Crazily im­plau­si­ble? Yes. Grip­ping? YES!

The Mail on Sunday - Event - - BOOKS -

After the first two episodes of Jed Mer­cu­rio’s Body­guard it had you just where any drama­tist would wish to have you: des­per­ate to know what will hap­pen next. Will David Budd as­sas­si­nate Julia Mon­tague? Or not? The two ended up in bed to­gether, rather in­evitably, be­cause it just had to get messy in that way, but whose side is he on? Re­ally? My nerves are shred­ded just think­ing about it, so it ab­so­lutely works as a thriller (if he doesn’t kill her, will he bring her eggs the way she likes them?) even if it’s also a bit want­ing at times.

Un­like Mer­cu­rio’s pre­vi­ous shows (most no­tably Car­diac Ar­rest and every­one’s favourite adren­a­line ride, Line Of Duty) this did feel slightly fa­mil­iar; did feel slightly like Home­land (with its en­emy-within sce­nario) cou­pled with a full-out Hol­ly­wood ac­tion film. Here’s De­tec­tive Sergeant Budd talk­ing down a sui­cide bomber, here’s DS Budd swerv­ing a car though a London street, here’s DS Budd racing up to the rooftop of a build­ing to see off a sniper. So he’s Bruce Wil­lis, and will plainly die hard if the job de­mands it, for now, but he’s also a Damian Lewis/Brody, deep down.

Budd (Richard Mad­den) is a for­mer solid­er­turned-per­sonal pro­tec­tion of­fi­cer who has been as­signed to pro­tect Julia Mon­tague (a ter­rific Kee­ley Hawes), the Home Sec­re­tary. She is a piece of work, you might say, pos­si­bly be­cause she’s a woman, whereas a man would just be ‘am­bi­tious’. But ei­ther way, she bul­lies her staff – Chanel is not go­ing to go away, is she? – plays the po­lice against the se­cu­rity ser­vices and is us­ing the threat of ter­ror­ism to shore up her own po­lit­i­cal power and in­tro­duce dra­co­nian snoop­ing laws. Plus, she has al­ways voted pro-war, whereas Budd is most de­cid­edly not of that mind.

Budd saw ac­tive ser­vice in Afghanistan and Iraq and suf­fers from PTSD, although why no one else has ever no­ticed this re­mains a mys­tery.* Deep down he is an­gry and bit­ter and blames the PTSD for the break­down of his mar­riage. There is tur­moil be­neath the sur­face, in other words, yet I don’t know if I bought it that much. It was quite clum­sily spelled out. He meets up with Andy (Tom Brooke), a fel­low sol­dier from their ac­tive ser­vice days, who says, ‘You said in Hel­mand that if you were ever be­side one of those bas­tards that put us out here you’d close your eyes and just pull the trig­ger.’ Later, Andy, who has a badly scarred face, will say, ‘Who suf­fers? Her kind? I can’t be­lieve you are pro­tect­ing her. They’re in it for them­selves and couldn’t give a s**t about a bloke like you who suf­fers the con­se­quences.’ Budd’s emo­tional state isn’t weaved into his char­ac­ter but laid out be­fore us, which makes this a much blunter in­stru­ment than Home­land. But as with Brodie, we do want to find out which way Budd is go­ing to turn.

And it is nerve-shred­ding. That scene with the sui­cide bomber. That scene where the van nearly rammed the school play­ground. And the as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempt on Mon­tague’s life which led to her crouched down and scream­ing in the back of the car, splat­tered in blood from her driver, who’d had his head blown off in ef­fect, while Budd took com­mand. But as he lo­cated the sniper (it was Andy, also rather in­evitably) and swerved the car and raced to the rooftop you did think: does Budd have to do ev­ery­thing around here? Are there no other pro­tec­tion of­fi­cers? No rota or any­thing?

So there are im­plau­si­bil­i­ties and they did start to mount. If Budd has him­self be­come a ter­ror­ist tar­get he wouldn’t be al­lowed any­where near the Home Of­fice, surely. And if he’s a ter­ror­ist tar­get, why does he visit his fam­ily in their safe house so blithely. Wouldn’t he fear be­ing fol­lowed? And if, as an MP, Mon­tague voted for the in­va­sion of Iraq in 2003 and was pre­vi­ously a crim­i­nal bar­ris­ter, wouldn’t she be con­sid­er­ably older then she is now?

Mean­while, on Twit­ter and else­where, some have com­plained about the num­ber of fe­male char­ac­ters in top jobs. The ex­plo­sives ex­pert was a woman. The firearms of­fi­cer who led the raid on the train was a woman. The chief com­mis­sioner of the Met is a woman. Budd’s boss is a woman. It’s PC gone mad, they are say­ing, but if you no­ticed (I didn’t) and this jarred, I’d just like to say: this is your prob­lem, not the show’s. Now please go away.

But even though Body­guard is some­times want­ing, you can’t much ar­gue with the power and ten­sion of the cen­tral re­la­tion­ship. She is vul­ner­a­ble and lonely at heart – ‘I’m not the Queen. You can touch me’ – un­less she is some­how play­ing him. Is she? Or does she imag­ine she has dis­cov­ered the one per­son she can truly trust. If so, can she? You will just have to keep com­ing back for more. No ques­tion. *Un­less they do know, and he’s been as­signed to the Home Sec­re­tary in the hope he will go rogue, or is that too far-fetched?

Richard Mad­den and Kee­ley Hawes in Body­guard

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