I am currently in Line of Duty heaven—or hell, depending on your point of view. Heaven because there’s a new season (#6) available (sadly only on BritBox in the USA) and hell because they’re releasing it one episode per week. So far I’ve seen the first two episodes of the new season, starring the wonderful Kelly Macdonald as this year’s big bad, Joanne Davidson.
My weekly pain is compounded by the amount of social media info available on this show, including personal accounts of Vicki McClure (DI Kate Fleming) and Martin Compson (DS Steve Arnot), both of which I’ve suspended following on Instagram through this difficult period. The poor Gaffer, Ted Hastings, played by the wonderful Adrian Dunbar, is a self-admitted Luddite, so he doesn’t do Instagram or Facebook or the much-hated Twitter (I am a non-Twitter household, mainly because of the big orange Cheeto who tried to run and ruin the country via his Twitter account).
BUT … my weekly pain is assuaged by two podcasts, one of them hosted by a former LoD star, Craig Parkinson. That one is an official BBC podcast, called Obsessed with … Line of Duty and “Big Parkie” himself, who was great as DI Matthew “Dot” Cotton on seasons 1-3 of LoD, turns out to be an excellent podcaster. The other is a fan-run one called Shrine of Duty, and I stress the word FAN, which is not necessarily a bad thing. They do dive into some listener-supported theories of each episode, which is very interesting. Both podcasts do a day-after examination of the latest episode, which originally aired in the UK on BBC One in late March through April, so all episodes of season 6 are currently covered by both podcasts. I am dutifully doling the podcasts out episode-by-episode the day after my viewing of the current show on BritBox.
It’s hard to talk about Line of Duty without giving too much away, but I’ll try, since it is my mission in life to persuade American viewers to watch this show. British copper shows are a bit different than American ones, in that there is a lot of time, at least in LoD, spent in the interview room (“the glass box,” as Big Parkie puts it on his podcast) in intense confrontations between suspects and the coppers of AC-12. AC stands for Anti-Corruption, and that’s what Steve Arnot, Kate Fleming, and Ted Hastings investigate: bent coppers. The static interviews, shot tightly in close-ups and two- or three-shots, adding to the claustrophobic feel of the scenes, are some of the best parts of the show, featuring some truly tense moments and great acting.
Line of Duty has been on since 2012, with a new season showing up about every two years or so. Each season contains six hour-long episodes (although season one was five and season six is seven). Each season features a name actor as the lead, a bent copper who is not altogether what he or she seems to be. Honestly, the twists and turns this series presents to the viewer are amazing and sometimes truly shocking.
Season one featured Lennie James as the officer under investigation. Seasons two and three featured the incredible Keeley Hawes as DI Lindsay Denton, and both those seasons are my favorites. Season four featured Thandiwe Newton; season five, Stephen Graham; and now season six has Kelly Macdonald. There is an underlying plot element throughout all six seasons, about police corruption at the highest level and the hunt for the mysterious “H,” who is the mastermind behind it all.
I love Bosch, the Titus Welliver starring series on Amazon Prime, which is based on the Michael Connelly series of books that I’ve been reading for close to 30 years now. While there are other cop shows—American and British—that I love, Line of Duty is the closest thing to Bosch that I’ve encountered, and certainly the show I enjoy most from across the pond. I have never seen a show before that keeps the viewer on their toes like this one. Creator, writer, producer and sometime-director Jed Mercurio (who also brought us Bodyguard, starring Richard Madden and—once again—the wonderful Keeley Hawes) has a knack for constantly surprising the viewer in new and novel ways. Characters and plot lines from earlier seasons crop up much later, and this why I urge you to watch all six seasons (if you can), in order from the beginning. Seasons 1-4 are available on Amazon Prime; I believe Season 5 is on Hulu; all five seasons are available on Acorn, and seasons 1-4 and 6 are available on BritBox (which also has a 5-minute recap of season 5).
One of the most pleasant side-effects from this show is the vast selection of “Ted-isms” spouted by the Gaffer himself, Superintendent Ted Hastings. I’m not sure if these are scripted by writer Jed Mercurio or sometimes ad-libbed by actor Adrian Dunbar; either way they’ve become meme-worthy quotes from the show. From the oft-spoken “Mother of God” to “Now we’re sucking diesel,” there’s also the season 6 addition, “Jesus, Mary and Joseph and the wee donkey;” the geographically specific “I didn’t float up the Lagan in a bubble,” a reference to the River Lagan in Belfast, where the show is filmed; the self-identifying “Superintendent Ted Hastings, like the battle;” and the classic mission statement, “I’m interested in one thing, and one thing only, and that’s (nickin’) bent coppers.” In a show that’s usually deadly serious, the right Ted-ism at the right time certainly lightens the load a bit.
I can’t recommend Line of Duty highly enough. While I know we’re all antsy to stop watching things on the telly and get out and enjoy the coming summer and the (hopeful) demise of the pandemic, if you’re looking for a new binge-worthy series to get lost in, Line of Duty will have you suckin’ diesel (and take it from Ted … that’s a good thing).