Line of Duty series 4, episode 3: New blood

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 4, episode 3 contains a shocking ending.

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 1-3 in the books, now we move on to series 4.

SPOILER ALERT: This article contains spoilers for and discussion about Line of Duty series 4, 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 fourth season with Line of Duty series 4, episode 3. If you’re not up to date, catch up with Precinct TV’s commentary on the previous episode here.

More from TV Crime Dramas

Roz’s not-so-slow descent

This episode is called “In the Trap,” which is worth mentioning because that’s the same title as Line of Duty series 1, episode 3. Just an interesting fact.

Action picks up largely where it left off, with Roz Huntley (Thandie Newton) still on her singular path of framing Michael Farmer, and now Tim Ifield, for the various murders. If Roz wasn’t played by someone with the poise of Thandie Newton, it might be obnoxious how heavy-handed she is in pushing her theory of the crimes. Even as other officers suggest different ideas, like Tim possibly using Farmer as a patsy, Roz is still insisting that she’s right.

Which leads to one thing that’s a bit grating: how deferential her whole team, and even visiting DCI Ian Buckells (Nigel Boyle), are to Roz. Nobody wonders why she’s so bullish and won’t consider any other outcome. The fact that she’s the boss should only go so far. Instead, we have characters like Jodie Taylor (Claudia Jessie), with her sycophantic attitude, to the point where she’s spying on Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) and eagerly reporting back.

At least in series 1, TO-20 were a united front but that didn’t stop them from having distinct personalities; this group just seems like a bunch of followers, none distinct from any other.

Roz is so hell-bent that she crashes a second interview with Hana Reznikova (Gaite Jansen) and aggressively pushes a hypothetical about Hana being Tim’s killer. It makes you wonder how often she’s used these same techniques with other witnesses and suspects. She’s particularly edgy here because she’s trying to save her own skin, but it seems unlikely she just now developed this single-minded streak.

Her problems have now extended to her husband Nick (Lee Ingleby from Criminal: UK and Life on Mars), because AC-12 is coming after him—leading Nick to realize that his wife’s story isn’t quite right. However, Nick doesn’t have it as together as Roz does, and he’s running to an as-yet-unseen criminal lawyer named Jimmy Lakewell…you know that name is going to come up again.

Steve turns up the heat (on everyone)

This Line of Duty episode also gives us Steve Arnott on full blast. He’s got his own one-man mission to take down Roz, but at least he’s talking to other people and exploring other avenues rather than just assuming he’s right about everything. Steve’s only problem is that he’s angry and he’s taking it out on everybody.

We get some great interactions between Roz and Steve, particularly when Steve arrives at Roz’s office to forcibly seize evidence. The look he gives her more than once in that scene is very clearly a “screw you” look, and she’s never hidden her disdain for him. But that’s good for the show, because somebody has to punch up to the level of Roz’s strong personality. If somebody wasn’t as wound up as she is, the dynamic would be one-sided.

Unfortunately, Steve’s emotion comes out in other ways, too. He and Kate butt heads repeatedly on the best way to proceed in this episode; at one point after Kate seems to have finally gotten on Roz’s good side, Steve flat-out accuses her of collusion. It’s great when TV shows have partners with differing points of view, but not when they’re aimlessly fighting with each other. One has to wonder if the later scene of Kate bringing Steve take-out ended up in the script to remind us that these two are still friends and colleagues.

There’s also someone else for Steve to get annoyed by: Jamie Desford (Royce Pierreson, Death in Paradise), who’s assigned as his next new partner. Viewers get no explanation as to where Jamie came from, and considering the last time Steve got a “new” partner she ended up dead, it’s not hard to guess that this guy is up to more than just lending a helping hand.

He already gets in one unintentional dig at his new colleague when he tells Steve that it’s “desperate” to mess around with a witness—does he know Steve’s recent history, or is that Jed Mercurio even making a joke at DS Arnott’s expense?

Either way it’s not hard to see why Steve is the way he is in this episode. “In the Trap” is probably the best example of him having a massive attitude complex—but you have to put it within the context not just of this series but the entire show so far. He’s gotten screwed multiple times, is just off being nearly framed, and again he’s dealing with a DCI who wants to push him around. Of course he’s fed up. What he needs is a chance to take a breath, or someone that he can actually lean on to show him that he’s starting to go too far.

What he gets is a life-changing moment.

The infamous railing incident

This episode will always be remembered by Line of Duty fans as the one where Steve Arnott is left for dead. Not checking his messages until he gets into an elevator (because he’s too busy having a rant), Steve is met by a mysterious man who gives him a baseball bat to the face and ultimately is thrown over the stairwell railing to his potential death. At the very least, he’s suffered some major head trauma.

It’s not uncommon for many TV shows, not just TV crime dramas, to end episodes with characters in life-threatening peril—but most of the time it doesn’t really work. That’s because savvy viewers are aware that most of these actors are under contract and/or the show wouldn’t legitimately be able to go on without them (and also, since it does happen all the time, the audience is a bit jaded with these endings now).

In case this is the first time you’re watching Line of Duty series 4, we won’t reveal whether Steve lives or dies. But we will say that the choice of this particular ending is more effective on this show than most, because Line of Duty has shown that even its biggest names are expendable (looking again at you, Daniel Mays).

Plus, it works because Steve isn’t necessarily dead—he could just be very, very messed up. There’s enough ambiguity that the viewer can’t immediately discount it as a legitimate plot twist. And since Steve has been the engine driving AC-12’s case against Roz Huntley, where the heck are they going to go from here without him?!

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

Line of Duty series 4 is now streaming on Amazon Video, Acorn TV (with a 7-day free trial) and BritBox.