Bodyguard s1 ep 5

*SPOILERS*

I sat down to watch this fretting a little: it feels like we’ve only just begun this story, but next week it’s going to end! What will we watch then?! That question hasn’t yet been answered – I might write about the decidedly underwhelming Press another day but, put shortly, it’s definitely not going to fill the gap left by Richard Madden and co – but plenty of others were last night as Bodyguard, as conscious of the limited time it has left as I am, starts to draw together a number of its mysteries and begin to solve them, mostly through the medium of Sgt David Budd actually telling people stuff he knows. Or making other people do the same. It’s good to talk.

All this communication means that Budd and the fundamentally decent, straightforward Raybourn start to trust each other – up to a point, I mean, there’s still the Thornton Circus sniper problem to come out, and that’s going to eff everything right up – with the clear, speedy results of their collaboration bringing even the (understandably) reluctant Sharma on board. And it also means that poor, maligned Tahir is posthumously exonerated using a combination of science, logic and brute force – “It’d be redundant for me to say I know where you live.” (Heh.)

The talking doesn’t end there, either, as Budd – having essentially googled his way to the heart of the conspiracy, which you’d think maybe should have been a teeny bit more difficult but hey-ho – also starts to trust Sampson and Craddock, finally reading them in on the “Kompromat” and, having nudged Nadia into a not entirely reliable identification, setting everyone on the trail of the surprisingly hands-on Longcross. I mean, if I were in his position, I’d be sending different, not-quite-as-identifiable minions, possibly wearing beards and sunglasses, to do my dirty work each time instead of constantly wiping my own face off CCTV, but that’s just me.

So far, so things are going swimmingly(ish) for our hero. But the Security Service isn’t exactly going to roll over and just let itself be caught murdering a cabinet minister, so Longcross does some talking of his own, dishing the dirt on the “intimate unprofessional relationship” between Budd and Julia (who still appears to be dead, sorry Jed) as he, Penhaligon and everyone else tear around looking for the Tablet that Almost Brought Down the PM, rightly surmising that Budd might know exactly where to find it. Oh yeah, and – enter, pursued by a Range Rover! – Chanel is a gangster’s moll/honeytrap and might not be called Chanel at all.

Unlike episodes 13, there’s no immediate, terrifying threat of carnage and mass murder but, like ep 4, this one is no less gripping for it. And, unlike 4, you could almost fool yourself – if you squint, and hope really, really hard – that Budd might come out of this sort-of-ok? Till the man loses the one thing keeping him in check: he’s finally removed from duty (in fairness, he did shoot himself in the head), stops trusting anyone, and – midway through the process of procurement of a PSL, aka a semi-automatic rifle, from a shady fellow in a dark alley for purposes as yet unexplained but likely to be alarming – storms off with the unmistakable scent of “Going Rogue” heavy in the air. This isn’t going to end well for him, is it? But what a fantastic journey it’s been for us thus far – I’m not sure I’m ready yet for it to end at all.

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Bodyguard s1 ep 4

Spoilers

“What”, asked The Guardian the other day of Bodyguard, “does its mix of politics, terrorism and sex have that other series don’t?” Well, yes. The clue might be in the question. The first three episodes, certainly, were as much Boabyguard as Bodyguard. (I know that joke doesn’t travel well, but it’s all I’ve got.) To that I would add – and it’s a point I’ve made a gazillion times before – that appointment TV only becomes a thing when you have episodes at regular intervals, ideally one per week, rather than letting viewers “binge” (ew) at their own pace. There’s little which has given me more pleasure over the past few weeks, than reading the complaints on social media from people who’re unhappy with waiting a week for each new episode. A week. Come on, folks. We’re not children.

So Bodyguard is a ratings and critical success, and thus far both have been well-deserved. On the other hand, it’s a British drama, which means the ever-present possibility that it will run out of steam soon enough. The most recent example of that phenomenon is the bewilderingly overrated Keeping Faith, which started brightly enough and would have made a good two- or three-parter, but which instead was stretched into eight increasingly pointless episodes. The scenery was nice, though.

Will Bodyguard hit the same wall? Well… maybe not. This fourth episode, dealing with the consequences of episode 3’s bomb blast, was never less than compelling, although it was undoubtedly less thrilling. As we wait to discover whether Julia has survived, Mike Travis happily slithers into her place as acting Home Secretary, immediately handing back control of the investigation to the police, much to Anne Sampson’s joy. (This might be controversial, but I’m firmly of the view that, thus far, the best acting performance in the show is being given by Gina McKee as the magnificently ambitious but inscrutable Sampson.)

David Budd (the excellent Richard Madden, becoming a star before our very eyes), meantime, is unravelling. He’s being pursued by the dogged detective duo Sharma and Rayburn, who have noted that since David took over as Julia’s PPO she’s been the target of two assassination attempts. The first narrowly failed; but, as we learn during the episode, the bomb has succeeded. She’s been killed. Budd’s response to this is to shoot himself. And at this point I was thinking: wow, taking out both of your main stars halfway through a season within a few minutes is quite a baller move.

Except… David isn’t dead: the bullets in his gun had been replaced with blanks, by someone as yet undetermined. And so, despite the fact that Sharma and Rayburn are convinced he’s hiding something – which, of course, at a bare minimum is undoubtedly true of his relationship with Julia – he’s allowed to interview Nadiya, the suicide bomber from the now-famous train scene at the start of episode 1. The theory is that whoever was behind the assassination of Julia was also responsible for the bomb that Nadiya was strapped to. Unhelpfully, Nadiya can’t be certain about who gave her husband that bomb.

But we do have suspects. We’ve seen slimy political advisor Rob handing Tahir the briefcase which is presently presumed to have been carrying the bomb, and Rob and Mike Travis have the sort of elliptical conversation which strongly implies that something dodgy is going on. Then there’s mysterious Richard Longcross, whose presence in the hotel Julia was staying in has been entirely erased by someone from the hotel’s CCTV. 

And there are things we haven’t seen. What happened to that sacked PA who disappeared into the big car in the first episode? What was actually in that briefcase? Who do all the documents from episode 3 refer to? And, most significantly of all, we haven’t actually seen Julia’s corpse. She’s not dead, is she?

Bodyguard s1 ep 3

*SPOILERS*

We hadn’t intended to review every ep of Bodyguard but since it’s turned out to be something of a unicorn in tv terms – not only are both Jed and I watching it,  but so is most of the country – it seems daft not to throw in our tuppence-worth. I mean, I did sort-of-comment on the second episode last week but let me expand on that quickly, just for the sake of completeness: I was a bit taken aback at how quickly two really attractive people, working super-closely together, in an incredibly intense, high-pressure environment, having just barely escaped with their lives due to one of them being a (hot, damaged, and did I mention hot?) superhero, jumped into bed with each other. Then I read that sentence again.

Anyway, the car/sniper sequence was electrifying. Which means episode 2 is now neck and neck with episode 1 in the Best Way to Give CJ a Heart Attack Award stakes. (One for the end of year poll?)

With all these absolutely thrilling extended set-pieces in the first two instalments, however, it’s perhaps not entirely surprising that episode 3 takes its foot off the accelerator in terms of breathless action of that kind and concentrates mostly on breathless action of other kinds instead. By which I mean there’s a lot of sex, mostly as a means of control – the, er, “trouser” scene was a bit much for me. But at least Julia and David seem to be enjoying themselves. (Till she tries to surprise him in his sleep, that is. Bad. Plan.)

Personally, I could have done with more shooting and less snogging, but that’s no reflection on Keeley Hawes and Richard Madden (and the gratuitous shot of his butt) who make it work. It’s interesting at least – and brave, given this is traditional prime-time BBC1, not HBO – to have a woman in the unapologetically, matter-of-factly dominant, more powerful role for a change. And in fairness, although the audience (ok, I) may be slightly distracted by the sex, the show isn’t: everybody (including and especially our two leads) is manipulating everybody else, and as Julia, her aides, that fellow Mike(?), the Secret Service and the police all try and screw each other over (in less carnal fashion than Julia and David) the question isn’t whether it will end badly, it’s more whether there’s anyone at all for whom it won’t.

All this intrigue, sexual or otherwise, just isn’t quite as visceral or as gripping as episodes 1 and 2, though, so it’s just as well that, when I begin to get restless, and in need of yet another one of those heart-in-my-boots action sequences, the show obliges. It’s obvious from the moment Shifty Rob pulls out of Julia’s St Matthews appearance that he’s setting Tahir up, and that something terrible is going to happen there. And so it does. Who’s dead? I don’t know. Who’s responsible? I have no idea. But I really want to find out. This third episode may not have been as good as the previous two, but the acting and the last ten minutes mean it’s the most exciting thing on the box right now. I’m hooked.

Bodyguard s1 ep 1

At a time when Muslim women and how some of them choose to dress are the subject of particularly vicious scrutiny and prejudice from a lot of people, politicians and press who should know better, it’s not ideal that a lady in a hijab is the potential villain in the first episode of Bodyguard. In fairness to the show and the writing however, Jed Mercurio’s Bodyguard isn’t interested in pandering to prejudice – it’s looking to find its real villains in the corridors of power, and although some people will undoubtedly come away from the show still secure in their own prejudices, they’re very much choosing to miss the point.

As are the people who seem to be complaining about the number of women in the show, period. WTF is wrong with them? Trying to answer that will get me nowhere though, so time to get off my soapbox and get reviewing: Bodyguard opens with perhaps the most nerve-shredding, terrifying twenty-five minutes I’ve seen on TV since Game of Thrones. I don’t want to spoil too much of the train sequence but it is magnificently executed and almost unbearably tense, and I may have come close to having some sort of cardiac event during it. My GOD.

If every other second of the ep were terrible, it would still have been worth it to see that twenty-five minutes, but the rest of Bodyguard is also excellent, with a different kind of tension and unease pulsing throughout. Richard Madden is brilliant cop and army veteran David Budd, scarred by his experiences in Afghanistan, suffering PTSD, and just about managing to suppress those feelings in order to protect hawkish Home Secretary Julia Montague (Keeley Hawes). For now. It’s a career-making performance from Madden: even in the middle of acts of extreme heroism, his Budd is never less than visibly, desperately human, with compassion, determination and gut-wrenching fear all playing out across his face at once. Hawes’s Julia is much more closed-off, however, as befits her character, and it’s never entirely clear which way their relationship is going to go. There are some lovely moments between them – the apology, the shirt moment (you’ll know it when you see it), the summary dispatch of the Chief Whip – but there’s also the abiding, unshakeable feeling that David is about to go very wrong, very soon. I hope he doesn’t – one ep in, and I already really, really care about this character – but either way, this is a superb start to the series and an excellent way to kick off the BBC’s autumn drama season. I’m not planning to review every ep but I’ll maybe do a round-up at the end and we can see if the rest of Bodyguard lived up to its terrific first ep.