Line of Duty: Why we’re hooked to this one truly amazing cop show on Netflix season after season

Into Season Six, we are still troubled by the corruption among the cops and why we need someone to deliver us from the evil PR spin.

April 13, 2021 / 03:04 PM IST
Thandiwe Newton in 'Line of Duty' season four.

Thandiwe Newton in 'Line of Duty' season four.

The irony of watching season six of a show on anti-corruption - in ways not yet available to India - in Britain does not escape me as I write about why you need to watch Line Of Duty on Netflix. So take off your black balaclavas and binge watch!

This is season six, the corruption nexus between the politicians and police is forcing the upright chief Ted Hastings into a corner. All the branches will be merged into one and the manpower will be reduced by 90%.

‘What has become of us?’ is a question that’s relevant to not just AC-12, but for all of us living isolated lives during the pandemic. But the action won’t let you get philosophical for even a minute. You are rooting for the good guys here. It’s just that the crime and corruption is so pervasive, you still don’t know whom to trust. Besides, the good guys are dying like flies…

If there was an award for the creepiest of forked tongued lawyers, Patrick Baladi who plays Jimmy Lakewell would win, hands down. But as he says, ‘That’s right isn’t it, DI Arnott? I didn’t talk.’

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I won’t give you any spoilers but let you discover the secrets that the police hold...

Five seasons ago, we were introduced to a young man who refuses to be part of the ‘cover-up’ of a botched police raid. Meet Steve Arnott (if you didn’t already lose your heart to him in Ken Loach’s Sweet Sixteen, you will like him here), who is part of that raid and is troubled by the cover-up. He is whisked away to be a part of the anti-corruption cell which he hates because it amounts to being a snitch on your fellow officers.

Tony Gates is a troubled man despite being a police officer who is reputed to have never lost a case. Is he being blackmailed by his lover? Will the cops continue to handle cases they are sure to win, and if not will they frame people to close cases? Why do the British have a penchant to make such good-looking men like Lennie James the baddies?

Season two gave us the scary villain who knows the law as much as any police officer and is unafraid of even the chief. The confrontation with Ted Hastings is one of the best scenes one has seen in the series. It’s not the action (which gets really brutal this season) but the cruelty of the officer that will shake you to the core. Whereas in season one, you felt bad for Tony Hastings who got caught trying to cover up an illicit love affair, in this season, the villainy goes much beyond a cover-up. And yes, there’s Steve Arnott in a sex scene…

I haven’t forgotten the gorgeous Vicky McClure who plays DC Kate Fleming; it’s just that when a cop is all good and has no flaws that we can see, and does not misstep, is a great partner to Steve Arnott... but what to do, we like flawed people.

In Season three, the show gets a little more interesting for anyone interested in the technical aspects of investigations. No dramatic CSI type scenes, but they operate on the principles that God is in the details. That’s how much I can say without telling you spoilers. You will watch with extra attention simply because you can see how those who are trusted to collect evidence become those who plant it. The Court case from the previous series reaches a conclusion and we are disappointed when a bad guy goes scot-free. It really shook me to watch the torture of young boys here, so make sure you do not have kids around you. It was a tough series to watch.

Before I take you on the quick trip to season four, I wish to admit to being amazed at seeing so many more Indian/Pakistani origin actors as part of the force. Not the token Archie Punjabi, but others, as police officers both good and bad, lawyers, forensic officers and even victims.

Season four is a bombshell season, with Kate Fleming going undercover. This season sees Thandiwe Newton as the baddie (this is not a spoiler but an incentive to watch!) pitted against AC-12. The show is so good, and the action is not just consistent but nail-biting to say the least. And cliched as it may sound, to have a constantly badgered chief of a unit that will root out corruption show himself to be utterly moral is a reason to watch this show. The serial killings in the season are just a start of the plot but the twists and turns that put both Arnott and Fleming in harm's way are just mind blowing.

In season five, the villain just gets plain meaner and his ability to kill without remorse makes him creepier than Denton. But Hastings, Arnott and Fleming are a formidable team. This time, not only has a police convoy carrying narcotics and firearms been ambushed, but the good guys seem to be on a losing streak. The action has never been better even though the judgements you have seen in the previous seasons seem to indicate that the bad guys will get away again because of their ‘connections’. My only problem with this series is that the lack of a moral compass in the bad guys is discussed rather matter of factly by the good guys on screen, while I, as an audience member, seethed through it all.

Now that you’re going to spend all your waking hours playing catch-up with me and the rest of the fans of the best cop show there is, let me ask you two things, have you wanted to learn Morse code and have you any idea who H is?
Manisha Lakhe is a poet, film critic, traveller, founder of Caferati — an online writer’s forum, hosts Mumbai’s oldest open mic, and teaches advertising, films and communication.

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