The final episode of the third series of Line Of Duty was as close to perfect as a drama can get.
The nail-biting 90-minute finale wrapped up so many plot points that in many ways series four feels like a fresh start for one of the best police dramas on TV.
So what has changed for series 4? I guess the biggest change is its slot. Line Of Duty remains BBC Two’s highest rating drama series ever with the last series averaging 5.1m per episode so the decision was made to, for want of a better word, promote it to BBC One.
The fourth series will now air Sunday nights at 9pm on BBC One as opposed to Thursday nights at 9pm on BBC Two. Speaking about the move at a recent press launch for the series, writer and creator of Line Of Duty, Jed Mercurio said “It was something that was suggested by Charlotte Moore at the BBC. We had a meeting where she said that she felt the series had done very well on BBC Two and wondered whether we would be up for the transfer and we were very grateful for the opportunity.
And when asked whether he had to make any concessions writing a series for BBC One rather than BBC Two, Jed simply said “No” and went on to say that he "definitely approached” series four “with a view to starting a new chapter."
I’ve seen many articles and tweets urging you to catch up on the first three series of Line Of Duty before launching into the fourth, but don’t let that put you off. You absolutely do not have to have watched any of Line Of Duty before.
Whilst series three had a character return from series two whose back story you sort of had to know, series four is very much standalone which is why now feels like the perfect time to move Line Of Duty to BBC One.
The only background you really need is what AC-12 is. AC-12 is a fictional department, a dedicated specialist unit investigating corruption within the police force.
Led by Supt. Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar), his core team is made up DS Steve Arnott (Martin Compston) and DS Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) who has been promoted to the same rank as Steve after bringing down The Caddy at the end of series three.
This series they will be aided once again by PC Maneet Bindra (Maya Sondhi) and will be joined by newcomer Detective Constable Jamie Desford (Royce Pierreson).
Of course I wouldn’t discourage anyone from catching up on seventeen wonderful episodes of drama, perfectly executed by Jed Mercurio, and there is perhaps extra depth to be had in understanding the returning character but there’s certainly no need to watch it before Sunday’s series opener. And what an opener it is!
Line Of Duty never (not yet anyway) picks up right from the end of the previous instead. Instead each series brings with it a new case and a new guest character. In series one this was played by Lennie James, in series two it was Keeley Hawes and in series three it was Daniel Mays.
This time around it’s the turn of Hollywood actress Thandie Newton to take on the guest character role. She comes into the series playing DCI Roz Huntley, a detective under intense pressure to capture a serial killer and prove herself to her superiors by solving what has become a career-defining case, Operation Trapdoor.
This all leads to Roz believing she has found “balaclava man” and the case being solved. But as she avoids crucial forensic evidence, can she be sure the right man has been found guilty? And little does she know when she utters the words "It's over. Finally, it's over” that it really isn’t. It’s only just beginning.
Another new character joining series 4 of Line Of Duty is Forensic Coordinator Tim Ifield, played by the ever wonderful Jason Watkins, Right from the word go, there is definite friction between Roz and Tim. Why? Well essentially they are both trying to do the same thing, and that’s catch a criminal.
Not content with the way in which she carried out her investigation, believing that forensics have to be interpreted carefully, Tim is sure that the man who has been found guilty, is innocent.
Tim is quick to hotfoot it over to AC-12 to explain how Michael Farmer’s conviction was based on “Not enough evidence”. And it’s then not long before AC-12 decide to probe her handling of the investigation. But with no clear grudge or connection to Michael Farmer will Roz be found guilty of any wrongdoing?
And as a mother of two and wife to husband Nick (Lee Ingleby), Roz will do anything to stop her life unravelling and as becomes more and more clear as the first episode unravels, I mean ANYTHING.
Speaking at a recent press launch for the new series, Thandie Newton spoke about accepting the role and joining such a well-loved series “I hadn’t seen any Line Of Duty before, but I had a call from my agent who’s represented me since I was 17 and she said - “If you ever want to work in British television, this is the best thing you could ever do.” - and I trust her completely and I was really intrigued.
I don’t watch television. Partly because there’s so much reality TV that watching that stuff makes me really uneasy. But I watched the third season (of Line Of Duty) and could not stop from episode to episode, I watched the whole thing. It was just phenomenal.
I knew that Lennie James had been involved years ago and I’m a huge fan of his. So it was those details and meeting Jed that led to me signing straight away.
I didn’t know what was going to be in each episode but I knew I wanted to be part of this. I had a sense from Jed about what it was going to be about and also seeing Vicky McClure, I’d never seen her before and I thought she was absolutely spellbinding. Martin Compston is fantastic and Adrian Dunbar is just a national treasure. So I said - “Yeah, OK let’s go”. And I’m so fucking glad that I did!"
It’s so difficult not to talk about the final moments of Line Of Duty, which is one of the best endings to an episode of television drama I think I’ve ever seen. The storyline which you think you know and understand is quickly revealed to be the most complex I think Jed Mercurio has ever written for the series.
All I will say, is get ready to be surprised. And when the episode ends at 10pm you will be left open-mouthed probably until 10:30pm and then what you saw will stick with you through to the following day and indeed days leading up to episode two.
If episode one is THAT good, I can’t wait to see how the rest of the series sustains such a high-level of storytelling. If you’re not hooked by the end of episode one then Line Of Duty, and quite frankly, quality television, isn’t for you.