You’re so far out on the edge of your seat that, before you know it, the credits are rolling. And you’re left wanting more, obviously. Any series fan knows that feeling, but few shows have what it takes to produce that level of nail-biting, episode after episode and even less so as the seasons pile up and it enters the veteran category. But if there’s one thing Line of Duty has always managed, it’s knowing exactly how to catch audiences on the hop. And that’s exactly where we are with episode one of season six done and dusted (recently premiered on Movistar+), left with the sensation that this police thriller from Jed Mercurio has us wrapped around its little finger: over the course of this first episode, they’ve managed to hook us with a new case, introduce a fresh and mysterious character played by Kelly Macdonald, and throw us a curve ball with a few plot twists you wouldn’t have seen coming with a telescope. Hence, we’ve no other choice but to surrender to the evidence before the court and rubber-stamp the British police series as being out on its own when it comes to gluing audiences to the screen. The more episodes they dish out, the bigger it grows, beefing up its already formidable strengths. So much so, that on this occasion they have completely steered clear of any sensationalism. You might even say it’s elegant, almost subtle for a series of this kind.
The two-year wait between one season and another not only hasn’t taken its toll on the show, but instead seems to have made it wiser. “Line of Duty” has grown a beard, just like Steve Arnott. It knows what buttons to press and boasts a complicit and devoted fan base they respond to by giving them just what they ordered: those solemn utterings from Ted Hastings, the drama’s alma mater, the adrenaline surrounding an operation that has to be executed with millimetric precision, and even a long interrogation scene, something it wasn’t clear the series could pull off as a result of the safety measures imposed under COVID-19, compounding the shooting of scenes like this in small, closed spaces. Actor Vicky McClure explained some days ago that they resolved the issue by recreating the set for the offices in a well-ventilated studio without a roof. If this solution was already effective in the scenes from this first episode (shooting began before the pandemic) it’s practically unnoticeable. It was one of those classic “Line of Duty” interrogation scenes, where every question and answer is laced with edginess.
The point of departure for episode one is also a classic, very similar to the earlier seasons of “Line of Duty” introducing an enigmatic character who would become the focus of attention of our leading agents, and a shift away from the more complex outbursts of the shows recent seasons (which also led to more bizarre solutions). In one particular situation, the decision to abort an operation to deal with another situation, leads both characters and audiences to questions the intentions of the character played by Kelly Macdonald. The actress, better known for series such as “Boardwalk Empire” and, more recently, “Giri/Haji”, is the show’s guest star this year, and she maintains the mystery well with her turbid performance.
Meanwhile, the show continues to successfully knead our veteran protagonists and their relationships. Steve Arnott feeling like he needs a change of scene may just well signal the beginning of the end of the show and if this turns out to be the case, it won’t be down to poor audience share (episode one of season six almost reached 10 million viewers on the BBC) or an issue with the show’s quality, as “Line of Duty” continues to masterfully juggle tension and testosterone to full fruition.