Line of Duty episode two: 60 minutes of twists, turns and – hang on, Jimmy Savile?
TV review: You’ll need a lie-down after this onslaught of twists, turns and Adrian Dunbar
Is Davidson being led on a wild goose chase – or is she the one doing the leading?
Jed Mercurio could never be accused of pandering to those watching Line of Duty (BBC One, 9pm) with half their brain switched off. The notoriously uncompromising writer storms in, all acronyms blazing, in an enjoyably overstuffed second episode of the show’s sixth season.
It’s just as well Easter holidays have arrived because you’ll need a lie-down and a lie-in after this 60-minute onslaught of twists, turns and Adrian Dunbar looking perturbed. Mercurio even throws in a Jimmy Savile connection, so top marks for effort.
There are several bombshells as AC-12 declares an official inquiry into DCI Joanne Davidson (Kelly Macdonald) and her “Operation Lighthouse” investigation into the targeted hit on reporter Gail Vella. Leading suspect Carl Banks has been killed, brutally and seemingly by the informant – sorry Jed, the “CHIS” – who had earlier overheard Vella’s murderer boasting about bumping her off. Conveniently said CHIS then “jumped” to his death in an apparent suicide.
Vella was targeted because of her unstinting work in exposing the powerful – or so concludes AC-12 chief Ted Hastings (Dunbar) and his newly-promoted second-in-command Steve Arnott (Martin Compston). This theory would, of course, undermine that idea that Terry Boyle, the man with learning difficulties arrested by Davidson, is the true culprit. Is Davidson being led on a wild goose chase – or is she the one doing the leading?
Mercurio has been careful to portray Davidson as ambivalently as possible. That’s until a final scene that appears to establish her connection to organised crime.
With AC-12 arresting her for conspiring to frustrate the Gail Vella murder hunt, she points outs that everyone who knew about the tip-off from the CHIS would have to be questioned too. Presto, her former lover PC Farida Jatri (Anneika Rose) turns out to be in possession of an incriminating burner phone.
Jatri protests it’s a plant by Davidson (who had keys to her house). Meanwhile, we see Davidson driven away by Ryan Pilkington (Gregory Piper), the recently-qualified policeman secretly working for the Organised Crime Syndicate (OCS). She takes delivery of a new burner and then breaks down in tears in her car. So she’s guilty of something – but to what extent is she a willing accomplice?
Very much in Ted’s bad books is former AC-12 leading light Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure). And with good reason. She had alerted her new friends at Lighthouse to AC-12’s impending swoop (she and Davidson have romantic chemistry to boot).
True, the tip-off merely frustrates rather than derails the inquiry. However, it increases the pressure on Ted, whose superiors reveal that the AC-12 Vella snoop is to be passed off as a routine administrative inspection.
“I’m interested in one thing and one thing only – bent coppers,” retorts Dunbar. This is potentially the most Ted Hastings thing he’s said in the entirety of Line of Duty.
Whether his handling of the Gail Vella probe is a case of more Hastings less speed will be revealed in later instalments. Plus, there is the possibility of Ted having an agenda of his own. Or so Steve Arnott concludes after observing Hastings slink away with Steph Corbett (Irish actress Amy De Bhrún), the wife of late undercover office John Corbett.
Steve later calls on Steph, living a life of outrageous luxury what with her huge new telly and Sky Sports subscription. She senses a romantic flicker – though Arnott is hard to read as he has suffered another spasm relating to his secret painkiller addiction.
So the plot is thickening and we’re still in the dark as to who to trust and who to hold in suspicion (even Ted is working an angle). That Jimmy Savile connection, meanwhile, is tied to Vella and her work in exposing a plot between the BBC presenter, senior police figures and corrupt politicians.
She knew too much – and was piecing it all together for a podcast – and now she’s dead. Can Ted and the crew discover who killed her and how it intersects with the wider conspiracy between crooked coppers and organised crime? That is the mystery that will have us coming back in the weeks ahead.