Denton and Dot in deadly face-off as Line of Duty delivers its biggest thrills so far

Ben Dowell is shell-shocked after the penultimate episode of the BBC thriller offers up one of the most exhilarating and troubling hours of TV in a long time….

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*Warning: spoilers if you haven’t seen Line of Duty series 3 episode 5*

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What a great piece of television that was.

In an episode which ratcheted up the tension with almost clinical precision we saw slippery Matthew “Dot” Cottan duck and dive, spreading suspicions about Steve Arnott until his final showdown with Denton when he gave the game away.

With Danny Waldron’s back-up list of pederasts and criminals saved in her phone, Lindsay had leverage – but fatally, she shared her information with AC-12’s corrupt copper. He tried to bribe her into ‘forgetting’ what she’d found but Denton refused. “I’m a police officer,” she snapped before he brutally shot her in the head.

With his DNA – and her brains – all over the car (and him), even Dot will struggle to get out of this one. But whatever happens there is no doubt what a mouth-watering prospect next week’s final 90-minute episode is

But first, there’s so much more to dissect from tonight’s instalment.

Hastings was up to his neck, suspected at first of being in league with fellow Mason, the retired Chief Supt Patrick Fairbank. Not our Ted, surely. He showed his good side in the end, though, and his nailing of Fairbank in the interview room was another gripping piece of television.

It was during that scene that the fictional investigation into the Sandsview care home was linked to the real life crimes of Jimmy Savile.

It was a brave and bold call, but one which in my view worked. Savile committed a lot of his crimes at the BBC and there was, for me, an inescapable sense of the Corporation holding its hand up here to crimes with which it is associated. I have spoken to senior BBC folk involved in the decision and I understand it was Jed Mercurio’s idea and they deliberated long and hard about it.

Another excellent moment was the reaction of Jonas Armstrong’s Joe to a picture of his abuser. He vomited all over the interview room, as eloquent a testimony to the horrors of child abuse as you could imagine.

And then there was Denton’s collaboration with Arnott. There was a weirdly light-hearted edge to things at first, each bickering over the £50,000 he was supposed to have planted in her flat in series two, her raising her eyes to the heavens. But then things got deadly serious.

“I have deduced, Steve, that you are so desperate that you need help from a sad cow with no life,” was her opening gambit. And she remained a step ahead of him, sending him on a search through the cemetery shrubs for Danny Waldron’s list when she knew she would find it in the internet café. She beats Arnott hands down at police work.

If you were in a pickle you’d want Denton on your side. And now she’s gone.

It is terribly sad saying goodbye to the ex-copper who has to rank as one of the best characters in any TV drama. Ever.

Utterly compelling – ruthless, hard, a victim, Denton had a core of goodness, too. After all, it was only witnessing the ill treatment of poor young Carly at the hands of her pimp Tommy that persuaded her to get involved in the series two conspiracy in the first place. And at the end she was determined to bring Cottan in.

“You’re a go-between, a weasel,” she said, challenging him to kill her and taunting him with the possibility that she’d be the person who brought in The Caddy. But it was not to be.

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Please, someone do the job for her next week. What an episode that promises to be. It can’t get better than this. Can it?