Every crime fan’s favourite British police procedural has returned to our screens after a two-year hiatus. For millions of fans of Line of Duty, it’s been a long ol’ two years indeed.
The show’s creator Jed Mercurio put the corrupt cop thriller on hold while he made a show you might just have heard of called Bodyguard, which was recently nominated for a raft of BAFTAs, of course. The man’s on a roll…
Mercurio’s winning streak is showing no sign of stopping, either. If this opening episode of Line of Duty’s fifth series is an indicator – and in all likelihood it is – we’re in for another gripping few weeks of heartstopping action and jaw-dropping reveals.
The premise here is familiar: a network of ‘bent coppers’ is in cahoots with organised crime and it’s anti-corruption unit AC-12’s job to smoke them out and make arrests. The tentacles of that network, as we discovered at the end of series 4, reach further than anyone in the team dared previously imagine. They could even slither all the way to the top of the force.
Last time out it was all about the identity of the shady ‘Balaclava Man’. This year the question on everyone’s lips looks set to be ‘who is ‘H’?’
Balaclava Man turned out to be Balaclava Men, of course – several violent criminals who are only too pleased to do things like putting a Detective Sergeant Steve Arnott in a wheelchair for sniffing around them.
We open here with a well-drilled gang of ski mask-wearing sorts expertly hijacking an unsuspecting police convoy and the £10m on heroin onboard, with the ambush ending up in bloodshed when three police officers are shot and killed. It’s an exhilarating – if rather grisly – start to proceedings.
The gang, we learn, is run by none other than the meanest-looking British actor working today – the incomparable powderkeg of a man that is Stephen Graham. As John Corbett, the Boardwalk Empire, This is England and Save Me actor is every bit as menacing and unsettling as you’d hope he’d be.
Joining Corbett in the ‘OCG’ (organised crime group) is Lisa McQueen (Rochenda Sandall), his number two and – it appears to AC-12 – a potential ‘UCO’ (undercover officer). Given that she failed to finish off an armed officer played by Hidden’s Sian Reese-Williams, it was a pretty fair assumption. Albeit one we discover at the end of the hour that’s wide of the mark.
AC-12, OCG, UCO, ECO, ED905… The acronyms came thick and fast in this fast-paced opener. But, hey, this is Line of Duty, after all.
As you can imagine, when word of the murderous ambuscade hits Hastings’ office, it’s all systems go. DI Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) and the newly-bearded DS Arnott (Martin Compston) have a brand new case to investigate.
Their sleuthing soon has them attempting to access the hidden files of Operation Peartree, a deep cover setup that has an officer embedded in a criminal gang. Despite the rather heavy hinting that Lisa was the mole, the series’ first big reveal unveils the true identity of the UCO and, well, let’s just say that it isn’t Lisa…
Ah, Line of Duty – it’s good to have you back. With all your twists, turns, epic edge-of-your-seat interrogation scenes, explosive action set pieces, secrets, lies, betrayals, shocking murders and heavily-quotable catchphrases from Superintendent Hastings (“I didn’t float up the Lagan on a bubble!”).
This opening hour looks to have set up the next five Sunday nights of unmissable AC-12 action perfectly…
Looks like we’re sucking on diesel again.
Did you tune in for Line of Duty series 5 episode 1? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
WARNING: spoilers below. Still catching up? Read Steve’s review of episode 1 here.
Last week saw the triumphant return of BBC One’s corrupt copper conspiracy thriller Line of Duty to the cheers of a telly-loving nation.
Episode 1 introduced and re-introduced the players, set up the plot and reminded us all of the stakes. This follow-up slice of double-dealing drama delved deeper into the mire, muddied the waters even further and really made us all start scratching our collective head. You know, generally doing what Line of Duty does.
By the end of this Sunday evening’s hour of AC-12 action, we were left to ponder what’s starting to become a familiar question… Is the beloved Northern Irish head of police anti-corruption, Superintendent Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar), the much-fabled ‘H’ character?
‘H’, as we’ve known for some time, is the main man atop the pyramid of bent British police types. And not just the name of the slightly annoying blonde lad from Steps.
The final scene here may just have given our lead investigators their answer. DI Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) and DS Steve Arnott (Martin Compston) laid out a rogue’s gallery of potential H suspects to the blackmailed and turned AFO Jane Cafferty (Hidden‘s Sian Reese-Williams). She instantly picked one out. We couldn’t see the image, but given the shifty looks from Ted – and the disappointed ones from Kate and Steve – it may just have been their superior that Cafferty fingered.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, Ted. Say it ain’t so, fella…
Speaking of rogues, we saw more of the undercover operative gone rogue, John Corbett, played by the untouchable Stephen Graham, who is already easily the best thing about this fifth run. He’s a complicated man. He’s not just a criminal – that was revealed last week. He’s not just an undercover policeman gone rogue, either. He is, he tells DS Arnott here, merely pretending to have gone rogue in order to curry favour from the top echelons of the corrupt police types. He is, in fact, vehemently anti-corruption himself. Just like AC-12. The major difference being that AC-12 don’t really go in for shooting bent coppers as much as he does.
For Corbett to flush out H and the big boys, he has to do it from within and it has to be done off the books. That means him and Steve working together. And Steve keeping best pal – but superior – Kate in the dark about it all. Which he duly agrees to do.
Detective Superintendent Alison Powell (Susan Vidler) is likely also involved in the shady machinations, giving that she is in charge of Corbett’s mission, Operation Pear Tree (which should really be called Operation Pear-shaped)
This is Line of Duty, so John doesn’t just text Steve about it or speak to him in a Costa. He kidnaps him at gunpoint and has the discussion while speeding around the back streets of London, in what is comfortably the stand-out scene from the episode.
It’s a case of so far, so good from this fifth run so far. It’s got all the complicated plotting and twists that we’ve come to expect from the series. There’s a faint feeling that it hasn’t fully hit its stride quite yet, but as we’re merely a third of the way through, that shouldn’t come as a huge surprise.
We’re maintaining here that H isn’t Hastings. It’s been signposted too early and if there’s one thing that Line of Duty and Bodyguard writer Jed Mercurio doesn’t do, it’s the obvious. Which is why I’ve come up with a very early theory on the identity of ‘H’…
I think it could be – whisper it – Kate. Shhhhhhh…
That wouldn’t explain Cafferty’s photo pointing, though. Unless it’s all an elaborate ruse for Kate to fit up Hastings.
Now that would be a twist.
Did you tune in for Line of Duty series 5 episode 2? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
WARNING: spoilers below. Still catching up? Read Steve’s review of episode 2 here.
Have we finally discovered who ‘H’ is…? Perhaps. But it’s pretty likely that the corrupt copper conspiracy goes even higher than the man in the balaclava revealed here in the latest Line of Duty.
We left last week’s slice of the action with disgraced AFO (authorised firearms officer) Jane Cafferty quite literally pointing the finger at who we were led to believe might be the elusive H. The scene was presented to us in such a way that Superintendent Ted Hastings was very much in frame. As it turns out, Cafferty was identifying the late DI Matthew ‘Dot’ Cottan, a known bent copper who was shot dead by gangsters in the final episode of series 3.
So Dot was H, then? Well, no. H is still alive and kicking. Unless he died here… Only joining Dot in dodgy detective Heaven is Central Police’s Detective Chief Superintendent Lester Hargreaves (‘H’ for Hargreaves?). By the conclusion of this week’s Line of Duty, he’s outed as corrupt and found to be helping out the mob of robbers led by Stephen Graham’s UCO (undercover officer) John Corbett.
Whether Hargreaves’ complicity was voluntary or if he was being blackmailed for using ‘sexual services’ remains to be seen. It’s all fairly irrelevant now, anyway. Corbett shot and killed him during a high-risk raid he used to flush H out.
The crossings and double crossings have all got a little complicated at this halfway stage. One thing’s for sure, popping to the kitchen to make a brew during the show is not a wise idea, no matter how quickly your kettle boils. You’re definitely going to miss something.
Hastings is certainly missing something – his wife. Holed up in his pokey little hotel room with a busted toilet flush, his romantic and money woes continue to blight him. As does Senior Legal Counsel and Police and Crime Commissioner’s right-hand woman Gill Biggeloe.
The pair meet for dinner and Hastings quickly susses out she’s angling for him to take ‘early retirement’ – “you’re flattering yourself using the adjective ‘early’…” she replies rather cattily. The pair still end up in Ted’s hotel room after dessert, though. Given how knackered the facilities are, let’s hope Gill didn’t need a wee while she was there.
This is Line of Duty, so there was – of course – a bit of a shocker. In the final scene we saw Corbett go fully rogue. Now a murderer, he’s become a desperate man. He wants to bring H down – and quickly. He’s convinced that Hastings is the Top Dog and so – to get to him – he snatches his estranged wife Roisin. It’s a risky move and one we can’t really see paying off.
As you’ll have no doubt noticed by now, this fifth series of Jed Mercurio’s police drama is rather oddly obsessed with acronyms. Previous series have featured them, but this run has gone a little OTT with them.
Perhaps we should write our reviews of LoD in acronyms. It’d certainly make them quicker to read…
‘FYI, the AFO ID’d H (JK). The UCO in the UCG has gone MIA. AC-12 must apprehend ASAP. TTFN!’
Or maybe not.
Did you tune in for Line of Duty series 5 episode 3? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
WARNING: spoilers below. Still catching up? Read Steve’s review of episode 3 here.
For anyone yet to watch this fourth episode, there is – unsurprisingly – quite a big shock hidden away at the end. Can shocks be unsurprising and yet still shocking? Not technically, no. Yet Line of Duty somehow regularly manages the feat. It’s clever like that.
We won’t reveal what the shock is on the off chance that you’ve not seen it yet and have somehow been able to avoid hearing what happened (if so, well done – how did you manage that?!). What we will say though, is this – we face the prospect of our last two instalments of the series without one of its main hitters. Fans of Line of Duty and writer Jed Mercurio in general won’t exactly be gobsmacked by this news. He killed off Keeley Hawes’ main character at the halfway point of Bodyguard, remember?
The writing here in this fourth outing is, as you’d expect, entirely on point. Tightly-scripted and full of all the excitement we all associate with the show, we can’t fault the words on the page. Even when it’s clear what’s being said is mostly just exposition or for the benefit of the audience’s understanding, it always rings true. What we can critique, however, is how some of that script is interpreted.
Now, it goes with saying that the principal cast here are – as ever – excellent. Vicky McClure is one of this country’s finest actresses, Stephen Graham is Hollywood-grade and Martin Compston practically is Line of Duty. Plus, Adrian Dunbar is a revelation here as Hastings in this series. He’s a fan favourite, of course, but he’s really being given a chance to exercise his acting chops in series 5. The scene here in which Ted tries to console his heavily-beaten estranged wife Róisín was especially moving.
It’s the lesser and peripheral characters that come close to letting Line of Duty down. One particular scene here saw the mighty Stephen Graham snarling at some gangsters who were playing their parts like they were in a low-rent music video destined never to hit more than a thousand views on YouTube.
That’s our only grumble here. Well, that and the fact that – the last minute aside – this week had something of a slower pace to it. Then again – it’s been pretty frenetic up until this point, so perhaps there’s something to be said for easing off the pedal a wee bit.
As for this fifth run’s main arc – who the ruddy hell ‘H’ is – we’re still being very much led to believe than our old pal Superintendent Ted Hastings is the top brass pulling the strings for the OCG (organised crime group). With all the already quite heavily stacked-up circumstantial evidence against him, we can now add to that his order to DS Arnott to shoot Corbett, as well as his insistence on take over typing duties when the team had hacked the line into Corbett and Lisa Armstrong’s gang.
Not to mention his misspelling of ‘definitely’. Spelling pedants across the internet were quick to point out the word ‘definately’ used by H in a previous episode. Was that a clue or a red herring? Or something else?
Ted signed off the conversation by saying, “I need you to bring all this to a close.” It was a message that seemed to confuse Corbett, but unsettle McQueen. Given what was to happen at the climax, it’s a phrase which casts further shadow on the AC-12 boss and his involvement in the OCG.
The reality is, no one knows how the big finish of this Line of Duty is going to play out. Next week’s penultimate chapter is certain to bring more thrills, chills n’ spills and set us up nicely for the extended 90 minute finale the Sunday after.
Before we go, we’ll leave you with a final thought. Does it feel odd to you that Kate’s operating in the margins so much here? We suggested her as an outside shout for H a few weeks ago and we’re yet to be convinced otherwise. Her sidelining here feels intentional…
Maybe we’ve just become paranoid. Line of Duty will definately do that to you.
Did you tune in for Line of Duty series 5 episode 4? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
WARNING: spoilers below. Still catching up? Read Steve’s review of episode 4 here.
It looks as if Superintendent Ted Hastings has finally met his match in Line of Duty. Well, actually, he’s met his superior. Literally.
As we all know in the world of bent copper grilling, an officer under suspicion has the right to be interviewed by someone at least one rank superior to them. In Hastings’ case here in episode 5, it’s the fiercely ambitious and whip smart AC-3 head, Detective Chief Superintendent Patricia Carmichael in what’s been a brilliantly ice cold performance so far by The Bletchley Circle’s Anna Maxwell Martin.
Why is he sitting the wrong side of the desk in the interview room? Well, all those suggestions of misconduct and corruption that have surrounded the man – not to mention a whole host of poor personal and professional decisions – have started to look more than a little suspicious. So much so that his own fiercely loyal team, DI Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) and DS Steve Arnott (Martin Compston) had little choice but to report his conduct to The Big Bosses. Who seem only too keen to see the senior officer’s collar felt.
This final episode was all about Hastings. Whether he turns out to be H or not (which SURELY he won’t…), this whole series has been about the man, really. Stephen Graham may have been the marquee cast signing, but this run is only really concerned with if the AC-12 boss is the secret antagonist. Why do we care so much? Well, Hastings practically is Line of Duty. And given a role here that’s more than just ‘be the boss’, the actor behind the man – Adrian Dunbar – has really grasped his opportunity to shine.
We shouldn’t be too surprised at this quality turn from Mr Dunbar. The Northern Irishman is a talented actor of some calibre, with a CV that boasts the likes of classic films such as The Crying Game and My Left Foot.
There was little to no ‘action’ action to speak of here, with the hour serving as a kind of bridge between the chaos of the past few weeks and next week’s no-doubt hectic climax. A climax that some ten-odd million people will no doubt be hooked by. This week’s instalment was really all about seeing things conspire to finally have Ted in a pair of handcuffs.
That said, this was high drama. As ever. Is Line of Duty technically the best drama on television? Arguably not. Is it a little on the overblown side and a wee bit overhyped? Perhaps. Is it nonetheless gripping and absolutely unmissable TV? Absolutely.
Next week’s feature-length conclusion might not exactly be grounded in reality necessarily, but by jove it’ll be tense. The assumption we all probably have is that we’ll learn the truth about Hastings and H once the 90 minutes are up. We wouldn’t be so sure, though…
Two more runs of Line of Duty were confirmed by the Beeb recently, so there’s every chance that we could all be left hanging from a very tall and precarious cliff come next Sunday night. But before we even get to that cliff, there’s guaranteed to be plenty of twists, turns and forks in the road.
UCOs, OCGs, AFOs… It’s been an acronym-filled series so far. But the main initialism concerning everyone is H. Just imagine if Hastings is H, though… OMG!
Did you tune in for Line of Duty series 5 episode 5? Let us know your thoughts on it in the comments below…
WARNING: some (mild) spoilers below. Still catching up? Read Steve’s review of episode 5 here.
If there’s one thing that BBC One’s Line of Duty is known for, it’s extended interview scenes in which whip smart anti-corruption officers pick ‘bent coppers’ apart like vultures attending to the sun-baked remains of a roadside armadillo. Fans of such scenes were spoiled here in the climax to series 5, as we were treated to a full feature-length episode set almost exclusively inside AC-12’s iconic glass box of loaded questions.
The armadillo in question here was The Boss – Superintendent Edward ‘Ted’ Hastings, played with serious aplomb as ever by the wonderful and hugely popular Northern Irish actor Adrian Dunbar. The vultures? AC-3’s career-focused Chief Superintendent Patricia Carmichael (Anna Maxwell Martin) and her team.
The crux of this latest series of Jed Mercurio’s wildly successful police thriller has been whether or not Hastings is the big bad guy behind it all – the shadowy and infamous ‘H’ figure. And we get our answer by the end of this rather talky 90 minute special. Is it a satisfying answer? Well, we’ll leave you to make up your own minds about that.
We’ll swerve the spoilers here for any of you yet to catch episode 6. Suffice to say that, as you might expect, things aren’t quite as they seem…
One plot detail we can reveal, one that shouldn’t ruin the overall arc for anyone, concerns one of the lesser characters who’s given a pretty interesting send-off. In what surely must have been a nod to the 2002 Hong Kong crime thriller Infernal Affairs (or at least Martin Scorsese’s Boston-set remake of it, The Departed), we see young OCG member Ryan Pilkington getting accepted onto the force as a Student Police Officer, effectively sowing the seeds for future corruption. And perhaps a future ‘H’ character for – say – Line of Duty series 25?
This climatic episode was a nice little example of the series as a whole. It looked like Line of Duty, it felt like Line of Duty and it certainly sounded like Line of Duty; if anything, there were more initialisms and acronyms than ever before. There was just a certain something missing…
That something might just have been tension. This series has gripped the nation, there’s little doubt about that. But in the cold light of day, stripped of context and ‘the universe’ of the show, would we all have loved series 5 quite so much? It’s doubtful, given how it seemed to lack the gut punch of previous runs. The action scenes were few and far between and hardly unforgettable, while the plot twists may have kept us guessing, but dropped few jaws.
Even the ‘big reveal’ at the end here lacked quite the impact you can imagine was intended.
Stephen Graham was, of course, excellent throughout in his role as the undercover copper, hellbent on revenge. The man doesn’t know the meaning of the phrase ‘phoning it in’. But his rather swift exit at the midway point of the series left something of a hole that couldn’t quite be filled by the remaining cast.
Not that some of the more regular faces got all that much of a look in here. Pivotal in this final instalment’s plot development, DI Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) and DS Steve Arnott (Martin Compston) were almost criminally underused across these past six weeks. That said, Kate does spit out the line of the series here when challenged by by AC-3 officer DI Michelle Brandyce (Laura Elphinstone). It really is a piece of dialogue that’s for the TV ages: “Stop making a t*t of yourself and p*ss off.”
This sixth slice of the corrupt pie – and the series as a whole – may not have been the most delicious Line of Duty we’ve ever been served up, but it still made for tasty, if at times slightly chewy, television. With a sixth series lined up and a hunger for more evident by the staggering viewing figures – 9 million watched this episode live on Sunday night, with plenty more expected to catch up with it over the next week or so – we’ve certainly got room for dessert.
So too do the vultures. Expect them to start circling overhead again soon enough.
Did you tune in for the Line of Duty series 5 episode 6? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below…