Line of Duty series 3, episode 3: How to create a monster

From left: Martin Compston, Adrian Dunbar, Vicky McClure from Line of Duty. Photo Credit: Des Willie/Courtesy of Acorn TV.
From left: Martin Compston, Adrian Dunbar, Vicky McClure from Line of Duty. Photo Credit: Des Willie/Courtesy of Acorn TV. /

Line of Duty series 3, episode 3 shows how everyone can turn to the dark side.

In honor of Line of Duty series 1 having re-aired on BBC One this summer, we’re looking back at the best TV crime drama in any country—likewise, from the very beginning. With series 1 and 2 in the books, now we move on to series 3.

SPOILER ALERT: This article contains spoilers for and discussion about Line of Duty series 3, episode 3. You can stream the episode on Acorn TV, Amazon Video, and BritBox now.

Line of Duty follows the casework of Anti-Corruption Unit 12 (AC-12), a team of police investigators who are solely dedicated to stopping corruption, no matter what the cost. Created and written by Jed Mercurio (Bodyguard), it’s the definitive crime drama for the modern era.

This week, we continue the third season with Line of Duty series 3, episode 3.

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The real villains are exposed

This episode is the halfway point for Line of Duty series 3, so it’s no wonder that a lot of the pieces fall into place by the time it’s over.

It’s made very clear, both to the audience and to other characters, that Hari Bains (Arsher Ali) is the person who killed both Danny Waldron (Daniel Mays) and Rod Kennedy (Will Mellor). When their last remaining colleague Jackie Brickford (Leanne Best) puts the pieces together, she immediately turns tail and decides to cooperate with AC-12.

Interestingly Jackie decides to call her police federation representative from her car directly outside Hari’s house—if you’ve just told your teammate you know he’s a killer, maybe wait until you’ve gotten safely away from him to start making phone calls?

Anyway, she comes clean to Steve Arnott (Martin Compston) and Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar) about the fact that Hari was fighting Danny for his weapon before Danny’s death and that Danny forced the VC squad to cover up his shooting from the first episode. Hastings, though, doesn’t cut her any slack for her evidence—he informs her that she’s going to lose her job and face criminal charges. Jackie dissolves into tears.

But there are much worse people to go after. Continuing to chase what Danny left behind, Steve identifies one of Danny’s fellow abuse victims, and from that man, another of the abusers. We’ve got another Line of Duty conspiracy on our hands, folks!

Steve adopts Danny’s mission

“Danny’s mission is now my mission,” Steve tells Joe Nash (Jonas Armstrong), who suffered the same childhood abuse that Danny Waldron did—because now Steve has pulled the thread and unraveled the real story of this season.

This episode, largely through Joe’s painful interview with Steve, spells out what Danny had been hell-bent on avenging: he and several other teenage boys were abused by a number of different high-ranking men while at the Sands View foster home. Two of those abusers, Ronan and Linus Murphy, are the two people Danny killed in the first episode of this series. Another, Dale Roach, is quickly hunted down by Steve…but he’s now comatose after a stroke.

Again, Martin Compston has a gift for showing us the wheels turning in Steve’s head. There are a few great beats in “Snake Pit” where he does a lot with a little: when Steve needs a moment after leaving Joe’s house; when Steve points out to Hastings that police corruption was involved in the abuse case therefore making it AC-12’s responsibility, and most importantly, when Steve comes face-to-face with Roach.

Since the latter is out of it, this is essentially Compston acting opposite himself, and it’s the most angry we’ve ever seen Steve. His final look of complete seething anger is enough to send chills down anyone’s spine. But once again, Steve’s faith in the policing system is being rocked, because he now knows these boys reported the abuse to police (and others), and those people knowingly did nothing.

Now Steve has an axe to grind, and it’s Danny Waldron’s axe.

Again we’re seeing parallels between these two characters. They are different in many ways (as Steve mentions in this episode, he came from a normal, happy childhood, and Steve has his own code of ethics, etc) but they have ended up on the same path. Now let’s hope that this doesn’t eat Steve Arnott alive the way it did Danny Waldron.

Dot’s off the hook—but for how long?

This episode of Line of Duty confirms, loud and clear, what savvy viewers figured out a long time ago: that Matthew “Dot” Cottan (Craig Parkinson) is the voice on the other end of the phone. The script makes this obvious from nearly go, with Cottan seen walking out of the office just before Hari gets another call, and then point-blank showing Cottan’s face the last time he phones the other man to tip him off about his pending arrest.

Longtime viewers know that Cottan has been in Tommy Hunter’s pocket since season 1, and of course, Tommy Hunter was another one of the names on Danny’s list, too. So it all dovetails into one thing, but if you had any doubt about who was pulling the strings this season—and thus who ordered two murders—now you know for sure.

Cottan does a decent, if awkward to watch, job of making himself look like a hero when he and Bains have their final confrontation. He injures himself and then claims that the other man was trying to kill him the same way he killed Rod Kennedy. Everyone hails him as a hero, but how long can he cover up his random disappearances and missteps like forgetting to order that second autopsy?

More importantly, will he even be able to go through with it all as he seems to be getting pulled in two directions? It’s also clear in this episode that Cottan has a crush on Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure), which is a far cry from when he hated her back in the first series. Even though years have passed in canon it’s interesting to see how his perspective has evolved. It doesn’t make him any more sympathetic, though.

Still, at least he’s better than the continually conniving Lindsay Denton (Keeley Hawes), who continues to throw Steve under the bus and gets rewarded for it. Line of Duty is clearly going somewhere with her but it can’t possibly be anywhere good. Between the news and all that he learns in this episode about the abuse, it’s no wonder Steve doesn’t just lose it by the time the credits roll.

How will he, or anyone else, get out of this series with any faith in the police? Whether it’s bad behavior that gets a pass or corruption right under AC-12’s nose, everything seems broken by the end of this episode. But that’s how drama works: things get truly terrible and then, eventually, are supposed to get better. Hopefully justice will be had for the past and the present, and then maybe the future will look like something decent.

Next. Martin Compston talks Line of Duty and The Nest. dark

Line of Duty series 3 is now streaming on Amazon Video, Acorn TV (with a 7-day free trial) and BritBox.