Line of Duty series 4, episode 4: Things irretrievably broken

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 4 changes the series permanently.

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 4. 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 4. If you missed our previous commentary, catch up with Precinct TV here.

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Will Steve survive?

When we left Line of Duty, Steve Arnott (Martin Compston) had been assaulted and thrown over the side of a stairwell by another unidentified attacker—and suffered at least a significant head injury.

TV shows, particularly crime dramas, brutalize their heroes all the time and it’s usually false jeopardy. Most of the time the heroes are fine by the end of the next episode or two, because the writers aren’t really going to knock off a character. Unless the actor is leaving the series (voluntarily or involuntarily), we don’t see lasting damage.

With Steve, it’s a little bit different. It’s hard to think that Line of Duty would get rid of Martin Compston considering the caliber of his talent, but head injuries are factually very serious on top of the other injuries he’s suffered, and this is the show that just shot and killed another character last series (although he had it coming). Steve is, however, breathing when he’s taken away in the ambulance and stabilized in an intensive care room so he’s alive, for now.

Compston’s one major scene is when Steve, either suffering some memory loss or high on pain medication or both, is questioned about the attack and can’t provide any real information. That’s to be expected given the nature of his injuries. We do briefly meet his parents, but we don’t get any scenes with them, which feels like a missed opportunity.

And does anyone else find it suspicious that Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar) leaves new guy Jamie Desford (Royce Pierreson) in charge of the material witness/potential suspect in Steve’s attack? It happens pretty fast, but it’s awfully convenient…

Roz goes on the offensive

AC-12’s interrogation of Nick Huntley (Lee Ingleby) is useless, possibly the weakest such scene in Line of Duty history, because Desford is driving the proverbial bus. You can’t expect miracles from the new guy, but it does underscore to the audience how good Steve and Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) are at their jobs when you see someone else try to do what they do.

But the situation is enough to further upset Nick, who unloads on his wife Roz Huntley (Thandie Newton). Roz, in turn, takes the easy out by falsely claiming she was having an affair. It’s horrible for Nick but it’s the simplest way to get her husband off her case. She then runs back to Derek Hilton (Paul Higgins), which is somewhat frustrating; Roz is a strong woman, but she keeps going back to Hilton, which gives the impression that she can’t operate without him.

At least she once again rebuffs his sexual advances, because that would undermine her character completely.

Most of this episode is carried by Newton, as it centers on the Huntleys’ crumbling marriage while Roz seizes on Steve’s absence to get the upper hand on AC-12. She makes several accusations in another interview, and correctly exposes Kate as an undercover officer; the best scene is when the two come face-to-face later on after that comes out.

Yet it’s hard to judge “Moral Superiority” or to have as much to say about it as any other Line of Duty episode for the sheer fact that story requires the installment to sideline its best assets. Both Martin Compston and Vicky McClure are offscreen for large parts of the episode, and their characters are the aggressive spark that makes the series go. Adrian Dunbar’s Hastings is also a great character, but he’s not normally the one who gets to carry the big stick. It’s Steve and Kate who lead the charge, and without them, there’s a big void.

Plus, so much of a look inside Roz and Nick’s marriage means the impact of the episode also rests on how much you care about them, or particularly Nick. The tone of their relationship feels like it shifts in this episode from a loving and equal dynamic to something where she’s clearly in control; she physically assaults him at one point. Is that due to the stress of what they’re going through or has this always been an undercurrent in their marriage?

Furthermore, how much should we care when our concerns are about Steve’s well-being and busting Roz for her professional misconduct?

Of course, the show throws one last curveball by showing us that Maneet Bindra (Maya Sondhi) has pulled a Jamey Farrell and is leaking information to Hilton. Considering how Maneet helped our heroes off the clock last series, it’s an eyebrow-arching moment to see her sell them out now. Is there something that changed her allegiance, or how cool would it be if she was setting him up? So often, the tech expert is a more passive character who exists primarily to support somebody else being the hero or to be cannon fodder; it’d be interesting to see this series deviate from that.

After all, it’s already taken a few hard right turns away from stereotypes, and this episode is a bit of an example. Let’s hope Steve gets out of the hospital before the end of series 4, and is able to light a fire under his colleagues.

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