Line of Duty (Series 6) – Review
By Alex Mair
The first episode of Line of Duty aired on BBC Two at 9pm on June 26 2012, and gathered an audience of a little over three million people. Fast forward to 2021, and Line of Duty has an audience of over nine million, and has now become an official cultural juggernaut. The programme has a fan podcast, a following on social media, and its own micro-community of Reddit, dedicated to speculating on the latest twists. If you are not up to speed with Line of Duty yet, one question: where have you been for nine years?
My dad likes Line of Duty. My mum likes Line of Duty. My colleagues like Line of Duty. My boss likes Line of Duty. Everyone likes Line of Duty. If you are unfamiliar with this series, do yourself a favour and go back and watch it from the very start, because for no other reason than if you jump in at the latest episode you won’t have a clue what’s going on.
The slight delay in the BBC’s creative output engendered by the covid-19 crisis, has meant that 2020’s flagship drama, Bloodlands, another police procedural produced by Line of Duty creator Jed Mercurio, this time set in Northern Ireland, has been broadcast immediately before the latest series of the phenomenally successful Police anti-corruption drama.
Bloodlands is the product of first-time screenwriter Chris Brandon and comes with Jed Mercurio’s stamp on it. The series is a police drama set in modern day Belfast. James Nesbit plays DCI Tom Braddick, and Lola Petticrew plays his daughter Izzy. A craggy detective struggling to connect with his grown-up daughter? So far, so Scandi drama. The kidnapping of a former IRA man forces Braddick to confront the ghosts of his past.
But Bloodlands is something of a disappointment. The programme reaches for seriousness, but in doing so seems to only get sillier and sillier. I would love to tell you how the series ends, but in fact, I can’t because the programme defeated me before the end.
Line of Duty, however, burst onto our screens with a big, bombastic opening episode, and hasn’t let up from there. Jo Davidson, played by Kelly MacDonald, is a police officer at the heart of mysterious goings on in the Murder Investigation Team. Her actions draw her to the attention of AC-12 (that’s anti-corruption unit twelve, in Line of Duty’s galaxy of acronyms), and a conspiracy going back years slowly, thrillingly, unravels.
Line of Duty isn’t a perfect programme. It rests on a delicate balancing act between realism and fantasy. The technical language and office politics of the programme draw us into its Byzantine world. Occasionally the programme falls into a bear trap. But this is a minor complaint in the grand scheme of things. Line of Duty is the best police drama the BBC have made in decades. See you next Sunday.
images: BBC Pictures