Being the most watched BBC drama since 2008, peaking with 11 million views on its final episode, Bodyguard was a serious TV hit this past month. Created by Jed Mercurio, Richard Madden (or Robb Stark for all those Game of Thrones fans out there) perfectly embodies a quietly traumatised Scottish ex-soldier. Then becoming the bodyguard to the Home Secretary. Keeley Hawes is similarly suited to playing her role as Julie Montague. The faux TV appearances on the news or in House of Commons are scarily believable. Incarnating that well-spoken, political coldness. A number of other recognisable actors litter the screen, but it’s really Richard Madden who takes centre stage as his character David Budd. Here, we find a man we truly sympathise with, despite his flaws, as he remains soft-hearted beneath his stern exterior. And beyond than that, deeply troubled.
Bodyguard tackles large social issues with admirable subtlety. We implore David to face his past and talk about how he feels rather than bury it to manifest into bouts of rage. But in keeping with society’s traditional masculine attitude, he of course refuses. Yet it’s this, alongside his subsequent realisations and the ultimate finale, that condemn dangerous views that men must shut away their feelings. Especially when plagued with PTSD, like Budd.
As well as these important messages, we also receive a genuinely suspenseful drama. Constant shock-moments erupt between masterly built tension, without going too far. Mercurio doesn’t overdo the drama to the point its being shoved down your throat. Just as he does with his allegorical themes. This way a certain depth is still achieved. Though there are definitely many plot points, exciting events and narrative shifts, we are still always brought back to our protagonist. Whether his relationships, his past or his clearly unstable emotional state, David remains our primary concern with an excellently executed character arc. Invested emotionally in the story, the entertainment side (bombs, blood, sex and car chases) act not as a foundation but simply additions to an already strong storyline.
David dissuading a suicide bomber, planted on the same train his children are on, means we are swiftly enveloped into the grip of suspense within the first episode. This is a state we remain in for pretty much the entire series. Unless of course, our heart strings are being tugged by various emotional pulls. Our initial James Bond-esque expectations are subverted by the second episode, as Mercurio explores the corruption of the law-enforcing offices through Budd’s suspicious eyes. Constantly swapping and changing our minds on ‘who’s the bad guy’, we are truly kept entertained, gripped and given a hell of a plot twist in the concluding ten minutes.
I would highly recommend Bodyguard to anybody who was a fan of ITV’s Broadchurch (2013-2017) and/or BBC’s Line of Duty (2012-). Or perhaps simply looking for a relevant, thrilling and surprisingly moving drama.