Last night the final episode of the second series of the police procedural series Line of Duty was aired on BBC2.
As I have previously written, I originally came to this piece because of a favourable newspaper review and immediately became hooked. In recent weeks, I have found that many of those I come across in everyday life are similarly afflicted. Only last weekend, at a family gathering, I became involved in an animated speculation as to who had done what, and why.
With this in mind, I had made the decision to watch last night’s episode as it went out (9.00pm, i.e. past my habitual bedtime), rather than wait and watch it at my leisure – an option made possible by my stunning feat in somehow managing to arrange in advance to record the entire series.
I did this for fear of being bombarded with frenzied discussions of the outcome – giving the entire game away – before I had the opportunity to watch it myself.
One plus of staying up last night was that, in channel-hopping looking for things to occupy me whilst waiting for Line of Duty, I chanced upon Manchester United’s European Cup clash with Olympiakos on Sky Sports and witnessed the third of Van Persie’s hat-trick goals as it happened.
To be frank, whilst intensely involved in the Line of Duty denouement as it unfolded, I was left with an aftertaste of anti-climax.
One of the series’ chief attractions was the uncertainty as to which development in the fast-moving drama was ‘true’, and which was not. Throughout the previous episodes, the viewer was engaged in a switch-back ride of surprises, cul de sacs and baffling hints of what might or might not be to come. None of the characters was quite what they seemed.
Inevitably with a police drama, the viewer is constantly looking for a demarcation line between the good guys and the bad guys. Here, those who one had pigeon-holed as possibly good had a tendency suddenly to turn into villains, and vice versa.
Maybe they were all baddies, but some of them were wrestling with their consciences and, deep down, trying to do the right thing. Alternatively, perhaps some of them were essentially ‘straight down the line’, but yet occasionally compromised by their personal circumstances.
After all, nobody is perfect.
In the end, after five episodes during which the onlooker had trained themselves to accept nothing at face value and expect the unexpected, the last quarter of an hour of the final stanza – in which all (well, nearly all) the loose ends were tied up in a succession of rapid flashbacks – it all seemed somewhat contrived.
It was as if the creator and writer Jed Mercurio has dropped his previous approach and decided to expose the skeleton of the series’ structure – the Richard Rogers’ Lloyds Building, with its lifts and stairs on the outside, springs to mind – for all the world to see, in a contrived theatrical ‘reveal’.
It was all very clever, granted. But this viewer cannot decide whether his slight sense of feeling disappointed with the ending of the story is justified on the evidence … or simply a product of inevitability because – after a series of consistently high quality, as this one undoubtedly was – the truth is that no conclusion, however, spectacular and wonderful, would have satisfied.