Jed Mercurio’s new six-part drama has been teased by pretty much all of the journalists and bloggers who were lucky enough to catch previews this week. He’s riding high with the continued success of Line of Duty, the next series of which was delayed Bodyguard – a timely story about trust, fear and terrorism. As promised, the first 20 minutes were edge-of-your-seat action hero stuff, but is there enough here to maintain interest for five more episodes?
Richard Madden is David Budd (looking about 600% more macho than the late lamented Robb Stark he played on Game of Thrones), a traumatised soldier back from Afghanistan. His brave and selfless actions foil a terrorist plot to blow up a train filled with passengers, including his own children. Both terrorists are also unharmed, again thanks to him. Desperate brainwashed Nadia (we find out her name a long way into her and David’s conversation – I thought textbook negotiation tactics are to get people’s names as a priority) is talked down from pressing the button on her suicide belt by stony-faced Dave. He then embraces her to keep the army from shooting her dead. Interestingly, everyone on the train ready to pull the trigger and make a mess is female. He’s in the nurturing role, caring for his children, for poor confused Nadia and trying to keep the peace. Everyone escapes, traumatised but alive. Well of course – not even Mercurio is going to blow up his main character in the first episode. Or at least, not this time.
So despite clearly needing time off to address deep-seated mental health issues, the top brass tell David he’s off on a new assignment to protect the Home Secretary Julia Montague (played by steely Keeley Hawes). He’s the dead-behind-the-eyes war hero, unable to bear his physical and mental scars much longer and she’s the politician who voted repeatedly for military action in Afghanistan. She’s the reason he was there in the first place. Is he going to act on these fantasies of killing politicians he and his mates had in the trenches? Frankly, the way he’s treated by these people in the corridors of power I think we would understand. Why on earth would you treat the people who are paid to take a bullet for you like utter shit? It’s the opposite of sensible and will almost definitely shorten your life expectancy.
Bodyguard is tense, sure, but is that enough? David is a sad cliché right now; an angry drunk with a broken marriage, unable to accept any therapy, trying to convince himself and the world everything is fine. It’s hard to tell what sort of character development we’ll get, with David and Julia both so buttoned-up and proper right now. I’m not sure what they can do with this format that’s new. If their relationship gets intimate (which swapping shirts for the Andrew Marr interview might hint at) is this going to be the UK version of Homeland? Home Secretary Land?
Will you be watching episode two? Personally, I’m not sold on it, but maybe Mercurio and team deserve the benefit of the doubt. Either way we don’t have long to decide, as episode two is on tomorrow night, and then slightly confusingly, continues one episode per week on a Sunday.
Episode 1 of Bodyguard is on iPlayer now.