BBC 2’s new corrupt cop show started this week literally with a bang, the opening scene shows a Counter Terrorism sting operation going wrong under the leadership of DS Arnott (Martin Compston). When DS Arnott is not prepared to testify to a lie about the incident he is transferred to an anti-corruption unit (ACU).
It’s here we see him begin the investigation of a suspected “dirty” cop DCI Gates played by Lennie James, who has previously starred in US TV shows Human Target and Jericho and in the UK he starred in State of Play. He is collecting his “Officer of the Year” award for his incredibly high clearance rate. The ACU lead officer superintendent Ted Hastings feels that DCI Gates is too good to be an honest copper.
DS Arnott at first doesn’t see the dirty side of DCI Gates but over the course of this first of five episodes we unravel DCI Gates policing methods, where he chooses more high-profile and easy win cases to ensure his team ends up fully funded and happy. He also seems to do favours for friends, and more than just making a few parking tickets disappear. He is having an affair with Jacqueline Laverty, played by Gina McKee who confesses to him that one drunken night that she hit a dog with her car. Upon a little digging it later appears to be a person she hit and the links to the person whilst starting random have more than a little to do with Jacqueline than she had led Gates to believe.
Episode 1 lays out what could be a complex plot but does it with good style and an interesting narrative, the whole operation is shown from DS Arnott’s investigate and via DCI Gates perspective as well.
Rounding out the cast is Vicky McClure as DC Kate Fleming an undercover ACU officer working in DCI Gates’ team. Another notable character is DC Morton played by Neil Morrissey, a straight role for the Men Behaving Badly star, plus he has grey hair as well…quite a shock.
What sets this apart from other cop shows is the style and pace of the show, as I’ve said it’s slow almost The Wire pace slow at times. But as you see both sides of the investigate you always feel informed. Lennie James is excellent as the brooding Gates, he delivers a lovely line to DS Arnott when the formal investigate begins; he tells him “If you take a shot at the King, make sure you kill him”.
The show feels and looks like last years The Shadowline, also on BBC2 and has more than a passing feel to US show The Shield. The shows creator is Jed Mercurio, who has also written BBC Three drama Bodies and more recently Sky One show Strike Back. Line of Duty is on BBC2, Tuesdays at 9pm, you can catch episode 1 on the IPlayer.