This review contains spoilers.
The destructive potential of blind workplace loyalty is laid bare in Jed Mercurio’s work, from his terrific hospital drama, Bodies, which showed doctors closing ranks in the face of mistakes and complaints, to Line Of Duty, which exposes the most damaging end result of devotion to a work clique.
Mercurio’s writing in this series shows how understandings forged on the golf course, over matey pints and slices of the wife’s Victoria Sponge all grease the wheels of much darker manoeuvres.
Professional loyalty is a quality prized by coppers and criminals alike. It makes even the most principled of men, as Ted Hastings was cast this week when he refused to break his marriage vows, complicit. Acts presented as harmless favours between colleagues or, in this case, Freemasons, are part of the cushioning abusers like Chief Superintendent Fairbanks surround themselves in. Like Dale Roach, Fairbanks used his connections and respected position to muffle his victims’ voices and evade detection. Now he’s living a plush retirement while their lives are broken.
Ideally, AC-12 should be immune to career loyalty. Ignoring the bonds of a shared vocation is its whole point. It’s there to root out the rot, wherever it is in the organisation. Your boss. Your colleague. Your partner…
All of which makes Dot’s move on Steve this week a genius stroke. Loyalty exists where it shouldn’t in AC-12. Ted called Dot “an officer of mine” in Hari’s interview and defended Steve to Gill as “my most dogged investigator”. He’s protective and fatherly towards his employees (and perhaps, as Gill suggests, also fears the retribution of having hired a wrong’un). By putting “one of [their] own” into the frame, Dot presents himself as the ultimate AC-12 officer – entirely objective and wholly free of personal attachment, unlike Ted.
Will that PowerPoint presentation be the end of DS Arnott? In almost any other drama you could count on the hero being framed as a tantalising mid-point twist, something to be shaken off before the cuffs are slapped on the rightful villain’s wrists. Not Line Of Duty. As shaky as Dot is looking right now, his downfall is by no means a sure thing. It wouldn’t be the first time this show has let the baddies get away scot-free.
Unwittingly, Lindsay’s gloating session at the top of the episode worked in Dot’s favour. Fracturing the bond between Kate and Steve left the latter isolated and mistrusted. However embarrassing the recording on that mobile phone is, keeping it under wraps appears to have done Steve a great deal more harm than good.
The question is, will Hastings and the others take Dot’s bait, or will Steve be protected by their natural loyalty towards him, something that AC-12 officers shouldn’t have, but that, ironically, Steve desperately requires of them.
These ethical tangles are what makes Line Of Duty such maddeningly compelling drama. The muddied colours of its moral paint box might be frustrating compared to the crisp divisions between each block of right and wrong elsewhere on TV, but they’re irresistible. This is TV that simply will not get out of your head and refuses to leave you alone between episodes.
Denton’s videography won her another battle this week in a subplot that made you question whether there are any honest people left in Line Of Duty. Kneeling down in front of that seedy probation officer it looked as though Lindsay was facing her last humiliation. Barred from the force, mopping floors in Asda, living down the end of Lonely Street in the skeeviest B&B you’ll see this side of TripAdvisor’s no-star reviews, Denton finally looked beaten.
And then, in a rarely allowed moment of victory on this show, she came up fighting. That pervert was just another in a long line of people who’ve underestimated Lindsay Denton. The woman’s like a cockroach in all the best ways. Post nuclear-apocalypse, only she and her fringe will remain intact.
All that, and there’s barely time left to mention the return of “extremely remorseful” Nige Morton, who, in keeping hold of the real evidence phone, was presumed by Dot to have more loyalty than he really did.
Or for that matter, the worrying disappearance of diligent Maneet. Fingers crossed that Dot’s “off sick, I heard” doesn’t translate to ‘trussed up in a chest freezer on an anonymous industrial estate.’
The smartest move Steve made this week may have been consulting Lindsay on his case. She drew the connection between their common enemies, and her doggedly methodical brain may now prove his unlikely ally. Lords knows he could use one.
Read Louisa’s review of the previous episode, here.