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Culture Television

Crossing lines

Martin Compston, Vicky McClure, and Adrian Dunbar (BBC)

Television

Crossing lines

In the BBC’s Line of Duty, the bad guys are sometimes wearing a badge

When police are the criminals, who will bring them to justice? In the popular British TV drama Line of Duty, police anti-corruption unit AC-12 searches out rotten cops but finds that the decay has gone deep within the force. The long-running series, now with five seasons available on Amazon Prime, debuted in 2012 and is one of the BBC’s most highly rated crime shows.

Detective Sgt. Steve Arnott (Martin Compston) joins AC-12 when he refuses to cover up a botched police operation that resulted in an innocent man’s death. He teams up with Detective Inspector Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure), and both report to Superintendent Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar), who seems to be a straight arrow. Hastings even comes down hard on a star cop who accepted a free lunch from a waitress after a heroic rescue.

In previous seasons, the trio uncovered crime and corruption, sending crooked cops to jail while digging into layers of malfeasance. Each member of the AC-12 team proves to have weak points that the bad guys try to exploit to entice them to the other side.

In Season 5, police operation Pear Tree has embedded an undercover officer inside an organized crime ring. The gang hijacks a police convoy transporting heroin seized from a rival gang and murders several officers. Shortly afterward, the undercover officer goes silent. Has his identity been discovered, or has he gone rogue and joined the criminals?

During the investigation, Hastings’ financial and marital troubles make him vulnerable: Has the stalwart superintendent of AC-12 been compromised? Or is another member of the squad actually a “bent copper”?

Regrettably, violence, vulgarity, and blasphemy are prevalent in this crime drama. Filmed in gritty industrial locations in Birmingham (Season 1) and Northern Ireland, Line of Duty becomes increasingly dark and dreary as the episodes unfold. Even when good triumphs, the short-lived victories are tainted by evil.