Bodyguard (Season 1, 2018)

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One night, while riding the train home with his kids, David Budd, an Afghan war Vet, and Bodyguard, discovers a bomber in the bathroom. After an extremely tense standoff, David manages to talk her down, and save everyone onboard. This leads to him being labeled a hero, and getting a new assignment; protecting Julia Montague, the Home Secretary. Julia’s a very unpopular politician, with plans to introduce a highly controversial, Patriot Act style bill into law, which would basically give Parliament access to everyone’s personal information. As a result, she needs protection from just about everyone, terrorists, organized crime, etc. David doesn’t initially like her, seeing as she’s pro War, and he knows, from first-hand experience, how brutal, and, in some ways, pointless, the conflict is. But after someone tries to assassinate her, they inexplicably start having an affair, and he starts doing some digging of his own, uncovering an elaborate, albeit very silly, conspiracy.

Bodyguard is a series I’d heard nothing but good things about, and the clips I’d watched on YouTube seemed tense and well acted. So when the show hit Netflix, I sat down and binged all six, hour-long episodes. And, having done that, I can say that, on the strength of this shows performances and action sequences alone, it’s worth a watch. This is a coiled, riveting suspense thriller with some of the best set pieces I’ve seen on TV, or anywhere for that matter, in a long, long time. There are three in particular, one on the train where David is talking down a bomber, one in a car where David is protecting Julia from a sniper, and one in a park where David has a bomb strapped to his body (don’t ask, it’s a spoiler), that really stand out. As many issues as I have with this show’s story, these sequences are so well constructed, and so terrifically acted that they kind of make up for it. And speaking of the acting, Richard Madden as David Budd is fantastic. In case you don’t recognize his name, he played Robb Stark on the first three seasons of Game of Thrones, where, let’s be honest, he really didn’t stick out. If you were to ask most people, the only thing they’d probably remember about him is the fact that he died in The Red Wedding. Here, however, he steals just about every scene he’s in. Not only does he believably capture the precision and physicality of this soldier turned bodyguard, but there’s many scenes where he has no dialogue , and has to emote with just his eyes. It’s fantastic. There’s been some talk online of him maybe being the next Bond, but I don’t, personally, see that. As you all probably know, I’m not a fan of the franchise, and think it should be discontinued. But, beyond just that, Madden’s thick Scottish accent and rougher features make him seem more like a down-to-Earth, working-class hero, like a Cop, vigilante, or rebel, than a spy. I could see him as William Wallace. But I’m getting sidetracked.

Like I said, the show’s action, and acting, carries you through the series, even when the plot gets silly, and the characters make dumb choices. Those positive features aren’t always enough to save the story, though. Sometimes the writing really does take you out of things. For instance, something that happens a lot in this show is characters just not telling each other the truth, when it would be so easy to do so, and there’s no reason for them not to. A primary example of this is when David finds out that the sniper who tried to assassinate Julia is a guy who he served with in Afghanistan, and he neglects to tell the cops that, which, as you might imagine, comes back to bite him in the ass. Now, there’s no logical reason for him to withhold that information; he had nothing to do with the assassination attempt, and his knowledge of this guy’s affiliates and connections could probably have helped the investigation. It’s literally just the writers forcing him to not act like a rational human being so that he can become a suspect later on. This is a very old, very bad, storytelling device, where characters don’t speak in complete sentences, or just don’t say what they mean, so the plot can advance, and I think it’s long past time we got rid of it. Something else that bugs me is the fact that I’m really not sure what, if anything, the show is trying to say. It’s clearly a political series, but what its political leanings are, I couldn’t tell you. On the one hand, it appears to be a liberal program, with women being shown in positions of power, the legitimacy of the war in Afghanistan being questioned, and issues of privacy and profiling being brought up. On the other hand, the Conservatives are ultimately vindicated in their fear-mongering about Muslims, with all the terrorists being of that faith, and the Tories’ calls for stricter policing and borders being supported by the end. It seems like the show runner wanted to have it both ways, to appeal to liberal TV critics to get them to like it, but also play to the racism of a more Conservative audience base. But what really bugged me about the show was the ending. When you find out all the facets of the conspiracy, all the people who were involved, either directly or indirectly, it just becomes silly.

So, in the end, Bodyguard does have strong qualities, such as a terrific cast and excellent suspense. And I do, ultimately, think that those things, coupled with the shows short length, make it worth watching. But some of the writing gets contrived, and the message of the series is very unclear. Make of this what you will.

 

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