Review: Line of Duty Series 1-4
DVD: Line of Duty: Series 1-4 (2012 – 2017)
How to write a review of a sprawling series that gives away no clues – impossible, so if you haven’t seen Line of Duty right from the beginning (there are now 4 series), do NOT read.
In an age of ‘box set TV’, having to wait week by week for the next episode of Line of Duty has been excruciating, because it’s one of the best series to ever grace the television.
AC-12 are the dedicated unit responsible for investigating police corruption led by DSI Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar) and assisted by DS Steve Arnott (Martin Compston) and DS Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure, whose management refused to let her talk to 60MW because we hadn’t got enough social media followers. So tell your friends to follow us so that we can get even more interview guests!).
In series one AC-12 was tasked with investigating high-flying copper Tony Gates (Lennie James), recently named Officer of the Year. Gates had agreed to help his lover Jackie when she told him she’d hit a dog while drink driving. In actual fact, it transpired she had hit her own accountant, after he discovered she was laundering money for local gangster Tommy Hunter. Just when Gates was about to reveal all, Jackie was murdered and Hunter framed Gates for the killing. Hunter blackmailed Gates, saying he would hand the fabricated evidence over to the police unless he did as he was told. In desperation, Gates tried to track down his blackmailer alone, with AC-12 onto him and with no way out, he agreed to lead AC-12 to Tommy, securing vital evidence that led to Hunter’s arrest before committing suicide.
At the end of the series, viewers learned that DS Matthew ‘Dot’ Cottan (Craig Parkinson), one of Gates’s police colleagues, had been Tommy Hunter’s inside man all along. He was codenamed ‘The Caddy’ as he used to carry Tommy’s golf bags as a kid. Dot told Hunter what to say to the police, getting him into a witness protection programme, ending series one.
Series 2 began with an armed attack on a police convoy transporting a protected witness. DI Lindsay Denton (a wonderful Keeley Hawes) was the only survivor, and was immediately suspected of being a criminal insider. Denton proved a formidable case for AC-12, outwitting them constantly. The protected witness turned out to be none other than Tommy Hunter from series one. In fact, it was Dot who masterminded the hit on the police convoy, ordering the killing of Hunter in order to protect his gang paymasters and Dots corrupt identity. Denton was an accomplice, convinced to help after watching a teenager being abused by Hunter. However, she never knew the full picture or that Dot was the man behind it all; she was left alive so that she would be blamed for the attack. At the end of the series Denton was convicted of conspiracy to murder. Dot, who had been so ‘helpful’ with AC-12’s inquiry, became a permanent member of the team, tasked with discovering the identity of ‘The Caddy’ after the anti-corruption unit got wind of the codename.
Unsurprisingly, that wasn’t a case Dot was particularly keen on solving. The corrupt copper was now at the heart of the force’s anti-corruption team. A plum posting indeed, leading to series 3. When armed response team leader Sergeant Danny Waldron (Daniel Mays) became the subject of AC-12’s investigations after a suspect was shot dead in suspicious circumstances. The series produced another one of their ‘every character is expendable’ twist by killing Waldron, apparently by one of his own team by the end of episode 1.
It transpired that Waldron had a list of names of people who had sexually abused him and his schoolmates as a child, and was taking revenge. The paedophile ring included high-profile politicians, policemen and celebrities including, in a disturbing nod to real events, Jimmy Savile. Waldron had tried to leave a copy of the list for DS Arnott, but dodgy Dot who was now in charge of the investigation discovered the record of names and destroyed it. In a surprise return that caught everyone off guard, DI Denton’s conviction was overturned on appeal, and the series two anti-heroine was free again. agreeing to assist Arnott in cracking open the child abuse case by discovering a back-up version of the list (remember, it was witnessing abuse in series two that dragged her into the ill-fated police convoy). It was Denton, too, who finally discovered Dot’s true identity as the corrupt mastermind turning everyone’s heads in the wrong direction. In a grim showdown, and another amazing plot twist Dot shot Denton through the head – but not before she managed to deliver a digital copy of Waldron’s list of abusers to AC-12.
While Dot had attempted to frame Arnott as the corrupt insider, Fleming wasn’t buying it. In a feature-length finale, Dot was finally unmasked as ‘The Caddy’ in a riveting interview scene. Dot had planned his escape route long ago, and in a spray of bullets and shattering glass escaped the interrogation room, only to have Fleming chase him down. The ensuing chase saw Dot jump in front of bullets from a mystery assailant to save Fleming’s life, recording his ‘Dying Declaration’ for his colleague before passing away evidence that would help bring the abusers to justice.
With Dot dead, Fleming and Arnott are reunited with boss Ted Hastings.
So begins series 4. A series which has gripped Britain every Sunday night for the last 6 weeks. The team are back together and this time AC-12 are concentrating on DI Roz Huntley (Thandie Newton) who under enormous pressure from her boss to find Balaclava man who may be a serial killer. All the seasons of Line of Duty are twisty turny, and despite its sometimes hard-to-follow ‘police speak’ this is TV of the highest calibre, it doesn’t take a breath so the audience can catch up, but rather ploughs on – like its REAL. The acting is OUTSTANDING (even Vicky McClure’s continually staring, unblinking, googy eyes can’t put you off) throughout (special mention to Keeley Hawes for a career best as Denton, world weary, lonely, and clever, she is as real as they come), and the pacing and writing is magnificent. Even when a shooting occurs, you don’t think ‘that wouldn’t happen’ you think ‘Wow he’s like Wyatt Earp’!
I don’t want to explain the plot of series 4, all I can say is this is intelligent and gripping drama which probes untouchable scenarios – child abuse, police corruption and even sexism in the work place. All 3 series have been amazing, but series 4 is a crowning glory. It neatly answered a lot of questions but also left the one BIG question (who is the main bad guy) open, because series 5 begins next year. Personally I can’t wait to see this series come to its conclusion. It’s one of the rare TV series that is interconnected, a huge sprawling story that bit by bit is coming to a hopefully explosive ending in 5. Fantastic.
Line of Duty series 1-4 boxset will be available to buy from 8th May, 2017.