Homeland, 24, Quantico, Designated Survivor. There is no shortage of television shows about counter-terrorism on the air today. Perhaps it is our real-world fear of terrorist threats that has caused the genre to be so popular, or maybe the subject just makes for good television. Whatever the case may be, Netflix decided to bring the hit British counter-terrorism drama Bodyguard to American audiences, and while the market for these juiced-up cop shows is certainly saturated, Bodyguard delivers on all the hype it has received from British audiences.
Bodyguard tells us the story of soldier turned London special protections police officer David Budd (Richard Madden). The first episode wastes no time in getting the action started as Budd intercepts a terrorist train-bombing attempt while off duty with his children. Budd’s calm and collected handling of the situation and prevention of any casualties not only makes for an incredible opening sequence to a show, but also earns Budd a promotion. This promotion stations him as personal bodyguard to Home Secretary Julia Montague (Keeley Hawes). For Americans who have no idea what a home secretary is, it is essentially the British version of the secretary of state.
Once Budd transitions from police work to the even messier world of politics, the show truly begins to show why it got such high praise in the U.K. Bodyguard delivers political drama akin to that of House of Cards, detective work reminiscent of The Wire, and plot twists on the level of Westworld. Each episode manages to deliver in all three of these aspects as well. Bodyguard is only six episodes long, and each episode gets the most out of its hour-long runtime, unlike most American network dramas, in which audiences are treated to “filler” episodes. The idea of having to wait a week in between these episodes, which consistently have cliffhanger endings, is a frightening one. Being able to binge one episode after another helps Bodyguard’s viewers keep up with its fast-paced plot.
Madden’s performance as Budd, unfortunately, has its highs and lows. In some shootout scenes, we are treated to an emotional, yet focused, special agent who commands the audience’s attention. In other scenes however, Budd is more of a mindless lackey just rolling with the witty dialogue other politician characters throw at him. Madden has proven his acting chops in his work as Robb Stark on HBO’s Game of Thrones, but his mediocre performance in Bodyguard was a real letdown. While he succeeds as an action hero, he lacks the charisma of a Jack Bauer, which would make his character so much better.
The better acting performance comes from Hawes, whose portrayal of cold-blooded politician Julia Montague is chilling and eye-catching. Montague is highly targeted by terrorists and the media alike for her aggressively militaristic beliefs. Montague also stands to represent our real-world beliefs in an age of increasing technology and decreasing privacy. Montague’s character provides the intrigue and mystery that helps propel the show to such high levels of tension.
The only problem with Bodyguard is that its subject matter isn’t exactly off the beaten path. Police calling out to each other in code the audience cannot understand, office melodrama, family problems for the hero—audiences have seen all of this time and time again. Having said that, Bodyguard delivers a powerful and unpredictable plot that makes the audience overlook these clichés as it cruises from being successful in the U.K. to becoming an American hit.
Featured Image by Netflix