It’s hard to believe we’re already at the midway point of Jed Mercurio’s pacy new drama. Bodyguard has become an instant hit with almost universal praise from fans and critics. If I had one niggle about episode two, and it’s the tiniest of niggles I assure you, then it would be that their sexual relationship perhaps moved a little too quickly. I didn’t quite believe the pair would fall for each other so quickly, but then you need to remember the show’s tagline: “the danger is closer than you think.”
Episode three opens with our Home Secretary (Keeley Hawes)under the covers with her Bodyguard (Richard Madden). The pair seem to genuinely care for each other. They play down their relationship when around other colleagues but even a trip to the toilets results in a passionate kiss in unsanitary surroundings. But, this isn’t a relationship, it’s a power play. Mercurio is a master at putting his characters at odds with one another so much so that even the most invested audience member isn’t entirely sure who is on who’s side. Julia and David may have this somewhat passionate side to their relationship but they are still living very secretive lives. He uses a listening device to hear her conversation with the security services in the adjoining hotel room, and she is unaware that his bosses have asked him to watch her closely and report back.
The big set piece of episode two is still one of the more brutal scenes I can recall in British drama. The attack on Julia’s vehicle which left her drenched in the blood of her long-time driver Terry was carried out by David’s unhinged army colleague who sought Julia out believing she was the reason he was sent to fight in Afghanistan. David is keeping tight-lipped about his connection to the shooter managing to just about to keep his cool when he’s interviewed in a scene that wouldn’t feel out of place in Mercurio’s other BBC juggernaut.
We don’t know an awful lot about our Bodyguard. Mercurio has presented a man who is dedicated and cool under pressure when it comes to his job as a protector but someone incredibly vulnerable and scarred by his past when he doesn’t have the job to focus on. This third episode sees the pressure being piled onto Budd’s fragile shoulders. He’s hiding his connection to the shooter, he’s being pressured by his bosses to spy on Julia and he’s still uncertain who Julia really is and what her motivations are. Her conversations with a Richard Longcross are kept secret from both David and the audience. This mysterious character, who doesn’t show when David runs his name through a computer for a PNC, gives Julia a tablet with a read-only file. She scans it, and we get tiny flinches of text before director Thomas Vincent snatches the camera away. When David reports news of his findings to a twitchy Anne Sampson (Gina McKee) she is convinced that the Home Secretary is keeping things from the police and colluding with the security services about something. But, then the story twits further as David decides to conceal the fact that he has read the file from his bosses. What has he seen? What does he know that he doesn’t want them to? How has this changed his perception of Julia? What will he do with this new information?
Her dealings with the security services haven’t gone unnoticed in the corridors of power either with Mike Travis (Vincent Franklin) reporting his suspicions of Julia going ‘off book’ to Cheif Whip Roger Penhaligon (Nicholas Gleaves) who, to complicate matters further, happens to be Julia’s ex-husband.
Just before Julia delivers a keynote speech on national security at a local college, she takes David aside. She tells him that she was forewarned about the attack on the school is children attend and that she wants him by her side, not because he’s her Personal Protection Officer, but because it’s their choice. Keeley Hawes plays this scene brilliantly. She portrays Julia as dellicate and genuine, a side to her we first saw in that blood-drenched car last week. As an audience member, you’re still not entirely sure whether you’re seeing a genuine exchange or whether her olive branch is a strategical move from a politician keen on making the right friends.
Julia delivers her speech with the usual panache, unperturbed by a group of protestors who attempt to disrupt proceedings. David takes his place at the back of the arena, scanning the room for potential threats. His eye catches movement just outside the door and upon investigation, he discovers Julia’s aide Tahir Mahmood (Shubham Saraf) in the foyer clutching a briefcase. David demands to see the contents which he is content with when he sees it is changes to the speech that Julia needs to be handed. As David re-enters the hall there’s a sense of unease about the place. Julia is still passionately getting her message across, and just we see the silhouette of the aide at the side of the stage. What happens next is very quick. David’s fellow protection officer races towards the stage, obviously aware of something David isn’t. David picks up the pace too and just as Julia turns to the camera, a bomb explodes demolishing the hall and killing those inside.
Our Bodyguard is shaken, but alive as he surveys the rubble. The condition of the Home Secretary is kept from us. Surely Jed Mercurio wouldn’t kill her off? For those unfamiliar with Jed’s style, that’s exactly sort of thing he would do. Cast your minds back to that heart-stopping moment where a character we’d all assumed was key to the show was brutally thrown out of a window, or when Line of Duty’s protagonist Danny (Daniel Mays) was killed off at the start of the third series. Sure killing off Keeley Hawes’ Home Secretary half-way through this first series would be ballsy, but fans of Line of Duty and Bodies know that’s the kind of writer Jed Mercurio is. No one is safe in his scripts.
Annoyingly we now have an agonising seven-day wait to see whether Julia miraculously survived the explosion and what this means for David and the rest of the series. It certainly could go anywhere from now on. One thing’s for sure, Bodyguard is a relentless watch. The pace never lets up, there’s an awful lot happening and everything is vital. It really is the best BBC drama of the year.
Bodyguard Continues Sunday at 9.00pm on Sunday.