Investigating The Most Persistent Bodyguard Theory: Julia Montague Isn't Really Dead

Warning: This post contains spoilers for Bodyguard.
Here's something any Game of Thrones fan would have said with confidence when the HBO show first premiered in 2011: Ned Stark (Sean Bean) would be safe for the duration of the show. He was far too important to kill off. In fact, the idea of Game of Thrones without Ned Stark was unfathomable. Until it wasn't. When Ned was beheaded at the end of season 1, Game of Thrones was making a bold statement about the guaranteed safety of its characters, including the most beloved. Namely, that there wouldn't be any.
On episode 3 of Bodyguard, a hit BBC show that landed on Netflix on October 24, viewers experienced similar shock. Until that point, Home Secretary Julia Montague (Keeley Hawes) was the centripetal force pulling the show's action together. Until she wasn't. At the end of episode 3, a bomb goes off while Julia is delivering a potentially game-changing speech. After a short hospitalization, Julia is pronounced dead. Or is she?
In the U.K., where the show first aired, Julia's sudden and extremely unexpected death provided fodder for morning shows and prompted debates between actual politicians. Fans turned into part-time conspiracy theorists, scouring the internet for theories supporting her potential survival.
When the show was still airing weekly, the most consistent case for Julia's survival was found on Hawes' IMDb page. Sleuths found that Hawes was listed as appearing in six episodes of Bodyguard. However, since the time of this tweet, Hawes' IMDb page has been updated to reflect her characters' journey; now, she's listed as appearing in three episodes, and then is "uncredited" for episode 4.
Another bizarre theory posited that Bodyguard was based on Romeo and Juliet, and so Julia was faking her own death as Juliet did. "She's almost definitely still alive. It's like Shakespeare, but with a happy ending. She tells him she wants to be with him, she fakes her own death, he 'tries' to take his own life. Capulets and Julia Montague," one fan tweeted. The U.K.'s Shakespeare Magazine parsed the veracity of this theory in a Twitter thread and concluded that "Bodyguard does seem to have quite a few Romeo and Juliet references. But essentially it's a political/terrorism drama, so we don't think it really qualifies as a remake or reimagining of Shakespeare's play."
After the finale, the theories wilted and it became undeniable that Julia Montague was very much dead. In a blunt RadioTimes article called "Why She Had To Die," Bodyguard creator Joe Mercurio insisted there's no such thing as a "can't die" character. Mercurio explained Julia's death was meant to radically change the show — which it did.
Most shows, Mercurio explained to RadioTimes, "will always orbit around an equilibrium, in which nothing much changes for the main stars." With Bodyguard, Mercurio "wanted to have this event mid-series that would completely alter the dynamic [and] move the story on." Incidentally, Mercurio killed off a character played by Hawes previously on the show Line of Duty.
Perhaps viewers were so reluctant to accept Julia's death because the dynamic between her and Sergeant David Budd (Richard Madden) was so superb, but not entirely explored. He was a recent veteran with PTSD who pledged to risk his life for a woman whose political beliefs he abhorred. She was a powerful and isolated politician who was bent on battling terrorism through increased aggression in the Middle East and ramping up surveillance on U.K. citizens. And, much like the Romeo and Juliet reference embedded in Julia's name, these two people from wildly different paths came together. Just before Julia dies, she asks David for more – for a relationship that's not limited by their duties as bodyguard and politician.
Instead, she dies, and their potent dynamic is never allowed to come to an organic finish. Following her death, the show turns into a whodunit and loses the thorny, twisted relationship that set it apart from other political thrillers.
In the finale, we learn, at last, who killed Julia Montague. There were many potential options. Was it the Jihadists responsible for the thwarted train attack? Was it the Prime Minister's cronies, trying to protect his position? No; Julia's assassination was orchestrated by criminal gang leader Luke Aitkins, who was scared that Montague's RIPA-18 bill, which would transfer power from the police to the Secret Service, would make it harder for him to pay off the police. As it turns out, David's boss, Lorraine Craddock (Pippa Haywood), had been working with Luke for years and helped deliver information necessary to plant the bomb that killed Julia and two others. Ironically, David spent the show protecting Julia while his boss was secretly doing the opposite.
Bodyguard was gripping from that first riveting scene on. And whether you fundamentally agree with the decision or not, Julia's death is what elevates Bodyguard from a political show to an unforgettable political show. You'll always remember how you reacted when this "can't kill" character was killed.

More from TV

R29 Original Series