Line of Duty episode five: 17 minutes of perfect television

"Who knew that three people, sitting in a room talking could be so gripping?" asks Alison Graham, of the penultimate instalment of the BBC2 police drama

Line of Duty episode five: 17 minutes of perfect television
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I watched last night’s episode of Line of Duty weeks ago, in my office (it’s the job). It was only when someone interrupted me during that brilliant, telling 17 minute interrogation scene that I realised I’d been holding my breath. Who knows what would have happened if I’d been left alone, I’d probably have ended upon the floor, gasping like a haddock.

That whole sequence was a perfect piece of television. Everything about it was right. Direction, cinematography, acting, the lot. Who knew that three people, sitting in a room talking (a fourth, the solicitor, stayed silent throughout), often in police office-speak, could be so gripping?

It was a crucial moment in Jed Mercurio’s remarkable thriller. Anti-corruption detectives Fleming and Arnott (Vicky McClure and Martin Compston) confronting their boss’s boss, Deputy Chief Constable Dryden (Mark Bonnar) with evidence of dreadful wrong-doing.

Dryden started off by being cocky and defensive. “Don’t go down that road son,” he told Arnott. “It doesn’t end well….Tick tock….” He’s a cop, he knows that there’s only a limited amount of time for the pair of them to make a case.

But, inexorably, the tag-team of Fleming and Arnott hit Dryden with damning proof. Documents, photographs, over and over, slowly and almost quietly, the tension in that tiny room crackling like static electricity. As an ex-crime reporter with a geeky love of the nuts and bolts of police procedure, for me this was heaven. Oh, the official-ese! “I’d be grateful if you’d refer to document eight in your folder. A complaint was made regarding an SP30.” Isn’t that magnificent? “For the tape I’m presenting photographs HH6734 dash L to P.”

And all the time the camera hugged the faces of those involved, getting closer and closer to Dryden, watching his eyes and his mouth, searching for any little ‘tell’, any hint of a lie, until he broke completely. It was, as the young people say, awesome.