After five series of Line of Duty, if there’s anything that’s certain when entering a new chapter of Jed Mercurio’s tricky police drama, it’s prepared to be slapped hard immediately.
From DCI Roz Huntley’s (Thandie Newton) fatal confrontation with Tim Infield (Jason Watkins) in series four to the slaughter of Maneet Bindra (Maya Sondhi) at the hands of the merciless Balaclava men, Line of Duty is well accustomed to setting a bloody and unmissable tone for what lies ahead.
For its long-overdue return, after miraculously managing to film one of the most complicated series on British television during the terrifying heights of a global pandemic, Line of Duty sticks with tradition to pack a heavy-weight punch, opening an endless stream of complications and questions.
The cast described series six as going back to basics, more inclined with series three – with the onus firmly on AC-12. They’re not wrong.
Set two years after the events of the series five final, which uncovered the elusive ‘H’ is not one but four bent coppers, new information comes to light surrounding the unsolved murder of Gail Vella, who was killed a year prior.
Kelly Macdonald’s DCI Joanne Davidson has been perfectly summed up as the ‘most enigmatic adversary AC-12 has ever seen’. There are many layers to Davidson bound to unravel, secrets to be exposed along the course of season six but for now, her game plan is anyone’s guess.
While we can’t say much more about Davidson – both because it remains unclear after watching episode one and the number of spoilers to be avoided is longer than the guest list to Rita Ora’s birthday party – she is shrouded in much more mystery than the series regulars (Lennie James, Newton, Stephen Graham, Keeley Hawes) who have come before her.
On the surface, she’s determined to find Vella’s killer. Beneath the surface, however, who can be sure. As told by the BBC: ‘Her conduct soon arouses suspicion, and it’s not long before AC-12 are on the case.’
Tonight’s episode has everything you want from Line of Duty – Ted Hastings’ (Adrian Dunbar) hysterical rouge one-liners, agonising suspense, and desperate hunger for the next six – yes six, not five – more episodes. The time apart feels like a new slate for Line of Duty, a refreshment no one asked for but is welcomed with open arms.
Six chapters in, the dynamic between AC-12 has constantly evolved, this time more so than ever before – but there are much bigger questions surrounding the golden trio this time around that one may not have been anticipating.
Mercurio’s midas touch is the promise that whatever happens, expect the unexpected. Episode one is exactly that.
‘We are starting from a place that the audience will probably find a bit shocking at first,’ says Adrian Dunbar. ‘Things and people have been moved around so the first episode is going to be one of those “head-wrecks” for the audience.’
While the cast may have warned you to be ready for a surprising turn of events, you won’t know what’s coming. The gloves are off, the game has changed and this is either a new start for Line of Duty – or the beginning of the end.
Line of Duty airs tonight at 9pm on BBC One.