In the words of Ted Hastings, ‘now we’re sucking diesel.’ After an underwhelming start to series six, tonight’s second episode was more engaging and was much better paced. It also felt like a classic episode of Line of Duty with a clear focus now being established as well as one of those infamous long AC-12 interviews. However, I do still feel that there is something missing from this series and it may be in that the newer characters don’t feel as well-drawn as those from Line of Duty’s past.
What I liked about this episode as it established early on what the motivation for the murder of journalist Gail Vella (Andi Osho) may have been. Steve (Martin Compston) and Chloe (Shalom Brune-Franklin) discover that Gail had reported on several of AC-12’s past cases and armed with this information, visit her producer. They are then shown a clip of Gail discussing the possibility of corruption in the force whilst reporting on the outcome of Operation Pear Tree. This clip, cut from the final broadcast, was to form part of a podcast that Vella was planning to release which would explore the suppression of police enquiries. The pair are also informed that, at the time of her murder, several items were also stolen from Gail’s property, which may have concerned incriminating evidence about certain senior officers.
This information leads AC-12 to start their initial investigation into Operation Lighthouse. However, this is initially halted when Davidson (Kelly MacDonald) advises that she had already gone to the DCC to discuss her suspicion with them and that their decision overturns that of AC-12. Whilst Hastings (Adrian Dunbar) goes to his superiors to restart their investigation, Steve learns that Kate (Vicky McClure) was responsible for tipping off Davidson regarding the impending AC-12 investigation. Annoyed with this delay Hastings serves Davidson with a Reg-15 notification so an official interview can begin.
I hadn’t realised how much I’d missed the Line of Duty interviews until I heard that elongated beep that starts the official recordings of the cross-examination. This scene also allowed Hastings, who made little impression last week, to take centre stage and utter some iconic, if slightly unprofessional, one-liners. AC-12 present to Davidson the theory that the delay in apprehending their suspect last week allowed the criminals behind Vella’s murder to switch Carl Banks and Terry Boyle. This, in turn, led to both the deaths of Banks and CHIS Alistair Oldroyd as the criminal gang tried to cover their tracks. Surprisingly, Davidson agrees with their theories but denies being corrupt herself or communicating with any members of the OCG.
Davidson suggestion that AC-12 investigate the officers who were aware of Oldroyd’s informant status leads them to find a group of burner phones in the flat of Farida (Anneika Rose). Given Farida’s intimate past with Davidson, of which AC-12 are made aware, we are led to believe her story that she is being set-up by her former lover. Whilst Farida is arrested, Davidson is released after a brief stay in custody but is taken back to her car. The final scene, which I still don’t quite understand after watching the episode twice, sees Davidson pick up a burner phone and then take it back to her car before having what can only be described as a tantrum.
I think those who found last week’s opener dull will be pleased to know there’s plenty going on in this episode and that I believe that the possible corruption in the Vella murder case was also explained well. I love the way Jed Mercurio weaves previous series’ storylines into each new story, and this was done here by showing Vella’s reporting on various cases, linking her murder especially into last series’ Operation Pear Tree. The only part of this episode where I felt the pacing was a little off was when AC-12’s initial arrival was scuppered by Davidson, only for them to restart the investigation a few scenes later. However, I realise that this delay was a theoretical way of somebody planting the evidence in Farida’s flat which would then be found when Davidson raised suspicion about her.
This episode also saw the reappearance of Ryan Pilkington (Gregory Piper), former member of the OCG and newly qualified police officer. Ryan is introduced as a replacement for Farida, who requests a transfer because of her unease around working with Davidson, and there is already the question of if anyone in the force knows of his past. The fact that he is the one that meets Davidson when she is released from custody suggests some link between her and the OCG but it’s too early at this stage to ascertain whether Ryan is has been implanted as an inside man.
One of my criticisms of last week’s episode was the lack of time spent with the core trio of Kate, Steve and Hastings as their stories felt slightly weak. This episode saw the introduction of a new thread as it was revealed that Hastings had been secretly meeting with John Corbett’s widow Steph (Amy de Bruhn) since the end of the last series. The opening recap video helpfully showed us one of last series’ final scenes where Hastings appeared at Corbett’s grave to present her with the money that was given to him as a bribe but was never recovered. A suspicious Steve arrives at Steph’s house, under the ruse of having a new case local to her and passes comment on the number of things she’s been able to afford since her husband’s death. However, he is soon asking for Steph’s help as he has a twinge of pain in his back which sees her find several boxes of painkillers in his glovebox. This scene ends with the hint of romance between Steve and Steph, which I found to be an intriguing aspect for this series which at least gives the former something to do.
A story thread that has been carried over from last week is that of Steve’s unrest at AC-12 and his desire to move on. Hastings, who has potentially noticed Steve’s malaise, rewards his loyalty by promoting him to DI. However, this promotion comes a scene before Steve receives an e-mail from Jo informing him that her boss wants a confidential chat about a possible new position in the police. In a later scene, it’s revealed that there is potential tension between Steve and Hastings as the latter refuses to let the ‘H’ conspiracy go whilst the former has moved on. I personally enjoy this relationship between the pair and whether this series will see them grow closer or further apart.
Of the three core characters, I still don’t feel that Kate is getting enough to do and found her role in this episode to be diminished. Although she was responsible for leaking the information of the AC-12 investigation to Davidson, Kate’s role after this was mainly to go for drinks with her boss. There was a feeling throughout this scene that Farida’s suspicions were correct, and Davidson is attracted to Kate. Meanwhile, there is also the insinuation that Kate’s spending time out of work with Davidson is part of an undercover operation that she is surreptitiously conducting and that she is trying to earn her boss’s trust to ultimately uncover the truth. Long term fans of the show will remember that this is how she revealed Dot as a corrupt officer, and it may be a case of history repeating itself with Davidson. Despite this theory, I still found Kate’s involvement in this episode to be lacking and hope to see more of her as the series progresses.
This may be by design, but I still can’t get a handle on the character of Davidson and how I’m meant to feel about her. Even in the scene with Kate at the bar, where I hoped we’d get more context about her, she gave very little away about her character. Davidson also feels like the first guest character who has watched the show as she was one step ahead of AC-12 when they initially visited the office and later agreed with Hasting’s assertion about corruption in the Vella murder investigation. However, neither Jed Mercurio nor Kelly MacDonald has done enough to make me invested in Davidson’s side of the story and it’s very rare for me to have this little interest in the lead guest character this far into a Line of Duty series.
Another character who I don’t feel enough time has been spent developing is AC-12’s newest recruit, Chloe. Despite featuring in a few of the episode’s pivotal scenes, Chloe has made little impression on me and I think more could’ve been done to introduce her in the opener. At the moment I feel as if Chloe is simply another body to stand next to Steve and ask a few questions, rather than a fully drawn character. Whilst I understand that she is not the focus of the series, in the past, I’ve felt like I knew the supporting officers, but I can’t say the same about Chloe.
Overall, I thought this episode was a vast improvement on last week’s opener as I enjoyed both the scenes focusing on AC-12’s investigation as well as those featuring Steve and Hastings. Although I don’t think I’m fully invested in the character of Davidson and believe that Kate needs more to do, I think that those disappointed with last week’s instalment will find tonight’s more compelling. I’m now hoping that this is a growing trend, and each episode will improve on the previous one as I’m now fully engrossed in the story of who killed Gail Vella and more importantly why?
Contributed by Matt Donnelly
Line of Duty Continues Sunday 9.00pm on BBC One