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Sunday, 25 April 2021

REVIEW: Line of Duty takes a 'back to basics' approach for the most compelling episode yet.

Those of you who have been reading my reviews thus far know that I have struggled with some aspects of this series of Line of Duty. Although I've enjoyed some of the character arcs and several of the set pieces, the pace of the episodes has been slightly off since the opening instalment. However, I found myself engrossed in tonight's penultimate episode from beginning to end, primarily as I felt that Jed Mercurio and company employed a back-to-basics approach to the storytelling. I appreciated both the simple three-act structure that was used as well as the focus on character development over flashy action set pieces. Furthermore, I felt that this episode allowed the actors to shine and I believe that tonight's instalment had the best performances of series six so far. 


We started with the reveal to last week's cliffhanger as AC-12 arrived at the scene of the stand-off between Kate (Vicky McClure) and Ryan (Gregory Piper) where they discovered the latter was deceased from two gunshots to the chest. Conspicuous by their absence were Kate and Davidson (Kelly McDonald), who had already left the scene having escaped in the former's vehicle. As Carmichael (Anna Maxwell Martin) put a warrant out for the pair's arrest, Kate attempted to expunge information from Davidson about her background. It was here that Davidson revealed that Tommy Hunter was her maternal uncle and that her father was a police officer. Using her access to car and house keys given to her by Steve (Martin Compston), Kate then switched vehicles and was led on a tour of OCG hotspots by Davidson. Unbeknownst to the pair, Osbourne (Owen Teale) had given Carmichael authority to put trackers on all AC-12 vehicles meaning that Kate and Davidson were cornered as they attempted to flee. 

Although I bemoaned the overuse of this series' action set pieces, I enjoyed Kate and Davidson's brief attempts to evade the police convey who were coming to arrest them. The conclusion to this act, which saw Steve and Ted (Adrian Dunbar) convince Kate to drop her weapon was both exciting and touching as it played off the relationship that the trio has forged since the first series. I'm torn over whether killing Ryan was the right move as I felt a confrontation between him and Hastings would've been an intriguing watch. On the other hand, the character had reached his natural conclusion after his corrupt background was revealed by AC-12 last week. Ryan's death also allows Ted to regret not pulling him in for questioning when he had the chance as well as him to be angry at Carmichael for pulling his surveillance. The bigger question is what exactly happened to Ryan? The fact that his death was never seen on-screen suggests that there's more to the tale than him simply being shot by either Kate or Davidson. Despite Davidson admitting to shooting Ryan to protect Kate, it was insinuated throughout the episode that it was Kate who murdered the corrupt officer. However, Kate telling Davidson that she was in the frame for Ryan's murder indicates that she may not have been the person to pull the trigger. 

The main course of this episode was an almost thirty-minute AC-12 interview with Davidson, something that I'm sure the audience has been greatly anticipating. In this interview, Davidson admitted to be the one who suppressed evidence in Operation Lighthouse and delayed the arrest of 'Ross Turner' by alerting the convoy to the robbery at the betting shop. Davidson also admitted to planting the burner phones at Farida's (Anneika Rose) address as well as exploiting  Buckell's (Nigel Boyle) incompetence to frame him as the one who had been manipulating the case. After initially declining to answer AC-12's questions it was the revelation that Tommy Hunter was not only her uncle but also her father that led Davidson to reveal her background and the constant struggle she's faced living a double life. Davidson disclosed that she had tried to distance herself from her uncle until he'd tracked her down and forced her to join the police, being one of the pawns in his network of corrupt officers, despite her never wanting to be part of this life. Despite this being the scene that revealed Davidson's ongoing corrupt background, there's still plenty of key information that was left uncovered due to her answering no comment to some of AC-12's enquiries. 

I adored this scene as it exemplified everything that I loved about Line of Duty and what I've felt has been missing from series six. Despite there being lashings of exposition throughout this sequence, there was enough space between these instances that the sharing of this information didn't feel clunky. The pace of this scene also allowed all four characters to demonstrate their unease at certain questions being asked or the fates of characters being revealed. Whilst I've been critical of both the character of Davidson as well as Kelly McDonald's performance, with good reason to some extent, I found her turn tonight to be truly compelling. Initially portraying Davidson as someone who wasn't going to comply with AC-12's enquiries, I felt she beautifully demonstrated the gradual breakdown in her defences with the reveal of her parentage. MacDonald's facial expressions whilst conveying Davidson's emotional turmoil as well as her self-satisfied smile at falsely admitting to Ryan's murder were utterly brilliant. By the end of the interview, MacDonald demonstrated that Davidson was both a broken woman but also relieved to have finally revealed years of secrets that have clearly been hard to keep. Whilst Davidson's ultimate fate remains unclear, although I don't like her chances if that CCTV feed outside her prison cell is cut, I definitely care more about the character than I have done so far. 

MacDonald wasn't the only one who got to shine during this scene. I felt that Anna Maxwell Martin was a highlight of the interview sequence. I wasn't particularly fond of the actress's performance last week during the reintroduction of Carmichael, however this week she came into her own. Although Carmichael told Ted that she was going to lead the interview, she left the AC-12 boys to interrogate Davidson whilst she sat on the sidelines, interjecting at certain pivotal points when Jo was about to reveal potentially vital information that would identify the fourth man. What I loved most about this performance was the small intricacies that were used, whether it be a slightly disturbed look or the passive-aggressive smile that appears to be her trademark. As Carmichael was steering the interview away from exploring internalised corruption within the police force, there will be some that will feel that she's one of the bent coppers that Ted is so intent on uncovering. However, I don't believe Carmichael is bent but rather she is ambitious and knows how to play the political games better than the AC-12 gang do. As Osbourne is responsible for her appointment in the new AC unit, it appears she doesn't want to rock the boat and therefore is actively diverting the current case away from uncovering any corruption in the force. 

Martin Compston and Adrian Dunbar must also be praised for their work in this long scene, as Steve and Ted played good cop and bad cop when interviewing Davidson. Although there's still a question mark over Ted's reputation, a fact that was briefly mentioned by Kate during the opening sequence, this wasn't a thread that was elaborated upon here. However, the performance from Dunbar kept this thought in the audience's minds by reacting in a perturbed manner when certain names were mentioned primarily those of Lee Banks and John Corbett. Although Dunbar did employ some of Ted's trademark lines, which I feel see the character lapse into cliché, I felt he demonstrated some of the compassion which made us all initially care for The Gaffer. Compston was similarly fantastic here, having to control the pace of the interview as Steve acting as the primary inquisitor. Away from this scene, I felt he was equally compelling in his scenes with Kate, both when Steve convinced her to drop his weapon and the final scenes where they teamed up together. 

The aftermath of the interview saw Carmichael expunge Kate's charges, whilst also telling her that she believes she was the one who killed Ryan, meaning that she could get back to work. The character I felt the sorriest for in this episode had to be Chris Lomax (Perry Fitzpatrick), who is one of the only officers left on Operation Lighthouse not to either have been arrested or murdered. Kate and Steve caught up with Lomax at the warehouse that the OCG had been using to create their workshopped firearms. Discovering that the two OCG members who were killed last week appeared to be carrying implements to seemingly uncover something that was under the floorboards in the warehouse. It appears now that Steve and Kate will be the ones uncovering whatever the OCG wanted to keep secret from the police. 

One of last week's biggest surprises, that James Nesbitt was seemingly joining the show, appears to have been a red herring. This was after Spanish Police entered the home of Marcus Thurwell only to find he and his wife had already been murdered. I'm still thinking that this may be a double bluff, as I don't believe that Nesbitt's photo would've been used had the actor not be coming into the show. At this point in time, I believe that he'll be the focus of a seventh series and I wouldn't be shocked if one of next week's final shots is of Thurwell coming back to the UK. I personally shared Ted's frustration as the final scene saw the outgoing head of AC-12 silently bemoan the fact that he hasn't been able to crack the case. I appreciated that this episode ended in this way rather than with another big cliffhanger as this added to the back-to-basics approach that ran throughout the instalment. When I saw Ted going up in that lift, I was half expecting him to suffer a heart attack but I'm glad that this episode ended the way it did. 

Which brings me to next week's finale and what sort of satisfying conclusion that Mercurio could provide. Although the obvious reveal would be Osbourne's corruption, I don't believe that would be enough nor would be the reveal that Carmichael was working alongside him. I think most of the audience won't be satisfied unless the identity of the fourth man is revealed but I don't personally believe that series six will solve that mystery. Whatever happens, tonight's episode gave me hope that Line of Duty is back on track and that there will be a satisfying conclusion to series six. 

Contributed by Matt Donnelly

                   Line of Duty Concludes Sunday 9.00pm on BBC One

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