This review contains spoilers.
Stay calm. Float downstream on your back and await rescue. Do not try to swim. The river current is stronger than you and swimming will only exhaust you.
The advice for what to do in the event of falling out of a white-water raft is remarkably applicable in the event of being a Line Of Duty viewer. Keep it in mind over the next four weeks when tormented by the question of whether or not Steve can trust John or whether or not Ted is H. Stay calm. Float. Await rescue.
Line Of Duty’s current is stronger than us all; it’s a torrent, refusing to flow at the trickling pace of other crime shows. Corbett went from being a mystery to being a rogue to being Steve’s clandestine partner in a mission to wash the bent copper scum off the streets in the space of an episode. Specifically, episode two of six. There are still four to go. In the time it takes other crime shows to hint that their drinky lead detective has a tragic past, Line Of Duty has fitted in four murders, two hijacks, the death of a beloved regular, two major twists, an armed police raid and an ongoing conspiracy that threatens to unseat all that is good and fair in the world. And there are still four episodes to go.
Episode two also managed to fit in time to – unforgivably – break Ted’s heart. His delicate devastation when told that Roisin had met somebody else was exceptional work by Adrian Dunbar. Perhaps more upsetting though, was Ted telling Roisin that he’d be getting back the money he lost on his bad investment, because (speculation ahead) it suggested that he’d been suckered.
With everything Ted knows about the OCG, he has to see that there’s a good chance they’re behind Moffatt’s miraculous offer. After all, isn’t this what they do – research their marks for specific weaknesses and approach them under a guise? Vihan Malhotra was hoodwinked by the gang pretending to be a betting company helping him with a debt repayment plan. This out-of-the-blue windfall seems too good to be true.
At least Ted being duped by the OCG would stop dead all this blasphemous chatter about him secretly being its top dog. There was more mischief in that direction this episode. After Kate pondered Maneet’s level of involvement in the corruption saying, “I mean, you work right beside someone…” and in strode our man Ted. Cheeky.
Similarly, when Ted was glumly considering his divorce papers and the property pack in Heartbreak Hotel, the camera pulled back to reveal a laptop screen receiving a message like the one we’d just seen used by the OCG. Suspicious.
Suspicious, my bum. If Ted had been the one writing those messages to Corbett, we’d have been able to tell. (‘God, give me strength. Why in the name of Jesus, Mary and Joseph did you carry out an unauthorised hijack, son? Those guns are hotter than soda farls fresh from my granny’s griddle. Mebbes you are TOO’.) They can do as much close-up magic to make us think Hastings was the bent officer who recruited Cafferty, and cut in as many shots of him looking like a baddie through partially frosted glass as they like, but the Ted-Faithful remain unwavering.
Wavering like a candle flame near a broken window though, is any faith in Steve’s longevity now that he’s signed up with Corbett. John may be a bright bloke and a natural leader, but he’s clearly a zealot. To Corbett, bent coppers are worthless “vermin” and their lives can be taken without compunction. Of all the things Line Of Duty has taught us (acronyms, mostly) it’s that bent coppers are usually just coppers who made a mistake and got in too deep. Corbett’s obsession with police probity puts him beyond even Ted Hastings on the continuum of positions to take on wrong’uns.
Even Ted bent the letter of the law this week to see that Maneet’s family would receive a pay-out and pension despite her wrongdoing, just as Steve and Kate did for Tony Gates in series one. Ted speaking aloud the title of the show when he said “she died in the line of duty” should have been as cheesy as hell but it wasn’t. It was stirring.
Corbett, a fanatic and a skilled manipulator who knew exactly which buttons to press to get Steve on board, is a dangerous proposition and a satisfyingly complex character. No wonder they cast Stephen Graham – few do that combination better.
Speaking of combinations, top marks to Vicky McClure for managing to evoke grief with only her eyes visible in the scene in which she and Steve IDd Maneet while dressed as forensic Teletubbies. McClure’s eyes are so naturally expressive she could do the whole show wearing one of those masks, which is just as well because some of her dialogue this week was comically understated. “Feel awful now,” she said after listening to Maneet’s recording, as if expressing regret over having just finished too big a plate of pasta. Her verdict on Corbett’s undercover vulnerability in a nest of murderous criminals was “I’ve been there, it’s not nice”. When this is all over, look out for Kate’s tell-all memoir, Life Undercover: A Bit Tricky.
Things could get trickier for Kate. Her domestic bliss this series is beginning to feel ominous. It’s hard not to see her son in the same way as you see a dog in the first half of a horror movie; something sweet and nice but that will probably, in the very near future, end up nailed to the back of a door.
This isn’t a horror movie. It’s an expert game, with characters we care about, created to engross us for an hour a week (and then also for all the subsequent hours of that week as we run through its many possibilities). Can Steve trust John? Is Hastings H? Who’s bent? Who’s straight? Who’s wrong? Who’s right? Who’ll live? Who’ll die? Who are you? Who am I? Where are we? What’s going on?
See? Swimming will only exhaust you. Stay calm. Float. Await rescue.