Line of Duty

Blimey. I wasn’t expecting that. Or that. And I definitely wasn’t expecting THAT.

After the gripping first series and even better second, could Line of Duty creator Jed Mercurio bottle lightning a third time? Did you really ever doubt it?

Unlike Lennie James’ Tony Gates and Keeley Hawes Lindsay Denton – the morally ambiguous targets of police anti-corruption squad AC-12’s previous investigations – trigger-happy firearms officer Danny Waldron (Daniel Mays) appeared to be a more obvious boo-hiss villain. At the very least, shooting an unarmed suspect in the head then bullying his colleagues into a cover-up was unlikely to win him Employee of the Month.

Gradually, though, Mercurio began to peel away the layers to reveal an altogether more complex character: driven, haunted, self-destructive. ‘When this is all done, I’ll suffer for my actions,’ Waldron told DS Steve Arnott (Martin Compston). ‘I’m under no illusions of a happy ending. But I ain’t gonna stop.’

As the electrically-charged interrogation scenes – thrilling mini-dramas in themselves – got underway, it seemed we were in for a simple game of cat-and-mouse. Then – BLAM! – suddenly it was Mays who was on the deck, bleeding out, at which point it became clear we were getting a whole different story to the one we’d been pre-sold.

And just when we were getting our breath back from that, Keeley Hawes swans back in as DI Denton, one of the most fascinatingly unreadable puzzles in modern fiction. Is she a good person or a bad person? After six episodes of series 2, during which your allegiances and sympathies shifted like sand, it was still impossible to say. And now he here she was, appealing against her (entirely unfair) prison sentence by dripping poisonous, career-wrecking lies about Steve – apparently motivated as much by a desire for revenge as justice.

Into this murky moral quagmire, Mercurio weaves a seam of pitch-black humour. ‘The cause of death isn’t clear,’ said Steve of one victim. ‘Well cutting his head off can’t have helped,’ wisecracked DI “Dot” Cottan (Craig Parkinson) – the one truly rotten apple in Line of Duty’s barrel of bad fruit.

Best TV show of the decade? I think it just might be.

TV extra: 


Written by The Bridge creator Hans Rosenfeldt, Marcella brings Nordic noir to London in a drama that began with Anna Friel’s troubled (well aren’t they all?) detective waking up in a bath of blood, and gradually got more bleak from there.

Wearying cop show clichés aside, it’s grimly compelling stuff, with a first-rate cast that also includes Sinead Cusack and Downton’s Laura Carmichael. The graphic murders, though, cross an uncomfortable line, and are better left to exploitative torture-porn like Saw.



You know that hybrid of Battleships and Hell’s Kitchen you’ve always dreamed of? Me neither, but here it is anyway – ‘the cooking contest where celebrities compete to be the best chef on the high seas’.

The clue to this Monkey Tennis concept may lie in the fact it’s ‘served up by P&O Cruises’. But watching the likes of Alex James and Debra Stephenson cooking an octopus – presided over by Marco Pierre White – turned out to be weirdly gripping. Permission to come on-board for the series.

Published in Waitrose Weekend, April 7, 2016

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