Line of Duty: Kelly Macdonald joins hit cop drama but my CHIS tells me season six may have crossed the thin blue line?

Despite his troubled private life, lack of professional judgement and more than one suspect decision over the years, there was little chance Superintendent Ted Hastings wouldn't be back behind his desk at AC-12 for the sixth series of Line of Duty.

Friday, 26th March 2021, 4:30 pm
Updated Friday, 26th March 2021, 4:46 pm

Delayed by Covid restrictions, the popular cop show returned last Sunday, two years ​on from the end of series five​. A bit of a nightmare really as it's difficult enough to follow at the best of times, never mind after a two year hiatus. Consequently, as 9pm struck I settled in front of the box frantically trying to recall where we’d got to in the ​hunt for multi-personalitied H. ​

A couple of days later, I'm wishing I’d binged on the earlier seasons one more time​ to get back up to speed. That said, having come to party late, I ​did just that before watching series five​. That ​should ​​have been enough to get me through, surely? Maybe not.

There's an obvious formula to Jed Mercurio's writing, possibly more noticeable when you binge four series back to back but never more evident than in the opening scenes that set up each new AC-12 investigation at the start of a series. Sunday proved no different, although it did take a bit longer for the shooting to start and the drama to hit its stride. Not long after that first body hit the ground, AC-12 were hovering in the background; Hastings, Adrian Dunbar is always good value, Scotland's own Martin Compston as DS Arnott, a baby face no more thanks to his new beard, and Vicky McClure's now estranged DI Kate Fleming... beware spoilers.

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DS Steve Arnott (Martin Compston)
DS Steve Arnott (Martin Compston)

​Of course, there's always a guest star. Trainspotting's Kelly Macdonald​ fills the bill here as​ DCI Joanne Davidson, senior investigating officer of an unsolved cold case​ – it's her apparently unconventional conduct that attracts the attention of AC-12.​ Hardly surprising really, as a character DCI Davidson is a fairly blunt instrument when it comes to story-telling… so far. Oh, and ​​​AC-12 has a new member in ​​Shalom Brune-Franklin as DC Chloe Bishop.​If the formula is still there, the usual pace of the action seems lacking this time around and elements of the script aren’t quite hanging together for me… yet. It’s clunky. As ‘never assume anything’ is the rule of thumb with any Mercurio script, I'll give it the benefit of the doubt, frustrating as it is, for now.

S​ome 9.6 million viewers tuned in to join ​AC-12​ as they set their sights on the investigation into the high profile murder of a journalist - some I know with notepads in hand keen to resume sleuthing, others with a bottle of their favourite tipple and Line of Duty bingo cards at the ready.

‘For the purpose of the tape.’ Tick.

‘Steve wears a waistcoat.’ Tick.

DI Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) and DCI Joanne Davidson (Kelly MacDonald) in Line of Duty 6

However, some of my own CHISs (covert human intelligence sources aka regular viewers) were less than impressed by episode one. Could Mercurio have crossed the thin blue line? Hopefully once the search for the last clues in the search for the illusive H are revealed – there’s just one corrupt official ​left for AC-12 to track down and it could yet be Hastings, I reckon – perhaps the magic will return.

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Superintendent Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar)