‘Bent coppers!’: it’s the endless refrain of Line of Duty this series, in any other show it would grate on you in no time at all – yet season five of Line of Duty just about gets away with it. The return of Jed Mercurio’s Line of Duty follows comes after the amazing success of his show Bodyguard in 2018, and the fifth instalment of Line of Duty picks up threads from even as far back as the show’s first series, showing that the extent of the ‘H’ conspiracy reaches further back than anyone could have imagined.
This series is somewhat different to its predecessors, as the team in AC-12 initially start investigating an organised crime group (OCG – there are far too many acronyms in this show, so be prepared for jargon overload) that has had links with corrupt officers. DCI Ted Hastings, DI Kate Fleming, and DS Steve Arnott return to our screens and begin their investigations after an explosive opening scene in which a hijack of a seized drugs transport convoy leaves three officers dead and one severely wounded. From there we find that another police unit has an undercover officer embedded in the organised crime group responsible for the hijack as part of operation Peartree. However, said operation has gone, well, pear-shaped.
After the initial shocker for the audience of OCG boss John Corbett (Stephen Graham) being the rogue undercover officer and not his right-hand woman Lisa McQueen (Rochenda Sandall), the surprises just keep coming. But what else are we to expect of Line of Duty? This show is perhaps one of the most unpredictable on our screens, in part due to Mercurio’s excellent plotting and script, but we also have to recognise the importance of intelligent and regularly misleading camerawork and editing. Whilst I do wonder whether the use of misleadingly editing scenes and the regular use of cliffhangers to imply certain characters’ guilt and corruption (*cough* Ted Hastings *cough*) are merely cheap tricks, I can’t deny that the production choices certainly keep audiences on the edge of their seats.
That’s the thing with Line of Duty. With its weekly broadcast on the BBC, the series isn’t binge-able like shows on Netflix or other streaming and catch-up services. Line of Duty has to work that bit more, raise the stakes that bit higher, in order to compete in an oversaturated television landscape where we can watch TV shows on tap. Line of Duty meets the challenges of our current television landscape and reminds us just how good television can really be.