Netflix's Bodyguard is receiving rave reviews. Originally aired on BBC One in August 2018, the six-part series is one of the most watched dramas of the last decade of British television. The series premiere debuted to 6.8 million viewers, and rose by another 3.6 million that week due to its VOD viewership. That's over 10 million viewers in seven days. Wouldn't The Walking Dead like even half those figures right about now?
Undoubtedly, a big chunk of the show's success is due to Richard Madden's (Game of Thrones) damaged but gallant character, David Budd. Make no mistake, he is a tough-as-nails, full-blown action star. However, it's his realism and imperfections that make him an intriguing protagonist.
After spending the bulk of his screen time in a dapper suit and locked in suspenseful moments, it should come as no surprise that Madden's name has been linked to the role of James Bond after Daniel Craig hands in the keys to the Aston Martin. It also doesn't hurt that the thrilling plot threads of Bodyguard could easily lend themselves to a 007 adventure.
That said, Bodyguard shines in a way that no recent Bond film has. It's a layered and multifaceted story that twists and turns at every opportunity, genuinely surprising and shocking you. This isn't just about high-octane action scenes and attractive people. It addresses important social and political issues, such as Islamophobia, radical political differences and the mental health of ex-soldiers. These characters are flawed and, most importantly, real.
"Every character is in a grey zone, no one is black or white and good," Madden told Variety about the series. "And that keeps on all the way through the show and is actually something that is quite exciting to play with because you're not tricking the audience but you're playing with their perceptions."
David Budd isn't Bond, though, and that's a good thing here. One of the biggest criticisms of 007 is that he's a one-trick pony and fairly shallow. From a narrative perspective, you appreciate why a spy might not reveal enough personal information about himself, since it could be exploited, but it also creates a distance between the audience and character. Just who really is the person beneath the Bond façade?
In the case of David, you meet someone who isn't a superhero or invincible. He is put through the wringer and eventually admits he is not okay. At the end of the day, he's a hero, not just for his actions but also for admitting that he needs help. This makes him a far more multidimensional and interesting character than Bond has ever been.
Look, the James Bond franchise has a locked-in audience. No matter what the quality of the film is, it will make a ton of money at the box office. The question is, does Eon Productions want more from it? If Madden does end up becoming the next Bond, maybe Bodyguard mastermind Jed Mercurio should join him as well. We've already seen the potential of the two to tell an engaging political thriller, so it would only make sense that they're the right people to modernize and take 007 to a new level.
For now, at least we have Bodyguard as the perfect example of how much more a James Bond story could be.