Pages Navigation Menu

"No matter where you go, there you are."

Advert

Line of Duty – Best of British, worst of coppers

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Right ladies, fellas, and non-binary folks, I’ve divided this into two parts.  If you don’t know what I’m waffling on about, read the first part.  If, on the other hand, you’re a hardcore fan like me, listening to the podcast and obsessively reading theories on every worthwhile site, jump straight to the second section.  Carry on.

  1. Briefing for those of you who haven’t seen Line of Duty. Pay attention now, you wee scoundrels …

Line of Duty on BBC One, is now in its sixth (and quite possibly final) series.  The Beeb is boasting about its massive viewing figures, and quite rightly, it’s an absolute phenomenon.

The series began life on BBC Two back in 2012 and comes from the pen of Jed Mercurio, an ex-doctor and politically engaged writer never shy of dealing with topical subjects directly and provocatively.  That first series started with the killing of an innocent Muslim man by armed police officers in a clear mirroring of the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes.

The thing that’s so breathtakingly audacious about this show is that it consistently manages to balance righteous fury at such real-world events against completely barmy action scenes that would sit comfortably in a Bond movie.  If you stop and take a breath, you can drive a Space-X rocket through the plot holes, but that’s not the point.  The point is that this manages to be among the most consistently entertaining TV shows available, standing toe to toe with all the giants of modern TV.

Now okay, as someone who’s been there since the beginning, I’ll concede that maybe it’s not quite as mind-blowingly brilliant as the peak in series two and three, but the current episodes are more than holding their own, and we’ve just had two peerless back-to-back cliff-hangers.

The show follows AC-12, an Anti-Corruption unit of police officers working in ‘Central Police’ in England (Mercurio deliberately never names the location, down to fake postcodes and number plates, although it’s hinted as being set in the Midlands and is filmed in Belfast.  Mercurio wanted it to be deliberately vague so that it could easily be your local constabulary).

Each series has focused on a corruption investigation into a different lead character, portrayed by the cream of UK acting talent.  Series One set the template, as DCI Tony Gates (played by Lennie James) sank deeper into a mire of corruption that started with administrative irregularities and spiralled out of control due to his ill-fated attraction to a greedy criminal in too deep for her own good.

Gates lived and breathed.  He was a multi-dimensional human being from his first scene to his last, and as a viewer you found yourself conflicted as to his guilt or otherwise.

Investigating him are the Three Musketeers of AC-12, led by Superintendent ‘Super Ted’ Hastings, a Belfast raised ex-officer of the RUC, never short of a memorable phrase and as moral and as straight as they come.  Or is he…?

As the series has progressed, we’ve dug deeper into a vile criminal conspiracy that brings all levels of society and the police into intimate contact with organised crime.  Mercurio has incorporated real-life crime into the storylines with a burning, righteous rage.  Somehow, he’s managed to do this without preaching or crossing boundaries of taste, and always with driving, heart-stopping excitement.

Fans love the show as much for its idiosyncrasies as its writing and action set-pieces.  For example, police abbreviations litter it… CHIS, OCG, GSW … there are running jokes about having to watch with one eye on Google to keep up.  But don’t let that put you off, the jargon keeps it feeling authentic and keeps up the pace, it never gets in the way of the story.  Some of the show’s greatest scenes take place in the ‘glass box of doom,’ where an extended (sometimes very extended) interview scene becomes as dramatic and exciting as the best action.  And Hastings’ colloquialisms are the stuff of legend.

Another important thing about the show is the fact that it is stubbornly weekly.  We’re all so used to binge-watching now, that having to wait seven days for the next episode can feel like an ordeal, an ordeal that Mercurio has relished from the first series with the application of fantastic cliff hangers.  A weekly pause can gloss over plot holes or contrivances, which can sometimes be all too clear when watching episodes of a show back-to-back like an extended movie.  The format also encourages fans to hunt down clues, an activity that Mercurio actively engages with.  His ‘Jed herrings’ have become famous now, whether it’s extended on-set chats with actors who played deceased characters (in full view of photographers), or false or misleading cast lists being published.  Searching for clues, just like the characters we love in the show, is half the fun.

When future historians write the final history of our ‘Golden Age of TV’, Line of Duty will be up there with the likes of Breaking Bad as an absolute class ‘A’ thriller.  More than that, it has something important to say, and my profound hope is that the younger generation watching this will look deeper into the crimes and injustices that the show highlights, because as Ted might quote himself, “All that is required for evil to triumph…”

All six series are available on BBC iPlayer in the UK, and one season is also currently available on Netflix.  Check it out and if you get as obsessed as me, I’ll see you for the episode wrap-ups and predictions between now and the end of this series.

  1. If you’re up to date …

You do not have to read this.  But, it may spoil Episode Five of Series Six of Line of Duty if you do so.  Anything you do read may be given in evidence.

Mother. Of. God.

Incest, a Mexican stand-off, Ted in the field, ‘Definately’ making a comeback and one of the most powerful scenes the show has yet produced?  We’re not just sucking diesel here, we’re breathing fire.  The show feels incredibly strong now, if ever so slightly ludicrous at the same time.

I’ve been saying from the start of this series that the slower pace it began with would ultimately reward us, and as it crested the hill of Episode Four it has continued to accelerate toward the climax in 10 days.  So, where are we?

Davidson:

As many speculated, Jo is the daughter, and apparently the niece (as per a Post-It in the background, although I don’t think they could have concluded that purely from the DNA evidence) of Tommy Hunter.  She is the product of incestuous rape.  Just when you thought that Hunter couldn’t become any more loathsome, he manages it.  So, was she initially blackmailed and corrupted by that connection?  If so, it implies that she would have been a law-abiding officer until 2012 because Hunter wasn’t apparently identified beforehand, so presumably, the blackmail wouldn’t work.  Either way, since then she’s carried out corrupt actions and crimes, culminating in her attempt to set up Kate’s murder at the close of this episode.  On the face of it, she was reluctant, so will she come through and potentially save Kate?  Or, should Kate manage to kill Ryan, will Jo try to frame her for his murder?

Ryan:

Our resident psychopath had a bit of a wobble this episode, didn’t he?  Maybe the (probably tongue in cheek) rumours that Martin Compston is in the running for Bond have led him to take a shot at the Bond villain role, hence his moustache-twirling admission of murdering Corbett and Bindra.  In the context of the scene, he was responding to Kate calling him a little boy, and it was a call-back to the interview between them in Series One when she managed to get under his skin.  If he survives this, he’s surely bang to rights now, given the burner phone, the OCG weapon and of course, the attempted hit.  Kudos to actor Gregory Piper, who can deliver such blood-curdling malice with his death-stares.

H:

Well, well, well.  I can now amend my statement in the first part, above, to read: “…a corruption investigation into a different lead character, portrayed by the cream of UK acting talent.  And James Nesbitt.”

Is he going to be the big bad and/or ‘H’?  Well, I hope not, and I don’t think so.  I hope not because he’s just finished (unconvincingly) playing a bent copper in Bloodlands, so it doesn’t feel like great casting to have him pop up here in a similar role.  More importantly, were he confirmed as H with two episodes left, it would feel like a cheat.

I don’t think so, a) for both the reasons above, b) because he’s too big a name only to crop up in a couple of episodes, c) because as many have speculated, if he is a big bad, then it’s more likely a potential set up for a further series, during which anything could happen, and d) it’s just got ‘Jed herring’ written all over it.

What about Ted?  The revelation from Lee Banks that he revealed a rat in the OCG was tough to take after the events of the last series, and Steve’s reaction was understandable, but it is far from conclusive that he’s bent.  If anything, Ted’s just too human for his own good.  If someone had done to your loved one what Corbett did to Ted’s ex-wife, then I’d wager you’d want them hurt or dead too.  I know I would.  And unlike Steve, we already knew the money came from the OCG.  What Ted did with it may have been legally wrong, but it was morally right.   If there’s one thing we know for sure about the real H, it’s that he or she is not a moral person.

The most interesting speculation I’ve seen this week about H is that it’s a place, not a person.  Hillside nick?   The H blocks of the Maze Prison in Ireland?  Either way, surely the most likely ‘Mr Big’ at this point is either CC Osborne, a (still faking) Fairbanks, or a politician we’ve yet to meet.  The Home Secretary, perhaps?

Kate:

Oh, dear.  Not looking good, is it?

Well, Adrian Dunbar was on TV this week pointing out that there is a big clue out there that LoD fans have spotted already about her fate.  My feeling is that there are two contradictory clues:

  • The original series trailer featured Kate in a scene we’ve yet to see.
  • There’s no listing of Vicky McClure appearing in the next two episodes… neither mentioned are Gregory Piper or Kelly Macdonald

Both can’t be true; one is Jed up to his usual tricks.  My speculation is below, but who knows?  They could easily have filmed or edited together a fake trailer.

There’s also been derision toward Kate’s decision to drive to a dodgy truck park.  Nothing good ever happens in truck parks after nightfall, not on TV or the movies for sure, and as grim as that bar looked where she and Davidson had been drinking in earlier episodes, it’s still a bit of a step-down, isn’t it?  However, let’s not forget that at that point she still believed Ryan and Davidson were under surveillance.  Moreover, like all the Three Musketeers, she’s an absolute crack shot and we see her releasing the safety on her weapon ahead of time.  She’s ready.

Aside from the imminent danger to her person, Kate is in better shape than her comrades.

Steve:

Oh, double dear.

The awkward conversation with Steph Corbett brought back painful memories of my dating years.  Neither of them would have been able to hear each other over the mayday signals.  Despite the fifty-odd grand of dirty money stashed in her attic, Steph is the healthiest relationship our wee Steve has had since the show started (albeit she’s a departure from his usual ‘type’).  I’m hoping that somehow, he gets through this and they travel off into the CGI sunset behind her suspiciously smart house (although not as suspicious as DSu Davidson’s swanky, Fort Knox style pad).

But first, there’s the small matter of his drug test, which you just know the loathsome Carmichael will be all over in the next episode (and she is bloody loathsome, sorry).  Steve’s sad relaying of his predicament to Steph in the earlier episode was heartbreaking stuff, Martin Compston has come into his own now, if not always having been the most convincing in past series.  Kudos to his pronunciation of ‘homozygosity’ too.  Must be part of basic police officer training.

Super Ted:

While he didn’t get to deliver another barnstorming speech this week like ‘What has happened to us?’ it was a treat to see the Big Fella out in the field again after his appearance in the Underpass of Secrets the week before.  “Site three.  Alpha Charlie one zero receiving,” was great to hear, as the plot unfurled, and we realised Kate and the team’s plan.

And while seeing him getting his wings clipped by Carmichael (did I mention I don’t like her?) was hard to take, few will have missed his choice of phrase as he rushed to Kate’s aid at the end: “That’s my officer out there.  I’ll breathe when she’s safe.”  Does that mean that Kate has been under deep cover the whole time?  Nah.  It means that once Ted cares about you, he does so for life, no matter the difficulties that have passed between them and Kate’s speaking truth to power in the past episode.  If anything, he respects and values her even more now.

The trouble is, Sindwhani has given Ted both carte blanche and a time limit.  The last time he was under pressure like that, he pretended to be H and nearly lost his liberty as a result.  What on Earth is he going to do this time?

Everyone else and the plot:

If Ted didn’t get a memorable speech this episode, Chloe certainly did.  The amalgamation of the real-life Stephen Lawrence and Christopher Alder cases into the fictional Lawrence Christopher was a big step.  Like others, I hope that their families were consulted beforehand.  I expect they were, and I commend anything that brings attention to the cases.  The fact is, if you’re not angry about what happened to those men, then frankly you bloody-well should be.  Chloe’s question, “How could anyone be okay?” just like Ted’s “What has happened to us?” should not be allowed to be a rhetorical one.

The more we see of Chloe, the more I believe she’s a good ‘un.  The idea that she’s Gates’ daughter or a relative of Lawrence Christopher may turn out to be true (especially given Central Police’s woeful record on staff vetting), but I think she’s going to be one of the heroes.  More prosaically, I think she’s taking the place of Tatleen, played by Taj Atwell in Series Five.  Atwell is starring in the current series of The Syndicate, so they may just have had a casting clash and decided to bring in a new character.

Chloe may go on to be one of the new Three Musketeers if there is a Series Seven.  Which brings me to…

Predictions:

Ryan’s modified gun misfires (the earlier episode hinted at this when they interviewed the boy-band armed robber), and Kate (highly trained AFO remember) fires two shots, double-tap to the centre mass.

Ryan dies, Kate survives.  But…

Since that first trailer that I linked to above, they’ve been hinting that Kate might die.  I have a horrible feeling it’s a bait and switch, and that the close of Episode Six will see either Ted or Steve die.  No cliff-hanger, no get-out clause, one of them unquestionably deceased.  There’s just too much of a finality hanging over this series for all of them to get out alive.  If it’s Ted that doesn’t make it, would Steve and Kate end up frostily working with Carmichael in a future series?

In this theory, that loss seriously jeopardises the investigation, only for DS Chris Lomax to step up in the final episode, revealing himself as a UCO for either AC3 or AC9 and helping them crack the case.  His physical and personal similarity to Dot Cottan has got to be a misdirect, surely?  And he’s been there since the first scene of this series… there is more to him than meets the eye.

 

I’m going to try to post early Monday morning after each of the final two episodes, but I’m watching this at the same time as you, I don’t, unfortunately, have early access like some reviewers, so I’ll get something out as soon as I can!  Till next time…

For more of my ramblings, check out FiskFilm or Medium.

Previous PostNext Post



Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

One Comment

  1. Roll on tomorrow night!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Amazon Prime Free Trial