Bodyguard episode 2 review: Keeley Hawes would make a great Bond

*Spoiler warning* This was a high quality thriller of an episode, even more so than the first

Bodyguard - BBC Trailer

Bodyguard is shaping up to be a rewarding, indeed compelling series. This is due, above all, to the outstanding performance of Keeley Hawes as a ruthless and mostly unpleasant politician, Julia Montague, Home Secretary in an age of terror, on a mission to erode civil liberties and, thereby, get herself into Number 10.

That would be challenge enough for any actor, but Hawes’s transformation of this imperious figure into a gibbering, shivering, cowering blood-splattered mess clinging to the floor of her ministerial limousine during an attempted assassination was the stuff of awards nominations.

The terror that the terrorists seek to inflict was eloquently portrayed by Hawes, and transmitted directly to the viewer. Her twisted frame jolted as each bullet thumped into the superstructure of her armour-plated car: an image of fear that sticks in the mind.

The pace with which this scene was executed was breath-taking. We’d seen Montague and her entourage routinely driving around incident-free, always safely varying the routes, so many times that we were completely unprepared of the sudden attack by an unknown sniper or snipers. Nothing in the previous action suggested this was even a possibility.

Within seconds her driver and others were dead, the car careering out of control. We forgot that Hawes’s character wasn’t going to be written out of the series this early, as visceral fear gripped our senses and dramatic suspense drew ever more taut.

Naturally, Monatgue was saved by her cool bodyguard, Sergeant David Budd (Richard Madden) but, again, we were unprepared, this time, for how he did it – using his smartphone to take a picture to identify the exact location of the lone gunman.

This was high quality thriller stuff, even more accomplished than the suicide-bomber-on-a-train attack in the first episode, and almost equalled in this instalment by a plot line about a gang of suicidal Islamists trying to ram a lorry bomb into an infants’ school (where Budd’s children were in the playground). You just wonder how much more spectacular the direction could have been if the BBC had the sort of budgets that Hollywood studios regularly squander on such sequences, pyrotechnics just for the sake of it.

Gina McKee as Comm. Anne Sampson in 'Bodyguard'

At times, Montague seemed to be under siege on every side – even her own. Not totally paranoid, it turned out, was her fear that her own police anti-terror boss Anne Sampson was plotting to kill her – and the dark, quiet, menace of Gina McKee, a mirror of Montague, amply substantiated that fear.

We are still perplexed by Montague’s intentions towards Budd, and vice versa. Jed Mercurio’s fine script spins around how their uncomfortable professional relationship evolves into a rather more comfortable unprofessional relationship, as things turn raunchy. Having spent the first episode managing to keep their hands off each other, the shared trauma of the terror attack and a certain mid-life/broken-relationship loneliness pushes them together. Or maybe something more sinister...?

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Now, I’d be the first to admit that doing sex is a bit tricky, in real life no less than on television, but somehow the directors failed to make the sexual chemistry between Budd and Montague detonate as devastatingly as the various terrorists’ improvised explosive devices usually have.

They tried a twist on the old cliché about hands meeting over a nervously spilt cup of coffee, but they were hovering for such a ridiculous amount of time that it all fell into parody (and by which point that cream carpet was probably irretrievably stained). Montague’s line to Budd that “I’m not the Queen, you’re allowed to touch me” was nice, though, the best bit of an indifferent interlude.

Functionally, the ministerial code-busting sex established a further dimension to the drama and begged some more questions, such as who was using who in the bedroom. This was especially because when Budd apprehended the sniper on the roof it turned out to be his old ex-army comrade Andy (Tom Brooke).

Vincent Franklin as Mike Travis in Bodyguard

After Andy blew his brains out, Budd failed to disclose to anyone that he not only knew who Andy was, but had served with him in Iraq, an experience that made both of them resentful about politicians such as Montague. Andy told Budd “you’ve got to finish the job”. His grim expression during the stand-up sex scene with Montague suggested that he was either heeding that call of duty or he’d stubbed his toe.

So there we are then. Bodyguard. Plenty of sex and violence, the latter rather less embarrassing than the former. Plus a couple of career-boosting performances from the leads. Can I be alone in thinking that, aside from Idris Elba, a fine choice for the next Bond for the cyber age might be Keeley Hawes, or maybe even Richard Madden?

Bodyguard continues Monday 3 August on BBC One.

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