There are two kinds of people in the world: those who haven’t seen or heard of the British police series ‘Line of Duty’, and those who are avid fans of it. It’s not necessarily a great TV series, or even a really good one. But it has a crazy breathless intensity that sucks you in and a willingness to play with the regular characters’ emotions and question their motives, that’s dramatically suspicious but melodramatically powerful. For six seasons, it remains one of Britain’s most popular and most honored TV programmes.
Jed Mercurio, who created “Line of Duty” in 2012, created the equally battered “Bodyguard,” whose high-wire mix of bad-cop histrionics and romantic soap opera made its only season in 2018 such a huge hit as “Line of Duty”. † (It also earned a surprise Emmy nomination for best drama after it appeared on Netflix in America.) Previously, he was known as a medical drama maker, and perhaps some clues to his writing style can be found in his original career as a doctor; his first show was called “Cardiac Arrest.”
Mercurio has not made “Trigger Point,” a new British series whose six-episode first season came to Peacock on Friday. But he’s the showrunner, and he co-developed it with the creator and writer, Daniel Brierley, and it has the Mercurio stamp: it’s crazy, in a benevolent and entertaining way that makes it easy to put your higher neural functions aside. .
Where “Line of Duty” maintains a moral dimension by featuring a police internal affairs unit, “Trigger Point” goes for almost sheer pressure by focusing on a member of a London bomb-disposal team. The “Line of Duty” associations are powerful, however, as the intense (natch), trauma-battered (natural) protagonist of “Trigger Point” is played by one of the stars of the earlier show, Vicky McClure.
McClure isn’t the most expressive artist – you tend to guess her character’s emotions by how far she opens her eyes – but she has a way of signaling tension in her movement, voice and gaze; something always gets on her last nerve. That works out well for Lana Washington, the heroine of “Trigger Point”, whose signature scene consists of running at full speed into a place from which everyone else is evacuated.
In the show’s first season (a second has been ordered), Lana is confronted by a series of explosions and near misses; from what we see, London police seem to get by with one bomb squad. The identity of the perpetrators is unclear; they’re terrorists, but we don’t know which side of the fence they’re on.
McClure’s character in “Line of Duty” is part of a three-person team; on “Trigger Point,” she has peers, but essentially carries the dramatic weight on her own, and Brierley molds the action to that contentious, solo stance. Lana doesn’t just have to fight the faceless bombers – she also has to fight the panic-induced stupidity of the people she’s trying to save. Bombs and their targets have trigger points, and scene after scene, we cringe as Lana yells at people to please just shut up and stand still.
“Trigger Point”, broadcast by the British commercial network ITV, has a slightly less frenzied pace than the BBC’s “Line of Duty”; that may be partly due to the need for ad breaks. But the narrative jury scams, free-range paranoia, and benign neglect of plausibility are the same. (Viewers may also want to consider Mercurio’s penchant for killing key characters.) Snipers, gas pipes, therapy, and problematic sex are pulled into the mix along with the frequent explosions, all culminating in a ridiculously delicious showdown involving a dead switch. because of course it does.
It’s the Mercurio method: the show keeps blasting in your face and you keep coming back for more.