I don’t know where I was for the first series of Line Of Duty, presumably residing under a stone, but, regardless of this omission from my televisual CV, the show’s second series has well and truly sky-rocketed its way into the much coveted position (a girl can dream) of My New Favourite Thing.
Starring a gaunt, alarmingly changeable Keeley Hawes, Line Of Duty follows the progress of a police anti-corruption unit, as they investigate the actions of a female police officer suspected of assisting in a fatal ambush on a police convoy. For the uninitiated, the convoy in question was tasked with transporting a vulnerable witness to a new safehouse due to an immediate and credible ‘threat to life’. All involved, including the witness himself, perished. Except, that is, for DI Lindsay Denton (Hawes) who emerged unscathed but for a spot of decorative whiplash. ‘Seemingly unhinged’ being rather the tip of the iceburg to say the very least, Denton seems an obvious fit for the role of ‘guilty as charged’, but is all as clear cut as it seems?
Sucker for a police drama though I wholeheartedly admit to being - I blame the uniforms- this particular show is easily a cut or three above the rest. Its nearest ancestor undoubtedly being fellow BBC production Spooks, also starring Hawes, it has echoes of the same brutality and cruel unpredictability. In short, nobody is safe. It’s also easily as addictive. Wednesday night is re-born ‘Line Of Duty’ night in my flat, despite my being the only current resident watching it. Missing an episode simply isn’t an option. Part of the reason for this is the plot – with more twists and turns than a helter skelter, it’s impossible to foresee developments without the aid of a highly qualified psychic. Jed Mercurio’s script really is excellent. Always wholly believable, dripping with gallows humour, it shocks without resorting to the shock factor, steering clear of police drama clichés to create an edgy new style all of its own.
Another reason for tuning in so compulsively, however, is the utterly outstanding performances of all involved. Vicky McClure, Adrian Dunbar and Martin Compston are all totally fabulous, but it is Hawes who steals the show week after week, scene after scene. One moment psychopathic, the next hugely vulnerably and pitiful, Hawes’ real and clever performance keeps us on our toes from opening seconds to credits. She’s also bravely low on the make-up front, bearing in mind the harshly low interrogation style lighting favoured by a lot of the generic ‘office’ rooms the show is filmed in, even joking in the Guardian ‘I don’t think anyone has ever looked so bad on TV’. Clearly she’s never seen My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, but nevertheless if she doesn’t win a Bafta I’m throwing my telly out of the window in protest.
Slick, sharp and hard as nails, this is a miss it, miss out sort of drama. Set the record on your Sky plus box and huddle round your laptop for BBC iplayer – this is one show not to just ‘never get around to watching’.
But I must dash, the next episode starts in 79 minutes.