Line Of Duty series 2 finale review

Review Louisa Mellor 19 Mar 2014 - 22:00

Line Of Duty’s second series has been superlative crime drama, keeping us guessing until the very last…

This review contains spoilers.

After a pleasurably tortuous few weeks with Line Of Duty’s second series, we finally have answers. What we don’t have after tonight’s quietly revelatory finale is closure, the satisfying feeling that the baddies were caught, the goodies were rewarded, and justice was done.

Line Of Duty’s moral tangles linger stubbornly after the final credits have rolled. Watching the cell door slam on DI Denton for a second time didn’t feel like a victory. Yes, she’d taken a bung, conspired to hand a witness over to his enemies, and sat quietly while Dryden was arrested, but she didn’t plan the murders of her fellow officers, and her motivation in disposing of Tommy was to protect Carly Kirk and others like her. Did that make Denton the villain of the piece? Not in my eyes. She made a wrong call, has been ferociously fighting for her life ever since, and lost. There’s little to feel triumphant about in her conviction.

Especially when we see the real mastermind of the ambush - ‘Dot’ Cottan - rewarded by another new job and a handshake from the boss (if this continues, he’ll be DCC by series five). That the soon-to-retire Nige Morton now knows his colleague is bent is little threat to Cottan. Morton, revealed to have been scamming disability benefits on top of selling information to the press, is much more likely to use the dirt on Cottan for personal gain than to do what SP Hastings would call “the right thing”.

Doing, or not doing, the right thing has been Line Of Duty’s thematic playground. All of its characters are positioned somewhere along the continuum from guilt to innocence, with evil bastard Tommy at one end, then calculated crooks like Cottan, killers Cole and Prasad, avaricious types like Akers, sad cases like Denton, adulterers of varying sympathies from Dryden to Fleming, ladies’ man Arnott, all the way to Ted Hastings, an old-fashioned good guy whose one mistake cost him his marriage.

Speaking of Super Ted, where was his text-on-screen caption in the closing moments? Would it have hurt to put our minds at rest with a glimpse of he and Róisín reuniting, or him sitting down to a new Chief Super desk? No, but then putting our minds at rest was never Line Of Duty’s goal.

As a series, it probed the shortcomings of our justice system and the people who enforce it. As Akers says in her manipulative speech to get Denton on side, immunity deals protect the worst offenders (Tommy, Prasad) from punishment. Human weakness leads to derelictions of duty minor and major, and Line Of Duty is unflinching and unflattering in its depictions of both. Creator Jed Mercurio didn't set out to tell us a reassuring story.

That said, the finale did have some good news. Carly Kirk is alive, well and living in Ireland (though the same can’t be said for the girl whose corpse was disguised as hers in those blackmail photos). Arnott and Fleming are back being pals, too, the former even calling off a sure thing with Rogerson to help Kate drown her marriage woes.

All that time spent establishing Arnott as a bird-dog this series paid off in the finale, as the audience was wrong-footed about the nature of his relationship with Denton. For half an hour we cringed as Arnott accepted another glass of wine and another, bracing ourselves for his inevitable lunge at her. When it came, of course, it was her cover story he was trying to get inside, not her knickers. It meant that Arnott once again emerged heroic at the end of the series, playing Lindsay’s defender only to get his hands on evidence that she was part of the conspiracy. For how long had he been deceiving her? Since he found out about her termination? Since he declared “I believe you” in episode three?

Whenever his suspicions were reignited, we were kept in the dark about Lindsay until over halfway through the finale. Our pay-off to hours of speculation and evidence-sifting came in the form of a flashback revealing Denton's role in the ambush. Keeley Hawes’ performance in Fleming's car, unfazed and unreadable on the surface but recalling traumatic events underneath, was the image of her wonderful inscrutability throughout the series. Now we know precisely what Denton’s involvement was, and what she’d chosen to lie about in the months following. It almost makes you want to go back to the start and seeing what kind of shadow that knowledge leaves on the previous episodes.

For all the much-deserved praise Keeley Hawes has received this series, a little has to be sent Craig Parkinson’s way. Since he reappeared at the halfway point, his laidback, laconic Cottan has given quite the performance as part of the team investigating a crime he orchestrated. It’s ironic but fitting that Cottan, the poacher-turned-gamekeeper-in-sheep’s-clothing, is now a permanent member of AC12. He's the most successful undercover officer on the force.

As with the series one finale, the last moments of episode six felt rushed. When a drama that's done tremendous work with pace in its meticulously constructed, creepingly tense interview scenes signs off with a few documentary-style captions by way of cheerio, you can't help but feel bereft. I’m left with the discomfiting sense that Line Of Duty’s story is still going on out there somewhere, we’re just not allowed to watch.

Frustrating though that is, it’s quite the recommendation for Jed Mercurio’s work this series. In Denton, Dryden, Hastings, Fleming, Arnott and co., he, his actors and directors have built credible characters who can live and breathe outside the drama. Series one was gripping stuff, but series two was a step up; more enigmatic, less sensationalised, quieter and more reflective, but absolutely captivating. It makes you shiver to think what Mercurio might conjure up for series three.

Find Louisa's review of the previous episode, here. Still have questions? See if creator Jed Mercurio can answer them, here.

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Maybe I am missing something here, but can someone please explain to me why the ambushers (Prasad and Cole?) attacked the car with the police officers in it? Was that part of the plan?

I think an entire rematch of season 1 and 2 is called for as the bigger picture is the deeper corruption involving Dot. both series have been about smaller arcs while Dot's arc is the whole show

I assumed that it was Cottan covering his tracks by killing anyone who knew he was involved.

Right, that sounds like a legitimate theory. I can't wait for Dot to get caught!

He's so well written and acted I think seeing him be caught would be something I hope wouldn't happen until a much later series. It might be interesting if a third series involved a crime that he had nothing to do with...or when / if he is caught it's for something he didn't do.

I still wonder about the ambush of the police van that freed Denton. There was the Range Rover that couldn't get past the police van, and then the Audi. The Audi was co-opted by the two Vice cops, but the Range Rover wasn't mentioned.
Who drove the Audi? Who drove the Range Rover? Or was it one each?

'Ted Hastings, an old-fashioned good guy whose one mistake cost him his marriage'

So much to commend about this series but Hastings' personal drama-within-a-drama has been among my favourites and not merely because it again treated us to an exquisitely understated performance by Adrian Dunbar, one of UK TV's quietly brilliant toilers.

Hasting's trap was a great example of the way that well-written drama can blend the personal and the professional without necessarily resorting to the contrivance of having the lead detective bunk up with the grieving widow or investigating his own brother or whatever. Seeing Hastings place all his hopes on the ephemeral promise of a promotion (a crafty teasing ploy that, had it been offered to anyone else, he'd have seen right through) and then struggle to do the right thing was heartbreakingly brilliant. It was portrayed so slightly but was so recognisably human. It reminded me of some of the smaller character arcs in The Wire (Cedric Daniels springs to mind) or DI Conrad's tiny story in Our Friends in the North.

Superlative stuff.

I'd love for Dot to be a minor character in all subsequent series (and I hope there's at least a couple). Always there, always getting away with it and always hiding in plain sight.

Can you explain to me what Denton expected to happen whilst following them before the ambush? Was it a handover of the witness? And why would Cottan want them all killed, what was the purpose of the ambush?
Very confused viewer, but a fantastic series.

I think the key is when Dot asked Akers if Denton had asked who else was involved.

Akers was convinced that the plan was that the ambush would happen and Tommy would be bundled off never to be seen again. However Cottan, who had real reasons for wanting Tommy to vanish, would also have been keen to make sure that nobody who knew he was involved would be able to talk. Tommy was the one man who knew that Cottan was the Caddy.

However as Denton had no idea that he was involved it was handy to have someone to focus the investigation towards after the event. She had been convinced by Akers that a man who was abusing a child and could never be touched would be taken out of the equation. So that's what she was expecting

Does that help? I may be completely off track with this by the way but that's what I got from it.

I really appreciated not being spoon fed each bit of story, usually given to us by a character I call "Mr. (or Ms.) Exposition. That's what takes Line of Duty, Spooks, the Fall and Broadchurch light years ahead of average TV. Every episode had something that made me sit up and say "what?"

That was so much fun.

I'm struggling with the details of the massacre. Can anyone help?

So Prasad, Cole, presumably other members of the vice squad, were all on the take from Tommy. Prasad said that Tommy was no use to them any more, so they decided to kill him to stop him talking. Fine. So they brought Akers into the plot to kill him as well.

On the night of the killing, Denton seemed to change her mind whilst driving and took a sharp turn, which confused Akers. That explains the odd route taken. It didn't help because of the tracking device.

But the killers then killed all the occupants of the Witness car, including Akers. Why? If it was to tie up loose ends, then why leave Denton alive since she knew that there were corrupt police involved. To leave her as a scapegoat makes much less sense than killing her too. Have I missed something?

The police were in the Range Rover that got stuck. Denton tried to flag the Audi which then ignored , so it was just a civvie. When the police then turned up in the Audi Denton knew that something was amiss.

Thanks that's a big help! Just a few more questions if thats okay?! Was Prasad and Cole liasing with Cottan to kill Akers etc? Was Akers involvement purely financial? What was Denton convicted for, if she wasn't responsible for murder?

A great series badly let down by a poor plot resolution. There was no reason to kill Akers and not kill Denton. It just doesn't make sense. If there is a next series I doubt if I'll invest the time only to be badly let down at the end. The main media critics have invested too much of their reputations in saying how great it was to admit that it had a nonsense ending.

I got the impression that Prasad and Cole were hired muscle but that they had no idea who they were working for (I think that if they had known Cottan would have then hired somebody else to kill them). So when Prasad said they were just working for a voice on the phone.

Akers I believe was actually more influenced by having Tommy punished, it seemed that she was sickened by what he was doing to Karli and wanted him off the street. The financial aspect was perhaps put to her by Dot in the same way she put it to Denton. 'I need to know you have as much to lose as I have' but I don't think Akers was entirely mercenary.

Unfortunately my recording cut off just before the caption that said what happened to Denton. I would assume that she was charged with conspiracy to murder or murder itself as she had literally no way to prove the circumstances that had led to the ambush.

The reason Akers was killed was because she knew Cottan was involved. Killing Denton would have left a completely clean slate but would have also left the investigation to go off without having a focus other than the killings. Cottan was safer as a character with a focus on a corrupt cop, especially when he could then get involved in the investigation rather than he would be on a criminal investigation which could have led to him.

There was no real evidence at the beginning that the ambush had been carried out by cops, that only started being uncovered in episode 2 or 3. So, keeping Denton alive as a scapegoat made perfect sense to me at least.

Ah - I suppose the civvie was never seen again!

She pled not guilty, but got sent down for life on a majority verdict.

Cheers :)

I watched the last few minutes on the Sunday night repeat and caught the very small fragment that I missed

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