There are two sides to Line of Duty which have been showcased perfectly during the first half of the drama's current run. On one hand, there's the intricate police procedural aspect which has been well-explored through the AC-12 elements of the story. It's these parts of Jed Mercurio's masterpiece that I love and this series it appears as if Mercurio is exploring sexism that's rife within the police force. However, I'm less keen on the bigger moments as we follow the antagonists of the piece running around, tampering with evidence and interfering with crime scenes. Unfortunately, I do feel as if it's one of these more outlandish moments that will provide the big talking point of episode three namely Steve Arnott's (Martin Compston) attack at the hands of Nick Huntley (Lee Ingleby).
There have been theories going on around the internet since episode one that Roz's (Thandie Newton) hubby Nick had more of a hand in the Operation Trapdoor killings than he was letting on. Indeed, that thought crept into my mind after Roz's lie about her whereabouts on the night of Tim's murder having something to do with one of the Trapdoor victims. The way Nick framed his follow-up question made me believe he had more invested in his wife's investigation than a simple curiosity in his other half's workload. These suspicions were seemingly justified at the end of tonight's episode as Nick donned the customary balaclava and attacked Steve in a stairwell; presumably leaving him fighting for his life. Although it was another neat little twist, I felt the highlights of the episode came elsewhere.
Though the twists are exciting, it's the theme of sexism that Mercurio seems to be threading through this series that I find myself more drawn to. Ever since the look on Kate's face (Vicky McClure) when Hastings (Adrian Dunbar) accused Roz's career of plateauing after she started a family you knew there was tension building in AC-12. Throughout episode two, Hastings refused to go for a drink with Kate as he didn't think it would look good for him to be seen alone with a beautiful young girl. However, he had no qualms about doing the same with Steve and because of their out-of-hours chat it appears as if Arnott will be promoted over his equally qualified colleague. These scenes were almost replicated in this episode however this time it was a female boss in the form of Roz inviting a female employee out for a drink to discuss her career progression. Furthermore, it appears that Kate is slowly falling under Roz's spell especially after she applauded the undercover officer's ambition and offered to advance her placement in her police station. I personally feel as if this is the most interesting thread in this year's story as it feels like the most realistic aspect of the show.
This thread is also allowing cracks to appear in the relationship between Kate and Steve which has always been based on a sense of professional competition. This series more than any other they appear to be acting like warring siblings both fighting for the approval of surrogate father Hastings.
As Kate delves further undercover and begins to believe that the allegations against Roz may be unfounded her underpass debriefs with Steve are becoming increasingly frosty. I've never heard the word 'mate' being used so passive aggressively before and it's a testament to both McClure and Compston that they're able to make these scenes seem so realistic. Steve's professional world is tested further this week by the introduction of Jamie (Royce Pierreson) a new member of the AC-12 team who is being tasked with training. Steve appears to be irked by the appearance of a younger, more charming officer although it seems as if now AC-12 may need another team member judging by what happened in the closing scenes.
Elsewhere, more information is coming to light about the background of Hana (Gaite Jensen); the young waitress who was rescued from Michael Farmer's burning house at the beginning of the series. It appears that her relationship with the recently deceased Tim Ifield (Jason Watkins) was more complex than we first believed which adds more intrigue to the Trapdoor case. It appears as if Hana had been subsidising her income as both a waitress and cleaner by working as a prostitute and it's eventually revealed that Tim was one of her clients. As Hana's secret is revealed, she accuses the police of ruining her life whilst Jodie (Claudia Jessie) rebuts her by claiming 'no we protect lives'. I found this to be the most interesting part of the episode and Jodie's line in particular was a brilliantly written and delivered one which builds in to one of the most prevailing themes of the series. Rather than protect lives the police have seemingly condemned the mentally slow Michael Farmer to a long-term prison sentence, revealed the cash-strapped Hana to be working as a prostitute and are attempting to sully the memory of the lonely but ultimately good Tim Ifield. Although some of this is due to Roz's meddling, I believe this is a shining a light on the injustice that exists during some of these investigations especially against those who aren't as sharp as the officers involved in the questioning.
So we arrive back at the end of the episode and the questions that Nick's attack on Steve pose for the series going forward. Although I wasn't a fan of the way Nick's villainy was revealed it does open up a whole new plot thread going forward. The biggest question is was Roz aware of her husband's guilt and was she attempting to push the investigation in a different direction in order to stop Nick being arrested as a double murderer? In my opinion I feel she started to suspect her husband after seeing the image of 'balaclava man' on Tim's laptop which revealed the shoe size of the true killer. The fact that we're not sure of how much Roz knows is a testament to Mercurio's writing and I believe we'll have to wait until the final episode to find out the truth. However, one thing I do want is for Steve Arnott to survive the attack as I don't think the drama can survive without him and I don't believe that this episode will be the last time he'll ever get to talk to his 'mate' Kate again.