BBC One’s Bodyguard: Nation On The Take

From the makers of Line of Duty comes Bodyguard. It tells the story of David Budd (Richard Madden), an Afghanistan war veteran turned police officer suffering from PTSD. Working as protection for high profile people as part of of London’s Metropolitan Police Service, he is assigned to the over-zealous, ambitious Home Secretary Julia Montague (Keeley Hawes). Knowing her ideologies are in counter to his, Budd finds himself split between duty and morality. Discussing themes like terrorism and corruption in law enforcement and politics, this very much the modern police drama, showing that any controversial figure’s biggest threat is those closest to them.

What I thought looked to be a show to act as filler for Line of Duty fans, turned out to be a great one in its own right. What’s more, Richard Madden can actually act. Richard Madden (Game of Thrones’ Robb Stark) as David Budd is easily one of the greatest performances of the year. But Keeley Hawes steals the show as Julia Montague. Or as I think, a very good depiction of Theresa May and her time as Home Secretary. Had Montague survived, it would have been take for take. “We’re politicians, not murderers” says Rob Macdonald (Paul Ready) and it’s sly lines like that which make one think about all the wars that have been started on the words of politicians.

Nina Toussaint-White plays Louise Rayburn in the BBC drama
(Bodyguard, BBC One)

Episode one starts with Budd confronting terrorist Nadia (Anjli Mohindra). “Politicians, cowards and liars. Ours and theirs. People full of talk but will never spill a drop of their own blood. We’re just collateral damage” says Budd. It’s lines like this that set the precedent for the rest of the series. From beginning to end, it doesn’t let it’s foot off the pedal and it’s about time Britain is gripped by something other than Love Island and British flipping Bake Off! The pilot is like a bullet, with an incredible opening twenty minutes of pure suspense… mesmerised with Budd thwarting this bombing on the train. It’s so good you don’t notice it absorb one third of the episode’s runtime. 

In a country rife with Islamophobia, Bodyguard does a good job of not vilifying Muslims like Homeland did. It shows that White people are just as capable of these acts. Look to the United States as an example with their school shootings (terrorist acts) where the perpetrators have been mostly White. Bodyguard shows the terrorists within government passing legislation, over zealous MPs pressing buttons. It shows what they will do to cling on to their power. RIPA 18 was described as “a snoopers’ charter to monitor phone calls, emails and social media without judicial review”, not too dissimilar to what former-president Bush did with Patriot Act after September 11, 2001.

Keeley Hawes as Julia Montague is brilliant, sensual and truly terrifying
(Bodyguard, BBC One)

Bodyguard talks whistleblowers, freedom of information and the power of the media, mimicking the likes of Edward Snowden, Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning, pushing audiences to question what they believe. Bodyguard is fiction but more times than what is comfortable, it takes this Orwellian look at our world, dabbling into political nonfiction and that’s frightening. Episode five brings us the assassination attempt, showing Montague that her actions in government are hurting people in their homes, where they walk, and sleep, and she does not care. She’s ambitious, radical and out of control, a rabid dog that won’t stop until someone takes it out with a bullet (very nearly).

Besides the blinding social commentary and sharp writing, there’s an amazing supporting cast: it starts with Gina McKee as Ann Sampson, a character who I could never quite work out. Honestly, I thought she was a snake. Throughout, she looked guilty, until the last episode. Even now, I look at these characters and there is no one who is good. There’s just people who are not bad. Sophie Rundle (Jamestown) as Vicky Budd and Vincent Frankin (Happy Valley) as Mike Travis deliver, as does Nina Toussaint-White as Louise Rayburn (the only genuine copper). Saying little, Michael Shaeffer as the ghost Richard Longcross (what a name) was an experience to witness in action.

Ann Sampson (McKee) walks into a room and there’s suddenly a huge shadow
(Bodyguard, BBC One)

Madden is seen to most as a bland pretty boy but Bodyguard shows he can act, exploring hidden depths I want him to revisit. Budd’s past: haunted in the fog of war, a man drowning in alcoholism and a stranger to his family. Nonetheless, this show is a study into soldiers trying to acclimatise in unfamiliar surroundings; it studies politics and power, leaks and agendas in law enforcement. And quite frankly it is one of the best shows to air on BBC One in the last fifteen years.

Pure drama