It’s a testament to Jed Mercurio and his team of actors that Line Of Duty not only dominated my Twitter timeline last night, but it’s also BBC2’s highest rated drama for 15 years. That’s 15 years! It’s also a testament to the writing and the acting that we’re still talking about it today. I thought I’d throw my two-penneth worth into the mix, and show you some of my favourite reactions to last night’s 90-minute series finale as well as discussing the show even more.
First off, here are some of my favourite reactions to the series during last night’s finale:
With the news that series four will start shooting this summer (hurrah!), here’s what I thought of series three:
- Line of Duty is perhaps the most consistent of all British crime dramas: series one was terrific; series two was even better; and series three pushed the letter even more.
- How lovely (well, maybe not lovely… more butt-clenching) it was to luxuriate in Mercurio’s extended interview scenes. They first started to really hit home during series two, when Steve Arnott and Kate Fleming interviewed Lindsay Denton (has Keeley Hawes ever been better?). It was masterful acting and writing, which explored power politics within a claustrophobic scenario, and demonstrated what can happen during extended scenes like this – the ebb, the flow, the words, the pace, the dynamics. And so it was with the two 20-minute-plus interview scenes in the finale. Gripping stuff. Can you imagine those interview scenes being flourishing on commercial channels with adverts?
- If Keeley Hawes was the star of series two, I thought Adrian Dunbar was utterly brilliant throughout series three. He has always been a very fine actor, but he seems to have assumed this loveable but tough persona that comes with age and maturity. His forceful moralising – his good sheriff – was fantastic as he confronted the fact that all around him was going to shit.
- Jed Mercurio is clever: he’s adding devices that defy the rulebook; he kills off characters when he’s just established them; he plants clues then debunks them; he writes single scenes that go on FOREVER. This third series was particularly clever. What started as a seemingly closed investigation into a corrupt armed forced unit evolved into an all-encompassing case that not only involved all of AC12, but also the entire force. Mercurio also did a good job in bringing back old characters and tying up most of their storylines. (Even though the decks have been cleared in terms of character like Morton, Cottan and Denton, we still don’t know who Cottan’s bosses are.)
- It wasn’t perfect. The ending – from the moment an armed copper blew holes in AC12’s office to Kate Fleming’s perfect shot from 16 miles away (after running a marathon and being knocked down by an SUV) – was daft. The dialogue throughout was often teeth-gratingly bad and the exposition was heavy like Jupiter. However… I found myself surfing so inexorably on the relentless momentum and pace that these flaws were either forgotten or forgiven. That 90-minute finale was the closest thing you’ll come to a high-octance thriller movie on British television as you’re going to get. Line Of Duty has become Britain’s 24.
Here’s what our contributor Deborah Shrewsbury thought of it all:
- We enjoyed the gradual destruction of Fairbank, and it was a cheeky bit of editorialising to make him reliant on his convenient dementia – he certainly wasn’t convincingly doolally. And we couldn’t believe that the clunkiness of his line about having Kate back directing traffic – we’ve heard that in every police procedural since The Sweeney.
- This wasn’t the first time that Hastings had pontificated about the police going after ‘DJs and celebrities’ while the establishment abusers are getting away with it – let it go, mate, we’ve got your point!
- Only Arnott seemed completely unable to respond to the questions put to him without becoming fractious, and if anyone came across as guilty, it was him. Surely as a trained police officer he’d respond better to evidence against him?
- But the gradual erosion of Dot’s confidence in his extended interview, partly prompted by his visions of Lindsay and her gory fringe, was brilliantly played; Kate’s mounting confidence prompted the slow realisation that he was done for, and in this episode he went from being a cunning Iago to a haunted Macbeth. But we were a little unimpressed by the final strand of evidence that tipped him over the edge – just the fact that he couldn’t be sure of his alibi.
- We could never take the Dot/Kate romance seriously, so though he showed a little humanity in refusing to shoot her, we’re not quite sure that he would have taken a bullet for her. Dot was always out for himself, and we can’t quite accept him developing a conscience – he wasn’t repentant, he was just tired. Keeping track of all those mobile phones would have worn anyone out. At the end of the day he was always alone, and this was his tragedy.
- As for the action finale – well, your disbelief had to be complely suspended for that one, as action woman Kate outran two men and a 4×4, pulled off two impossible shots, one from extreme range, and still had the presence of mind to record Dot’s confession (what could he say with his final breath, by the way, that so comprehensively destroyed Fairbank?)
- But if there’s one real disappointment, it’s that there didn’t seem to be a will to explore the implications of The List; who were the other names, and how far up would the conspiracy have gone? Was Bigelow merely an establishment goon, or was she an active member of the conspiracy? We expected to see a scene in which a shadowy figure who doesn’t look a bit like David Cameron picked up a phone and said something to the effect of ‘Make this all go away, and there’s a knighthood in it for you.’
- Anyone fancy having a go at some Line of Duty fan fiction?
So, that’s it for now. It has been a while since a crime drama has captured the imagination so forcefully and it has been great fun to follow. But before we close up on Line Of Duty for now, there’s this:
For all our Line Of Duty news and reviews, go here