What kind of show does Bodyguard want to be?

When I began watching the BBC’s hit drama Bodyguard after the 6-episode season’s buzzy release to Netflix in October, I was immediately relieved and delighted to learn that it was as much a forbidden love story as a high stakes political conspiracy thriller. My excitement was not mirrored by most critics, who have derided the sexual tension between the leads, viewing this plotline as a simple grab for attention. Maybe it’s just me, but I prefer some emotional and relatable relationship issues to anchor dramas set in worlds foreign to me. I don’t know everything about the inner workings of the British government and police force, but I do understand a fraught love story. Honestly, I watch Homeland for Carrie’s romantic trysts rather than the covert intricacies of the CIA. I care more about Fiona’s failed dating exploits in Shameless than about how the Gallagher family is going to get itself out of trouble. The only thing keeping me from turning off the TV and crying for a week after watching The Handmaid’s Tale is the hope that something will happen between June and Nick.

When I realized a central storyline of Bodyguard was an affair between Golden Globe winner Richard Madden’s skilled but PTSD-ridden (and, might I add, very attractive) Sergeant David Budd and Keeley Hawes’ intense and ambitious Home Secretary Julia Montague, with whom Budd deeply disagrees politically but is assigned to protect, I thought I understood the buzz around the show. Surely, this is the story we all want to watch, right? In the first three episodes, I found myself drawn in because of the magnetic pull between two characters so diametrically opposed and off-limits to each other. The counter-terrorism efforts moving the plot forward were all fluff to me.

That is, until Montague’s murder at the end of episode 3, exactly halfway through the series. Suddenly, without one half of the leading couple, the show had to completely abandon any romantic plotline and dive headfirst into the high-stakes action of uncovering the terrorist threat. As a viewer who enjoyed the careful buildup of the first three episodes, the haphazard speed of the final three was jarring. I typically think I have an ability to follow complicated television storylines, but the many groups involved or accused in the terrorist plot became so complex I had trouble following and connecting them. If there was still a compelling dramatic through-line of the relationship that pulled me in in the first place, I might have forgiven the inescapable maze of the final episodes, but instead I was left to puzzle at them with nothing to look forward to.Bodyguard is a show that can’t decide what it wants to be, making the halves of the season feel completely disjointed. While I clearly prefer the first half, I’m sure there’s many out there who crave the second. I’m holding out a faint hope that a second season leans toward my side.

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