×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘Bodyguard’ on Netflix

Richard Madden stars in a propulsive political thriller imported from the U.K.

Earlier this year, the BBC’s “Bodyguard” was a ratings sensation in the United Kingdom, with its finale garnering some 10.4 million viewers, higher ratings than any British broadcast short of the World Cup.

As the series arrives stateside on Netflix, it’s not hard to see why. The thriller star “Game of Thrones” alumnus Richard Madden as a security officer and military veteran who enters the series with no small amount of trauma and only builds up more scar tissue as it goes. Both juicy in its delving into character psychology and rippingly ready to tear up its playbook as it goes, it’s a six-episode ride that demands, and rewards, a quick binge, and one that is as likely as any of Netflix’s overseas imports to find a breakout audience.

As the series begins, Madden’s David Budd is on a train journey with his young children when he catches on to certain cues that something is awry. Soon enough, he’s working to ensure that a female suicide bomber (Anjli Mohindra) doesn’t carry out her mission, using careful negotiation tactics and an inherent belief that the would-be terrorist can be won over to keep all the train’s passengers alive. His finesse gets him an assignment to protect Britain’s Home Secretary Julia Montague (Keeley Hawes), a deeply conservative politician whose hawkish stance in the name of counterterrorism has made her a magnet for criticism, intragovernmental intrigue, and threats of violence.

Soon enough, both guard and guarded are manipulating one another, with David surveilling Julia at his employer’s request and Julia alternately seducing David and withholding information from him. At moments, she seems to be laying herself bare, begging David not to be “another bloke who can’t handle a woman having more power.” But given what we’ve seen of her character (expertly drawn as a mix of blithe self-belief and flickers of guilt and awareness), she’s an expert enough politician to play a character well.

This covers the first three or so episodes, after which the story changes dramatically, then keeps on shifting. To get at exactly how “Bodyguard” shreds everything that had come before would be spoiling the element of surprise, so suffice it to say this show excels at both the daring, gasp-inducing twist and the methodical construction of slower-burning thrills. The finale, for instance, features a lengthy sequence of almost physically painful tension, a bravura bit of television that could only exist on a show in which we’ve been primed to understand that truly anything can happen.

Madden, beloved as the pure-hearted Robb Stark, adds new dimensions to his character here, a man with decent motives who’s a bit more at home in the moral gray zone of “Bodyguard’s” sweeping conspiracy than Robb was at King’s Landing. His performance, by turns tripping on his own empathy, and angrily operating beyond rationality, makes us believe anything is possible — a wonderful asset for a show that seeks above all else to keep us watching. With nearly as much sprightly imagination as fellow recent British thriller “Killing Eve” and a committed, gritty relentlessness all its own, “Bodyguard” makes for the most engaging sort of binge, and for a perfect fall-weekend Netflix series.

“Bodyguard,” Netflix. Six episodes (all screened for review). Wednesday, Oct. 24.

Cast: Keeley Hawes, Richard Madden, Gina McKee, Sophie Rundle, Vincent Franklin, Pippa Haywood, Stuart Bowman, Paul Ready.

Executive Producers: Jed Mercurio, Simon Heath, Elizabeth Kilgarriff.

TV Review: 'Bodyguard' on Netflix

More TV

  • Supergirl -- "Elseworlds, Part 3" --

    'Elseworlds, Part 3' Recap: 2019 ‘Arrowverse’ Crossover Theme Revealed

    SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “Elseworlds, Part 2,” the final part of the 2018 “Arrowverse” crossover, which aired Dec. 11. After John Deegan (Jeremy Davies) got another go at using the Book of Destiny to rewrite reality, the “Elseworlds” finale saw Barry (Grant Gustin) and Oliver (Stephan Amell) facing [...]

  • The Netflix logo is displayed at

    TV Roundup: Netflix Orders Ted Bundy Docu-Series

    In today’s TV roundup, Netflix has ordered a docu-series on serial killer Ted Bundy and “Love, Gilda” sets a premiere date on CNN FIRST LOOKS Variety has obtained an exclusive clip of “Into the Okavango,” the upcoming National Geographic film. Premiering Dec. 14 on Nat Geo, the film, six years in the making, follows a [...]

  • Amy Poehler Is Ready for a

    Amy Poehler Is Ready for a 'Parks and Rec' Reunion

    Is Amy Poehler just getting our hopes up? We hope not, because the funny lady tells Variety that she’s ready for a “Parks and Recreation” reunion. “I am technically available,” Poehler said on Monday at Smart Girls’ 10th anniversary celebration dinner. “I have like six of Leslie’s blazers in my closet, so anytime.” More Reviews Film [...]

  • Liz Meriwether Lake Bell

    Lake Bell, Liz Meriwether Comedy 'Bless This Mess' Moves From Fox to ABC With Series Order

    “Bless This Mess,” the single-camera comedy co-created by Lake Bell and Elizabeth Meriwether, has been ordered to series at ABC, Variety has learned. The series had previously been in contention at Fox and is a co-production between 20th Century Fox Television and ABC Studios. Bell also stars in the series alongside Dax Shepard. In the series, a [...]

  • 'Get Shorty' Renewed for Season 3

    'Get Shorty' Renewed for Season 3 at Epix

    Epix has renewed “Get Shorty” for Season 3. The loose adaptation of the 1990 Elmore Leonard novel and subsequent film stars Chris O’Dowd, Ray Romano, Lidio Porto, Megan Stevenson, Sean Bridgers, and Carolyn Dodd. In the series, O’Dowd plays a hitman from Nevada who struggles to shed his criminal past after he moves to Hollywood to [...]

  • Goliath Season 2 Amazon

    Amazon Renews 'Goliath' for Season 3

    Amazon has renewed legal drama “Goliath” for a third season. “Goliath” centers on washed-up lawyer Billy McBride, played by Billy Bob Thornton, who has one shot at redemption after a client he successfully defended from a murder charge went on to slaughter a family. Thornton won a Golden Globe for his performance in 2017. “Our [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content