TV review: Bodyguard, episodes one and two, Sunday and Monday, BBC1, 9pm, CONTAINS SPOILERS)
PUBLISHED: 09:17 30 August 2018
Writer Jed Mecurio is the master of tense dramas that keep you on the edge of your seat. In this new political thriller, he leaves us wondering whose side we should be on - are we Team Sociopath or Team Psychopath? In more important news, DEREHAM IS A GUEST STAR.
Forget political intrigue, timely social commentary and tightly-drawn characters: DID YOU SEE THE MID NORFOLK RAILWAY STATION?
While Bodyguard’s lead may be hardwired to notice tiny details in his surroundings which set off his Spiderman super-senses and alert him to possible danger, I am hardwired to notice any link to Norfolk or Suffolk when I’m watching TV (on which note, praise be to GBBO for giving me an easy season).
I knew that Bodyguard had scenes filmed at the Dereham station, little did I realise that we’d see it almost immediately: thank you, Jed Mecurio, thank you, and while I’m at it, your new primetime drama isn’t too bad either. In fact, it’s really very good.
Mecurio has a habit of offering viewers unpalatable truths about the institutions set up to protect and care for us: he’s done it with hospitals and police stations, now he’s moving into the politics of protecting the nation against the threat of terrorism. Thorny territory, but full of potential.
Afghanistan war veteran David Budd (Richard Madden) is now a policeman for the Met, which clearly hasn’t picked up the fact that he’s suffering from raging Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and is as jittery as a newborn giraffe on an ice rink when put under stress.
We meet him as he’s travelling on a train IN MID NORFOLK (although it’s pretending to be somewhere else) when he spots something strange – we normal humans would have seen (a) a man on a platform (b) someone has been in the train toilet for a sinisterly long time (c) a guard checking for tickets but while we’d just be wishing we’d brought a tin of air freshener or not had that last bottle of water, David has realised the train is under attack from terrorists.
Leaving his sleeping children in the care of a complete stranger, David whispers sweet nothings in the guard’s ear (“operational firearms commander with special protection”) and then sets up camp outside the loo, waiting for the terrorist to finish having a tinkle.
Within 15 minutes, David has saved the entire train (including the terrorists), shown himself to be a superhero and got the kids back to their mum’s in time for bed – it’s only later that we realise that Budd isn’t quite the controlled automaton he appears to be.
When he’s commended for bravery and ‘rewarded’ with a position protecting Home Secretary Julia Montague (Keeley Hawes), we swiftly realise that she’d be better off if she was being protected by Jaws. In a swimming pool. While she was holding a side of beef.
Budd has flashbacks, regularly meets up with wild-eyed fellow veteran and conspiracy theorist Andy (Tom Brooke) for miserable chats about who to blame for Afghanistan, is unhappily separated from his wife Vicky (Sophie Rundle) and lives in the darkest flat in Christendom. He’s a dab-hand at a white wash, though, as he proves when he strips off to offer Julia his shirt when her assistant showers her in coffee.
David is conflicted, torn between wanting to do a great job by protecting his charge and wanting to kill her. A bit like parenting, but with more firearms.
No one likes Julia – her aide calls her a sociopath, Andy says she’s personally responsible for every war veteran’s death/PTSD, her ex-husband froths with fury in her presence and she’s got a photograph of herself with David Cameron in her living room just in case any of us felt a bit sorry for her.
Both she and Budd live alone and are lonely, one might be a sociopath the other might be a psychopath, it’s no wonder that when she buys him a bag of chips he ends up having a very unprofessional tumble in the sheets with her not once, but twice.
To be fair, the pair have just escaped an assassination plot masterminded by Andy who passes the torch to David as he commits suicide in front of him when the latter has tracked him down to his vantage point where he’s been taking pot-shots at Montague’s car.
Nothing hastens the path to Bedfordshire and a spot of illicit fumbling like almost being turned to Swiss cheese by a machine gun after you’ve been sprayed in your driver’s blood and body parts: be still my beating heart.
David wasn’t feeling quite so romantic when he discovered that Montague had concealed the fact that she’d known his children’s school was a potential target for terrorists BEFORE an HGV sped towards it packed with explosives, but there are always secrets in relationships, it just so happens they tend to be a bit bigger when your love interest is the Home Secretary. She did speed up the application to move his son to a new school, though, so it wasn’t all bad.
And then, if things weren’t complicated enough, his boss asked, nay ordered, him to spy on him and we discovered that it’s possible the police stood down during the assassination attempt, leaving both Budd and Montague as sitting ducks.
Ah autumn: season of mists, mellow fruitfulness and dramas from Jed Mecurio. God speed episode three on Sunday.