After a promising debut series back in 2012, and an electric follow-up in 2014, Line of Duty has honed its absorbing, detail-heavy storytelling approach into a fine art.
Line of Duty – Series Three (Acorn Media) introduces Sergeant Danny Waldron (Daniel Mays, Shifty), the highly proficient leader of a police Armed Response Unit whose unpredictable behaviour is becoming a threat to colleagues and suspects alike. When the tenacious anti-corruption unit AC-12 are called in, DS Steve Arnott (Martin Compston, Sweet Sixteen) quickly clashes with Danny, and it is left to DC Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure, This Is England) to go undercover and investigate Waldron’s squad. As the inquiry intensifies, Superintendent Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar, Hear My Song) begins to suspect the case is linked to figures from AC-12’s murky past.
If it weren’t for Sally Wainwright’s tremendous Happy Valley, Jed Mercurio’s police procedural would comfortably be the best British show on television at the moment. This third outing may not be quite as impressive as the second series (which focused on the memorable Lindsay Denton, Keeley Hawes), but Mercurio has plenty of tricks up his sleeve, and the constantly-shifting investigation sees AC-12 dragged into increasingly queasy territory. Indeed, the spectre of Operation Yewtree rears its ugly head as the series unfolds, bringing the series bang up to date.
As underlined in the second series, there is a wider conspiracy at play, and the unexpected links to the previous series are plausibly handled, and deliver some excellent twists. Line of Duty is fleshed out by a strong supporting cast – Will Mellor, Aiysha Hart, Arsher Ali all join the fray this time around – while long-time cast member Craig Parkinson deserves plenty of credit as the slippery DI Matthew ‘Dot’ Cottan.
If you haven’t already sampled the earlier series, now is the time to do so. Line of Duty is gripping, must-see TV drama.
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In Grandma (Sony) Elle Reid (Lily Tomlin, Nashville, Short Cuts) has just gotten through breaking up with her girlfriend when her granddaughter Sage (Julia Garner, We Are What We Are) unexpectedly shows up needing $600 before sundown – to pay for an abortion. Temporarily broke, Elle and Sage spend the day trying to get their hands on the cash, and their unannounced visits to old friends and old flames of Elle end up rattling plenty of cages and unearthing some long-buried secrets.
Grandma packs a lot into its brisk 75-minute run-time, and writer-director Paul Weitz (American Pie, About A Boy) has put together a weirdly compelling, sporadically touching little drama. Weitz reportedly conceived the storyline many years previously, but only wrote the script after working with Tomlin on his lukewarm 2013 rom-com Admission, and realising that she would be perfect for the central role.
The episodic nature of the film does become slightly repetitive as the narrative unfolds, but Tomlin’s character is strong enough to keep you on board. Sam Elliott (The Big Lebowski) provides the best supporting turn, as an improbable ex-boyfriend of Elle’s, and their shared scene represents one of the film’s clear high-points. Overall: quirky and well-observed.
Stephen Graham (Boardwalk Empire) returns to low-budget home-grown territory with Orthodox (Soda), a grim character study about Benjamin, a young Orthodox Jewish boy (played as an adult by Graham), who takes up boxing for self-defence, after years of bullying over his faith, only to find himself drifting further away from his devoutly religious community. Working side-by-side with shadowy underworld fixer Shannon (Michael Smiley, Kill List), Benjamin eventually lands himself in prison, and his subsequent attempts to go straight prove more difficult than he ever imagined.
Considering the presence of the reliably excellent Graham and Smiley, Orthodox is a disappointingly subdued thriller, hamstrung by its dour direction and plodding pace. Befitting its origins as a 30 minute short film, Orthodox feels like a reasonable idea stretched well beyond breaking point. The far-from-squeaky-clean members of the Orthodox Jewish hierarchy make for unusual antagonists, but even that quirky characterisation falls flat after a while. Despite Graham’s low-key intensity, the material is too flimsy to be truly satisfying. Inessential.