Everyone loves Line Of Duty, don’t they? Well, maybe not everybody. One writer says the show has become a victim of its own success – melodramatic and bogged down by acronyms.
What a sanctuary and salve good TV has been to us all over the last 12 months. For me, lonesome lockdown would have been miserable without my TV treats – action from Homeland, masterful storytelling from I May Destroy You, pathos from My Octopus Teacher, pash from Normal People and escapism from my favourite trash TV. We were blessed with a bounty.
And what about Line Of Duty? The high drama hit that has the nation on tenterhooks and sends Twitter into a tailspin every Sunday night ever since season six came back to the Beeb earlier this month. It’s the show that has launched a thousand memes, stirred swirling fan theories and has everyone asking the big question: who is H? Everyone loves a bit of Line Of Duty don’t they?
Not me. I’ve turned on Line Of Duty like a bent copper. Like everyone else, I was hooked by the first five series and eagerly awaited season six. But despite loving the drama, bravado and swagger of earlier seasons, I fear Line Of Duty has become a victim of its own success – melodramatic, bogged down by dutiful, dull scenes and overloaded with acronyms. Let’s just say it – LOD went off the boil.
I blame everything – the plot, the script and the players. DI Steve Arnott (Martin Compston) was never the most charismatic character from the beginning, but now he’s almost a caricature. The writers have written a painkiller addiction for him this season; an unexplored story line that has been a misfire for me. And then there’s his will they/won’t they just spoon each other ‘romance’ with the could-be-corrupt wife of a former (murdered) colleague. And it seems laughable now that after everything that happened with DI Lindsay Denton, poor Steve still hasn’t learned not to piss on his own doorstep.
Now even DI Kate Fleming (played by the eminent Vicky McClure) feels a bit 2D and her acting talents underutilised. In previous seasons we’ve had a glimmer of the team’s personal lives and I’m greedy for a bit more of that.
Both Kelly Macdonald (as DCI Joanne Davidson) and Anna Maxwell Martin are superb, versatile actors. And yet, even they seem to struggle at times with the script. Maybe I’m just bitter they didn’t do more with PS Farida Jatri (Anneika Rose) as she’s a character that could have been developed and caused some real trouble. All the remaining cast are constantly called on to convey emotion through a series of smouldering looks, to the point it feels a bit silly at times (nothing silly about Carmichael though, she scares the bejesus out of me).
At other times LOD feels like PC Plod. It’s all too heavy, and desperately needs some light (although we did get a chink with Hastings’ brilliantly blasphemous: “Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the wee donkey.”) And there is on occasion the tiniest spark of teasing between Kate and Steve but, c’mon even the strictest, most sanctimonious of coppers must have a laugh at times.
One of the most common complaints levelled at Line Of Duty is the convoluted plot. This season especially, viewers have lamented feeling lost and not being able to recall characters or arcs from Line Of Duty way back when. Maybe it’s because all our brains have turned to mush after a year in lockdown but it does feel a bit hard to keep up at times (maybe LOD would benefit from a bonus recap episode before a new season? I’d watch it).
Despite this season going nowhere slowly, let me give LOD its props. There have been some standout moments. There was that incredible Michael Bay-esque action scene (episode four’s ambush and shootout was sublime and that final aerial shot of our Steve lying on his back in the upturned van was awesome). And there are some solid performances (give Anna Maxwell Martin’s smirk a BAFTA) but the whole thing just lacks light and shade. There’s no one to root for because everyone’s terrible at their job, except DC Chloe Bishop (Shalom Brune-Franklin) and if she turns out to be on the take I’ll throw my TV out the window.
There is one other thing that LOD deserves credit for – it’s kinda fun to see the nation uniting in a dogged quest to uncover who H is – especially in these turbulent times. It gives us all that water-cooler moment even though we are in PJs and WFH indefinitely. Such is its influence it’s been mentioned in parliament for goodness’ sake. And TV is such a talking point, it’s a small talk saviour when you are waiting for everyone to join that Zoom call.
I know I asked if I was alone in my feelings about Line Of Duty, but I was being facetious. And gaffer, I have hard evidence to back that up.
Escher Walcott says she’s been falling out of love with LOD too. She tells Stylist: “While I appreciate the action Line Of Duty occasionally brings, the overlong, drawn-out investigative interviewing scenes feel long and leave me bored.”
Izzie Price tells me she watched a couple of seasons way back when (the Keeley Hawes era) but “just got bored”. “It definitely seems like sacrilege to say it, but it’s just not really my thing. I think I just find it super convoluted. I don’t have an issue with complex plots, in fact I love a good complex plot, but I just find it all a bit much…”
Stylist’s digital fashion writer Naomi May shares these sentiments. She says while she should have been glued to the screen like her girlfriend was, she found herself drifting off in the middle of Line Of Duty. “I should’ve been watching the Line Of Duty season two finale with my girlfriend, an avid fan of AC-12 and their shenanigans, but instead I found myself yawning, stretching and, eventually, in a bath so as to avoid the sad storylines. Where hyperbole goes, I’m always reluctant to follow, but Line Of Duty is so widely revered that I expected I would be immune from disliking it.” Naomi says tried to get on with the show, but just couldn’t. “How does anybody keep up to speed?” she asks.
Line Of Duty was explosive and gripping from the get go but, for me, it’s lost its way. So there, I said it. Now what are you going to do? Lock me up? Send AC-12 after me (with their track record they’d probably never find me anyway) or get me offed by an OCG? Please don’t, because despite my whining, I’ll still be watching the finale this Sunday night.
And it’s not all lost, there’s hope for LOD to return to the glory of seasons past. Maybe it needs to go a bit easier on the acronyms and interview scenes and give us more brilliant characters we can get behind and unite us in our desire to see the bad guys brought to justice.
I might have turned on Line Of Duty like a bent copper, but there’s always hope for redemption.