Line of Duty Season 6 Opener: An Interesting Start But Soon We’ll be Sucking on Diesel!

Martin McKenna

After almost two years away, Line of Duty finally hit our screens on BBC One last Sunday, now in its sixth season. With the show almost ten years old, it remains one of the most popular shows pulling in 9.6 million viewers surpassing it’s previous record of 9.1 million for the season 5 finale.

With the introduction of the superb Kelly Macdonald (No Country for Old Men, Brave, T2 Trainspotting) as DCI Jo Davidson, the show remains as murky as ever, with trust seeming an ever difficult prospect to obtain.

The Cast: Martin Compston as DS Arnott, Adrian Dunbar as Superintendent Ted Hastings, Vicky McClure as DI Kate Fleming and Kelly Macdonald as DCI Joanne Davidson. Filming for Line of Duty ended in November, with much of the outdoor scenes being completed on location in Belfast during the Summer of 2020. PD/BBC

This season revolves around Davidson’s apparent mishandling of the investigation into the murder of an investigative journalist. As each season goes on, it takes more and more of a toll on our three main characters (Arnott, Fleming and the endlessly quotable Hastings) as they attempt to navigate the dubious world of corruption within the police force. Following Stephen Graham’s stellar performance in Season 5, Macdonald can certainly live up to this, cementing herself as an important introduction that plunges each series into incessant questioning of who can and cannot be trusted.

Eagle eyed, arguably obsessed, viewers will have noticed that the magazine featuring the aforementioned investigative journalist, Gail Vela, looked slightly different to the one that featured on the trailer. On the trailer, in addition to the barcode on the cover there was a QR code that could be scanned. This led to a PDF document expressing concern about Hastings in the force and his credibility in continuing to lead. It led one to think about Thomas Vinterberg’s masterpiece ‘The Hunt’ in which after being cleared of a charge, does everybody ever let go previous grudges? The answer in this case is clearly no, and Hastings exclusion from a senior ranking excursion highlighted how far he will have to go to restore his once prestigious reputation.

There were concerns about two particular aspects to the season opener. The first was the frequent use of abbreviations such as ‘CHIS’ (Covert Human Intelligence Source), ‘MIT’ (Murder Investigation Team) and ‘PNC’ (Police National Computer). However viewers of previous series and those with a strong interest should have no issues relating to the dialogue being too technical. The other concern was that it was slow in places and that certain characters had very little to do. We should remember though that we are being treated to an unprecedented seven episode season which means the pacing can be altered to suit this change. It did not occur in one’s mind that it was a slow burning episode; it certainly had it’s tense moments and fascinating, albeit distressing, interview scenes.

The introduction of Davidson into this season gives us so many questions to toil over. We are still yet to find out about the fourth person in what was initially named ‘H’, something that has loomed large over AC-12 since the season three finale. The current radio commercial for the season ends with ‘man? Or woman?’ as the response to a statement along the lines of ‘we need to find the fourth man’.

The grand building of Belfast Central Library, on Royal Avenue, serves as the Police Headquarters in the series. It is one of many sites familiar to local Belfast residents in Line of Duty. PD/Wikimedia Commons

Davidson’s intense questioning during the season opener, paired with her actions throughout the episode certainly bills her as a menacing individual, one that will develop further over the remaining episodes. It also seems her character is a role reversal to that which Macdonald played in ‘No Country for Old Men’ in the infamous Coen Brothers’ modern classic. It feels as though she channels a toned down Chigurh (Javier Bardem), whom she starred alongside, in an almost untouchable like presence, an extremely strong willed individual.

This leads one to conclude that perhaps Davidson could be this fourth, although something tells me it could be too obvious for that to be the case. I’ve had a theory to which I am sticking with. It is certainly a longshot, one which I would not monetarily back. One believes the much-loved Fleming (Vicky McClure) could be possibly corrupt. It seems unlikely that someone so clean throughout the previous seasons could remain so, as the show goes on. Following the clearance of Arnott in season three and Hastings in season five, Fleming could be this fourth.

As a student of Queen’s University, it is great once again to see and recognise so many of the filming locations used shot in and around Belfast. In Season 5 it was a surreal experience to see the chase from the Victoria Square Shopping Centre out towards the Titanic Museum which felt as though it could’ve taken place in real time affording the distance between the two.

The distant glimpse of the Belfast City Hospital, Arnott’s office located by what seems down the road from City Hall in the opening episode adds the extra shine to a stellar piece of television. We can only hope that our three main characters, whilst separated in some form, will hold true and clear up the ever-impending danger. For the next six weeks, though, we will certainly be treated to what should go down as another successful season of the show.

You can find the latest series and all previous episodes of the drama on the BBC iPlayer.

Editor’s Note

Text accompanying the images is attributable to the Editor.

Published by The Gown Queen's University Belfast

The Gown has provided respected, quality and independent student journalism from Queen's University, Belfast since its 1955 foundation, by Dr. Richard Herman. Having had an illustrious line of journalists and writers for almost 70 years, that proud history is extremely important to us. The Gown is consistent in its quest to seek and develop the talents of aspiring student writers.

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