Line of Duty, season 6 episode 3 review: thrilling action, wince-inducing dialogue and barbs at the BBC

A police officer driving late at night follows an order to divert from the approved route. Come on, PC Patel. Have you not seen Line of Duty, series two? This is not going to end well.

Episode three featured things that writer Jed Mercurio is good at, and was an improvement on the week before. We’re cooking on gas mark 5. For example: that action sequence, with Ryan Pilkington forcing the car into a reservoir and ensuring Patel didn’t live to tell the tale. And the interview room scene, in which Terry Boyle appeared on the verge of divulging some crucial information, but DCI Davidson stepped in. And the way that little details – DSI Buckells waving a golf club around his office – make us constantly question whether we’re being fed a load of red herrings or need to reassess our views on a particular character.

On the other hand: the dialogue. Mother of God. “The name’s Hastings, ma’am. I’m the epitome of an old battle.” “Little bastard damn near cut off my fingers!” DI Arnott in particular is given the sort of lines (“Believe me… I will”) that wouldn’t have been out of place in an episode of Dynasty.

Then there’s the whole subplot about Arnott’s relationship with Steph Corbett, widow of John. Of course they’re now romantically involved, because Arnott is irresistible to women. Is it the waistcoats? To watch their scenes together is to witness two actors locked in a battle to the death with their characters’ accent. I think it’s fair to say that the actress playing Steph isn’t a native Liverpudlian.

Mercurio likes to goad, and recently criticised some BBC executives as work-shy. Here he had another poke, throwing in a reference to the filmed police raid on Sir Cliff Richard’s home (although this is unlikely to have delighted Sir Cliff, given that the script referred to him as “an elderly pop star”).

After last week’s episodes, I ventured that the plot was too littered with past references to make sense to newcomers. It turns out that some of them had thrown in the towel even earlier – ratings were down by 700,000. This week, Arnott and Hastings gave us a handy run-through of the relationship between Jackie Laverty, Tony Gates, John Corbett and Terry Boyle’s freezer.

Alas, Kelly Macdonald is yet to make a serious impression. The best character in it is Pilkington, played by Gregory Piper, doing a great job of playing a murderous little weasel.

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