***Please note: This review contains Series 4 spoilers!***
My Sunday night tv viewing is now devoid of good drama, after the end of Line of Duty last week. After a triumphant finale, this series is still being talked about a week later and, after much speculation, it has been confirmed that the programme will return for two more series. The news shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, considering the BBC had moved the show from its previous slot on BBC2 to its new home on BBC1 for Series 4. Such a move is always a clear indication of how much faith the BBC has in a show’s future and proved the right decision after last Sunday’s finale drew an average of 7.46 million viewers.
What a thrilling and gripping finale it turned out to be! I was literally on the edge of my seat, whilst in between hiding behind a cushion for some of the more excruciatingly tense moments. Considering I was new to the show, I quickly became invested in the story and its characters. Normally I am quite pedantic about my tv viewing habits and prefer to watch a show from its conception. Line Of Duty has been on my Netflix watch list for quite some time now, yet by chance I found myself watching the first episode of the fourth series with family. After that opening nerve-wracking cliffhanger, how could I not carry on watching such an exhilarating series?!
As a new viewer, Line Of Duty Series 4 felt like a fresh story and while there appeared to be hints of the anticorruption unit’s work from the previous seasons, it was easy to follow what was going on regardless. I quickly grew to love the show’s central characters and equally despise its core villain. AC-12’s Superintendent Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar), DS Steve Arnott (Martin Compston) and DC Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) provide the moral backbone of the series and a foil to the duplicitous DCI Roz Huntley (Thandie Newton).
Initially I was surprised to hear of the addition of Hollywood star Newton to such an already well established series. However, it wasn’t difficult to comprehend the actress taking on such a role after viewing just one episode. There’s not many characters that have me screaming at the tv! DCI Roz Huntley is one of the most manipulative and devious characters I’ve witnessed on tv recently and Newton played her with such complexity that I have no doubt she will be nominated for every television award possible this year.
I was delighted when Huntley received her comeuppance in the final episode, with justice being served at last for the murder of forensic investigator Timothy Ifield. Somehow though, Huntley evoked a sense of sympathy and redemption by confessing to her crimes, as well as displaying decent detective work by cornering her own lawyer for his involvement in the Balaclava Man mystery.
The show didn’t shy away from issues such as gender inequality and it highlighted the difficulties women still face in their careers. DCI Roz Huntley appeared to be penalised for putting her family before her career for many years and severe pressure was placed on her to solve the case that resulted in her framing of Michael Farmer. Without a doubt, Huntley had to fight her way to the top of the career ladder and a ruthless streak appears to be deemed necessary in order to get ahead in such a male dominated industry.
When Kate was passed over for promotion in favour of her colleague Steve, the implication was evident that it was because of her gender. Then there was Jobsworth Jodie, one of the most irritating characters I’ve endured on tv lately. Clearly motivated by promotion prospects, she turned a blind eye to Huntley’s suspicious behaviour and divulged confidential information at any given opportunity. However, on a more positive note, times have moved on from the chauvinistic days of the past when women in the police force were merely deemed capable of menial tasks such as making tea, as showcased in the recent ITV Prime Suspect:1973 adaptation, a prequel exploring Jane Tennison’s early days in the police force.
Police procedural dramas are always a winning formula and Line Of Duty displayed an intelligence often not seen in other shows of the same genre, particularly when dealing with forensic details. Of course certain elements are still inaccurate, but there will always be some discrepancies for the sake of dramatic tension. Strong leading characters like Hastings, Fleming and Arnott have a dynamic on-screen chemistry and provide the heart of the story. The AC-12 team looks set to have their work cut out for them in the next series as they continue to uncover the mysteries of the conspiracy ring involving the Balaclava Men. While much of the loose ends were tied up in the finale, there is still the question of who H really is and there were plenty of teasers for what lays ahead in Series 5.
The success of Line Of Duty Series 4 demonstrates the importance of quality over quantity. The BBC is known for producing fantastic dramas and much of this success can be attributed to their formula of creating short series that span a few episodes compared to the standard US prime time tv network format of a 22-24 episode arc. This style often leads to a diminishing quality in a series and results in many ‘filler’ episodes. However, American cable television has been following a similar shorter format for a number of years and it looks like many of the prime time networks are coming to the realisation that a shorter narrative arc results in a more polished and improved story. With the BBC commissioning new adaptations of Little Women and The War of the Worlds, this golden era of television shows no sign of abating and long may it continue. In the meantime, I’ll be revisiting the rest of the Line Of Duty series!
Did you watch Line Of Duty? Have you seen all the series? Do you have any good tv recommendations? Don’t hesitate to get in touch and let me know!