Line Of Duty: 2.06

This review should have been up on Thursday but it’s taken an extra couple of days to try and digest, unpick and understand the finale of this outstanding second series of Line Of Duty. By the end of the hour it’s probably a 60/40 split as to how many answers are given, and happily a third series has been commissioned to continue the story of AC-12. Although how long we’ll have to wait for it who knows.

Once again there was a show of fantastic acting at the centre of the episode, moments of real pleasure and moments of real despair in equal measure. With the dense plot it needs some steady and confident hands to steer the viewer through, and the talky nature of the show gives plenty of room for the cast to show their excellence.

So how did it end? Well DI Lindsey Denton, as exquisitely played as ever by Keeley Hawes, was guilty as charged and will spend the rest of her life in prison. Only the law isn’t the only way to judge someone, and by anyone’s admission her guilt was driven by a misguided sense of doing the right thing. She wasn’t really dirty, she wasn’t the instigator, she wasn’t involved in a cover up, but she was involved in the conspiracy to murder. I’m not sure there’s ever been a more sympathetic ‘bad guy’ on TV. Part of that was Hawes performance but the part that Jed Mercurio had written was laced with nuance and misdirection.
The least showy role in the whole series has to be that of DS Steve Arnott. Martin Compston doesn’t get much attention but his role ultimately is crucial and his portrayal of the playboy copper is more detailed and clever than it seems on the surface. When he says to Fleming “She underestimates me, just like you always do.” he’s talking to us as well. Making him play Denton as he did was a great move, subverting how the rest of the series had built him up as a serial shagger. Props to Compston for fooling us all. His partner in crime, Vicky McClure as DC Kate Fleming, was equally as solid and affecting, the breakdown of her marriage and ultimately her platonic relationship with Arnott was well handled and a rare moment of lightness in a dark, dark, series.
In a series full of understated yet truly great performances Adrian Dunbar’s Superintendent Ted Hastings is surely at the top. After spending the first series and half the second series as the moral centre of the show, unshakeable in his belief of right and wrong, we got some insight into his private life, and an episode or two that has him wobbling. It turns out trying to balance doing the right thing with keeping your wife and gaining a promotion is tough. In the end though Hastings pulled it through and took down the bad guys, including his superior DCC Dryden (Mark Bonnar, another excellent performance), who got a little lost in the wrapping up. Dunbar was back in crusading mode in the finale, authoritative and right. The scene in the fifth episode, the look in his eye and flicker of an eyelid, is one of the things that will last from this series, so much said with no words and barely a glimmer of movement.

The mystery of Tommy, Carly Kirk, Ackers, Denton’s involvement, Dryden’s guilt (and not) were all wrapped up satisfactorily. But, and this is a massive but, we found out of DI Matt ‘Dot’ Cottan’s involvement in the central attack. In fact involvement is too soft a word, he was the kingmaker of the whole thing, directing from behind the scenes. That was the biggest loose end left hanging, the full story of his dealing with the criminal underworld. Boring as it is to go on about the acting, Craig Parkinson’s scene with Neil Morrissey (as DC Nigel Morton) bristled with tension, violence bubbling under the skin. The deft reveal of Morton’s non-disability was as clever as it was surprising, just a little thing but satisfying none the less.
How do you summarise a series like this? Much of the focus has been on the acting and writing, the two things this series has got spectacularly right. The most impressive thing it did though is to turn a BBC2 drama about police corruption into must see TV. In this country we don’t have enough of that and lets hope we don't have to wait too long before the next Line Of Duty comes along.

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