As far as British primetime dramas go, Jed Mercurio’s Line Of Duty is one of the best examples of the power of heavyweight guest leads. From Keeley Hawes as DI Lindsay Denton in seasons two and three to Thandie Newton's starring role as DCI Roz Huntley in season four, the crime drama knows how to create a stellar cast (and yes, we're still annoyed that Thandie didn't win the BAFTA for that chainsaw scene).
Heading into season six, the BBC series is adding to its illustrious list of leads once again as Trainspotting’s Kelly Macdonald joins the show as Detective Chief Inspector Joanne Davidson. Set two years after the events of season five, the new series wades beyond all things 'H' related, with AC-12’s Superintendent Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar), DI Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) and DS Steve Arnott (Martin Compston) shifting focus to events at Hillside Lane Police Station.
Here, DCI Davidson is hard at work uncovering new details about a high profile cold case: the unsolved murder of journalist Gail Vella (Andi Osho), who was killed one year prior. With a growing need to put the case to bed and secure justice for Gail, the investigating team jumps at the chance to bring a suspect in for questioning. However, on the way to the suspect’s home, the police officers get caught up in a robbery at a local betting shop, costing them precious time and resources when it comes to making the planned arrest. It’s this delay to proceedings which arouses suspicion among certain members of the team. The handling of the event leads to a concerned call to AC-12 and newcomer DC Chloe Bishop (Shalom Brune-Franklin, Our Girl) joining the anti-corruption unit to investigate the conduct and ongoing case at Hillside Lane.
For those looking for high stakes action, the new series of Line Of Duty appears to be setting audiences up for drama by the bucketload. With Macdonald's new DCI at the helm – a character who Mercurio has called the "most enigmatic adversary that AC-12 have faced to date" – the story is off to a good start, investigating the actions of yet another questionable police officer. Expect, of course, a deep dive into some of the more personal details of the long-term characters' lives too, with DI Fleming’s strained relationship, DS Arnott’s burgeoning unhappiness and Superintendent Hastings’ bruised ego all hinted at within the first hourlong episode.
Like every season of Line Of Duty, you’ll need a police code phrasebook to understand a lot of the dialogue but the earnest performances from both the existing and new cast make the constant string of abbreviations and acronyms worth the confusion. Given that the anti-corruption drama has been on our screens for eight – yes, eight – years now, its continued ability to draw audiences in with a string of inventive storylines is testament to the quality of the show. And with the BBC confirming a bonus seventh episode in this season's run, there are no limits to where the action-packed drama might take us.
Line Of Duty starts at 9pm on 21st March on BBC One