**Warning: spoilers. Do not read if you have not seen Line of Duty series four episode one**
“They are killing us on Twitter,” muttered Assistant Chief Constable Hilton (Paul Higgins) to his subordinate officer, Thandie Newton’s DCI Roz Huntley, in one of Line of Duty’s rare quiet moments tonight.
But it’s hard to conceive of the Twitterstorm that would be unleashed if that same fictional public had seen what we just witnessed at the end of the series four opener.
The episode’s final scenes had Roz confront her accuser, Jason Watkins’ forensic coordinator Tim Ifield, at his home after he dobbed her in to AC-12.
A tense stand-off ensued in which there was a scuffle, he burned his hand and then struck her. When she confronted him about this, there was another push, she fell back, hit her head and looked, for all the world, as dead as a doornail.
Only of course the BBC weren’t killing off their Hollywood star after just one episode. In between the fall and a mysterious moment when Tim disappeared to buy the accoutrements to chop up her body (wearing a balaclava and a cap) she woke up. And he was holding some kind of grim portable chainsaw over her face.
It was a stunningly melodramatic climax to an involving opener which saw Huntley play an intriguing chief antagonist – a trusted, ambitious copper who is determined to prove herself after taking time out to have a family. And, as the leader of a dramatic operation to nail the Operation Trapdoor suspect, seems convinced she has got her man.
But was she being pushed too far by her bosses? Has she got the right culprit? Or is she corrupt and has she framed her suspect, Michael Farmer (Scott Reid)?
He clearly has learning difficulties. In fact, AC-12 think he is barely capable of driving properly let alone masterminding three successive abductions.
Is Ifield right that the forensics point to the possibility that missing jewellery – supposed trophies – has been planted? Time, of course, will tell once the rather awkward episode cliffhanger is resolved.
Despite the claims of the writer Jed Mercurio and the production team, Line of Duty does feel a bit different in its new home on BBC1; it does, dare I say it, come across as a little less brainy perhaps than it did on BBC2, with a few too many moments of heavy-handed exposition.
Superintendent Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar) seems to be the worst offender, repeatedly explaining police procedure to his team in a way which of course would never happen real life.
“We all know how this all works,” he tells Arnott and Fleming at one point, before informing them all over again How This All Works.
With Dot’s death at the end of the last series and the channel swap, there is a sense of a new audience being introduced to the drama, which makes this understandable. But I would guess these moments of clunky explanation will grate on long-standing fans of the show.
We also see Vicky McClure’s Kate Fleming going undercover again into Huntley’s unit which stretches credulity somewhat. You’ll recall, in the last series Fleming won a high profile police award for her work – a feat which would surely make her name known across the nation’s police stations. How someone as smart as Huntley didn’t rumble her straight away seems rather far-fetched.
Still, these quibbles aside, this opener is exciting and pacey and it’s still great to have the drama back. The debate about the difference between facts and the truth seems particularly timely in this age of Fake News – a dispute that rears its head in the argument Ifield and Huntley are having before she’s knocked out.
And there’s no one like Jed Mercurio for mixing tension with sudden moments of high drama or for dramatising deceit so fabulously.
If there’s anyone better at capturing the moment people are lying or seen to be lying or trying to hide their lies, then I don’t know who that is. And that is no lie.
Ben has worked as a professional journalist specialising in TV and the arts for nearly twenty years. After a two year stint on local newspapers in the mid 1990s, he spent more than 5 years as the broadcast reporter at the Stage newspaper. Following that he enjoyed staff reporting positions at the Sunday Mirror and the Sunday Times breaking stories and writing features before settling as a full time freelance writing for an array of newspapers and magazines - but mainly for the Guardian, Evening Standard, Broadcast, Independent and the New Statesman where he wrote a column.