, which is the job of David’s ex-wife.
Oh, you want more? Okay, Richard Madden has played Romeo at the Globe Theatre before landing his role in Game of Thrones.
Coincidences? Perhaps. Perhaps not.
Did you tune in for Bodyguard episode 4? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
WARNING: contains spoilers. Still catching up on Bodyguard episode 5? Read Steve’s review of episode 4 here.
In keeping with what’s been a wildly unpredictable series thus far, Bodyguard really did kill off the Right Honourable Julia Montague MP last week. There have been so many twists and turns in this hit Sunday BBC drama in its short run that the general feeling out there in TV Land was that she wasn’t really dead. After the bomb blast during the Home Secretary’s speech put her in hospital and she ‘succumbed to her injuries’ off screen, many of us had suspected her death may have been faked. But no, she’s definitely dead. We think.
Definitely still alive though is Sgt David Budd. He’s alive and everywhere. Despite still very much being a suspect in the investigation and an unpredictable PTSD sufferer, David spent the majority of this fifth episode running around London in full-on answer-demanding sleuth mode. It was only at the end when his involvement, attitude, suicide attempt and generally all-round inappropriate behaviour saw him put on enforced temporary leave – and that’s before his colleagues have even discovered his links to the sniper of the roof.
Back to the death of Ms Montague and David’s obsessive need to find those responsible. It seems we’re looking at two main suspects – the police and the secret service. A good deal of this week’s slice of Bodyguard was David figuring out the importance of Julia’s secret tablet and the ‘kompromat’ (compromising material) therein. As such, suspicions have now turned to intelligence assets working for the Prime Minister. The blackmail info being about the PM’s personal life.
But didn’t the intel come from those shady spooks in the first place…?
Maybe it’s not them, then. Or it is but for another reason. Perhaps it’s Gina McKee’s police chief Anne Sampson who we previously suspected. Or the acting Home Secretary. Or, well, anyone. At this point, the list of suspects has by no means been whittled down at all. The bomb could have been planted by almost anyone. Except, it seems, Julia’s slimy advisor Rob McDonald. As snivelling as he is, events here seemed to absolve him of any responsibility. For her murder, anyway. He’s still a treacherous little toad.
Everyone’s a suspect, basically – except perhaps the helpful and caring SO15 officer Louise Rayburn (Nina Toussaint-White). Or David’s wife. Or his young children. That said, if we’ve learned anything from watching the writer’s previous series Line of Duty, it’s to expect the unexpected. So while we’re not saying it’s likely that an eight-year-old killed the Home Secretary… We’re just saying that, y’know, it’s possible.
Remember in the opening episode when Julia fired her PR girl in rather unceremonious circumstances? Her dramatic exit left many viewers scratching their heads and awaiting her re-emergence as a suspect or plot point, and it came here. She orchestrated ‘bumping into’ David and flirted with him somewhat suspiciously, tipping him off into looking closer into her. She works for, it transpires, a gang of rather big-time crooks. Presumably her role was to get close to Julia and sabotage the RIPA bill to help her privacy-hungry bosses out.
In truth, this penultimate episode dragged a little in places. Don’t get us wrong, we love Bodyguard and can’t wait for the no doubt enthralling final slice next week, but it’s now two weeks in a row we’ve been served up slightly ‘talky’ hours of the series. Ordinarily, that’s no problem. But the first three episodes threw so many genuinely thrilling action sequences at us that we’ve been left a little wanting of late.
Roll on the sixth and final part, though. It looks as though David’s all lined up to take the fall and be Lee Harvey Oswald to Julia’s JFK. Unless he can solve the mystery and collar those truly behind the bomb…
Next week is time for answers. The plot has thickened over these past five weeks so much it’s basically concrete now. Here’s hoping episode 6 smashes it into a thousand pieces.
Did you tune in for Bodyguard episode 5? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS. Still catching up on Bodyguard episode 6? Read Steve’s review of episode 5 here.
“Who’s that?” “Who do they work for?” “Reckon it could be her behind it all?” “Who’s that bloke?” “What’s he doing that for?!”
If there’s one thing a Jed Mercurio drama does, it’s make you ask questions. Going into this sixth and final big slice of the Line of Duty writer’s latest wildly successful new BBC drama, Bodyguard, we had more than a few questions that demanded answers, including:
– Is Julia really dead?
– Who’s behind the RIPA ‘18 conference bombing?
– Who swapped out the bullets in David’s gun?
– Who’s dodgier – the security service or the police chiefs?
– Is David secretly a bad guy?
– Will we be left with a cliffhanger?
– Will there be scope left for a follow-up series?
– Is it just us that always thinks David calls female superiors ‘Mum’?
More than ten million Brits tuned in to see if they were to get all or some of those questions answered on Sunday night. It’s safe to say that Bodyguard has been the kind of runaway smash hit that commissioners dream about. Not since perhaps The Night Manager or Broadchurch has the UK public been treated to such unmissable and discussion-worthy watercooler telly. Did the sixth of the country that watched Bodyguard episode 6 get their answers? Well, yes. And no. But mostly yes.
Let us explain.
A lot has been said already – by us and plenty of others – about just how surprising this series has been. There have been twists and turns at every corner and just when you think you know how to read the thing and get into its flow, the rug is pulled on you once again. We started Bodyguard with two frenetic episodes of action; as though we were living in Robert Ludlum’s world of Jason Bourne. Then things got seriously steamy between Keeley Hawes’ Julia and Richard Madden’s David Budd (think less Ludlum and more Jilly Cooper). Then sad, then action-y again. Then they killed off one of the leads. After all that business, we had two full episodes (4 and 5) of plotting, espionage, detective work and exposition. Few people could predict what the finale would have in store, though…
And what was in store? Well, it turned out that the answer, very briefly, was this: ‘A little storyline, an almost insensibly long real-time(ish) ‘action’ scene, a baddie reveal, another much more surprising baddie reveal and then a quite sweet little bow-tying ending.’
Pedants and fans of detail may have winced slightly as the credits rolled, however. Quite a few of the smaller plot points and teasers went unanswered and there were more than a couple of times we were asked to suspend our disbelief or gloss over finer points. Only, rather than explain exactly what had been going on these past five weeks, Bodyguard instead opted to cover the basics, but return to its roots of high drama, dedicating more than 40 of its 75-minute running time to a scene when David had to negotiate his way out of a suicide vest.
Compared to the opening episode’s bomb-on-a-train action scene, the van attack on the primary school, the Thornton Square shoot ‘em up and the Home Secretary-killing bomb blast, this one was built on tension rather than incident, gunfire or explosion. For the most part, it worked – but to be brutally honest, there were times where the scene dragged and the high drama dipped into low drama and almost to the point where we considered making a cup of tea without even bothering to pause the TV.
As we theorised in our review of episode 5, this big finish was all about David being set up as a convenient fall guy, a patsy. His – and in turn our – job was to work out who was behind it all. As it turned out, facilitated by our protagonist’s very own boss, Lorraine Craddock’s (Pippa Haywood), organised crime boss Luke Aitken killed Julia Montague to stop her pushing through her Snooper’s Charter-style bill. In a bid to keep the law off his organisation’s back. And that was that. Well, that was almost that, anyway.
While this reveal made sense and seemed to make sense, it wasn’t quite satisfying enough. There was a distinct feeling that we’d been let down a little. We were served up nearly three-quarters of an hour of Richard Madden walking backwards through a park and fiddling about with masking tape, only to be told that it was just that meathead in the 4×4 and his manager in collusion. It’s not enough to get anyone writing into Points of View, but it felt ever-so-slightly disappointing.
Until the real twist…
Of course, there had to be another surprise. We’d been daft to assume otherwise. We knew who planted the bomb. We knew how they got away with it. But we didn’t know who was making and supplying the bombs, did we? Who could it be? Well, in true whodunnit mode, they picked out an early character we all inherently trusted and could never suspect. Who David inherently trusted and could never suspect… Nadia, the ‘suicide’ bomber from the first episode’s opener. Shamed by her inability to blow herself and the train from the opening week to smithereens, Nadia ‘atoned’ by making David’s children’s school the next target and creating further IEDs. She wasn’t just the weak and pushed-around little wife we’d all dismissed her as. She was a true Jihadi. Albeit one who admits to her crimes a little too easily.
Nadia, Luke and Craddock in prison, Longcross and his boss out of work, we wrapped things up with David taking some much-needed downtime with his family. But only after a quick and seemingly miraculously visit to Occupational Health (what an advert for work-based therapy that was, eh?).
Bodyguard will be back for a second series, of that we’re almost certain. Julia won’t be there. And nor, we suspect, will David Budd. Our suspicion is that an anthology could be the future of the show. Here’s hoping for a flip reverse with a female bodyguard protecting, say, a male rock star, perhaps?
Our suggestions for casting? How about Keeley Hawes and Richard Madden?
Did you tune in for Bodyguard episode 6? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!