“We underestimated her”
The first series of Line of Duty was well-received by critics and audiences alike, hence a second series of Jed Mercurio’s police show being commissioned. With the centre of the anti-corruption team AC-12’s investigation DCI Gates having reached a conclusion of sorts, their attentions are turned onto Keeley Hawes’ DI Lindsay Denton, the sole survivor of an ambush on a witness protection scheme that leaves three police officers dead. Suspicions are aroused by some suspect decision-making on her part but it’s soon evident that there’s much more to the case, not least in the tendrils that connect it to the past.
Series 1 was very good but Series 2 seriously raises the bar, firstly by engaging in some Spooks-level business in casting the excellent Jessica Raine and well…spoilers, but secondly in getting from Hawes the performance of a lifetime in a masterpiece of a character. Denton is so multi-faceted that she’d beat a hall of mirrors at its own game and from her manipulative use of HR to her way with noisy neighbours to the shocking abuse she suffers in custody to the machinations of her superiors, the slipperiness of this woman is merciless and magisterial in its execution, its inscrutable nature utterly compelling.
This time round, Mercurio expands on the lives of the AC-12 team members, to demonstrate the difficulties in maintaining probity whilst investigating others for their lack thereof. So the personal lives of Adrian Dunbar’s Hastings, Martin Compston’s Arnott and Vicky McClure’s Fleming are thrown under the spotlight, their dubious decisions and their impact on the case becoming an integral part of the intrigue, directors Douglas Mackinnon and Daniel Nettheim keeping the twists and turns coming at a pretty pace through every window of opportunity, Craig Parkinson’s Dot Cottan remaining a cracking presence too.
There’s also the kind of supporting cast that sends me into raptures – the faultless Liz White as a media rep for the police, Henry Pettigrew and Sacha Dhawan as a couple of Vice cops generally up to no good, Claire-Louise Cordwell’s brilliantly hard-faced screw, Mark Bonnar’s no-nonsense but entitled Deputy Chief Constable Dryden indicative of one character’s observation that the higher up the ladder, the more policemen (have to) become politicians. But it is Hawes’ flinty stare, masking psychotic depths, that you’ll remember as your sympathies are cleverly challenged and notions of right and wrong become a little less definitive than they ever were before.