Right. Have you recovered. Been to a dark room? Taken some deep breaths? Shall we begin?
Line of Duty has just finished its third series with a quite astonishing 90 minutes of drama that brought together every plot point, teased, twisted, turned… and then exploded in your face.
I say let’s begin, but from where? In summary, we saw Dot first set up Steve only for Kate to have her suspicions and to turn on the corrupt copper. Two inquisitions, beautifully mirroring the other. And then an explosive final sequence.
Thanks to the intervention of Neil Morrissey’s Morton, and copper WPC Maneet Bindra (Maya Sondhi), AC-12’s suspicions of Dot turned into hard evidence. But just as he was cornered, gulping water and piling lie upon lie in the interview room, he orchestrated the most audacious escape imaginable.
Instructed by text, the dodgy copper guarding the interview room (clearly one of the Caddy’s network of bent plods) opened fire on his mate, sprayed the interview room glass with bullets and allowed Dot to flee the scene.
Now that’s one way to get out of a tight spot.
Only, he didn’t count on our Kate. Vicky McClure’s superstar copper had already used her sleuthing skills to disentangle Dot’s set-up of Steve and now sped off to chase down the two criminals. “Kit!” shouted Adrian Dunbar’s Ted Hastings, always mindful of the safety of his trusted officers (and there aren’t many of them); and she was off, hitching a ride on a lorry, weapon in hand. She was after the Caddy and his mate and nothing was going to stop her.
What followed was among the best, most breathtaking TV sequences I have seen in a while. When she caught up with Dot she pleaded with him to give himself in. She nearly succeeded, but then his accomplice arrived, smashing her out of the road.
And as Dot’s getaway car screeched and swerved, Kate used her local knowledge to get him in her line of vision (a lone officer! Chasing down a Range Rover! On foot!). But she was thwarted every time by what could have actually been a simulated training video – NO! INNOCENT DAD WITH SMALL CHILDREN! DON’T SHOOT! – until she got her one chance and took it.
Let’s not forget that the resourceful copper had received weapons training in episode one before she went undercover with Waldron’s unit. And she put her skills to good effect, her one bullet causing the vehicle to crash and wounding Dot.
As she chased the car down, out he staggered. Was Dot about to hand himself in and confess what he knew? Before we had the chance to find out his accomplice had taken aim at Kate. She had nowhere to go and faced certain death before Dot leapt in the path of the gun. Riddled with bullets, he lay dying as Kate took out her assailant before recording Dot’s dying declaration.
How do you come back from that?
What came before may not have been as high-octane but it was no less gripping.
It was also clever of writer Jed Mercurio to withhold Morton’s snitching of Cottan from the audience in return for “I-mu-ni-ty” as he put it.
And there was Fairbank. Denton’s email with Waldron’s list arrived just as he was about to leave, allowing Kate and Ted to question him under caution and bang him to rights.
You saw the full horror of the man when he snarled that he was going to guarantee that she would be on traffic duty for the rest of her “sad little career” but they got him in the end. That was satisfying.
The return of the ghost of Denton was a courageous touch but one that (for me) worked, especially as the aftermath of her detective work was felt even after her demise. She haunted Dot Cottan’s waking life, showing that even the Caddy had some form of conscience – that there was somewhere inside even him traces of a police officer who was on the side of doing good.
And the questioning of Steve was brilliantly played out. There was a certain poetic justice in forcing him to endure what Denton went through. Both were good coppers, though neither was untainted by guilt. And his interview also mirrored Dot’s, the over-lapping parallels creating an unfolding sense of expiation that permeated the episode.
During Dot’s questioning, Kate’s face when she realised something was wrong with his testimony was pitch perfect acting from McClure. We could almost hear her thinking as the audience urged her to realise what was going on.
In the end, there was victory, but in many ways it was pyrrhic. And it was interesting to see the final montage treat the characters as if they were real people, in keeping with last week’s decision to introduce the real life sex criminal Jimmy Savile into the Sandsview storyline. (There was also an echo of similar real-life cases in the suggestion that Fairbank could have been unfit to be tried because of dementia).
Lindsay Denton lay cold in the cemetery, no mourners attending her local authority funeral, and her barren grave empty and still.
Fairbank was jailed for ten years, Dot’s dying declaration helping to get him nicked.
And we also learned that Ted, a newly-promoted Kate and Steve are still working at AC-12, which of course can mean only one thing. Roll on series four….