It captured audiences with its tense drama and plot twists – but was it the ending we really wanted?
In the past weeks, live television has been dominated by Jed Mercurio’s new political crime drama Bodyguard. Already the creator of popular police drama Line of Duty, viewers knew they could expect shocking plot twists and complex layers to the drama, especially with performances from Keeley Hawes (Line of Duty) and Richard Madden (Game of Thrones). It is hardly surprising then that the opening episode drew an audience of over 10.4 million people, sparking conspiracy theories and many different reactions.
From the very beginning viewers were drawn in watching Sergeant David Budd (Madden) frantically trying to prevent a train terrorist attack – something that really hits home in a country currently labelled with a severe threat level. The opening scene established it as serious drama that really builds on what is relevant now. Over the following weeks, the drama captured viewers with it’s constant plot twists: conspiracies within the police, sudden deaths, and the relationship between Julia Montague (Hawes) and Sergeant Budd constantly evolving.
The clever writing and impressive acting on Madden’s part meant the programme was able to keep keen-eyed viewers guessing until the last episode whether the protagonist David Budd was innocent. Hawes was also able to portray the political character Julia Montague as someone we could fundamentally disagree with, yet still empathise with. The number of women portrayed in positions of power, including Gina McKee playing the head of police, caused some viewers to comment on the rare sight. I felt that the representation was realistic and if anything is important in television.
One thing that niggled at many viewer’s minds was the painfully stereotypical depiction of a suicide bomber within the first scene; here was a powerless Muslim woman forced to kill herself at the demand of her Jihadi husband. Although it is a common story heard in a time of Isis’ many attacks in recent years, I couldn’t help but worry at the reinforcement of a negative image of a religion which, apart from extremists, promotes peace.
In the final episode, the layers of corruption and conspiracy were finally revealed. It was a tense 75 minutes, with Budd’s innocence becoming more and more clear to the viewer as the authorities became increasingly convinced of his guilt. In some scenes, especially when Budd became attached to a bomb himself, it wasn’t clear if he would even make it. However when the conspiracy was finally revealed as an organised crime boss funding the Jihadi Muslims in bombing the home secretary, it almost seemed like an anti-climax.
The twist in the final episode changed the story from a powerless woman forced into terrorism to one that actively took part and made her own decisions, but it is hardly much of an improvement for the negative stereotype. It does show the character, Nadia (played by Anjli Mohindra) as a woman who used the other characters’ underestimation of her to succeed in bombing the government. Although it highlights the unfortunate assumptions that people make about Muslim women in particular, surely a different conspiracy could contrast this even more? By not having the major contributors in the bombing as Jihadi Muslims, the show could have prevented reinforcing the Islamophobia that sadly exists in our society.
At the end of the day, there were many unrealistic parts of Bodyguard’s plot, which is entirely the point and what makes crime drama so popular. However, the ending seemed to me like a missed opportunity to subvert common stereotypes, especially in a show that had so much of the population hooked.
Bodyguard is available to watch on BBC iPlayer