TV review: Line of Duty Series 1

“Do you want me to recrime it sir?”

With Jed Mercurio’s Line of Duty about to start its third series on BBC2, I thought I’d go back to the first two series as they have to rank as some of the best police dramas out there. Centred on the world of AC-12, an anti-corruption unit charged with investigating suspected police wrongdoing, we’ve been so far blessed with two extraordinary stories, hanging on superb performances from the people under suspicion – Keeley Hawes (whose series we’ll get to next) and Lennie James.

James plays DCI Tony Gates, a decorated officer with an amazing clear-up rate that seems too good to be true, and so when he comes to the attention of AC-12, initially for something completely unrelated, the wheels are set in motion for a fast-degenerating state of affairs. Money laundering, drug running, cover-ups, and gruesome murders intertwine and intersect with Gates at the heart of it all, but his true connections to events always in question, right until the end.

Mercurio’s police procedural works so well because he furnishes his world with such detail, the petty bureaucracy of modern policing with its weekly crime strategies and pesky risk assessments, every decision prefaced by the thought of how much paperwork it’ll incur. This both contrasts and enrichens the main strand as PSupt Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar) leads his team – newbie DS Steve Arnott (Martin Compston) and undercover ace DC Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) towards what they think is the truth.

But it works best because it is a tightly constructed conspiracy thriller, expertly keeping its character and its audiences on its toes as we’re wrong-footed by red herrings, conflicting loyalties push and pull duty and responsibility against each other (Craig Parkinson and Neil Morrissey are excellent as Gates’ colleagues) and sucked further and further into the swirling vortex of crime and conspiracies. Highly entertaining, they couldn’t improve on this in a second series…could they?!

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