This review contains spoilers.
When DS Steve Arnott called himself a blunt instrument last week, he must have been talking about his skull. That man not only has a steely gaze and an enviable collection of steel-grey waistcoats, he also clearly has a cranium made of the same.
Steve lived. Not exactly to tell the tale—the concussion made him too hazy for that—but he lived to catch bent coppers another day. (Incidentally, do you think Mr and Mrs Arnott at the hospital were played by Martin Compston’s real parents? There seemed to be a familial resemblance at least.)
That’s two they-look-like-goners-hang-on-a-minute fake-outs we’ve had now in series four. One more and creator Jed Mercurio may have to hand back his Royal Television Society award. Steve’s recovery wasn’t technically a cheat of course—we were the ones getting ahead of ourselves ordering flowers for the funeral—but there are only so many times a show can get away with a trick like that. After a week spent mourning Steve’s passing, it’s going to be hard to conjure up many tears should the character really cork it in future. Line Of Duty’s getting to be like Doctor Who – nobody can stay dead.
That’s not strictly true. Tim Ifield, Baswinder Kaur and Leonie Collersdale won’t be making a return. So, who murdered the last two?
On the advice of my solicitor, I’m pleading mental incompetence. We’ve reached episode four of a Line Of Duty series, otherwise known as Bewilderment Point. So many plot threads, red herrings and character revelations (et tu, Maneet?) are up in the air that the only sensible course of action is to have a biscuit and wait quietly until next week.
Was it Nick Huntley who attacked Steve? Who can rightly know. Is Huntley Balaclava Man? His work function alibi says otherwise. Are there multiple Balaclava Men? Perhaps. Does Jimmy Lakewell have the look of a character who’ll prove key to this series and potentially beyond? He does, especially as he’s played by former Jed Mercurio collaborator, Patrick Baladi. (If you haven’t seen Mercurio’s terrific medical drama Bodies, in which Baladi plays a consultant obstetrician with a string of medical failures to his name, please rectify that and then come back to join me in crossing fingers and toes that Jimmy isn’t tasked with delivering Maneet’s baby).
What’s clear at this stage is that DCI Roz Huntley is a nasty piece of work. She’s a murderer, liar, domestic abuser and manipulator in the extreme who is willing to do anything to save her skin. She’s also not averse to sending the irony-o-meter up into the stratosphere by making lofty statements about her moral code while the evidence of her sins festers away under her left jacket sleeve, a few tantalising inches away from the people who almost have her cornered.
Or had her cornered, perhaps I should say. Huntley pulled a Denton in this week’s lengthy interview scene, which was an absolute classic that lasted almost half the episode. It was two interviews, properly, the first conducted by a riled Hastings (it was a three-fella episode for Ted, so you know he’s feeling the pressure) and the second by Huntley herself, who turned the tables on AC-12 using Ted’s unreconstructed language and investigation of Lindsay Denton as fuel for a sexism charge, before outing Kate’s undercover op.
Speaking of Denton, there was a shiver of déjà-vu in that topsy-turvy scene. Anyone who remembers Lindsay in series two being up against the ropes then producing photos of Steve fraternising with a witness and evidence that Ted was in financial difficulties (and therefore vulnerable to bribery) has seen this before. At least Lindsay did her own coppering. Huntley schmoozed her dirt on AC-12 out of ACC Hilton, who spent his scenes looking at her like a dog looking at a butcher’s window.
How did Huntley look at him? The same way she looks at everyone: with Borg-like impassivity while her brain raced to calculate her next move. Only husband Nick, with whom Huntley shared three major scenes this week, each one further complicating the idea that he was our villain, gets to see underneath the mask. It’s not a pretty sight.
Dot’s corruption mustn’t yet be public (or police) knowledge, because if it were, wouldn’t the fact that AC-12 promoted a bent copper be the first strike made by anyone trying to discredit them? A quick question on that – what happened to all those people the Caddy named and shamed in his dying statement? Were the all brought in, or or are the people pulling Dot’s strings still out there? If so, I’d bet a hotshot criminal lawyer like Jimmy is someone for whom they’d have a use…
Back to the case at hand, the maddening complexity of which will have us guzzling painkillers at the rate of Roz Huntley if things don’t start to clear up soon. “Can’t be Michael Farmer. Can’t be Timothy Ifield. Looks like it might be Nick Huntley” said Hastings this week. Does it though?
For the DIR, Mellor has made the non-verbal response of shrugging her shoulders and holding both palms upwards.