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Line of Duty is back – and this explosive opener was worth the wait

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<p>Kate, left, has jumped ship to Joanne Davidson’s murder investigation unit</p>

While series five concluded on a bombshell about the vast scale of institutional corruption in the force (just got your head around the idea of ‘H’? Sorry, there are now four ‘H’ figures, one of whom is still at large), the new season opener scaled things back a little, introducing us to Kelly Macdonald’s DCI Joanne Davidson, while still including plenty of nods to cases past.

Naturally, there are spoilers galore ahead as we recap and reflect on the first episode, so if you’re yet to catch up on episode one, give this review a wider berth than a police officer flogging shares in the Kettle Bell Property Complex…

Kate, left, has jumped ship to Joanne Davidson’s murder investigation unit

/ BBC/World Productions/Steffan Hill

Cheat sheet

  • DCI Joanne Davidson is the senior investigating officer looking into the murder of journalist Gail Vella (Andi Osho). Using information obtained from an informant, her team has finally identified a suspect – but the arrest goes awry when Davidson spots a possible getaway car, which she believes is part of an armed robbery, en route and delays the operation. Red flag! 
  • When her team finally arrives at the location, they arrest a familiar face – it’s Terry Boyle, who has learning difficulties and has previously been exploited by the organised crime gang, who used his other residence for, ahem, chilling purposes in S1 and 5. 
  • He’s arrested, but we soon learn that the flat has also been linked to someone named Carl Banks. Only the informant would be able to positively identify the suspect, but said informant is subsequently found dead. Even bigger red flag.
  • DI Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) has – sob – left anti-corruption to join Davidson’s murder investigation unit. Over at AC-12 HQ, DS Steve Arnott (Martin Compston) is bored out of his mind and Superintendent Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar) still has a mark against his name after he was accused of being bent in S5. 
  • Davidson’s colleague DS Farida Jatri (Anneika Rose) raises her doubts about her boss’s integrity with Steve, who persuades Hastings to open an investigation into her conduct. He tries to get Kate on board to do some digging, but she’s not entirely convinced – surely everyone would suspect the former anti-corruption undercover officer as a rat?
  • Here’s a final act plot twist – Davidson and Farida used to be a couple, and the latter does not appear to be taking their break-up well. 
  • Boyle is released from custody without being charged – cue meaningful middle-distance stare from Davidson. 

The verdict

Opening with a nerve-shredding set piece, an enigmatic central character and a fusillade of acronyms and police-speak (who or what is a chis? What’s the PNC? Is 1A on the matrix good or bad? I have precisely no idea, and that’s part of the fun), this had all the hallmarks of a classic Line of Duty opener, but never felt like a case of bent coppers-by-numbers.  In the best way, it recalled the first episode of the show’s superlative second series: could Macdonald’s intriguing, softly-spoken Davidson become an anti-hero to rival Keeley Hawes’ Lindsay Denton?

Series five’s final ‘H’ revelation, which hinged around footage of a dying DI Matthew ‘Dot’ Cottan somehow having the wherewithal to tap out clues in Morse code after being gunned down, stretched the bounds of possibility to the limit, so it’s a relief that Mercurio has – for now at least – scaled the story back down from that overarching, brain-frazzling conspiracy.

Morale is low over at AC-12

/ BBC/World Productions/Steffan Hill

That said, though, there were still plenty of callbacks to please (and baffle) dedicated AC-12 wannabes – not least in the sheer volume of returning characters. As well as Terry, we also got reacquainted with Farida, who was previously part of Roz Huntley (Thandie Newton)’s squad in series four, Steve’s ex Nicola, who he met for an awkward coffee date slash networking opportunity, and Davidson’s superintendent, a patronising jobsworth who has managed to be both infuriating and entirely forgettable when he’s popped up in past seasons (so unmemorable is he that I simply cannot remember his name, but perhaps that will change as this case unfolds).

We’re so used to Kate infiltrating other departments as part of her undercover remit that it wasn’t too much of a shock to see her in Davidson’s team – until she answered to her real surname, rather than an alias, and the realisation that AC-12 has lost its most capable operative started to sink in. I’ve not felt pain like this since Zayn left One Direction.

Steve wants to step away from anti-corruption

/ BBC/World Productions/Steffan Hill

Her old squad are clearly floundering without her. Waistcoat warrior Steve has been reduced to looking into dodgy expense claims and allegations of skiving, so it’s not a huge surprise that he feels he’s “reached the end of the line in anti-corruption” and is on the hunt for a new gig (what’s slightly more surprising is that he’s using his ex-girlfriends as a form of IRL LinkedIn, but he’s never been particularly good at separating the personal and the professional). Meanwhile Ted keeps getting frozen out of top-level meetings by the Deputy Chief Constable and is taking it personally.

New recruit Chloe Bishop, played by Shalom Brune-Franklin

/ BBC/World Productions/Steffan Hill

No wonder they’re both keen to probe further into Davidson’s case when Farida shares her concerns – and a new investigation means there will hopefully be more for rookie recruit DC Chloe Bishop (Shalom Brune-Franklin) to get stuck into. Her airtime in this episode is minimal, but she’s already won over this viewer by suggesting that the young lads involved in the dubious armed robbery-slash-potential diversion have “never robbed anything bigger than their local Greggs.”

Burning questions

Who is Carl Banks and what are his links to organised crime? His surname is hardly uncommon, but could Carl be a close relation of Lee Banks, the OCG member who killed PC Maneet Bindra in S5 and was later locked up – only to be seen having a deeply suspicious chat with Ted before the gang brutally murdered undercover officer John Corbett (Stephen Graham)?

Can we trust Farida to give a clear-sighted assessment of her ex? Thanks to those dubious conversations with her superintendent (“If this is going to go the way we want…”), it’s clear that all is not well with DCI Davidson – and according to Farida’s tearful phone call to Steve, we “have no idea what she’s capable of!” However, AC-12’s new source is not an entirely objective narrator, and it’s possible that her scathing judgement of her ex has been coloured by romantic rejection. 

What happened to Davidson’s mum? Our latest possibly bent copper seems extremely prickly about her background, telling Farida that she never introduced her to her family because she “has none.” Back at her flat, though, the camera lingers ponderously on an old photo that appears to show a younger Davidson with her mum – that’s Line of Duty code for ‘this will be important later.’ Does Davidson have a personal link to a historic case, perhaps, that might tie her to AC-12’s wider investigation of organised crime? Or is this just another Mercurio diversion tactic?

Is anyone on this show going to acknowledge that Jackie Laverty’s body has been in a freezer for nearly a decade? When the forensics team turned Boyle’s flat upside down, they discovered markings on the floor and fluid consistent with a fridge or freezer, which has since been moved from the site. In S5, one gruesome scene revealed that said freezer contained the body of Jackie Laverty (Gina McKee), the mistress of DCI Tony Gates who was brutally killed by a gang of masked criminals all the way back in S1. Does this mean that the police will finally release that Laverty’s missing person case should actually be a murder investigation? 

The Ted Hastings catchphrase-ometer

BBC/World Productions/Steffan Hill

Poor old Ted was on slightly subdued form in this opening episode, clearly still bruised from being dragged up in front of the deputy chief superintendent for questioning in the S5 finale. Hence our catchphrase bingo cards remained empty, with barely even a ‘fella’ to speak of – though berating Stevie boy for looking gormless by asking “What are you waiting for, a puff of white smoke?” felt like classic Hastings.

Line of Duty series six continues at 9pm on March 28, BBC One. Series one to five are available to stream on BBC iPlayer.

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Frazzled mums and sharp one particular-liners – Motherland is continue to a pleasure

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Frazzled mums and sharp one-liners - Motherland is still a joy

As Motherland’s girl-on-the-verge Julia, she is only at any time one minor annoyance (a babysitter cancelling, say, or an unexpected check out from the in-legislation who travel gradually as a result of her kitchen like that container ship stuck in the Suez Canal) away from collapsing into an existential scream.

Right after spending the first collection hoping to flat-out deny the probability of at any time generating “mum good friends,” Julia is now the very-strung ringleader of a gang of school gate misfits, such as globe-weary Liz (a scene-stealing Diane Morgan, dishing out a person-liners in monotone), no-bullshit Meg (Tanya Moodie) and soaked blanket Kevin (Paul Prepared), the token father. In the palms of a producing team that incorporates Sharon Horgan and comic Holly Walsh, it is a premise which is ripe for comedy – and complete chaos.

Julia, Liz and friends are back for spherical three

/ BBC / Merman

Sequence three kicks off with some unwelcome news: standing at a podium bearing the slogan “Comb, shampoo, comb,” a instructor confirms that a nit epidemic is tearing by the faculty. They are making an attempt to establish patient zero, and any pupils carrying head lice will have to isolate at house. The Covid parody feels a minimal much too on the nose for a demonstrate as cleverly noticed as this one, but as soon as the briefing is about, the episode finds its stride. Julia’s mum Marion, who took a amusing flip at sports day final time, is eventually set to transfer out of her daughter’s property on Saturday – so she’s considerably less than thrilled when self-appointed queen bee Amanda (Lucy Punch) reveals she’s pre-emptively cancelled her son’s birthday celebration in case it turns into a super-spreader occasion, nixing Julia’s absolutely free childcare. 

Her daughter Ivy, in the meantime, has been determined as affected individual zero in the lice outbreak, meaning she’s shunned by her faculty good friends when Julia drags her to the park throughout their “isolation” interval. “I’m a stay-at-dwelling father, I’m employed to currently being taken care of like a turd in a swimming pool,” sighs a sympathetic Kevin. He’s on in particular melancholic kind this time all-around, as the tensions in his relationship – evident to anyone apart from him since series a single, episode just one – have arrived at breaking level, prompting his spouse Jill (who remains eternally offstage, like Godot) to retreat to her business office in the attic – “she’s straight up the loft ladder like a chinchilla” – and sooner or later check with for a divorce.

The break-up, which prospects Kevin to start off swigging Bailey’s from the bottle and enact some poetic justice on loft-dwelling Jill, is not the only revelation to rock the “nit blitz” get together that Julia hosts (for totally self-interested factors). A phone call from her mum’s medical professional telling her to hold fireplace on the go causes her to run upstairs and scream into a pile of towels, only to bump into Meg’s spouse Monthly bill (Anthony Head), who is reeling from information that will put the rest of their considerations into stark point of view.

Kevin, left, is likely by a tough time

/ BBC / Merman

The jumpers might be a little bit extra stylish this time all over (probably the gang has been blackmailed into acquiring up leftover stock from Amanda’s boutique, Hygge Tygge, even though Julia’s hottest puffa coat still tends to make her glance “like an angry purple sleeping bag,” as Liz places it) but over-prolonged Covid metaphor aside, the jokes are as sharp as ever. It is hard to choose who receives the best one-liners, which seem to be to have been dished out at any time so democratically in the writers’ area, though Amanda could just have the edge.

She is continue to a beautifully coiffed nightmare, placing down her minion, the endlessly exploitable Anne (Phillipa Dunne), at each offered possibility. When Liz reveals she’s just had a career interview at a shoe shop on the significant avenue, Amanda begins to grill her sidekick about a absolutely fictional stint driving the counter at Greggs. “I under no circumstances labored at Greggs, I was head of product development at GlaxoSmithKline around the world,” Anne pipes up, prompting her frenemy to twist the knife a very little little bit additional. “I can’t photograph you operating in an workplace, Anne,” she frowns. “I see you… with cakes and puffs.”

Handled in another way, a comedy about a team of center-course Acton mums could have been unbearably twee, but with its acutely noticed characters, knockout cast and knack for wringing hilarity from the most banal of situations, Motherland is an unhinged delight, by turns savage and sweet. With secondary college selection looming (episode two brilliantly skewers catchment place paranoia, which sees Julia embrace Catholicism with newfound fervour) here’s hoping this is not the gang’s very last hurrah.

Motherland is on BBC Two at 9pm on Mondays, catch up on BBC iPlayer.

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