AND “ELITE” ARE WORTHY IMPORTS
A TV Review by Tim Riley
“BODYGUARD” ON NETFLIX Netflix offers variety not easily obtained on network or cable television. For one thing, it makes interesting foreign programs readily available for binge-watching. “Bodyguard,” a political thriller in the backdrop of terrorism on the home front, is a BBC series that drew huge audiences in the United Kingdom and apparently for the good reason of riveting, intriguing drama.
London police officer David Budd (Richard Madden) is on a train trip with his two young children when his alert senses tell him that something is wrong. Before long, he’s defusing a female suicide bomber’s mission to blow up the train. At once, the off-duty police sergeant demonstrates an uncanny ability to talk down a terrified young woman who has been brainwashed by her cowardly husband to carry out a terrorist attack, and he risks his own life in doing so.
Uptight in his demeanor, Sergeant Budd, a war veteran who suffers from PTSD and a broken marriage, demonstrates that he remains so cool in a tense situation that he is promoted as a protection officer for dignitaries. His new assignment is to protect Britain’s Home Secretary Julia Montague (Keeley Hawes), an ambitious politician with a hardened stance on enhancing counter-terrorism efforts in the wake of increasing threats to national security.
Budd, who still hangs out with a disfigured war buddy with a grudge against the government, may not be in sync with the ardent views of the cabinet minister, but he is the consummate professional in most respects. Before too long, an assassination attempt on the Home Secretary is foiled when Budd’s level-headed skills come into play. But the question remains, who is behind this plot and what lies ahead? Though Julia and Budd develop a relationship that goes beyond the professional, the police officer is never far removed from inner turmoil about his wartime experiences or the fact that he eagerly wants to reunite with his estranged wife Vicky (Sophie Rundle).
While the square-jawed Budd remains stoic most of the time, he’s keenly observing the machinations of adversarial security services, where Julia is not above prodding the various agencies with sharp questions about their handling of terror plots. “Bodyguard” has plenty of intrigue, to say nothing of corruption, duplicity and backstabbing, that should not be revealed, but suffice it to say there are many twists and turns to make this political potboiler worthy of the popularity it garnered with British viewers.
“ELITE” ON NETFLIX
A Spanish import, “Elite” is a murder mystery wrapped into a teen drama about three working class kids who get enrolled in an exclusive private school where the clash between them and the wealthy students is inevitable. “Elite” may conjure up memories of so many American teenage dramas, such as “Gossip Girl,” “The O.C.,” “Riverdale,” and likely several more but with a lot of sex, profanity and drug use.
The story unfolds in two levels, the past and the present. Aside from a student walking the school halls covered in blood in the opening episode, the beginning may seem like the present, but it isn’t, because the three outsiders are first introduced in the past. The present is all about a police investigator questioning everyone about the murder of a student. The scholarship kids, Samuel (Itzan Escamilla), Christian (Miguel Herran), and Nadia (Mina El Hammani), will face interrogations just like everyone else.
The arrival of three strangers to preppy Las Encinas stirs controversy and social ostracism. Chief tormentor of the new kids is Guzman (Miguel Bernardeau), an arrogant snob who fashions himself as the leader of his inner circle of equally obnoxious classmates. The hostile environment proves challenging for the sensitive Samuel, who works as a waiter to support his family, and for the industrious Nadia, a Muslim girl trying to live up to her family’s ideals even as the school requires her to ditch wearing a hijab to class.
On the other hand, Christian, the smooth talkative sort who is not easily intimidated, doesn’t mind confronting the social mores, going even further when he ends up in a love triangle with free-spirited Carla (Ester Exposito) and the voyeuristic Polo (Alvaro Rico). The social order at the ritzy school is soon disrupted when rebellious Marina (Maria Pedraza), Guzman’s sister, takes a liking to Samuel, inviting him to her glamorous debutante party that she just as easily would forego but for the wishes of her ostentatious parents. Home life creates other problems for Samuel when his older brother Nano (Danna Paolo), carrying a large chip on his shoulders, is released from prison and that the fact he owes money to some criminals causes grief for the entire family.
“Elite” runs through every possible scenario of teen angst, from the closeted son of the principal with a drug problem and insecure bullies to jealous overachievers and promiscuous girls with latent regrets. For those willing to take the ride, “Elite” lends itself, like many Netflix series, to binge-watching, more so to discover the twists to solving the murder mystery.