Updated: Nov 14, 2018
A taut, riveting political thriller that you'll want to watch straight through in one sitting.
Streaming on Netflix | 2018 | TV-MA | 1 season, 6 episodes
Genre: action, political thriller, suspense
Why I watched: This show is right. up. my. alley. As I've confessed previously (and often), I'm a sucker for a good action show. Especially when it involves espionage and a glorious Scottish accent (thanks, Richard Madden). The show is like a juicy steak, cooked to perfection. I consumed it, dare I say, gleefully. Indulgently. With great relish.
You might also like: Bodyguard reminds me of The Shooter, also on Netflix, starring Ryan Phillippe. (Shooter is okay; Bodyguard is much better.) To see Richard Madden in his two most iconic—and very different—roles, stream Disney's live action version of Cinderella from 2015 for $3.99 on Amazon. Yep, you guessed it: he's Prince Charming. Or watch him as Robb Stark in Game of Thrones on HBO (but do yourself a favor and just, like, skip the Red Wedding). Lastly, bonus round: Watch ole' Rich as a sizzling celebrity DJ in Netflix's Ibiza for something totally different!
Don't say I didn't warn you: this series is *highly* binge-able. I turned it on the other night thinking I would just try it out for a few minutes as I was folding laundry before bed. Nope. Three hours later, I had to wrench myself away from Netflix. I'm obsessed.
I'm not the only one. Bodyguard originally aired weekly on BBC One in Britain, but its ratings grew so rapidly and exorbitantly after the first episode—only the World Cup garnered more viewers than the finale (!!!)—that shortly after it finished airing Netflix picked it up to stream in the U.S. There are a couple of theories about the show's somewhat unexpected popularity. First, Richard Madden's performance as David Budd, the military veteran-cum-personal protection officer to Britain's Home Secretary (a conservative politician who makes no apologies for the UK's military action in the Middle East), is superb. Among other things, he's a master of the expressive jaw muscle and stormy brow. Second, the first episode's extended bomber-on-a-train sequence is so incredibly riveting that there's no possible way to watch it and not want more. (These two explanations are not mutually exclusive.)
Bodyguard is curious. It's common—expected, really—for today's fictional bodyguards, cops, and bouncers to have done tours in Iraq or Afghanistan, and Budd is no different. Yet while Budd is quite typical of other similar characters (he has PTSD, a broken marriage, physical scars, and complicated feelings about his service and politics), the show is not. It's a favorite device of action movies now, especially those that feature a complex, wounded main character who's a veteran, to include wartime flashbacks. But Bodyguard never does. Instead, we're left to gather the context for Budd's psychological state and outlook from tiny tidbits and hints here and there. The show doesn't even try very hard to build mystique around his psychic or physical wounds; it's just a foregone conclusion that he has them.
I love that the show doesn't try to make us understand how he ended up where he is, and that it doesn't make a tired effort to moralize. Without that, we're left with something much more compelling: just a person. We have to make judgments about his judgement based only on his actions in the moment. Wondering until nearly the very end whether or not Budd's motives are pure is the crux of the show.
Bodyguard is riveting from start to finish, even in its slower moments. Between the many plot twists and turns, there's an undercurrent of suspense which bubbles up so intensely at times that I found I was holding my breath. I could say so, so much more about the decisions the show makes—especially the way it plumbs the depths and the tiny nuances of mental illness—but I don't want to give anything away. So please, let me know what you think once you've watched, and we can have a nice long chat about it!
Happy Suspenseful streaming, Grace