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By Dave Massey twitter.com/brumhour
**This review contains some light spoilers for the BBC TV series Line of Duty.**
This programme contains scenes of violence, strong language, misogyny, implied rape, sex trafficking and at least one terrible Black Country accent.
Box Set Review:
Line of Duty Series 1-5
On Monday 3rd August BBC One repeated the first-ever episode of Line of Duty, I’ve never seen this police drama before but I’d heard the whole series was set in and around Birmingham, I wanted to take a look and see what locations I could spot.
The premise of this thrilling tv show is simple enough: anti-corruption officers investigates the rest of the Midlands police force to ferret out the numerous “bad eggs”. AC-12 is led by Superintendent Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar) and the main investigators we see are Detective Steve Arnott (Martin Compston) and Detective Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure). Though there must be others as Hastings would be rather bored otherwise.
I’ve been on Film Birmingham connected walking tours around Birmingham before, so it was pretty easy to know where it might be filmed, Colmore District, while the old Birmingham Municipal Bank (Which I remember being a TSB in the 90s), Millennium Point both doubled as police offices and Spaghetti Junction was also featured.
I watched the second episode the following day, but my impatience grew waiting for episode three to appear the following week so I decided to head over to BBC iPlayer and watch the rest of the first series. It turned out everything after series one was actually filmed in Northern Ireland with Belfast doubling as Birmingham and the surrounding area, apart from random docks instead of canals it does a reasonable job of being vaguely in Birmingham.
Each series focuses on a different main case, they are all fairly interwoven and sometimes a character from one series will turn up several series later with the audience expected to remember or recognise their place in the jigsaw. Those being investigated include: slippery fish D.C.I. Tony Gates (Lennie James), perfectionist D.I. Lindsay Denton (brilliantly portrayed by Keeley Hawes), deeply troubled Sergeant Daniel Waldron (Daniel Mays), diligent D.C.I. Roseanne Huntley (Thandie Newton) and possible gang leader John Corbett (Stephen Graham).
I did wonder how many of the audience recognised Ryan (played by Gregory Piper) the mouthy tearaway kid from series one in 2012 when he turned up as a dodgy adult in series five in 2019. The devil is in the detail they say.
Line of Duty does take some liberties with reality, the most laughable being the pinch and zoom feature to try and clear up blurred video footage. Other examples include a witness recording a kidnapping before knowing exactly what would happen, and a smart young copper (Royce Pierreson) giving out his passwords when there’s been department wide computer problem.
I already admired Jed Mercurio’s deliciously dark writing from watching Bodyguard in the autumn of 2018, he weaves plots carefully and precisely though I’m sure the series five ending probably annoyed a fair few people who were waiting for a particular reveal.
Line of Duty plays with the idea of parent and daddy issues, Hastings calls DS Arnott “Son” throughout, characters are separated from their kids or parents during each progressive series. The series also leads with the idea that everyone must have a murky past and that there is never really a happy ending to be had. Very British!
Nearly every episode contains multiple twists and a reveal in the final few minutes before their version of EastEnders‘ Duff Duffs.
The stars of the show remain the three leads, Martin Compston with his David Beckham esque accent, determined behaviour and a face that never cracks a smile as Arnott! Vicky McClure (Fleming) sneaking undercover into situations without anyone bothering to do a google reverse image search like on MTV Catfish. Rounded out by the fairly annoyed Adrian Dunbar who solidly plays a leader trying to keep things together.
This is a thrilling tv show which becomes more escapist as it evolves into the powerhouse it has become today.