The first series of Line of Duty was BBC Two’s best performing drama for ten years, but it had its ups and downs. While the overall story arc is engaging and intriguing, the dialogue is at times stilted and makes for difficult watching. However for the most part an audience can look past this and see the innovative take on the police drama that unfolds as DS Steve Arnott (Martin Compston) is take off the Counter Terrorism squad after a wrongful, and fatal, shooting. He is reassigned to the Anti-Corruption team as they try and uncover some underhand dealings that have lead to DCI Tony Gate (Lennie James) being named officer of the year. What starts as a routine investigation into the bumping up of charges falls rapidly into something much darker and more threatening.
The balance between made-for-TV drama and the banalities of everyday police work is what sets this show apart from the many, many other dramas of this sort. The pull between procedure and doing what is needed is set out in a very undramatic way, as part of the nature of the job. Calls of “Don’t leave the car!” and “Do you know how much paper work this means?” ground the show in a mundane reality while the unfolding web of deceit and misdirection gives Line of Duty a gripping quality.
With fantastic performances from Vicky McClure (This is England) and Gina McKee (Hebburn) Line of Duty makes the most of its strong female leads as they, each in their own way, try to hold together the unravelling mysteries at the centre of the show. Small parts for Craig Parkinson and Neil Morrissey prove as scene stealing as ever as they play the boys-club that surround and protect the patriarch, DCI Gates. Their unswerving distrust of the Anti-Corruption squad provides just one layer of conflict to this convoluted story.
With comradery and loyalty set against drug busts and terrorism Line of Duty is a great watch and despite its few minor flaws it is more than gripping to the very end.
With the second series soon to air, this time with a star turn from Keeley Hawes, the box set of series one is available from 3rd February.
Charlotte Keeys, @jackanoryreview