Line of Duty 3, BBC2, Daniel Mays

Line of Duty - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. 1) - Picture Shows: Detective Constable Kate Fleming (VICKY McCLURE), Sgt Danny Waldron (DANIEL MAYS), Detective Sergeant Steve Arnott (MARTIN COMPSTON) - (C) World Productions - Photographer: Steffan Hill

Deadly force: DC Kate Fleming (Vicky McCure), Sgt Danny Waldron (Daniel Mays), DS Steve Arnott (Martin Compston)

Third instalment of the corruption cops saga is another taut and gripping affair

★★★★ BBC2, Thursday, 24 March, 9pm

DANIEL MAYS has always had a nice sideline in larky roles, from the C4 sitcom Plus One to the recent Dad’s Army movie. Even when he’s played a villain, such as Ronnie Biggs in Mrs Biggs, he was more of a rogue than a hard case.

So it seemed unlikey casting to make him Sergeant Danny Waldron, a proper bastard, in the latest incarnation of the cop corruption drama Line of Duty. However, the decision is totally justified – he uses his full acting skills and height of 6’2″ to put the fear of god into all those around him.

The story sees Waldron brought up on a killing charge before series regulars Supt Hastings (Adrian Dunbar), DS Arnott (Martin Compston) and DI Cottan (Craig Parkinson). Waldron heads an armed unit that corners a suspected gang hitman, who ends up dead in suspicious circumstances.

Daniel Mays is terrific as Waldron

When other members of the team are reluctant to go along with Waldron’s questionable version of events, he tells them with a sneer: “We’re all in this together.”

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 20:30:01 on 07/03/2016 - Programme Name: Line of Duty - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: PC Rod Kennedy (WILL MELLOR), Sgt Danny Waldron (DANIEL MAYS), PC Hari Bains (ARSHER ALI), PC Jackie Brickford (LEANNE BEST) - (C) World productions - Photographer: Steffan Hill

Law unto themselves? PC Kennedy (Will Mellor), Sgt Waldron (Daniel Mays), PC Bains (Arsher Ali), PC Brickford (Leanne Best)

He faces down Supt Hastings and his inquisitors in a bravura, lengthy interrogation scene during which he spits out facts and regulations at the anti-corruption boys of AC-12. When he goes jogging he pushes himself to extremes and ends up vomiting.

And when squad member Hari (Arsher Ali) looks like he may break ranks, Waldron is genuinely scary when slapping him down. This guy is a walking volcano, and Mays is terrific in the role.

Vicky McClure as undercover cop Fleming

To break the wall of frightened silence around him, the AC-12 team puts Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) undercover as part of Waldron’s armed-response squad.

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 15/03/2016 - Programme Name: Line of Duty - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. 1) - Picture Shows: Detective Constable Kate Fleming (VICKY McCLURE) - (C) World Productions - Photographer: Steffan Hill

In a tight spot: Fleming (Vicky McClure)

It’s a terrific opening episode with dramatic fireworks going off everywhere. Will Waldron’s squad turn on him? Why is this nasty bully so bashful going out on a date? And will he get wise to Fleming’s true role in trying to bring him down?

Series 2 of Line of Duty, starring Keeley Hawes as the detective under suspicion, was if anything even better than the first season, which starred Lennie James. This third outing keeps up the supercharged intrigue.

Creator/writer Jed Mercurio has hit a rich vein of tense drama with this series. It’s a real treat to get away from cosy costume crime dramas and clapped-out whodunits into this grittier world. And after the twist at the end of episode one, it’s impossible to predict how the ensuing five episodes are going to unravel.

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