An intriguing but flawed third episode took some of the heat out of last Thursday’s Line of Duty. Writer Jed Mercurio committed the cardinal sin of the suspense / thriller genre by revealing the bad guy during the third act of this six-parter.
Regular viewers of the series will know that DS “Dot” Cottan is a wrong ‘un of the top order, and secretly most appreciate his snake-like ability to get out of the tightest, dirtiest spots and come out smelling of roses. He had the makings of a criminal kingpin, the Machiavellian Dudley Smith-type conniver, so popular in James Elroy’s LA novels. Alas, he seems to have shot his bolt!
Unfortunately, for us, Mercurio bases his characters in the real world and takes the more mundane and probably more accurate route to illustrate how a compromised officer can be bent to corruption. Cottan (Craig Parkinson), the shifty-eyed, evidence destroying, double-tongued rogue officer on the anti-corruption squad gets an episode to expand on his weaknesses; we come to learn he has the obligatory drink problem, the spiralling gambling habit and his wicked past actions now have him in the pocket of organised criminals. His fall from grace might work out well in subsequent episodes – after all, someone must be pulling his strings. Could it be a senior within AC12 or another police department? Could we see the reappearance of characters from past series? Could Lindsay Denton, the disgraced former Detective Inspector who got a spell in chokey at the end of the last series, have a say in proceedings?
The Denton subplot is an interesting sideline and I have no idea where it is going. She showed herself to be an absolute mega bitch in the last series and used inconsistencies in the subsequent court case against her to force an acquittal on charges of complicity in the murders of three fellow officers. She has skeletons in her cupboard, but is she conspiring with the same people that handle “The Caddy”? On the other hand, is she an unwitting participant and scapegoat of corruption at a higher level?
Overall, this episode was a bit of a soap opera, we got an insight into the personal life of Superintendent Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar) who, beyond the veneer of professional stability and supposedly rock solid marriage, is facing up to a very different domestic reality. On the upside, he is pursued by Gill Bigelow (played by Polly Walker), on the downside he is returning to an empty house and ready meals.
Also seeking a bit of attention in the least likely place was DC Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) who ended up back at Dot’s flat for wine and Chilli. She may have made herself comfortable on the couch but surely, this is a coupling from which no good can come.
Line of Duty airs Thursdays 9pm on BBC1. Episodes are available on BBC iPlayer for 30 days after initial broadcast.