By Margaret S. Hamilton
As we finished watching five seasons of Line of Duty, we needed to find a new series on DVD from the Cincinnati-Hamilton County library system. I checked the Acorn and BBC websites, cross-referenced the library catalogue, and ordered a stack of DVDs. The second week of March, they were my last pickup before the library system closed.
Line of Duty first appeared in 2012, with five seasons broadcast and a sixth in production. After the character-based Vera and Shetland, my favorite British crime show. Superintendent Ted Hastings runs the Birmingham Anti-Corruption Unit 12, assisted by DI Kate Fleming and DS Steve Arnott. The show has character and plot arcs within each season and over the entire series. Hastings is an experienced officer determined to identify the bent cops at every level of the police force corrupted by organized crime. Kate is a talented and versatile officer assigned undercover to squads under investigation. Steve is a sneaky, snide, and self-serving officer who battles his way through investigations, determined not to give up. Fast paced, with flashbacks to earlier seasons. During the last episode of each season we end up in a tension-filled interrogation room. Who’s on which side? Was the evidence corrupted? Who’s the mysterious “H” and what officers in the upper ranks are protecting him/her? Why am I shouting “No, he’s lying!” at the TV?
The Game (2014), is a BBC spy thriller set in 1972 London. “Daddy”, the head of MI5, the British domestic intelligence agency, assembles a crew of agents he trusts to investigate a KGB defector and information about Operation Glass, a plan to activate Soviet sleeper agents. During the six episodes, we careen between believing the agents are patriots to watching Daddy ferret out the mole in his operation. First rate plot and acting, everybody smokes, and the seventies clothes and hair are hilarious.
The Truth Will Out (2019) is a Swedish noir production. Peter Wendel is tasked with forming a cold case unit to investigate a notorious serial killer who may still be at large. He assembles a ragtag band of feuding officers and one inept civilian, determined to identify the real culprit and his copy-cat killer. Excellent.
Place of Execution (2008) is based on Val McDermid’s novel. Teenage Alison Carter goes missing from a Derbyshire village. DI George Bennett dogged pursues the killer and succeeds in sending him to life in prison. Forty-five years later, a documentary film maker descends on the village, not realizing her interviews will lead to something far more sinister. Excellent. McDermid’s trademark plot has echoes of Shirley Jackson and Tryon’s Harvest Home.
Capital (2015) is a satiric film based on John Lanchester’s novel, set on Pepys Road, a posh residential street in London. A wealthy banker and his over-the-top wife and their nanny in one household; a Zimbabwean traffic warden; a family of Pakistani immigrants; a young artist, his mother and grandmother are perplexed and disturbed by postcards they receive stating “We want what you have.” Some characters are more sympathetic than others, the Pakistani grandmother flies in to take charge, and life on the street becomes the “new normal.” Hilarious and touching.
Readers and writers, do you have a favorite British crime television show?