This review contains spoilers.
We’re waist-deep in it now, Line Of Duty’s fast-flowing river of ‘Huh?’, ‘But I thought…?’ and ‘Well, blimey’. Dig your feet in for purchase, there’s work to be done.
This week’s episode turned more tables than Jesus at a temple-based bureau de change. First, we were led to think that Roz Huntley—or bits of her—were decomposing in a forest pond. Then hey presto, there she was, back at work, torso intact and with barely a scratch on her.
There was one scratch on her, a wound inflicted by Tim Ifield as the last gasp act of a true forensic scientist. Knowing he was a goner, Tim tried to get his killer’s skin under his fingernails to point investigators in the right direction. Not one to let a little thing like that get in her way, Huntley came up with a grotesque but simple solution: she chopped his fingers off.
The scratch on Huntley’s arm acted as the tell-tale heart in her murder story. Her hand absently wandered to it at the mention of his death as a clue that underneath the calm, collected exterior, she was terrified. That much was clear when she saw Tim’s corpse, when she broke down after realising that he was the AC-12 leak, and when Steve’s line of questioning rattled her to enact plan B: throwing everyone off her scent by framing Tim Ifield as the Trapdoor killer.
What exactly are we dealing with in DCI Roz Huntley? A villain, certainly. A killer and adept liar, yes. A psychopath? I’d say not. Everything Roz did in episode two was an attempt to save her skin. Literally in the case of Tim Ifield’s murder. Imagine coming round from a concussion to find someone poised to carve you up like a Christmas turkey. Presumably having killed him in self-defence, Huntley set about covering her tracks. One lie led to another that led to another that led to another and by the end of the hour, she’d not only murdered a colleague but vilified his memory.
Steve and Kate may be a distance away from chopping each other’s fingers off, but give them time. Tensions over the inspector promotion were still flaring between the pair, causing Steve to spend the entire hour with the face of a man who’d just dropped his iced bun on the floor. It didn’t help that Kate seized the opportunity to score points with her undercover team by engaging in some playground nah-nah-nah-nah-ing outside Tim’s murder scene. Every time those two call each other ‘mate’, it’s like they’re squaring up for a pushing match in a pub car park.
The person for whose approval they’re fighting over of course, is Superintendent Ted Hastings, who this week proved, loath as I am to admit it, to have feet of clay. When it comes to sexual politics, Ted’s a bit of a dinosaur. His folksy idioms—those fellas and sons and God give me strengths—are patches of clear sky in Line Of Duty’s heavy cloud of acronyms and official jargon. Ted’s often the only reason we can all follow what’s happening in those baffling yet spell-binding interview scenes. In the midst of talk about foregoing inculpatory evidence and Reg 15s, he says “hoodwinked” and suddenly we all catch on. He’s bilingual, Ted Hastings. He speaks both police and human.
It’s the human side that doesn’t serve him well this week. Three times Ted refers to women, one of them a detective chief inspector, as “wee girls”. He also called that same DCI “darling” and admits to Steve that he’d given him out-of-office access paving the way for a promotion that he refused to grant to Kate on the basis that she’s “an attractive young woman” and it could look bad for him. “Might as well see me running around with one of Pan’s People,” Ted explained to an uncomfortable-looking Steve – a deliberately out-of-date reference to emphasise that he’s the product of another era.
Not that sexism needs to come from the seventies – both Kate and Roz’s careers were shown this week to have been stymied due to the time they took out to start families. Steve has “those extra years under his belt” because unlike Kate, he had a clear run of it. It makes you wonder how much of Kate’s line to Huntley about her not being replaced as SIO on Trapdoor if she were a bloke was ‘DS Flynn’ talking, and how much of it was Kate Fleming.
Obviously none of that stuff from Ted is a major infraction, but it does what Line Of Duty does by introducing a complicating element to the story. Series four’s villain isn’t simply a police officer, she’s a female police officer. Specifically, she’s a black female police officer. Nuances like that won’t be ignored by a show like this.
Overall, it was a more subdued hour than the fast-paced action of last week’s opener. Once the tension over Huntley and Ifield’s whereabouts had dissipated, all that business with the swabs, the Tupperware, and Huntley mishearing the reference number added a necessary frisson to the second half of the episode.
We were left with a sympathetic-seeming Michael Farmer (what is it with prison bullying and faecal matter?), a suspicious-seeming Neil, a pissed-off Kate, and a DCI Huntley wondering if she might just get away with this.
Get away with what, is the question. Ifield’s murder, of course, but how deep was she in before that? Ponder this – when we watched DCI Huntley pull up outside Tim’s murder scene and calmly, convincingly take charge despite being behind the whole thing, was that a repeat of episode one’s opening moments at Michael Farmer’s house? Did Huntley deliberately set up Hana’s abduction to frame Farmer and arrive at Moss Heath Estate knowing exactly what she would find there?
Of all the question marks flying around at this point (incidentally, for anyone wondering where they might recognise Gaite Jansen’s Hana from, she was the kooky Russian princess in Peaky Blinders), here’s what we really need to know: while Roz Huntley was washing those dishes just before the call came about Hana’s abduction, what was going through her head?
Read Louisa’s review of the previous episode here.