By Dan Moren
May 31, 2019 9:22 AM PT
We Like: “Line of Duty”
Last year, audiences in the UK—and to a lesser extent, the U.S.—went wild over one of the latest TV phenomena that seem to pop up a couple times a year. This time it was Bodyguard, a show starring Game of Thrones’s Richard Madden as a personal protection officer (or, you know, colloquially, a bodyguard), who gets tied up in a tense and intricate set of terrorist and political plots. I enjoyed Bodyguard greatly, and was not surprised to see, when the credits rolled, that it was the brainchild of writer/producer Jed Mercurio.
Mercurio also created one of my favorite series of recent years, the phenomenal Line of Duty, which just concluded its fifth season. It’s not often I’d describe a series as “gripping,” but Line of Duty definitely fits the bill. The series follows police anticorruption unit AC-12, which is dedicated to investigating compromised police officers. Each six-episode season follows a different case, but as the series goes on, we—along with the protagonists—start to realize that there’s a larger pattern at play here. Think of it a little bit like a British version of The Departed, but with 100-percent less Mark Wahlberg and bad Boston accents.
What I love about Line of Duty is that it doesn’t pull its punches. Like Bodyguard or Game of Thrones, the show regularly elicits gasps at some of its reveals and plot developments. And, for a show that sometimes seems largely focused on conversations over a conference table, that’s a pretty impressive feat. There are plenty of twists and turns along the way, and it’s not without its share of violence and serious content, though it doesn’t particularly go in for gratuitious violence. (That said, one bit of casual violence from season two still sticks with me to this day for its shocking unexpectedness.) It’s also replete with technical jargon, but stick with it for a while and you’ll be spouting off “reg fifteens” and police cautions with the best of them.
The show is anchored by strong performances from leads Martin Compston, Vicky McClure, and Adrian Dunbar, as well as a host of impressive guest roles from the likes of Lennie James, Keeley Hawes, Daniel Mays, Thandie Newton, and more. (Like any British show, it’s hard to go more than a few minutes without exclaiming “Oh, them!”) I’m also fascinated by the show’s decision to restrict its main characters’ home lives to glimpses that inform your understanding, without letting their personal issues take center stage.
If you’re a fan of edge-of-your-seat crime drama—and especially if you enjoyed Bodyguard—I highly recommend Line of Duty. You can watch all five seasons on Acorn; the first four seasons are also available for streamign on Hulu or purchase on Amazon or iTunes.
[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Twitter at @dmoren or reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The latest novel in his Galactic Cold War series of sci-fi space adventures, The Nova Incident, is available now.]