This review contains spoilers.
The connection between both of this series’ investigations arrived with a horrid thud this week: “That’s Carly Kirk” said DC Fleming watching footage of a swanky police reception on the day of the teenager’s disappearance. Incriminatingly present at the same do was DCC Mike Dryden, filmed fraternising with crooked vice officer Prasad (Sacha Dhawan), who, along with the man we now know to be Georgia Trotman’s killer, has just bundled DI Denton into the boot of his car.
That draws a clear line between Carly’s murder (if the body discovered is in fact, hers), the Detective Chief Constable who took on his wife’s speeding offence as an alibi for the night Carly disappeared, and the men we assume carried out the ambush. No wonder Dryden was brittler than a Ryvita in that interview scene.
Is he behind Denton’s kidnap too? Episode four topped off Denton’s affecting visit to her dying mum with some walloping action as the inmate was driven away screaming (from the cell to the cage to the car boot, Denton’s prisons are getting smaller by the minute).
Perhaps Lindsay was biding her time and sitting on some dirt connecting Dryden to underage Carly, explaining his need to silence her now that AC12 are sniffing around? It could explain what sparked Denton’s initial interest in the Kirk case (we still haven’t had a satisfying answer to Fleming’s question, “Of all the long-term mispers, why her?”) and that visit to the burial site/garage. Though Denton previously said the reason their relationship ended because Dryden failed to leave his wife, perhaps she called it off after stumbling upon his connection to Carly?
We could speculate from now til next Wednesday and still be no closer to an answer. The fact that most of us will be doing so is proof that writer Jed Mercurio has once again tapped into exactly the right seam with this series. He’s withholding and revealing just enough each week to keep his audience in the sweet spot of self-harming-frustration-meets-pricked-up-ears-attentiveness. Like Broadchurch before it, the revelations are being meted out cliff-hanger after cliff-hanger, and the end is close enough in sight that we don’t feel overly manipulated. In two weeks, we’ll have our answers. We just have to hold out until then.
That specific pain/joy of a series like this is made all the more intense by following it live. If I was watching on DVD, I’d have done what I did with the first run and swallowed every episode in a single sitting like a pelican gulping down an enormous fish. Being forced to wait from week to week compels you to sift through the information and theorise. Without that element of audience participation, Broadchurch would simply have been a well-made drama. With it, it became a national obsession.
Line Of Duty hasn’t enjoyed quite the same reach as Chris Chibnall’s small town crime ITV series, nor, as a BBC Two drama, is it likely to. Perhaps it isn’t just the channel that keeps it on the edges of the mainstream though, but also its unremitting bleakness. Despite its harrowing subject matter, Broadchurch was comforted by a thematic thread of family, community and rebirth. Line Of Duty has nothing of the sort. Series two has so far been as much about loneliness and isolation as police procedure, a parade of estrangements, divorces, affairs and short-term flings for its characters; none of whom are happy, few of whom tell the truth, and all of whom are alone. Hastings sat alone in his depressing digs, Kate crying in the loos, Denton walking solo around the grey concrete exercise yard… It paints a stark and unforgiving picture, and anyone who saw series one knows not to expect it balanced out with a reassuringly fluffy ending.
Take Hastings this series, a character played with real pathos by Adrian Dunbar. His dilemma this week – not wanting to pursue Dryden because the DCC held the key to his chance for promotion, pay-rise, and a reunion with his estranged wife – typifies Line Of Duty’s essential conflict: the lure of personal advancement versus professional duty. Who gives in to temptation and who holds out? There don’t appear to be many in the latter group this series.
Resolutely not denying temptation was DS Arnott, whose liaison with a third partner in almost as many episodes shows Denton’s “can’t keep it in his pants” assessment to be a fair one. His fling with ‘Jolly’ Rogerson led to a set-back on the case as Major Crime made the Richard Akers arrest instead of AC12, and a breakthrough as Rogerson led him to discover the tracking device on Akers’ car. (Why did she write it down instead of telling him? Why would she be afraid his flat is bugged?). What Arnott and Rogerson’s affair highlights is the competitive in-fighting between police departments, as seen in Hargreaves’ attempt to suppress AC12’s discovery of the evidence. Is he only seeking to protect his career path, or can we add another copper to the ‘dodgy’ pile?
Speaking of which, episode four moved DI Denton from the ‘dodgy’ to the ‘framed’ pile in the eyes of DC Fleming, who conceded that “Lindsay was set up”. Because of the tracker, whether or not Denton chose the route on the night of the ambush was immaterial because the killers would have found the witness anyway. More sympathy was established for Denton, not just in the final action-packed moments, but in the care home visit to her dying mother. We’re on her side at this point, or at least, with two episodes to go, that’s where Jed Mercurio wants us to be…
Read Louisa’s review of the previous episode, here.
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