In the Watch This Next column, Man of Many takes a look back at a great TV show or film that may have slipped under your radar. Given the near-limitless entertainment options in the Netflix era, it’s easy to overlook amazing content in favour of the latest hit. For every Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad or Stranger Things, there’s another thing equally worthy of attention and we make the case for why you should watch it and where you can find it.
“If you had a hand in her death—you’ll have me to answer to.“
– Sergeant David Budd.
Netflix’s Bodyguard, perhaps you’ve heard of it—no, not the 1992 film starring Whitney Houston with a 34% rating on Rotten Tomatoes—it’s that show your mate keeps saying you ‘have to watch’. And you bloody should, cos’ it’s truly fantastic although, admittedly, not without its flaws. Starring Richard Madden as Sergeant David Budd (who took home the globe for his performance) the Bodyguard has something for everyone: political espionage, marital disharmony, betrayal, raunchy (milfy) sex, high-tension bomb disposal, emotional breakthroughs and a surprising emphasis on the unpredictable nature of mental health.
Reader’s beware: major spoilers from here on out.
The bodyguarding bit
Bodyguard opens with a seemingly innocent train ride. Budd and his two cute-as-a-button kids are on their way to visit their Mum, whom Budd recently separated from. David’s spidey-sense starts to tingle and he gets up to investigate, after noticing that someone shady went into a cubicle some time ago. The doors open to a devastating scene. A hysterical woman of Muslim appearance is strapped to the hilt with explosives, her thumb excruciatingly close to the trigger button—it’s fucking electric for the next 20 minutes, but Budd manages to talk her down and she’s taken into custody. As a direct result of his good work, David is promoted to bodyguard a prominent politician. And that’s all in the first 20 minutes of the season.
While you’ll find that the political landscape in Bodyguard is convoluted, luckily, the plot isn’t. David, now home from Afghanistan, is assigned to protect the Right Honourable Julia Montague: a controversial, supremely right-wing politician who is trying to pass a bill that would infringe on the privacy of everybody in Britain. For the sake of the common good of course.
Budd is more than a bit conflicted due to her role in sending himself and his comrades to die during the Afghan conflict. Throughout the first couple of episodes, there is the definite presence of a vibe that he’s going to straight-up murder her. Luckily, he goes another route and they fall into bed together and embarking on what is surely a sexual harassment clusterfuck, to say the least.
Not to put the cart before the horse but the problem I had with this relationship was that aside from the #bodyguardthirst, was that there wasn’t much in the way of a tethering point between the two. Sheer loneliness seemed a bit lazy from a writing perspective and whilst Budd’s battling #bodyguardthirst senses and very present hatred for his charge provided some intrigue, I couldn’t help but feel that although there was smoke, no fire burned.
The edge of the edge of your seat
As the show goes on we learn that Budd is an alcoholic, or at the very least, bordering on it. His refuge from his confusing work life and troubled home life is grabbing a beer with a fellow veteran, Andy. But furthering Budd’s bad luck streak, Andy, having failed to convince David to do the deed, decides to try and ‘off’ Montague.
It’s at this point, Bodyguard does it again—another absolutely brilliant high-tension action sequence. As Montague & Budd make their way to the next political event, their car is rained down upon with tactical precision. For a majority of this scene, the camera stays in the car, capturing the total fear of those trapped inside. Budd holsters up his guns up and handles the situation. This only furthers the now raging #bodyguardthirst.
Almost in spite of the shows clever plot, well-executed character work and confident cinematography is the presence of the borderline over-the-top, but completely delicious action. Designed to put you on the edge of the edge of your seat is some John Wick level action choreography that puts the explosions in Bad Boys to shame. While the show is admittedly powered by Richard Madden’s aching performance, I have a suspicion that even if Michael Cera was the lead your eyes would be glued to your screen at the sheer spectacle of it all.
The romance continues from here and then all of a sudden, quite early on, Julia Montague is assassinated by way of timed explosion. I remember sitting cross-legged in my lounge room jaw-open and wondering how the hell the show was going to go on from here—not since Game of Thrones has a show had the guts to off a lead character with such gusto. Post-Julia, or Bodyguard Part 2, is essentially an extremely nerve-wracking whodunnit with everybody as a suspect, ending with a standoff to end all standoffs.
The unnecessary second-ending
Bodyguard does such an excellent job of interlacing its various elements: you have a corrupt security service, along with your essential bad copper and some good old-fashioned organised crime which make for a great baddie reveal. Even David Budd himself would have sufficed. So WHY DID IT HAVE TO BE A MUSLIM NETFLIX??!???!? Do better than ‘it was the muslim woman on the train all along’.
It would have been far better if they had left it as is—the writers had already done enough, why reinforce a stereotype when you’ve already unveiled a beautifully interwoven system of corruption and a rotten UK political core? This may not bother you, and by all means, the show is still worth watching, but ultimately ‘Homeland’ does a good enough job of blaming it on the Muslims all on its own.
The Brits do it better
The Brits just nail the cop-drama formula. Walking amongst the likes of Luther and Wire in the Blood, Bodyguard is a more than worthy addition. It speaks to the UK’s ability to bring a complex story and law-enforcement environment to life—please, please Netflix; do not tarnish this excellent show with an over-acted, unnecessarily over-funded American knock-off.
Well-written (for the most part), superbly acted and cut to perfection, Bodyguard is the ideal weeknight glut, perfect fodder for your ‘just one more episode, I don’t need to be alert in that meeting tomorrow anyway’ struggle.