She hit send, we gasped, he pulled the trigger.
RIP Lindsay Denton. She intrigued us, confused us, frustrated us, beguiled us, and – in death – left us utterly, utterly speechless. I stared at my laptop with my mouth hanging open for a good five minutes after watching Lindsay breathe her last.
It was a horribly graphic demise for Keeley Hawes' ex-copper but along with blind shock, her death left me with a pang of relief. When Line of Duty creator Jed Mercurio wheeled Denton out for another series, I feared she was a plot device. That the richly drawn, conflicted protagonist who lifted series two to new heights had been brought back merely to unsettle AC-12 and provide Steve Arnott with a sounding board. I needn't have worried.
In the hands of Hawes and Mercurio, Denton continued to steal the show. She may have been sidelined, shunned by the police force, eking out a narrow existence in a half-way house, but her spirit remained intact. And she continued to demand that peculiar mix of sympathy and suspicion from us viewers and her unlikely ally Steve Arnott.
The ostracised pair teamed up during tonight's episode after Dot Cottan got Steve bumped from the investigation into Sandsview. For Arnott, it was about seeking justice for Joe and the abused boys living at the children's home, but for Lindsay it was about redemption. She reminded us what a damn good copper she was in the process, pinpointing Danny Waldron's hiding place and uncovering the list that had eluded Steve and the rest of AC-12 for the best part of five episodes. All in one fell swoop.
But suspicious cars with blacked out windows never bode well. Lindsay thought Steve was tailing her but it was Line of Duty's Big Bad, Dot Cottan, who persuaded her to hitch a ride – a move that would ultimately cost her her life.
Lindsay's revelation that she was in possession of Waldron's list of suspects prompted Dot's mask to finally slip. Evil he may be, but we hadn't felt the full menace of AC-12's corrupt copper until he began spitting offers at Denton to keep her mouth shut and – when she refused – pulled out his gun. Credit to Craig Parkinson whose quivering rage upped the ante but this was Denton's moment, make no mistake.
It was her refusal, her shrieked "because I'm a police officer", that sealed her fate. Dot had played his hand and found it wanting but Denton wasn't done quite yet. With her finger hovering over the send button, she stared down the barrel of his gun and spelled out the sacrifice she knew she might have to make. "You want to shoot me? You go ahead. If it sends you to prison, that is my job done".
She hit the button. He pulled the trigger.
For a few agonising seconds, it looked like her play had been in vain. The picture lingered in Lindsay's outbox while Dot furiously tapped at her phone as she lay there, blood and brain matter sliding down her face. It's a scene that will no doubt be watched again and again by Bafta voters come next year.
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Because Lindsay Denton was something rare. A female character full of complexities, powerful even in the most desperate of situations. Stripped of her dignity, her identity, she remained a police officer to the core, with the same streak of decency that defines Ted Hastings, Steve Arnott and Kate Fleming. And in a series which we can only presume ends with Dot's comeuppance, it was DI Denton who cracked the case.
"See what they think when I bring you in," were her final words, "when I bring in the Caddy." She never got the chance to march back into AC-12 but boy did she nail that weasel.
Line of Duty concludes next week at 9pm on BBC with a 90-minute episode