9.5/10 – Madden and Hawes pair up for a compelling deep dive into terrorism, corruption and political intrigue
“Nothing complicates my job. It’s to protect you.”
As much as Sergeant David Budd (Richard Madden, Game of Thrones) believes this to be true, things get complicated very quickly during the events of Bodyguard, a six-episode series created by Jed Mercurio that premiered this month on Netflix.
While the show first premiered in August in the U.K. and garnered a whopping 10 million viewers during its finale episode, the most ever recorded, the buzz surrounding the show and the audience’s response exploded ahead of its release on Netflix. After watching the series myself, it’s easy to understand why it became the newest “water cooler” show in the U.K. – these Twitter reactions are proof. Unfortunately, we don’t necessarily get that same effect with it premiering on Netflix in the U.S., but it’s a binge-worthy show, that’s for damn sure.
A contemporary political conspiracy thriller, Bodyguard opens with Budd returning to London via a train with his two kids, Charlie and Ella. Things immediately kick up a notch when Budd discovers an alert has been put out for a potential terrorist threat on the train and he discovers the suicide bomber in the toilet. He, unsurprisingly, puts himself in harm’s way in order successfully negotiate with the suicide bomber, a young Muslim woman that goes by the name, Nadia (Anjli Mohindra). Long story short, he saves her life and protects his kids and the innocent civilians on the train – all in the first 20 minutes of episode one. His actions draw the attention of his superiors and he’s assigned as the PPO (Personal Protection Officer) for Julia Montague (Keely Hawes), the U.K.’s Home Secretary (think Secretary of Defense).
Montague, expertly portrayed by Hawes, is constantly in the spotlight for her impassioned beliefs regarding terrorism, stances on homeland security measures and her controversial defense bill, RIPA-18, which looks to expand the scope and legality of civilian surveillance, much like our own Patriot Act after 9/11. A well-known politician and intimidating member of Parliament, Montague is deemed a threat by many in and outside the U.K. government, and she becomes a target for scrutiny and snipers.
We also learn early on that David is a war veteran who served as part of the British Army in Afghanistan. He doesn’t talk about his time in the Middle East, but it’s made abundantly clear that Budd suffers from severe post-traumatic stress. Like we’ve seen before with situations centering on mental illness, both in media and in the real world, he continually refuses to converse with a counselor or get treatment of any kind. He’s afraid that by admitting his demons he’d lose his professional standing, but his inability to face what the war did to him and what it’s still doing to him and his family has caused a rift between him and his wife, Vicky (Sophie Rundle). Layers are in place here to keep whatever happened between them vague, but there are no sides. Viewers are meant to feel sympathetic for both David and Vicky, not point blame one way or another.
Add in Montague’s consistent support of military involvement in the Middle East, which David discovers through some simple Google searches, and their inexplicable sexual attraction to one another, and you’ve got a stellar drama. David’s position as Montague’s bodyguard is at odds with his own personal experiences, wants and beliefs.
There isn’t too much else I can say without going into spoiler territory, and believe me, you don’t want me spoiling this series for you. There are twists, turns, heartbreaks and even moments where you need to tell yourself to breathe. Bodyguard is expertly crafted and increasingly layered. It doesn’t really give you a moment to try and put the pieces together and its sense of emotional storytelling, subtle character development and beautiful cinematography work extremely well together to keep you engaged. The threat to Montague increases early on and the stakes for David rise ever higher with each episode, all while you’re sitting back and trying to figure it all out, determine who’s behind it all and whether David can be truly trusted.
And this is where the heart of the show lies, in Madden’s portrayal of David. He’s strong, yet vulnerable and more often than not it feels as if David Budd’s the only one with a real, remarkable humanity within. A flicker of emotion across his face makes you pay attention to the littlest of things and his use of a simple word like “ma’am” (mum) forces you to decipher what Budd may have truly meant in each moment. Hearing that word over and over again would’ve easily become tiredsome and annoying, but not with Madden’s delivery.
There are times where you’re sure Budd’s been the one behind everything and then there are others where you’re sure he’s the true victim of it all. Madden’s subtlety is a huge part of why the thrills (big moments) and chills (intimate moments) throughout this entire series are so impactful. The final episode alone shows you the immense range he has as an actor and I dare say, it may be one of my favorite episodes in everything I’ve seen so far in my life.
Full of political intrigue, conspiracies run amok and emotional tension that’ll leave you breathless, Bodyguard is a rollercoaster of surprising moments and unexpected reveals. If you’re looking for a good political thrill, you’ve got it. Want some action-packed scenes? It’s here. Just need an emotional release? I cried more often than I expected.
But don’t ask me how they crammed so much into six hour-long episodes… I have no clue. Just make sure you watch it!