Sometimes a drama series provides a powerful opening episode only to provide further instalments that really don’t deliver. This isn’t true of Line of Duty, which we were gushing about even before it started airing. After that first episode we were more or less convinced that Keeley Hawes‘ Lindsay Denton was guilty of setting up an ambush that resulted in the death of three police officers and a witness. Since then writer Jed Mercurio has led us on a merry path as, instead of becoming the villain of the piece, Lindsay has become the most sympathetic character.
Mercurio has been very clever in the way he presented Lindsay in the first two episodes as she came across as an incredibly manipulative character. From her attack on her neighbour to her background research on the AC-12 team we learnt that she was somebody not to take at face value. There was definitely a motive to some of her actions, especially her appearance at the empty garage, but gradually it appears as if she had little to do with the opening ambush. I certainly believed that when she told Steve that she didn’t do it he believed her. Aside from the hugely shocking final moments of episode one, the brutal and clinical scenes in the prison were outstanding. Her attack at the hands of the prison guards provided one of the only shocks of the third instalment and was beautifully choreographed. This led to Lindsay’s discovery that her mum was dying and the incredibly touching scenes between the pair at the nursing home. Throughout the episode Hawes has been fantastic and has presented Lindsay as a multi-layered character who we can never thoroughly trust. She is able to communicate Lindsay’s feelings without speaking a word of dialogue and a perfect example of this is when Lindsay considered making a run for it from the nursing home. In addition Hawes seems to be having a whale of a time, whether it be having scolding water poured on hands or running for her life in the closing moments of episode four.
Indeed, as we’ve seen, Lindsay’s life is in peril, presumably at the hands of Mark Bonnar’s manipulative Mike Dryden. Dryden’s debut in the show was fairly inconsequential as he only appeared in a handful of scenes where he tried to appease the press. But as the series has progressed, Mercurio has made him into one of the most manipulative characters in the show. From covering up his speeding conviction to revealing Lindsay’s identity to the newspapers. It does appear as if Lindsay is telling some of the truth about Dryden, namely that the pair were conducting an affair for a number of years. Dryden’s connection with the men who have just kidnapped Lindsay is also evident through a video chronicling his early movements on the night of the ambush. But it does appear to be too much of an easy solution to the mystery if Dryden was the main man behind the ambush and the later killing of the witness. Even if he is responsible, I’m sure that Lindsay is exactly innocent and her involvement in the Carly Kirk case suggests that she knows more than she’s letting on. It does seem odd to think that Robert Lindsay was initially going to play Dryden as Mark Bonnar is perfectly suited to the role of this oily police detective. Bonnar’s work throughout the series has been great and it will be interesting to see where he takes the character in the upcoming episodes.
Meanwhile, it appears as if our existing characters have all let their personal lives get in the way of the investigation in some way. Steve’s inability to keep it in his pants have resulted in him sleeping with a witness and later with Rogerson, a detective from a rival branch of the police force. Why women find Steve utterly irresistible is beyond me, let’s not forget Georgia also had the hots for him, but it does look that it could prove to be his downfall. Similarly, Kate’s affair with Richard Akers has landed her in trouble after it was revealed that his late wife was being bribed by the men who set up the ambush. As Richard failed to come forward when he found out about the money, he’s now been arrested and in turn Kate’s family life has been torn into pieces. Even the usually reliable Ted has been attempting to rebuild his financial situation after a dodgy investment in Ireland left him bankrupt. His feeling that a promotion and a raise will solve everything has meant he’s been forced to ingratiate himself with Dryden. As more information starts to be revealed about Dryden, it appears as if Ted is trying to hamper the investigation purely so he can further his own career. This interesting character development is just another example of how Mercurio’s characters feel realistic as every one of them has some sort of fatal flaw.
Although I feel as if series two of Line of Duty can be watched without any prior knowledge of series one it’s great that Mercurio has included some references to the past series. This is most notable in the return of Craig Parkinson’s ‘Dot’ Cottan, as the representative for the witness protection squad. Long time fans of the show know that Dot is corrupt and was basically involved in the villains getting away towards the end of series one. With the mentions of ‘The Caddy’ during an interview with the late witness, it does appear that Dot’s secret may finally come out. But I do feel as if he will do something to redeem himself in terms of solving this case. I personally feel that Parkinson is great in his role as the wisecracking officer who enjoys lauding his new position over Kate and Steve, neither of whom particularly like him. Vicky McClure, Martin Compston and Adrian Dunbar all continue to provide weight to the programme and are all utterly believable in their roles. Though their characters are far from perfect, they portray them as people who ultimately want to do the right thing and who are determined to get to the truth. In fact all of the characters in Line of Duty have their weaknesses and I feel it’s refreshing to watch a crime drama where the detectives feel like real people.
Overall, Line of Duty has proved itself to be the first unmissable drama of 2014. From the performances to the cinematography and especially Mercurio’s script; the series has excelled in providing an hour of thrilling entertainment every week. In fact I would go as far as to describe the drama as breath-taking as I was personally gasping for air during Line of Duty’s final ten minutes. It’s been a long time since a drama has had that kind of effect on me and I’m just hoping that Line of Duty now has a satisfying conclusion.
Line of Duty Continues Wednesday’s at 9.00pm on BBC TWO.