What if Jed Mercurio's latest shock plot-twist is all a Shakespearian ruse?
Sometimes, a rare telly show seems to unite the whole nation in the living room. Earlier this summer it was the humble Love Island. A sea of well-greased abs, confusing new terminology and clumsy flirtation by sunburnt doctors named Alex brought the UK together; a veritable rarity considering the ongoing shit-show that is Brexit. And now, we’re at it again – approximately six to seven million people tune in every Sunday to Bodyguard. It’s thought to be the Beeb’s most popular series this decade, and the twists just keep on coming.
If you’re not watching already, here’s a brief recap; and be warned, this piece contains spoilers. Bodyguard – and yep, that is an intentional nod to the Whitney Houston movie of nearly the same name – follows a surly Scottish ex-soldier called David Budd (played by Game of Thrones’ Richard Madden) who lands a job protecting a divisive Home Secretary. If you’ve watched the most recent episodes of Bodyguard, you’ll know that he’s not exactly great at his job. Aside from going for pints with actual wannabe assassins, and getting worked up about his boss’s vastly different political beliefs (Julia Montague, played by Keeley Hawes, voted in favour of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, while David Budd is traumatised by his time fighting in the same) the pair also end up engaging in a lot of very sweaty and over the top sex; most of which happens within the flimsy door linking their adjoining bedrooms. It’s safe to say that there’s nothing sexy about the UK’s recent real-life Home Secretaries, and so the idea of one of them having a romp in a glorified Travel Lodge does leave a bit of a bitter taste. It’s most likely a sackable offence, too, but hey, that’s TV drama; and also, since when did politicians care about having poor moral judgement?
In among all of this televised panting, David and Julia get a little, shall we say… distracted. Depending on who you ask, David either begins plotting to murder Julia with a bomb in a suitcase, or accidently lets a suitcase containing a bomb into the auditorium at a key speech by the Home Secretary. Either way, there’s a rigged suitcase, and – MASSIVE SPOILER – she dies in the explosion, after which her bodyguard attempts to take his own life. At the precise moment where we think director Jed Mercurio may have killed off both of his lead characters at the same time, we discover that David has survived thanks to his gun being loaded with a blank.
There are many different theories whizzing around at the moment. Some viewers reckon that the secret service were trying to get rid of the Home Secretary all along, despite the fact she appears to support them having more control. Others think her assassination was an inside job by the police force, who are angry that they’re being sidelined to make way for an increasingly powerful MI5. There’s also suspicion around her sappy personal advisor, who we’ve seen behaving very strangely. And of course some people are also convinced that Julia Montague’s death was orchestrated by her bodyguard David Budd. However, very few people have considered another possibility – Julia Montague isn’t dead!
Don’t worry, we’re not suggesting some sort of far-fetched EastEnders level moment where Keeley Hawes, channeling the spirit of Dirty Den, reemerges years later from a canal. No, instead we’re suggesting that Julia faked her own death in order to run away from her own star-crossed hotel room bonks; it’s like Romeo and Juliet but raunchier, and without the iambic pentameter.
Think about it carefully. There’s only one character in Bodyguard who both knows David Budd very intimately, and has the means to sneak into his house and reload his gun without him knowing. Julia Montague! She’s also the only character who would know that believing she has died, David might try to harm himself; somebody’s obviously learned a few lessons from the tragedy which befalls some of Shakespeare’s most famous protagonists. And, talking of which, as one Twitter user pointed out, Julia Montague shares a surname with one of the rival families from Romeo and Juliet – along with having a first name which sounds an awful lot like Juliet. And then there are the obvious other plot crossovers if we’re going down this route; the faked deaths, the doomed lovers that can’t be together because of their opposing political views, the cap (sounds a lot like, Capulet, don’t cha think?) that David dons to hide his injuries. There’s even a nurse in Bodyguard – David’s ex. And as for David Budd’s surname, isn’t that just a flower pun linking to the famous Shakespeare quote “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”? Twitter’s prime-time drama loving Bard buffs certainly think so.
According to IMDB, Keeley Hawes stars in all six episodes of Bodyguard, and while this could easily point to the actor’s appearances in Julia-centric flashbacks and CCTV footage following her death, it could also mean that we haven’t seen the last of the lead character. Though Hawes is certainly playing along like she’s bowing out of the series – “thanks again for watching,” she tweeted – it’s not unheard of for an actor to help conceal a gigantic plot twist. Jed Mercurio’s post-episode interviews have also been that slightest bit too vague, telling Radio Times Magazine that he dislikes the format of shows that “always orbit around an equilibrium, in which nothing much changes for the main stars, and there are no drastic changes to the set-up”. He adds that, “I like to try to do things that move the story on, and with Bodyguard I wanted to have this event mid-series that would completely alter the dynamic.” Calling it an event doesn’t actually confirm things, does it? He also calls Madden and Hawes main stars, which could be a reference to Shakespeare’s pair of star-cross’d lov… ok we’ll admit we’re reaching now.
It should be noted that killing off main characters mid-way through a series is the sort of thing Jed Mercurio doesn’t shy away from; in fact, he killed off another Keeley Hawes character, DI Lindsay Denton, in his show Line of Duty. But wouldn’t Bodyguard be so much spicer with a bit of Shakespearean resurrection? To be fair, we’ll just have to wait and see.