It’s official: we are all allowed to get ready for what promises another spectacular series of Line Of Duty. Series three was when Jed Mercurio’s anthology series about police corruption really was catapulted into the stratosphere, going from cult hit to mega-hit. So much so, series four will now play out on BBC1 in the UK in a primetime slot (you can see confirmation after the jump). If you need to catch up on things Netflix is currently playing series one to three. The show had its series four launch in London a week or so ago and I was there for it, and so was writer/director Jed Mecurio and star Vicky McClure, as well as this series new guest protagonist, Thandie Newton. Over the jump is a spoiler-free preview.The first thing to say is that one of the reasons why, I think, we love Line Of Duty is because it’s unlike anything else in the crime drama genre at the moment. While the current trend is for dark, meaty character-based dramas, Line Of Duty comes along and just says: “Fuck that stodgy shit. I’m going to take you on a break-neck ride at 4,000mph and it’s going to be fun, daft, tense-as-you-like and you’re going to love it.”
And that’s what the first few minutes of the first episode of series four does. It slaps you in the face, kicks you in nethers and raises your heart-rate from 0-60 in about two seconds. It’s a breathless, brilliantly edited first few scenes – in that short space of time we’re introduced to Thandie Newton’s very efficient, driven and meticulous DCI Roz Huntley, who’s under huge pressure to catch a murderer at the centre of a months-long investigation, know what the set-up is. There are also explosions, and dialogue so quick and rat-a-tat procedural you’re don’t know whether you’re coming or going. But that’s ok, because the momentum is so great you go along with, just like a fairground ride.
When Huntley finally gets her man, all is well. Or is it?
That’s where our familiar trio of Steve Arnott (Martin Compston), Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) and Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar) come back into play, striding onto screen like old friends, getting to work in their patented way – talking at each other in exposition only, at 100mph.
Half-way through the first episode the pace is still there. The dialogue, the plot, the everything… it really is brilliant and breathless.
Another noteworthy guest in series four is Jason Watkins – who is so terrific in everything he appears in – is sparkling in this, too, playing a deliciously ambiguous forensic investigator.
By the end of the episode, you’re not who’s who, what they’re doing or what their motivations are. Which is exactly as it should be in Line Of Duty – that second series, featuring Keeley Hawes’ Lindsay Denton was a real case in point: you just didn’t know whether she was good, bad or somewhere in between. And we were taken around these potential definitions from episode to episode.
This is what Thandie had to say at the launch:
What I love about Line Of Duty is that old adage of life is stranger than fiction. I feel that Line Of Duty takes you right up to the nose of that. You know in magazines like The Week, and you read about the crazy things happening in the world – you just can’t believe some of the shit that’s going down and some of the crap some people are getting up to. You just couldn’t put that on television, you just couldn’t. Jed manages to push it further than fiction, into a place where it really feels possible. And that possible is just nuts, but it’s still in the context of fiction.
When we first started, and this really put me in my place, I came up with suggestions about my costume. You know, maybe just low-key and cool, maybe some tracksuit bottoms with high tops. She’s a working mum so she’s going to look like me all the time. And Jed was just like, no. That’s not what you’re going to look like. You’re going to wear suits and a badge and bad shoes. And I just got it and realised we were going to do something horribly, diabolically real. So I found the most disgusting shoes I could find. And pop socks. Awful butt-clenching nastiness. Line Of Duty just takes you into realism. I was horrified when I was talking to Jed that AC-12 doesn’t exist. We don’t have it in our police department. I was horrified because we should. We really, really should because that would lead to heads rolling all over the place.
So Line Of Duty then, back with a huge bang and with another excellent array of guests. If the first episode supplied that many twists and turns, we’re all going to be nervous wrecks by the end of the series. Bring it.
Here’s when it’s going to be on…
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