Series 1 Episode 1
It was Detective Chief Inspector Tony Gates (Lennie James), more than the anti-corruption squad whom I grew to love, that drew me to this pilot and convinced me to binge watch Line of Duty two years ago. DCI Gates was written and performed with such nuance that he would dance through the shades of grey of corruption often in the same scene. He was the ‘Officer of the Year’, the leader of a rock star squad with an enviable clearance rate, the charming, genial boss. He was also cheating on his wife with a woman who could very well be a murderer.
Detective Sergeant Steve Arnott (Martin Compston) was a counterterrorism team leader, when a tragedy forced him to seek another assignment within the department. The hastily assembled counterterrorism squad broke through the wrong apartment and shot an innocent man who was holding a baby. Their boss Chief Inspector Philip Osborne (Owen Teale, Ser Alliser Thorne of Game of Thrones) gave all members of the team a story to tell, a lie to cover up their mistake. Steve took a stand and insisted on telling the truth.
When Superintendent Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar), the head of the anti corruption unit AC-12, pointed Steve to DCI Gates as the subject of investigation, Steve was skeptical. DCI Gates just seemed like a good police officer who was just excellent at his job. An undercover AC-12 officer, however, Detective Constable Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure), found evidence that DCI Gates has been engaging in laddering — he would pick the easy cases, toss out the rest, add charges that would never make it to court, and thereby boost his clearance rate.
Fudging with numbers to look good and get a higher budget was of course bad, but Steve spent the early years of his career dealing with life and death situations. To him, at least initially, DCI Gates’s crime must have looked small compared to what he used to deal with.
Unbeknownst to Steve, however, DCI Gates had dug himself a deeper hole that he ever intended. Jackie Laverty (Gina McKee) was a successful businesswoman who was an ex girlfriend of DCI Gates. At some point, they rekindled their relationship, though DCI Gates had a wife and two daughters. One night, Jackie called DCI Gates in a panic. She had been drinking, and as she drove home, she hit a dog. She already had a record. One more drink driving offence, and she would go to jail. She reported her Range Rover stolen.
DCI Gates helped her cover up her false police report. He broke the glass part of her door and scratched a nearby table to make it look like thieves fished out her car keys. At the police station, however, he found out that Jackie did not hit a dog. She killed a man.
DCI Gates immediately met with Jackie and told her to confess everything to the police. He impressed upon her the gravity of what she did. When faced with the loss of life, DCI Gates tried to do the right thing.
Jackie went to the police station, but she only spoke to a civilian who did some police work. Jackie merely doubled down on her lies. DCI Gates was furious with her. Later, when Rita, the civilian worker, connected Jackie to the man who was killed, her accountant, Gurjit Patel, DCI Gates crossed a line. He deleted the link between Jackie and Mr. Patel. At around the same time, Steve was already reviewing the case.
This first episode showed a scary slippery slope into corruption by DCI Gates. The laddering investigation would take some of the shine off of him. Covering up a crime that led to the death of a man was on an entirely different level of guilt.
There was a scene in the first episode when DCI Gates was home, watching his daughter play the piano. The internal struggle over the choices he made and the choices he would make were all over his face. When the corrupt is also, sometimes, a lot of times, a good man, how is he to be judged?
■ A waitress at the cafe where DCI Gates and Jackie met saw them holding hands. It was her who offered to comp the bill after DCI Gates saved a woman from a mugging. DCI Gates did not file the appropriate form to let the department know he received a free meal; this was the basis of the first yellow notice he received from AC-12. The second yellow notice was for the laddering.
■ Kate tried to help a man, Mr. Butterfield, whose house has been burgled three times. Her boss, Derek Hilton, told her to put the case in the back burner. Later, Mr. Butterfield was burgled again and was beaten this time. He filed a complaint against Kate. Hilton covered his behind and said he only told Kate was to prioritise.
■ The battle Superintendent Hastings referred to was the Battle of Hastings, fought in 1066 that marked the beginning of the Normal conquest of England.
■ After Jackie's accountant was identified, DCI Gates told Rita that his team was taking over the case.
■ Kate was now part of Gates's unit. The other members of the unit were Matthew 'Dot' Cottan, Nigel Morton, and Deepak Kapoor.
■ Dot was shown to be sexist. He and Nigel gave off the impression of corruption more than DCI Gates. Deepak appeared to be the newest member of the team, before Kate joined them.
■ Gates's team were surveilling a possible source of drugs. With the next team still 10-15 minutes away, Deepak wanted to wait for them but Dot insisted on leaving (overtime was not allowed). During the gap between the two surveillance teams, someone or several someones broke into the house, tortured two boys, likely for information, cut off their fingers, and killed them. It seemed that someone didn't want the boys moving into their territory.