This review contains spoilers.
Like many a modern idiot, around my wrist is a special watch that monitors my heart-rate. It syncs with my phone and shows me a graph of what my pulse is doing at any given moment. If I were ever to kill someone, I suspect it could be used to incriminate me. Murder must play havoc on the cardiovascular system.
Fifteen minutes before the end of Line Of Duty’s series three finale, you’ll see a significant spike on the graph. My body was sitting lazily on the sofa; my heart was doing laps of the park. This might be the first occasion on which I hand over my TV reviewing responsibilities to a Fitbit.
There can’t have been a pulse unmoved or a yelp suppressed during that final exhilarating chase. Around the country, neighbours on the other side of thin terraced walls in front of the News At Ten will have turned to each other and asked ‘Kate? Why’s he shouting about a Kate?’
I’ll tell you why.
Because Kate Fleming did it. She did what Line Of Duty’s audience have been willing her to do from the moment Dot pointed a bony finger at Steve. She saw through the charade, put in the graft and got the bastard. Gratifyingly, she did it all in just over an hour, leaving enough time for an insanely tense armed pursuit to round off a series that hasn’t lacked for insane tension.
In the words of the inestimable Ted Hastings, God help me if I ever get a good night’s sleep again.
Then again, we all might thanks to the finale’s uncharacteristically reassuring conclusions. After two series of getting away with it, the Caddy was finally stopped. Fairbanks was imprisoned. Our heroes Kate, Steve and Ted all came through unscathed as far as we can see. (Steve’s girlfriend even showed up at Kate’s commendation, healing that wound). You might venture to call it a happy ending.
Not, it goes without saying, for Dot. But didn’t he get a terrific exit? To have seen that coming, you’d have needed to clock that it was the same AFO escorting Dot to his interview as shadowed Steve signing back in his firearm last week. Even then, nobody could have predicted such an explosion of thrilling chaos.
Nor the ultimate outcome, which is what made it such gripping television. Kate’s survival was by no means a foregone conclusion. For sequences like that to work, you have to believe it could truly go either way. Job done, as the Caddy might say. Each careful, sparing second dedicated to showing us the squirming mess beneath Dot’s unflappable persona paid off.
Always one to complicate notions of villainy, Jed Mercurio threw Dot a redemptive bone in his final seconds by having him save Kate’s life and take the bullets meant for her. Ultimately, with no way out, Dot did the right thing and named names. Neither act redeems his actions, but they make it that bit harder to wholesale celebrate his downfall. Masterful stuff.
Speaking of which, a salute to both of the finale’s lengthy interview scenes. Each clocked in at over twenty minutes, totalling forty-plus riveting minutes of watching characters simply sit and talk. The interview scenes are what stops us getting whiplash from the speed at which Line Of Duty zooms through plot. They’re in absolute contrast to the action sequences, but thanks to the performances, are every bit as riveting.
It’s tricky to know where exactly to pour the performance praise. Adrian Dunbar, Martin Compston, Vicky McClure and Craig Parkinson all had stand-out moments, from Steve being led dumbfounded to his cell, to Ted giving Gill what for, to Kate confronting Dot in his interview and under that bridge with eyes as big as planets… Ach, give Parkinson man of the match, he’s earned it.
There were certainly some narrative casualties to series three’s remorseless pursuit of being as exciting as possible at every minute. Having served their purpose, Danny Waldron’s squad were discarded as quickly as he was, ditto for abuse victim Joe. The dramatic potential of Fairbanks’ trial was also squandered in a single, short montage.
The pace at which this show’s creators are willing to burn through plot feels thrillingly reckless. It’s like watching the school rebel commit some daring, rule-breaking act. “You know you’re not supposed to be doing that?” you want to say. “Aren’t you worried?”
Line Of Duty, it’s fair to say, isn’t worried in the least. Like Kate, it had done all the groundwork and when the time came, had the guts to pick up a gun and start running. No complaints here.
Read our review of the previous episode, here.