A hurtling train full of innocent bystanders, a suicide bomber in the bathroom, and an experienced ex-soldier turned police officer there to save the day. This is how Netflix’s new British thriller series, “Bodyguard,” begins. The show, created by Jed Mercurio, premiered on BBC on Aug. 26, 2018 and broke UK rating records before arriving in the United States via Netflix on Oct. 24. A tense action-thriller, the story follows Sergeant David Budd as he is assigned to protect Home Secretary Julia Montague amidst a national terrorist conspiracy.
From the beginning, the show delivers the promised suspense with a powerfully written and character-driven pilot. David Budd, played by “Game of Thrones” Richard Madden, is quickly revealed to be a complex, yet sympathetic, man. The tense tone is almost immediately established. The final episode shares a similar nail-biting brilliance to the first and though some of the middle episodes lose some of this tension by comparison, overall the directing, acting, and writing is pristine.
The genre of action-thriller may lend the impression of a fast-paced, shoot-before-you-think show. “Bodyguard” is quite the opposite of this. While it has plenty of bombs and guns, the true action occurs slowly within character conflicts and national politics. Having Sergeant David Budd, a relatively low-level official, as the lead allows the show to accomplish this. Through Budd, the nation-wide events are funneled into a tense, more personal experience ripe not only with action, but drama as it explores Budd’s PTSD, family issues, and conflicting loyalties. While this perspective sometimes results in a slower speed of events than seems necessary, the tension of each episode’s final sequences and the ultimate finale ensures it is worth the wait.
What the show truly excels at is keeping the audience pondering the loyalties of the characters. Within its six episodes, loyalties are rarely clear until the last moment and the true antagonists are always in doubt. The show is not afraid to take risks, killing characters off unexpectedly and implementing seemingly pristine characters in scandal. However, the plot twists never seem fraught or overdone. Perhaps due to the brilliant characterization and slower pace, the twists are continuously refreshing and, for the most part, surprising
If politically tense action, complex characters, and the fictitious nationwide terrorist conspiracy are not enough to launch “Bodyguard” unto the platform of great shows, then its sheer number of women in power will. Among others, the Home Secretary, the Commander of the Police and Budd’s direct supervisory officer are all women, none of whom sacrifice their femininity in order to seem accomplished. Rather, they are authentically powerful women who are just as complex as their male counterparts. The only issue that “Bodyguard” truly suffers from is the slowness of its middle episodes, which consist of too many extended shots dedicated only to people’s facial expressions and glances. However, these middle episodes are thankfully maintained by the brilliant acting and characterization of its cast.
Altogether, “Bodyguard” is a tense and suspenseful series. It is beautifully written, continuously surprising, and has an incredibly strong pilot and closing episode. Led by stand-out lead Richard Madden, it is an attention-demanding series well worth the watch.