Line of Duty: Thinking the unthinkable

Kate’s behind it all. All of it.

That would be the unthinkable, wouldn’t it? Her and Ted, in it together? With Episode 3’s ending even more shocking than Episode 1’s and both in contention to upstage “Urgent Exit Required” – currently in the running for a BAFTA (go vote) – who could say what Jed Mercurio’s scheming brain has in store for us?

A tense episode sees the investigation closing in on Huntley – both of them, since hubby Nick (Lee Ingleby) is now up to his eyes in it too. Because since when has Lee Ingleby ever been just a bit player?

Meanwhile, Roz’s wound is festering, as is her mind, as she sets upon Balaclava Man’s last would be victim, Hana.

Poor Hana gets the Roz treatment - or did she do it?
Poor Hana gets the Roz treatment – or did she do it?

On a good note, the breakdown in the relationship between Fleming and Arnott seems to be mending, or was, until Balaclava Man struck again. Is he the mysterious Jimmy Lakewell or Nick’s “Criminal Lawyer Friend” or are they one and the same?

If we were hoping for any clues at the BFI/Radio Times Festival panel event, we were out of luck.

Hosted by Radio 4’s Kirsty Lang, writer Jed Mercurio and stars Adrian Dunbar (Ted) Thandie Newton (Roz) and Craig Parkinson (‘Dot’ Cottan) only gave one little titbit away, in answer to a perceptive – Thandie’s word – audience member, who asked: “Was there a relationship between Huntley and her boss (the ACC)?” After a lengthy whispered discussion with Jed, she replied. “All will be revealed!”

Thandie Newton sort of confirms one little titbit of info
Thandie Newton sort of confirms one little titbit of info

To get us in the mood, that clip from last series and Craig admits he doesn’t have a telly, so he’s seeing it for the first time, from below the huge screen behind him (we’re in the BFI Imax). “It’s especially terrifying as for three series he’s been wearing three hats for different people and then he’s crumbling, his back’s against the wall …I didn’t know I was the arch villain at first – it just got better and better, the greatest part I’ve ever had.”

Craig Parkinson tells us it's the first time he's seen that scene!
Craig Parkinson tells us it’s the first time he’s seen that scene!

Mercurio added: “Dot’s not a monster, he’s just misunderstood!” But he still gets approached in supermarkets by little old ladies and called a bastard. Though there are calls for his return: “It’s not Dallas, he’s not coming back!”

The series gives time to its guest stars, says Mercurio. Each one is built around the guest antagonist so it’s important to see them pushed to their limits. It plays with our sympathies.

Newton concurs: “What’s fascinating about the story is it’s not easy to say she’s the goodie, they’re the baddies – there are grey areas, there’s a moral dilemma. What attracted me was seeing the work that went before. Seeing the show, particularly Series 3 – best thing on British television.

Terror struck me at first, on thinking about those scenes, pressure to come in as the new person. I really wanted to get it right. My poor nanny had to be all the other characters as I ran my lines!”

Jed Mercurio expresses regret at killing off characters. But does it anyway.
Jed Mercurio expresses regret at killing off characters. But does it anyway.

On killing off characters, Mercurio expresses regret: “ We know what’s going to happen, we didn’t meet up with Thandie and say, it’ll end halfway through, the actors collaborate in the process knowingly. The characters are all significant, that’s what makes it shocking. With Jessica Raine, we deliberately made it seem like she had a lot of mileage. We make those things as twisty as possible – the audience doesn’t believe you can kill them off.”

With regards to procedure, Mercurio justifies the attention to detail in those interview scenes: “We take advice seriously, it gives the series its dramatic identity. In the real world we trust our senses. You have a different suspension of disbelief in TV fiction. It’s the effort to be as procedural as possible, potentially skimmed over in other shows. We choose to delve into it.”

Newton adds: “I’m not a police officer and I desperately want the audience to believe I am. I was convinced they (the cast) all knew about that stuff. One of the first days looking at all the stuff, I’m feeling crap, I’m going to f*** this up – Vicky was doing the same, I think she was trying to help me. We put our trust in everyone around us.”

The Line of Duty panel at the BFI/Radio Times Festival
The Line of Duty panel at the BFI/Radio Times Festival

Mercurio quips: “Martin always wants a gun and I give it to someone else.”

Adrian Dunbar chips in about Ted, in answer to a question on his character warning off Rickells: “He’s seen quite a bit in his time. Working anti-terror in Northern Ireland allows him to bring knowledge and experience to bear. It was quite common for RUC guys who’d seen a lot of action to come to the UK. He grew organically – I have to be careful what I say around Jed in case it find its way into the script.” He asks Thandie how she keeps such a poker face. She deadpans:

“I just played a robot for a year.”

They show us a clip from the upcoming episode 3, when AC12 first lock down Huntley’s team office with a “If you’ve got plans, cancel them”. A little more than 24 hours later and Steve Arnott wasn’t looking quite so fierce.