Trust, or perhaps mistrust, is a common theme that runs throughout Jed Mercurio’s work. Some of Line of Duty’s best moments came from Mercurio’s masterful misdirection as character’s opinions of each other changed on an episode-by-episode basis. With the tagline ‘the threat is closer than you think’, Mercurio’s latest drama Bodyguard deals with very similar themes and by the end of tonight’s second episode it appears as if both are playing a very dangerous game.
The end of Bodyguard’s opener demonstrated that David Budd (Richard Madden) may have sinister intentions with his new job protecting Home Secretary Julia Montague (Keeley Hawes). Budd views his new boss as one of the politicians who sent him and his friends to fight the war in Afghanistan without caring whether or not they came back alive. As we saw in episode one, Budd is still fighting with the PTSD, which cost him his family and has left him with very little in the way of a life. Talking with an old army buddy Andy (Tom Brooke) it appears that he may wish harm on Julia, a theme that very much carried into this second episode.
Meanwhile, Julia is also playing a dangerous game as we saw her play different elements of her anti-terrorism task force off one another. Julia’s clearly frosty relationship with Anne Sampson (Gina Mckee); the head of the Metropolitan’s Police Counter Terrorism Unit deteriorates throughout the episode as she decides to put more trust into the security service headed up by the shady Stephen Hunter-Dunn (Stuart Bowman). It’s Stephen who informs Julia of a potential attack on three local schools, one of which is attended by both of David’s children. As Stephen believes the attack may be a revenge mission against David foiling the train bombing in episode one, this intelligence is kept under wraps potentially putting all the school’s pupils and staff at risk.
Whilst this episode doesn’t have any edge-of-your-seat drama to rival the opening of episode one, I found both set pieces in tonight’s instalment to be well-executed. The attempted attack on the school was superbly choreographed as director Thomas Vincent cut between Sampson’s control centre, her men on the ground and the busy playground, which built up my anticipation perfectly. The first shock came when the attackers switched vehicles however, it seems their attempts had been foiled as the police were able to shoot them down. However, one of the terrorists stayed alive long enough to detonate the device with his mouth, which resulted in the deaths of several of Sampson’s officers. Again, praise must go to Vincent and the editing team as we cut between the bomb’s impact firstly breaking the windows of nearby houses, then the reaction of those hiding in the school before switching to Julia’s perspective watching the large cloud gathering above the city.
In the aftermath of this attack, David is relegated to a desk job, planning rotas and looking more glum than normal. Meanwhile his estranged wife Vicky (Sophie Rundle) and kids are relocated to a safe house as he is believed to be the target of this second attack. Meanwhile, Julia uses this attack as a way of arguing that the government should look to the security services for advice over the police, something that irks both Sampson and Julia’s own counter-terrorism minister Mike Travis (Vincent Franklin). Despite them being separated throughout this part of the episode, Julia seemingly pulls some strings for David, by getting his son enrolled in a special school that he’d previously been unable to get admission for.
Eventually arguing that David should remain in her employ, Julia gets her bodyguard back in the nick of time as they find themselves under attack whilst on the road. This second action sequence caught me unawares as it occurred during a benign conversation between the pair over how Julia knew which school David’s children attended prior to the earlier attack. The sound in this set piece was particularly well-utilised as I felt I could hear each bullet penetrate through the windows of Julia’s car as they took the life of her driver. The cinematography in this scene was similarly excellent as the camera focused on a petrified Julia, cowering in the back of the car whilst covered in her late driver’s blood. Similarly excellent was the focus on the first real physical contact between Julia and David as he holds her hand to comfort her while she worries she’s about to die.
Although I didn’t see this attack coming, as soon as the bullets started reigning out, I’d successfully guessed who the shooter was so wasn’t surprised when David made it to the top of the office building to be confronted by his friend Andy. Although we’d only seen this character twice, both times had seen him criticising the government’s treatment of the troops and after believing that his friend had been redeployed to a desk job it was obvious that he was going to take his revenge of Julia. Instead of giving himself up Andy committed suicide in front of David, which I’m guessing he’ll be seeing flashbacks of later in the series. He also instructed his old mate to, finish the job, signalling that maybe Julia isn’t safe in the protection of David.
Despite there being tension in their relationship, it’s clear that was also a sexual chemistry between Julia and Dave ever since he took his shirt off for her to wear in episode one. Following the attack on their lives, Julia and David gave into their impulses and ended up in bed together, presumably because they were both happy to be alive. Although, I knew this scene would be coming at some point, I felt it was a little early in the series to have the central couple give in to their urges. I felt that this scene could’ve done with a bit more build-up and enjoyed watching the gradual build from the hand-holding in the car to the awkward hug that Dave gives Julia before they begin to get down to business.
The plot thickened in the final scenes as David was encouraged to spy on his new lover by Anne Sampson and his boss Lorraine Craddock (Pippa Haywood) as they believe her to be a very dangerous politician. Initially unwilling to do so, David is swayed to spy on his boss after learning that she had prior knowledge of the attack taking place by his children’s school. After being placed in an adjoining room in the hotel that Julia was housed in following her attack, the pair gave into their feelings once again, with this love scene now being clouded by the fact that he’s passing information on to the police as potential ammunition against her.
As I mentioned in my introduction, trust plays a big theme throughout Bodyguard and even more so as we get into the second act. David’s lack of trust in Julia’s intentions is enough to make him spy on her, whilst he’s also posing a threat to her as there’s still the possibility of him turning on her. However, I do think that maybe he’s playing both sides off against each other for some bigger purpose that will be revealed later in the series. One thing I do know from prior experience is not to second guess anything Jed Mercurio does as he’s proved throughout four series of Line of Duty that he’s adept at pulling the wool over the audience’s eyes. An element of Bodyguard that I really love is that it’s a show about what goes on behind closed doors and the scenes where we see David unable to hear what’s going on in Julia’s private meeting play into that beautifully. These scenes are also seemingly more pivotal to the plot now that David has to ascertain what’s happening in these meetings thanks to his new mission
Keeley Hawes is as brilliant as ever and I find her perfectly convincing as the ballsy politician whose full of sound bites and who has her eyes firmly on Number 10. I also felt she was brilliant in showing the chinks in Julia’s armour and displayed full vulnerability following the attack on the character’s car. I’m similarly impressed by Richard Madden, who I felt would struggle to anchor a drama but is doing well at playing the strong, silent type and a character who may be a lot cleverer than those around him are giving him credit for. Brilliant support was given here by Vincent Franklin playing a very convincing government minister and by Gina McKee as the icy head of police counter-terrorism. One cast member who I’d like to see more from at this stage is Sophie Rundle who, as Vicky, is currently stuck to playing the thankless role of someone whose job it is to constantly berate David. Thankfully, Mercurio has a history of sidelining some of his superior cast members till later episodes and I’m hoping that Rundle will demonstrate what a fantastic actress she is as the series pr
One thing I do know is that, after two episodes, it’s clear that he’s onto another winner with Bodyguard, as I find it to be a gripping series which is brilliantly directed and superbly acted by a wonderful ensemble cast. Bodyguard is a great start to what will hopefully be a brilliant new season of TV drama across the board and I for one can’t wait to see what action awaits us when the series continues on Sunday night.