Plot: Detective Chief Inspector Tony Gates (Lennie James) seems to have it all, the kind of track record any police officer would fantasize about, a position of respected leadership, and a home life that includes a loving wife and children. His status is such that few would even dream of looking to find flaws, but the anti-corruption task force is in place to do just that, to check up on all of those who serve, even ones with impeccable records and positions. Detective Sergeant Arnott (Martin Compston) is a new addition to the task force and is assigned to watch what Gates does, while another operative is placed in an undercover role, so Gates so nowhere to hide. Soon the cracks begin to form, including some suspicious patterns of applying charges to stack his resume and a former lover of his who has returned of late. Is Gates hiding corruption behind his sterling reputation or is he one of the exemplary examples of law enforcement?
Entertainment Value: This first series of Line of Duty runs only five episodes, but it is packed with tension, twists & turns, and some terrific performances, all at a brisk pace with little filler or wasted time. This is a police procedural and while it has a great pace and ample drama, it also feels grounded and in that regard, is a departure from most of the similar shows out there. This isn’t about a bold detective throwing the rule book out the window, quite the opposite. The steps taken to pursue the investigation are shown in detail, from consultations with superiors to even the burdens of paperwork, so it feels like real cops doing real police work. But the process is never dull or tedious, so it isn’t like the show gets mired in the mundane, it just makes sure we see how the process unfolds as it happens. This approach will likely still turn off some viewers, who prefer a faster paced or maverick cop style, but I appreciate having a show like Line of Duty, that bucks the trend a little.
This show also feels different from other cop shows in another way, as it really focuses in on the suspect and takes us inside his world. There is still ample time spent on the officers investigating him, but this first series makes sure we understand our potential villain, inside and out. This is bolstered by an excellent performance from Lennie James, who really shines in this role. He nails the character of Gates and makes use of all the tricks the script allows him, giving us a complex and at times, even sympathetic character. Martin Compston is terrific in his role as well, while the cast for this first series also includes Adrian Dunbar, Gina McKee, Kate Ashfield, and Vicky McClure, as well as others. The lone complaint with Line of Duty is that you want more when it ends, the narrative is so gripping and ends so soon. But this also ensures the quality never dips in the least, so it is a trade off. This first series of Line of Duty is masterful television and highly recommended.