Minor plot spoilers for Line of Duty series 6 episode 1 below. Still catching up? Take a first look at the series here.
‘We can keep it on the DL so long as we have a CHIS on the MIT.’
That’s right, Line of Duty is back!
Sunday nights are just that little less dreary when Jed Mercurio’s dodgy copper drama is wedged into BBC One’s 9pm slot. The opening episode of its sixth series debuted this Sunday, to the usual fanfare and impressive viewing figures. Luckily for fans of the show, it didn’t disappoint.
Everything viewers expect was there in Line of Duty’s return: tense action scenes, office-based shouting matches, police staff looking shifty over desk dividers and, of course, acronyms. Lots and lots of ruddy acronyms.
Last time out it was all about ‘OCGs’. This series is less interested in organised crime groups and seemingly more about covert human intelligence sources. Which is why ‘CHIS’ was casually trotted out every 30 seconds for the full hour. Admit it, you had to Google it, didn’t you? We certainly did. If for no other reason than to check we weren’t mishearing things. Twitter confirms the mix-up – a very similar-sounding rude word trended on there for the entirety of Sunday night.
Casual viewers may feel a little out of the loop with all the abbreviations and initialisms, but it’s indicative of a level of realism and confidence in folk watching at home. Line of Duty makes no apology for the fact that it’s complex, unrelenting and full of jargon. The deal is simple: They make complicated high quality drama, we pay attention. Get distracted with Instagram or tea-making duties and you’re done for.
To the plot and, as ever, it comes at you thick and fast. The opening scene sets the pace and presents us with a brand new character/lead suspect in DCI Joanne Davidson (Kelly Macdonald). She heads up a serious crime team investigating the murder of investigative journalist Gail Vella (Andi Osho). Her number two is none other than Kate Fleming who, we learn, has recently left AC-12 and is now a DI.
DCI Davidson is soon thrown under the suspicion bus when she reroutes a unit that’s out to arrest a suspect in the Vella case, instead sending them to attend a suspicious-looking armed robbery. When the op is finally back underway it appears as if the real suspect has been replaced with a fall guy. We’re left with the distinct feeling that McDonald’s character is subtly pulling strings and sabotaging the case, but we’re not sure exactly how or why. Not yet, anyway.
Getting Steve Arnott and AC-12 involved is DS Farida Jatri (Anneika Rose), a member of Davidson’s team and, we discover, her (ex) lover. That latter fact perhaps suggesting that Jatri may not be the most reliable of sources for Steve. Has she really smelled a rat? Or is she merely preparing to grind an axe?
Hints at a burgeoning connection between Joanne and Kate lay the breadcrumbs for episodes to come. Will Kate and AC-12 square off as loyalties become split? It looks likely as ex-AC asset Kate suspects her former ‘gaffer’ Ted Hastings of holding some ill will against her. New boss Joanne is not only likeable and wily, she also presents Kate with something of a role model and career path. And that’s without any personal, romantic entanglement factored in.
The wider mythology of the Line of Duty universe is coming into play for the first time in the series’ history. Previously, series existed almost separately – aside from the ongoing ‘H’/caddy storyline. Here though, we’re seeing multiple references to series, plots and characters past.
Detective Superintendent Ian Buckells is back as the boss of DCI Davidson’s team. Suspect Terry Boyle returns, not seen since he was being manipulated by the bad guys of the first series. There’s also the suspect’s flat being slap bang opposite last series’ OCG HQ (they’ve got us using them now, look…).
While entirely watchable and packed full of twists and great performances, 2019’s fifth series lacked some of the spark of previous runs. Even guest star Stephen Graham failed to lift it out of a slight malaise in places. From this showing, series 6 appears to have got Line of Duty very much back on track.
What’s most positive about this return is that it’s true to itself. The show’s overwhelming popularity could have seen writer/creator Mercurio demand more money from the Beeb and write in explosions up the hoo-ha. Instead, Line of Duty’s gone back to basics. Strong plotting, clever casting and bulletproof writing means that, for the benefit of the DIR, the sitrep on AC-12’s AFOs, UCOs and SIOs is that they’re all A-OK.
What did you think of Line of Duty series 6 episode 1? We’d love to hear your thoughts! Let us know in the comments below…
Minor spoilers for Line of Duty series 6 episode 2 below. Still catching up? Read Steve’s review of episode 1 here.
Right. We’re really getting into it now, aren’t we…?
The conspiracy is beginning to unravel already. The victim at the centre of Operation Lighthouse – Gail Vella (Andi Osho) – was an investigative reporter, so the idea that she was killed by an obsessive fan was a smokescreen that was fairly easy to waft away. The truth appears to be that the journalist’s murder was more of an assassination, the style of shooting suggesting a hit. As Steve and his new DC Chloe Bishop (Shalom Brune-Franklin, Our Girl) discovered here, Vella was about to drop some pretty heavy truth bombs.
At the time of her murder, the intrepid Vella was working on a tell-all podcast about corrupt police officers’ involvement with organised crime, seemingly frightening both the bent coppers and the crims. In an interesting scene, real-life events are referenced, which remind us all that while Line of Duty may be a work of fiction, the topics dealt with are very much real.
‘It’s now a matter of public record that Jimmy Savile cultivated relationships with senior police officers. Savile exploited those relationships to intimidate anyone attempting to investigate his offending. We now realise what Savile was getting out of those relationships with senior officers’ Gail says in a piece to camera.
Shades of Jill Dando’s still-unsolved murder continue to be suggested to us. The former Crimewatch reporter was said to be working on a big exposé involving Savile and corruption when she was gunned down outside her Fulham home in 1999. The killing was initially pinned on a local man in much the same way as the Terry Boyle thread here.
And that’s just the start of it. Things are getting complicated. Very complicated.
Line of Duty obsessives should be in their element here, as there are frequent callbacks to characters and events past. The wider mythology of the series is really being explored, making perfect viewing for students of the show. But more casual – or newer – viewers may be left a little in the dark. Our advice is not to feel guilty about having a few browser tabs open on your phone as you watch. There’s nothing wrong with reminding yourself of series past while you tune in to this latest run.
Handily, the odd bit of exposition is thrown in to help us out. It’s useful for keeping up with the plot, but it doesn’t always make for the most natural dialogue imaginable. Still, we’re thankful for it.
Boyle was never really a suspect in Vella’s murder, was he? He was set up, with a far more sinister man called Carl Banks in the frame for the hit. Here, Banks was found dead. Just like the ‘CHIS’ (informant) was last week. So not only are those threatening to expose the murky goings-on getting clipped, so too now are the hitmen hired to kill them.
We hardly needed proof of it but this second episode confirmed that DCI Joanne Davidson (Kelly Macdonald) is indeed in cahoots with organised crime; having the undercover crim PC Ryan Pilkington in her team was perhaps a bit of a giveaway. That said, she appears to be involved under some kind of duress. Is she being blackmailed? It seems likely.
In a packed hour, Steve got a promotion to DI, making him think twice about giving AC-12 the elbow. His painkiller addiction continued apace, still gobbling up codeine tablets like they were Tic-Tacs and quite possibly scuppering his chances of a relationship with John Corbett’s widow Steph. We also saw Kate and Jo grow ever closer and Hastings met with further resistance and passive-aggression from his superiors. Steve and Kate are also growing further apart – it won’t be long before they drop the ‘mate’ from their reciprocal greetings.
All in all, this week’s was a solid if rather unspectacular instalment – up until this sixth series’ first interrogation scene. It’s the drama’s USP, where it really shines. And round one of Davidson vs AC-12 didn’t disappoint. The decision was unanimous, the points went to defending champs from the anti-corruption unit. Although the challenger landed a serious blow towards the end of the round with her decision to plant burner phones at PC Jatri’s house.
Round over, it was time for everyone to sit on their stools, catch their breath and take a swig of water. Until it’s seconds out for another round next Sunday night.
How did you rate Line of Duty series 6 episode 2? Let us know in the comments below…
Minor spoilers for Line of Duty series 6 episode 3 below. Still catching up? Read Steve’s review of episode 2 here.
Before this sixth series of Jed Mercurio’s labyrinthine corrupt police drama began on BBC One, the Beeb were quite enthusiastically promoting its back catalogue on iPlayer. It made sense because there’s a captive audience for television content right now – and there are few better ways to pass time at home than by binge-watching something of the quality of Line of Duty.
Three episodes into the slightly extended run of seven here and it’s clear there was an ulterior motive for the promotion of series 1-5. Top brass knew that this latest series was going to need viewers to be fully refreshed on Line of Duty’s not insubstantial history.
True, each new hour begins with a healthy reminder of previous incidents and the central characters aren’t afraid of a little helpful exposition. Some scenes are seemingly crowbarred in to allow Steve, Ted or Kate to go over old ground and remind us all of something from years ago that’s about to prove pivotal. Yet for all those reminders and hints, it’s starting to feel a little heavy going. Newer fans will be scratching their heads so much they might be drawing blood by episode 5.
To the events of this week and there’s plenty to get through. An eyewitness comes out of nowhere (which is always suspicious…) to put Terry Boyle back into the frame. After Kate and Joanne quiz Boyle it yet again becomes clear that the boss is leading the investigation away from links between Gail Vella’s murder and organised crime.
Just as Boyle appears to be about to spill the beans, the lid is firmly shut on the can and it’s chucked into a reservoir. But bent young PC Ryan Pilkington’s attempt on Boyle’s life goes askew. Instead it’s just PC Linda Patel who ‘died in the line of duty’, an ironic little line that always amuses.
PC Patel’s murder alerts Kate to the shiftiness of Pilkington, played with a clever restraint by Gregory Piper. She goes to Steve who instantly recognises him as the kid that ‘nearly cut off’ his fingers.
The weird swipes at the BBC continue apace. For the writer of the BBC’s biggest show, Jed Mercurio has no qualms about dredging up his employer’s shadier past. Last week it was their covering up of Jimmy Savile, this week it was their filming of the police raid on ‘elderly pop star’ Cliff Richard.
Meanwhile, Steve and John Corbett’s widow Steph continue to grow close. ‘You remind me of him,’ Steph says. ‘What?’ Steve replies, ‘a shorta*se?’ Stephen Graham will have appreciated that little dig watching at home, no doubt.
The burgeoning relationship could be nice for Steve, given his painkiller addiction and loneliness. Well, it might’ve been nice until he snooped around Steph’s house and found an envelope full of cash. Something linking her and Hastings and a deal that’s not exactly above board. That’s not going to help our waistcoat-wearing friend. Nor is the seemingly random work drugs test he’s just been called in for. That codeine’s going to get him in some serious trouble.
To Ted and once more AC-12’s top cop is told by his superiors to cease the department’s search for the final H. ‘This isn’t about old battles,’ DCC Andrea Wise tells the gaffer. ‘The name’s Hastings,’ he shoots back. ‘I’m the epitome of an old battle…’
We ended with Detective Superintendent Ian Buckells in handcuffs, being led into AC-12 for an interrogation we’ll presumably see next week. The man’s a pillock, but despite the golf club he’s often seen waving about in his office, he’s unlikely to be another caddy or the next H. He’s just too thick. It looks far likelier than Jo Davidson is setting him up. And it appears she’s doing a good job. In fact, Buckells looks so well framed he wouldn’t look out of place on a wall of the Louvre.
With Buckells having been in the series since its debut run all the way back in 2012, plenty of things have gone down with him in the following decade. Next Sunday night’s episode and inquisition of the man looks set to reward those fans that decided to rewatch those earlier seasons as we were so urged to by the BBC.
What did you think of Line of Duty series 6 episode 3? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below…