Review: Line Of Duty (S3 E3/6), Thursday 8th April, BBC2

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 29/03/2016 - Programme Name: Line of Duty - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. 3) - Picture Shows:  Detective Sergeant Steve Arnott (MARTIN COMPSTON) - (C) World Productions - Photographer: Steffan Hill
(C) World Productions – Photographer: Steffan Hill

Oh, ‘Dot’ Cottan, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Lindsay Denton (Keeley Hawes) may have that thousand-yard stare, Steve Arnott makes the sullied boy scout shtick work for him, and Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar) has that world-weary, silver-haired George Clooney thing going on, but despite getting less screen time than Line Of Duty’s other main characters, Craig Parkinson’s pivotal DS Cottan is a revelation. But more of this anon.

Firearms cops Jackie Brickford and Hari Bains have clearly conspired to cover up some aspect of the killing of their boss Danny Waldron; Kate is following Hari, unaware that his mysterious contact is ‘Dot’ Cottan. Dot cosies up to Kate with his cooking, presumably to keep tabs on her progress.

Arnott follows up a lead on Danny Waldron’s young life and questions a previous resident of boys’ home, Sands View. Joe Nash (Jonas Armstrong) reveals a history of sexual abuse perpetrated by the Murphys and an assortment of ‘VIPs’ including Councillor Dale Roach. Arnott realises that Waldron was on a revenge mission, and that he must carry it on; but who else was on Waldron’s list, now destroyed by Dot?       

Roach is now an unresponsive stroke victim nearest the door at a hospice, so Arnott has to argue that the case is still in his jurisdiction because it involves bent coppers who failed to investigate the abuse.

Kate pressures Jackie by telling her that Hari has been caught making calls from a phone box to an unregistered mobile, and Jackie goes to AC-12 to try to clear herself. She confesses that the team was covering up for Waldron’s shooting of Murphy, and blames Hari for the killing of Danny. She hopes for some mercy, but gets the book thrown at her. Hari is pulled in for further questioning over the death of Danny, and for that matter the supposed suicide of Rod Kennedy, whose death now looks like murder.

When the armed cops steam in to take Hari Bains, Dot tips him off, lures him to the spot where Rod died, and sets him up as a murderer. Dot gets a commendation, but Bains’ mobile phone history looks suspicious, so Dot’s not quite off the hook. Still, Hastings is happy with him – so,thus is ’tenderly led by the nose as asses are’.

Then, under questioning in court over her claim that she was set up by Steve Arnott, Lindsay Denton’s claim that they had a relationship starts to show cracks; but when the verdict is in, she’s acquitted of the murder charge, and has served her time for perverting the course of justice, so she gets to walk out of the court on licence.  Arnott’s chipmunk face looks particularly peeved.

Now, Dot’s many burner phones start ringing; the dodgy characters he’s protecting are going to want to know whether they are safe. After stalking others for at least a series and a half, he is now looking like the prey.

Parkinson’s performance as Cottan encapsulates the banality of evil; as much as you want to yell: “He’s behind you!” at other characters, this is no pantomime villain. He looks unprepossessing, but when he’s putting one over on someone, a nictitating membrane flashes across his eyes – just for a millisecond – to reveal his true reptilian heart. But he doesn’t overwork it. Last week when he debriefed Kate in the team’s usual haunt – the fetid, graffiti-covered underpass – Cottan seemed in his natural habitat, flashing a hint of this sly smile just as she’d turned to walk away. And that coffee cup; the violent contempt with which he hurled his (still full) posh coffee to the floor spoke volumes.

He’s usually languid and lazy in the way he moves in front of others to wrong-foot them. In just a beat, we gleaned that he could have snapped her neck and left without as much as a backward glance.

Always underestimated, Cottan lives on the periphery and is content to stay there; when we first met him he was sidelined by his colleagues as half of a comical cops routine – playing Beavis to DC Nigel Morton’s Butt-head (Neil Morrissey). The relationship delineated his whole past; he’d attached himself to another outsider – someone he probably regarded as good camouflage.

He was probably always Matty-no-mates at school and having failed to get into the popular set, he contented himself pulling legs off insects – graduating to torturing local cats and then, as a born spy, possibly shopping other kids to the authorities.

It’s easy to see why he opted to collect stray balls at the local links. Seduced by thespurious glamour of the gangsters who golf (although crime lord John ‘Tommy’ Hunter must have looked incongruous in a posh club hobnobbing with the senior police figures he’d later pander to), he probably enjoyed ingratiating himself with them by washing their cars, and listening to their gore stories. Being their mascot, young Cottan the Caddy was practising for the day he’d be pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes. (Strangely, Hunter has been the weakest character in the story arc – a Lidl baddie rather than the Waitrose version required to kneecap so many careers.)

After the ambush murders of series two, how many people remain in the Caddy’s bent network? Hunter’s underage sex ring has to have included more police officers than just Detective Chief Constable Mike Dryden. Were those on the now burnt list Cottan’s masters, or his enemies?

Nigel Morton, a little twisted if not entirely bent, is retired but still alive, with a pax vobiscum parting bung for ‘outing’ dead ambusher cop Jez Cole as The Caddy. Will Morton too make a reappearance?

Arnott and Fleming are right on the money, being united on the fact that they don’t actually trust Cottan and would rather work without him. However, this works against their interests. It frees him to work on currying favour with Hastings, to whose  increasingly flustered Othello he plays Iago, as dressed by Top Man.

Deborah Shrewsbury

For our episode one review, go here

For our episode two review, go here


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