Line Of Duty
There comes a time in everyone’s life where you do have to wonder: is now the moment to give up on TV thrillers? If only temporarily, to retain your sanity and stop shouting ‘TCH!’ at the television. (‘That Couldn’t Happen’: Line Of Duty’s acronyms appear to be catching.) Happy Valley and Broadchurch were exceptional, I accept that, and relatively TCHfree, but The Missing, Baptiste, Liar, Cheat, The Bay… GHU. (God Help Us.) The Victim is the latest, which had a fascinating and thorny moral question at its heart, but IJCDI. S. (I Just Couldn’t Do It. Sorry.)
James Harkness, Kelly Macdonald and John Hannah take the lead roles in The Victim
Kelly Macdonald played Anna, a grieving mother whose nine-year old son, Liam, had been tortured and murdered 16 years earlier by a boy of 13. The killer was given a new identity but Anna discovered it, or so she thinks, and she names him online as Craig Myers (James Harkness) to encourage vigilantes to attack him. One does, viciously, and now she is the one in court facing criminal charges. Is Myers the murderer? Even if he is, is he entitled to start afresh with his new family? If so, has he become the victim? Or is that still Anna? Fascinating and thorny, like I said.
But. I was nearly as tormented as Anna, albeit for different reasons. Surely, I kept thinking, someone in authority would know whether Myers was the killer? Surely someone in authority would be keeping track of him? Criminals given new identities aren’t allowed just to disappear without trace, are they? They must be monitored in case something just like this happens? Indeed, as I’ve since found out, they would not only be known (albeit only by a small number of people) but would also have a local handler. However, if it could have been established straight off whether Meyers was living under a different name or not, then there would have been no ‘is-he-or-isn’t he?’ and I guess there wouldn’t have been a TV show in it. And this is what haunted me throughout. Or as I wrote in my notes: ‘Would the detective (John Hannah) on the case really be allowed to stumble around in the dark like this?’ I might even have added ‘poor wee fella’ if I was Ted Hastings.
This isn’t to say it wasn’t well acted, especially as Macdonald can do no wrong in my book, but there were other problems too. In the years since Liam’s murder, why hadn’t Anna or his sister, Louise, aged? Anna had since had another son, Ben, and given the echoes of the Jamie Bulger case, was it exploitative to have it seem, as it did at one point, that he was in danger too? And Louise’s boyfriend who, it transpired, was the one who found Liam’s body, wouldn’t the family have known that? Given that his name must have been everywhere at the time? I can see why some might have found the ending moving, and the series immersive, and the outcome compelling, but I did not. Probably my bad. Someone recently said to me that I should go with the flow more, and not allow plot holes to matter so much, but as I said to them and will say to you, in capitals, just so there is no mistaking: IT MATTERS TO ME!
On to Line Of Duty, where the UCO is embedded in the OCG. I consider it more of a police procedural than a thriller, but either way, it is so dense and complicated and interlocking that you can be sure if something doesn’t add up, it isn’t your failure, which is a relief, as you can never blame the writing. Anyway, I can’t rehash the plot here, given we’re five series and two episodes in, and given how if I started now I might be finished by three weeks on Wednesday. As it is, we still don’t know who exactly put Jackie in the freezer, and that’s from seven years ago. So a few observations.
First, Stephen Graham is amazing as the UCO in the OCG who may have gone rogue. Second, Arnott would do well to spend less time adjusting his satin-backed waistcoats and more sharing intel. Third, I was completely wrongfooted by Cafferty who, it turned out, went bad to cover up a shag in a pub car park (always the way). Meanwhile, could Hastings be ‘H’? I think this is a Ted Herring as I can’t believe he is a wrong ’un. As it is, I once saw a headline that said: ‘Hastings votes leave’ and immediately thought: ‘No, not Hastings. He is a good person. He would be Remain.’ Before I realised it was about the town.
My one complaint is that AC-12 has itself entertained so many bent coppers (Jamie Desford, Dot, poor Maneet) that maybe what’s required is an AC-13 to oversee AC-12, and when AC-13 becomes corrupt there could be an AC-14 to oversee AC-13, which is overseeing AC-12? In this way, the show could run for ever. NTWM (Not That We’d Mind).