This review contains spoilers.
The home secretary: shag, marry or kill?
Sgt David Budd can’t decide. “Nothing complicates my job,” he tells the Rt. Hon. Julia Montague between thrusts on the console table of an anonymous London hotel room. “It’s” thrust “to protect” thrust “you.”
From the way they tucked greasy-fingered into those fish and chips, sucking Sarson’s Original Malt from their thumbs and moving onto first-name terms, it was clear that David and Julia were destined for the sack. By the time he’d saved her from sniper fire, it was knickers-off o’clock. There’s no aphrodisiac like a near-death experience. Just ask the babies born nine months after every Glastonbury.
There might even be a few born nine months hence, so exhilaratingly tense was episode two. Watching a speeding LGV aimed at a packed playground was horrifying enough without later seeing Keeley Hawes’ power-bob dripping with bits of driver Terry as she crouched bloodily in the footwell of her minesterial car.
Writer-creator Jed Mercurio and director Thomas Vincent have taken the pulse of the nation and it is racing – not just from all the shagging. First, Bodyguard gave us the pursuit of a suspected terrorist attack, then an explosion, then a bullet through a car windscreen.
Soon, there was Sgt Budd leaping from the armoured safety of the under-attack vehicle to discover the sniper’s location, then backwards-driving out of the shooter’s line of sight. Next, there was Sgt Budd pulling on a natty police cap while bounding, armed, into an office building shouting “I NEED THE ROOF”. By the time the sniper was revealed to be Sgt Budd’s buddy, and he pulled a gun on himself, I was grinding an extra Beta Blocker into my nightly cocoa.
The extreme tension makes Bodyguard feel faintly silly in the way that being terrified always makes you want to laugh. That doesn’t detract from the show’s power to grip. If next week’s episode were to see Sgt Budd crash through a glass window on a zip line, it wouldn’t feel wrong. Honestly, Budd could somersault in to the London Aquarium to save Julia from an explosive-vest-wearing shark in the finale, and the nation’s fingernails would still be bitten to the quick.
This is Homeland before it went wonky. It’s 24 before it went… wonkier. It’s kind of drama people without imaginations call ‘high-octane’, as if hydrocarbons have anything to do with it. It’s been expertly designed to thrill, by experts. (Michael Gove is wrong—a perennial truth. People in this country have not had enough of experts, especially when they are making TV this exciting).
The political squabbling between the police and the security services adds a more cerebral layer of intrigue. Sgt Budd isn’t the only one witholding information; they’re all at it, each one protecting their own and paranoid about the other. Is disgruntled aide Chanel the leak? Who might she be in bed with?
We were left with a squirming rat nests of possibilities now that Julia and David-slash-Dave aren’t just swapping blouses but also bodily fluids. Is Sgt Budd tinker, tailor, shagger or spy, servicing the home secretary for fun or to inveigle his way closer to his target? Is Julia getting some easy D from her PPO so that she can take similar advantage?
Neither Richard Madden’s or Keeley Hawes’ performances give much away. His secrets are locked under a clenched jaw, while hers can’t be heard underneath the rushing torrent of political banality. (Fnar. I bet you were grateful for the swift and courageous performance of the security services, ma’am. Apparently there’s even talk of a medal.)
Whoever is using who, whoever is playing who, TV this ludicrous and entertaining can only end with one winner: us.
Read Louisa’s review of the previous episode here.