Hollywood may have all the money in the world, but Great Britain is the home of masterful storytelling in the English language. This year’s breakout hit on the BBC, Bodyguard, delivers on everything it promises, then adds a few more elements we didn’t expect
As usual, no spoilers ahead.
Showing now on Netflix, Bodyguard tells the story of DS David Budd (Richard Madden), a veteran with PTSD who finds himself playing multiple roles in terrorist plots happening all across London. His heroism in the series opening lands him an assignment protecting Home Secretary Julia Montague (Keeley Hawes). And that’s all I’m going to tell you about the plot.
At six hour-long episodes, this first series is a self-contained story that leaves the possibilities for the second series wide open. But don’t wait until the next series to launch before diving into the first. It’s fully resolved by the end in an almost too-neat ending. Intended to be a standalone mini-series, its popularity has sparked calls for expanding it. At this point, that seems like a foregone conclusion. Madden is set to meet with show creator and writer Jed Mercurio later this month.
Bodyguard is grittier than most BBC dramas, tackling a wide range of issues in a short period of time. PTSD, terrorist motivations, police state politics, inappropriate relationships, conflict between government departments, and how all these things affect a single cop make for a dynamic story of intrigue delivered in a not-so-tidy wrapping of personal turmoil. This is the story’s strength; we know there are many demons plaguing the main character, but we don’t know which ones will win in the end.
Perhaps lost in the mix of politics and espionage is a strong whodunit that allows us to follow the evidence and sift through red herrings until the last episode’s climax when all is revealed. They didn’t just answer all of the questions we were asking. They answered a few questions we didn’t know to ask.
Madden handles the role like a seasoned actor beyond his years. Known mostly for his portrayal of Robb Stark in Game of Thrones, the 32-year-old actor opened more eyes and started further speculation that he’s the frontrunner to replace Daniel Craig as James Bond after the 25th movie is finished.
One of the things that separates British and American television is an uncanny ability to utterly surprise without pulling things out of left field. With British surprises, we can look back and wonder why we didn’t see it coming all along. Oftentimes American television surprises leave us asking, “what the hell just happened?”
There are other qualities in which American television excels over British, but delivering the right shockers at the right moment without leaving us scratching our heads is a very British trait and Bodyguard delivers it expertly on multiple occasions.
If you’re looking for something you can binge in two or three sittings, six hours of Bodyguard is right up your alley. Exciting at the right times, methodical at others, it’s a drama that deserves attention.