Spoiler warning: do not proceed if you’re not up-to-date with Line Of Duty, series two, episodes one to four.
Means, motive, opportunity. These factors, supported by evidence, are the foundations of criminal conviction. In TV-land though, it’s an entirely different story; telly-watching audiences require nothing like such rigorous justification for proving someone’s guilt. A shifty look and a dodgy haircut is enough to convince us of a character’s wrong’un status, something Line Of Duty creator and writer Jed Mercurio has used to his advantage in the case of DI Lindsay Denton (Keeley Hawes) a police officer charged – perhaps wrongly – with conspiracy to murder.
Between them, Mercurio and Hawes have cooked up a character who in one light seems to have psychopath stamped all over her (it’s mostly that fringe), and in another looks like a victim on her last ounce of fight, all but broken by a system to which she’s devoted her life. It’s quite the coup, performance and writing-wise.
Unlike series one, in which we followed the lead’s attempts to evade and manipulate the law, we’ve not been privy to Denton’s inner life. Thus, she remains an enigma, the Mona Lisa of Fourth Street Station. Was Denton complicit in the ambush that killed three fellow officers and a witness under police protection? Is she lying about being framed by Detective Chief Constable Mike Dryden? In short, is she, or is she not, innocent?
At this crucial point in Line Of Duty series two, we rehearse the arguments for the prosecution and the defence…
Denton lied. And lied. And lied
How is Denton’s testimony to be trusted when we’ve known her to lie on several occasions? She said on record that WP Officer Jane Akers chose the route on the night of the ambush, which was not the case. She told her boss that her neighbour lied about being violently attacked by her, which was not the case. She said she didn’t phone the hospital before the witness and Georgia Trotman was murdered, which was not the case. The list goes on.
Denton is presented as a stickler for the rules, having shopped her colleagues in the past for contravening regulations, but Line Of Duty has shown her being more than economical with the truth. If we’re to believe her about the affair with Dryden (supported by hotelier testimony), that too proves her capable of deceit.
Why it doesn’t necessarily mean she’s guilty: Everybody but everybody lies in Line Of Duty. Whether it’s a white lie, like Hastings pretending to Arnott and Trotman his marriage isn’t on the rocks, Kate lying about her affair with Akers’ husband, or Dot Cottan’s many lies, Denton’s deception doesn’t automatically make her guilty.
Denton chose the ambush route
Despite attempting to pin the blame for it on Akers, Denton was shown in episode one to have specified that the convoy took the back roads into town, and it was she who led them onto the country road where the ambush took place. Turning left, Denton’s choice of direction was questioned by her fellow officers, to which she replied “I know the way to my own station thank you very much”. Was she telling the truth when she said she believed there were road works on the other route, or had she been told to direct the convoy down the side streets? She also insisted that the officers travel to the safe house in her car. Was that because of a pre-arranged deal with the ambushers that anyone travelling in her vehicle wouldn’t be killed?
Why it doesn’t necessarily mean she’s guilty: We learned in episode four that Akers’ car had a tracking device planted on it. Regardless of the direction Denton took the convoy in, the killers would have been able to find them. Her odd choice of route is perplexing, but not incriminating.
She attacked her neighbour, and then walloped DC Fleming, showing that Denton isn’t quite the squeaky clean officer her record may suggest. “I’ve been underestimated my whole life” she told Fleming, after delivering that brutal gut-punch. Hawes’ impassive expression appears to hide a woman seething with resentment and frustration. Could a build-up of those feelings have led to her getting her own back on fellow officers via the ambush?
Why it doesn’t necessarily mean she’s guilty: The attacks make Denton frustrated, they don’t make her a criminal mastermind.
Denton’s methodical and manipulative
The picture of Missing Person Jackie Laverty in the series two opener wasn’t the only early link to Line Of Duty series one, we also saw Denton wiping the wine bottle she’d used to attack her neighbour clean of her fingerprints, just as Tony gates did to that whisky bottle in 2012. Like her methodical approach to phoning the hospital multiple times from multiple different phone boxes, it shows Denton capable of evidence tampering and methodically covering up a crime to protect herself.
Denton’s manipulation is evident in her decision to withhold DC Fleming’s incriminating call history in order to use it as a bargaining chip, and her on-off wearing of that neck brace. When she needed sympathy, on it went, when she thought she wasn’t being seen, off it came.
Why it doesn’t necessarily mean she’s guilty: If your neighbour played The Knife at full volume for hours on end, you might break, and then attempt to cover your tracks, too. Similarly, if you were facing a life sentence for a crime you hadn’t committed, you might well clutch at every last straw.
Denton was in considerable undeclared debt
Denton’s mother’s care home bills had lost her her home and wiped out her savings, reducing her to living in the less-then salubrious surroundings we saw her in episodes one and two. Her financial situation, leaving her as it did, vulnerable to bribery, should have been declared and wasn’t. Could Denton have been taking bungs for her role in the ambush?
Why it doesn’t necessarily mean she’s guilty: For starters, Adrian Dunbar’s Hastings aka the only character in Line Of Duty whose dodgy decisions are only financial, and not moral (if he turns out to be a baddie, I’m giving up crime drama altogether), was also in undeclared financial crisis. It didn’t make him an accessory to murder. Secondly we now know that WP Officer Akers was receiving payments from a criminal party, why would they need two officers on side? Besides, it didn’t look as if Denton was exactly living the high life, did it?
Denton went to the garage where Carly Kirk’s body was buried
DC Fleming asks Denton precisely this question in episode three, would you ignore the ‘coincidence’ of Denton having visited a site later found to be the burial place of a teenage girl, presumably the one Denton had shown an unexplained interest in finding? No, agreed Lindsay, she wouldn’t.
Are we to ignore the fact that Denton asked Fleming to meet her at that very garage? The one that, for some reason, was used to hide a corpse despite the police having already investigated it? Surely it suggests some prior knowledge of the site itself, and perhaps even of Carly’s death?
Why it doesn’t necessarily make her guilty: We were shown Denton looking up the garage in her enquiries into Carly’s disappearance. Coincidences aren’t to be ignored, but they do happen.
Denton was having an affair with DCC Mike Dryden
Taking Denton and the hotelier’s word for the five-year affair with Mike Dryden, we know it connects her to him. Could the two of them have colluded in the ambush, with Dryden only now turning against Denton?
It’s been noted that in episode one, Dryden called Lindsay ‘Linda’ during the telephone call in which he gave gold approval for the witness removal. Did he deliberately do so in case the call was being recorded (it wasn’t, Denton used her office phone, for privacy perhaps?), to indicate some distance between them? To put his wife, who may have been listening in, off the scent? Or – and this is a big ‘or’ – did Lindsay somehow make up the whole thing? Does he really think her name is Linda?
Why it doesn’t necessarily make her guilty: Quite the opposite in fact. The affair, if we’re to believe it took place, connects Denton to Dryden, providing him with a possible motive for having framed her for the crime, perhaps as a means to silence her testimony against him. Dryden, we know, leaked the news of Denton’s arrest to the press to shift their focus from his speeding conviction story. If he’s already offered her up to protect himself, doesn’t it suggest he might well have done the same on a larger scale, and set her up altogether?
If she’s innocent, why did the ambushers not kill her? Were they under instruction to leave someone alive who would take the blame?
Finally, here’s our homework before episode five. What answers can we find to the following Line Of Duty questions?
– What is the deal with Denton’s boss, Mallick? We’ve barely seen him in this series, but something tells me he might be more involved than it seems.- Why did Akers call DC Fleming on the night of the ambush?- What was the “credible and immediate threat” to Tommy’s life that caused Akers to request his removal from the safe house?- Was it definitely Carly Kirk’s body discovered in that garage?- Is it really Tommy who died, or had the witness been switched and burnt so as to make him less recognisable? Is the real Tommy sunning himself on an exotic isle while all of this goes on?- Is Denton connected to Carly Kirk in some way? Could she be her biological mother?-Dryden and ‘Dot’ acted in the episode four interview scene as if they didn’t know one another, but why did Dryden specify that Dot be seconded to AC12 if he didn’t know him? Are the pair in cahoots?- Who was the source that leaked to the press that it wasn’t Dryden driving his wife’s car on the night of the 16th of August?
Line Of Duty continues next Wednesday on BBC Two at 9pm. Read our spoiler-filled reviews, here.
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