From ‘Game of Thrones’ to ‘Bodyguard,’ Richard Madden gets a career upgrade
As an actor, Richard Madden is no stranger to shocking scenes of severed heads and other gory forms of dismemberment. His six-episode dramatic thriller “Bodyguard” is characterized by astutely staged twists and edge-of-your-seat action sequences that would impress even Robb Stark, the character he played in “Game of Thrones” who succumbed to Walder Frey’s vengeful machinations in the infamous “Red Wedding” massacre.
“Bodyguard,” which will be streamed by Netflix in territories outside the United Kingdom starting Oct. 24, doesn’t have witches, dragons and those reanimated Wights, but it has characters that prove to be even deadlier and more sinister—corrupt politicians and double-dealing cops!
Nope, the show isn’t the streaming network’s version of the hit romantic thriller starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner, so don’t expect to see lead actress Kelley Hawes serenading the brooding Mr. Madden with new covers of “I Will Always Love You” and “I’m Every Woman.”
This “Bodyguard” follows a different story: Richard plays police sergeant David Budd, a war veteran of the British army suffering from PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) who suddenly finds himself thrust into the corridors of power after he stops a jihadist’s wife, Nadia Ali (Anjli Mohindra), from blowing herself to smithereens on a full commuter train.
As a bodyguard assigned to the Royalty and Specialist Branch (RaSP) of London’s Metropolitan Police Service, it is David’s job to protect Julia Montague (Keeley Hawes), UK’s powerful Home Secretary, at any cost—even when he disagrees with her right-of-center political beliefs. “I don’t need you to vote for me; I just need you to protect me,” Julia snidely tells her bodyguard.
Julia and David immediately find themselves at loggerheads when the former shows impatience over her protector’s uncompromising thoroughness.
But, there’s more to the “sanctimonious b*tch” than her bravado and cutting barks—a closely guarded and deeply concealed sensitivity that David sees through after he averts an attempt to assassinate Julia.
When his superiors deem it wise to transfer the “psychologically volatile” David to a career-halting desk job, Julia comes to his defense. Thereafter, she helps David find a special school for his son. She explains, “I went into politics to help people.”
Their shared terrifying experience brings them closer together—a situation that gets steamier and messier when the emotionally vulnerable cabinet minister finds herself sharing an intimate moment with her knight in shining armor!
But, the star-crossed couple quickly realizes that theirs is an inappropriate union that doesn’t allow them to ride happily into the sunset—especially after David gets hold of classified information disclosing more attempts to get rid of the stubborn and irrepressible Julia!
Further complicating David and Julia’s secret romance is their “compromised” professional relationship, which gets in the way of their discussions about national security and conflicting personal convictions.
When David gives Julia the cold shoulder after an emotionally charged argument, she pleads to him, saying, “Please don’t turn into another bloke who can’t accept a woman having more power!”
“Bodyguard” keeps viewers guessing. It is intense but schmaltz-free, and cleverly demonstrates its actors’ ability to act and react effectively without much dialogue. There’s a lot to discuss about the way the narrative strings are strung efficiently as it goes about its narrative progression, but that’ll only spoil the binge-worthy series for you.
Upping the thematic ante is the fact that Julia has always been seen as a divisive figure: She used to be a Conservative MP (Member of Parliament) who consistently voted for the use of military forces in operations overseas, like the UK’s military action in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It doesn’t help that Julia and the Prime Minister (David Westhead) are at odds over their contradictory approaches to issues concerning security. Can Julia be trusted?
When the show isn’t relentlessly pursuing as many reliable clues as there are red herrings in its thrilling action scenes, it gives its characters “breathing space” that allows viewers to understand what makes them tick and click.
The series also provides enough enlightening insights into their characters, from David’s shaky relationship with his ex-wife Vicky (Sophie Rundle) and kids, to Julia’s initial aversion to intimacy.
“Bodyguard” may not have the sweeping theatricality of “Game of Thrones,” but it’s a vehicle that’s more than satisfactory for the 32-year-old hot-to-trot actor who could be the next James Bond.
Trust us, Richard’s acting chops are sharp enough to leave viewers—shaken and stirred!
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