Apparently, liking the ending puts me in a minority, so… there you have it. I liked that ending. It was satisfying, I enjoyed how I’d been wrong-footed the whole time but it was all so obvious, and, from a series that’s been very, very obvious about it’s real world parallels, who else could it have been but the man everyone dismissed as a bungler?
What I liked:
A lowkey start
After last week my expectation was for episode seven to open with all guns blazing, and Hastings blazing with righteous fury at the death of Marcus Thurwell. Instead, he seemed defeated, and Steve and Kate just seemed weary. Steve finally had that meeting with Occupational Health he’d been ducking, ducked a call from Steph Corbett, and he and Kate finally discussed the elephant in the room – What Ted Did in series 5. It wasn’t until AC-12 intercepted a message from a panicking Fourth Man, concerned that Jo Davidson might still turn against him, that events started to get moving.
It had to be. At the end of the day, there was no one else it could have been.
Both because, as Kate said, he’d been under AC-12’s noses from the very start, and because he’s ultimately a dim incompetent who’s always failed upwards because those in power turned a blind eye to his faults. He was utterly corrupt, which he hid by appearing to be a blunderer. And who, in modern Britain, could that possibly remind anyone of?
If that story doesn’t ring any bells, then you’ve really missed the point of the entire season.
Buckells fit the metaphor of series six even better than the Chief Constable did, and so his reveal as the Fourth Man worked perfectly on allegorical grounds alone, but looking back across the six series of the show, it also worked perfectly on storytelling grounds. Buckells was the man brought in by corrupt Chief Superintendent Hilton in series 1 to ensure that the investigation into Jackie Laverty’s disappearance achieved nothing, except to build pressure on DCI Gates. And, five years later, who did corrupt now-Assistant Chief Constable Hilton turn to when he needed to ensure that the frame-up of Michael Farmer as Balaclava Man continued in series 4? Buckells again. A man AC-12 had already dismissed as too stupid to tie his own shoelaces in series 1.
Hilton always posed as more politician than police officer, and probably expected that he would one day be running the entire Central Police Force as Chief Constable. Gill Biggeloe too advanced the goals of the various OCGs at nearly every turn, but always seemed able to make it appear that it was about PR and political advancement, not because she was bent. Dot posed as a near-the-knuckle but ultimately honest copper. Buckells, however, escaped everyone’s notice by always just seeming too dim. Even Jo Davidson never suspected him, accidentally framing him for crimes he had, in fact, committed.
Buckells smirked and ‘No commented,’ his way through his interview right up until Ted called him a ‘blundering fool.’ That, he didn’t like. That finally provoked him into confessing, and almost laughing at how no one had ever suspected him.
No, he wasn’t a Bond villain. He’d largely ended up becoming the Fourth Man accidentally, after Dot overreached himself trying to frame Steve Arnott, and then Hilton used one of his burner phones to set up a booty call with Roz Huntley. He’d flown under the radar for years, as Hastings, Steve, Kate, and the audience, dismissed him time and again as too dumb for words. A seemingly thick villain ending up in a position of immense power because no one took him seriously? Who, indeed, could that possibly be inspired by?
‘No one makes mugs of AC-12.’
If that didn’t make you cheer a little bit you’re probably dead inside.
Ted’s last speech
Mercurio tweeted it himself a week ago – ‘Everything has led to this: is it still one of our shared values that those occupying public office should conduct themselves with honesty and integrity.’ Obviously, he could not have predicted that the Line of Duty finale would air against the backdrop of a Prime Minister apparently caught accepting a bribe-in-kind to redecorate his flat, or that the said Prime Minister would respond by shrugging and saying ‘No one cares who bribes me.’
The reaction of the public to this suggests that the answer to Mercurio’s question is ‘No.’ Britain no longer cares about integrity and honesty. Ted Hastings will do his damndest to make us care, though, reminding us one last time about why those values are so important, and why we all need to care when barefaced liars are promoted into our highest office and serial corruption is written off as bungling and blundering. Because, by not caring about integrity, and not demanding probity from those who, after all, serve us, we end up with men like Philip Osborne as Chief Constable, looking the other way as Ian Buckells coordinates a huge network of corruption. It was one last plea from Line of Duty’s moral guardian.
It’s a bittersweet symphony…
The silliest comment on Twitter I’ve seen about the finale was that ‘We just wanted a bit of escapism.’
Yes, it seems that in spite of everything, there was a huge chunk of the audience who expected the series to end with Ted promoted to Chief Constable, whilst Steve and Kate marched in between two vast phalanxes of police officers to collect their medals from Kate Middleton, whilst a still-overlooked Chewbacca stood to one side and roared triumphantly. And then they all lived happily ever after…
Wrong show for all of that.
Instead, we had Ted’s retirement still feeling like a defeat rather than a triumph, even after he’d unmasked the Fourth Man at last. Steve remained uncertain about whether or not to pursue his relationship with Steph Corbett. Kate, who in the course of Line of Duty has personally shot and killed two gangsters and two corrupt cops, lost her husband, and lost her relationship with her son, seems to finally be feeling the effects of everything that’s happened as she spoke to Occupational Health herself. AC-12’s power to expose wrong-doing has never been weaker. Even though they’d won, it never once felt like it. Instead of a huge celebration of the Empire’s defeat, we had Steve and Kate having a drink in the pub, commenting on how strange it felt to have everything wrapped up. Only Jo got any kind of happy ending, finally escaping the clutches of the bent coppers and gangsters who’d controlled and abused her all of her life.
There was enough left unresolved for this to be au revoir rather than adieu and in view of the ratings I expect that the BBC will be demanding a seventh series from Jed Mercurio. But, there was no happy ending, and that felt right. Life doesn’t have happily ever afters. Escapist fiction does… but Line of Duty is not escapist fiction.
One last real life parallel
As the subtitles rolled, we were told that Chief Constable Boris Johnson (er, Philip Osborne) has not only scaled back AC-12 to the point of irrelevance, but he has promoted his cronies to lead it. Buckells may have paralleled Johnson as a serial incompetent who has always failed upwards, promoted by seniors/voters despite lacking any discernible talent besides self-promotion, but Osborne was always intended to parallel him as the leader incapable of telling the truth except by accident.
Johnson has spent his two years in office attacking institutions and conventions designed to hold his government to account, and stuffing them full of his cronies. It was an easy target for one last shot from a series that has worn its attitude to our current government on its sleeve.
What I didn’t like:
The Fairbank diversion
Fairbank, the paedophile cop who first began to work with Tommy Hunter, was always the man who’d started everything. The two men abused children at Sands View boys’ home together, and Fairbank and his crony Thurwell first identified the next generation of bent coppers like Dot, Hilton, and Buckells. As Tommy’s OG Bent Bastard, he made sense as Jo’s putative father, even if by 2021 he couldn’t possibly still be running everything.
I wouldn’t have minded AC-12 popping in to visit him one last time, if he hadn’t been losing his marbles.
His possible dementia was first raised in series 3, but at the time it was dismissed as his way of avoiding AC-12’s case against him for child abuse – Dot’s dying declaration seemed to indicate pretty clearly that it was faked. By series 6, however, he was apparently suffering from it for real, and even when it seemed like his mask was about to slip, he genuinely couldn’t recall anything about what he’d previously done. Sometimes that can happen, of course, but I don’t think we needed to waste nearly ten minutes on a twist with no payoff. Even if he’d just remembered something, it would have made the diversion worthwhile.
Where did Chloe go?
Much like Maneet in series 3, Chloe had carried AC-12 throughout this series, until the last episode where she seemed to disappear. I feel like the character had earnt more of a role than this, even if the final interview with Buckells was always going to be Steve, Kate, and Hastings.
I was less bothered that Jo’s role was quite diminished. Her character arc had largely resolved in the previous episode.
What I liked:
Jo has had an AC-12 interview before, but this one was extra-special and not just because it broke the previous record (Steve’s in series 3) at 29 minutes long.
Jo began the interview with ‘no comment,’ answers, leading to Carmichael trying to end it almost immediately. Interventions from Steve and Hastings persuaded her to start talking… although she actually said very little, not telling AC-12 much that they didn’t already know beyond her own motivations. Well, one thing they didn’t know but probably should have, more of which below. The biggest revelation of the interview came from AC-12, that Tommy Hunter was her father as well as her uncle, having raped her mother (his sister) as a teenager.
She had been groomed to join the police as an insider for Tommy’s Organised Crime Group in the 1990s, believing at the time that her father was a bent cop in Tommy’s pocket. And here’s where the interest starts, as Jo declined to name this officer, even though it would pretty much have to be either Marcus Thurwell or Philip Osborne. She explained that there isn’t one OCG, actually quite a few loosely affiliated ones, as Tommy’s death led to them splintering. He’d been the only thing holding them together. And then, when Hastings tried to press her about the corrupt police officers who had worked with Tommy, Carmichael shut the questioning straight down.
She did that quite a few times, actually.
At times, Jo seemed to genuinely want to be helpful. At others, she was distraught by what she was learning. And even though she was responsible for stitching up both her ex, Farida, and her boss, Buckells, she did win some sympathy points for not being able to send Terry Boyle down.
Everyone needs a Steve or a Kate
Kate’s abortive Thelma-and-Louise with Jo never really got going, but who was she relying on in the first place? Steve. Of course. They have, it turns out, a pre-standing arrangement to be able to use each other’s homes and cars in the event of ‘extreme circumstances.’ They even have burner phones ready to go. And Steve may have won the series when he explained to Carmichael that ‘extreme circumstances,’ would include ‘An unexplained disruption to the chain of command.’
And, when Carmichael inexplicably located her and Jo almost immediately, who talked her out of a doomed attempt to shoot her way out? Steve again.
Just as Kate saved Steve from himself in series 3, Steve was there to bring her in safely this time. And watching them at the gun workshop was heart-warming – the old band getting back together for one last tour. DS Lomax was ready to call off the search, but a quick look at the size of the machines and the tools in the OCG’s van, and Steve and Kate knew they needed to dig the floor up.
Always there for each other, and always able to get there in the end. Everyone needs a Steve or a Kate.
Patricia Carmichael. If she doesn’t scare you, no evil thing will
I’ve mentioned in my review of Line of Duty that Steve and Kate would refer to Hastings as ‘Super Ted,’ when he wasn’t around. Carmichael would definitely be Cruella…
Her constant put-downs of Ted alone make her the most hated character since fucking Ryan. Having gone hell-for-leather to try and prove he was H in series five, she now suddenly doesn’t seem to want to know about institutionalised corruption in Central Police at all, just as long as the Chief Constable makes her head of the new Super AC-12… which I’m sure is her only motivation.
It’s just a giant coincidence that she tapped her pen against her neck four times right as Davidson looked like she might be about to say more than she should. Definately. Er, definitely.
She’s so restrained, so polite, and viciously cutting with her remarks. Coldly unsympathetic to everyone and anyone, she’s another antagonist we love to hate.
A couple of twists thrown in there too
Tommy Hunter being Jo’s father was the obvious one, of course. The death of Thurwell, whom everyone had expected to see make an appearance after learning he had the face of James Nesbitt, was another. Jo was speaking to someone in Spain on OCG Facebook Chat, and it seemed as though Thurwell was being set up as a potential contender to be H… apparently not, though. I’m slightly relieved about this as I used the name in one of my short stories, intending it be an obscure Line of Duty reference. Would have been very annoying for him to have been revealed as the Big Bad all along.
Oh, and there’s the small matter of what – or who – is buried under the floor of the gun workshop? I have no idea. Well, I have a wild theory. Scroll down to the predictions section to find out.
The James Nesbitt fakeout
Much as I enjoyed all the wild theorising that DCI Marcus Thurwell is still alive and posing as a Spanish SWAT Team leader, the truth is likely to be far less complex… and not only because the Spanish SWAT Team leader was actually played by Pano Masti.
Normally, things like mugshots are members of the crew (the crew of Taggart used to take turns being the Gloved Hand that committed the murder pre-credits), so the use of James Nesbitt caused a lot of speculation that he would be appearing. To be fair, you’d have had to have both watched Bloodlands, and known it was also produced by Jed Mercurio, to have realised that this could well be a fakeout. Personally, I watched it and knew Mercurio was involved, and I didn’t guess. Bloodlands (which starred Nesbitt) and Line of Duty were made at around the same time, both in Northern Ireland. Mercurio probably asked Nesbitt if he fancied earning a little bit of pocket money getting his face into LOD. And he said yes, because who doesn’t want to be in Line of Duty?
The growing realisation that the entire OCG will be brought down because Tony Gates was horny
If he’d kept it in his pants when Jackie Laverty came calling, Hunter would never have had any leverage on him. He’d have been given a humiliating transfer for his laddering of charges, Jackie would have had no one to turn to try and cover up her murder of her accountant (except that bald guy), and the whole OCG show would have carried merrily along without Ted Hastings ever becoming aware of any of it.
What I didn’t like:
Fucking Ryan being killed off-screen
The whole nation has wanted to see fucking Ryan get his comeuppance since 2019, and you do it off-screen? NOT. COOL. I wanted to savour every moment of his timely demise. Now I’ll have to imagine it instead.
Everyone is surprised that Tommy Hunter was killed by corrupt police officers
Jo reveals that Tommy Hunter wasn’t killed by his criminal associates after all, but by corrupt police officers! This was a huge revelation to AC-12, who seemed to have forgotten that they learnt all of this in series 2 already.
Although they were aware that Dot had orchestrated Tommy’s murder, no one seemed to remember that A) Tommy survived the ambush of his convoy and was killed in hospital by DC Jeremy Coles later, and that he threw AC-12’s DC Georgia Trotman out of a window whilst doing it, and that B) DS Manish Prasad confessed to carrying out the ambush. Admittedly, this confession was tortured out of him by Lindsay Denton, who wanted to implicate her ex-boyfriend, and he later partially retracted it. But still. Even if AC-12 concluded that Prasad wasn’t involved in the convoy ambush (he denied it but said that some of the officers in Tommy’s pocket were involved), did everyone forget that Coles killed Hunter?
What I liked:
Real-life crime parallels not even trying to hide anymore
Jed Mercurio is not being subtle about which real-life crimes he’s drawn parallels from this series, but it reached a whole new level in episode five. Gail Vella, we’ve learnt, was looking into a case which has huge and unmistakeable parallels with the Stephen Lawrence murder, but which also has parallels with the, ahem, ‘Death in custody,’ of Christopher Alder. I say ‘Death in custody,’ for legal purposes as although five police officers were charged with manslaughter over his death, none were convicted and so legally his death was a tragic accident.
Just to make entirely sure that no one could mistake exactly which cases of real-life police racism and corruption the show was taking aim at, the fictional case in Line of Duty is known as the ‘Lawrence Christopher,’ case.
The Stephen Lawrence case is, obviously, very well-known, because it led to the Macpherson Report in 1999 which concluded that the Metropolitan Police was institutionally racist. Less well-known are the allegations that police corruption also played a part in the failure of the case. Lawrence and a friend, Duwayne Brooks, were attacked by five white youths whilst waiting for a bus in Eltham, southeast London. Although all five were named to the police quickly (and Brooks identified two of them), it was two weeks before police accepted that the attack was racially motivated and not a gang-related incident. Lawrence, who hoped to become an architect, had never been in trouble with the police. Even once all five youths were named, arrests were delayed because the Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Superintendent Brian Weeden, didn’t know that he could arrest someone on reasonable grounds to suspect them of a crime. All five of the attackers had a known history of racially motivated violence, and several of them had links to organised crime. One, David Norris, was the son of drug smuggler Clifford Norris, who allegedly had ties to a corrupt Detective Sergeant who ‘looked after,’ Norris’ son.
The Christopher Alder case is less well-known, but just as awful. Alder, a black former paratrooper, was involved in a fight outside a nightclub in Hull during which he was punched and hit his head on the ground. He was initially taken to hospital, but was arrested there by police officers who described his behaviour as ‘Abusive.’ Hospital staff later said that they’d believed he was ‘Confused and abusive,’ probably as a result of the head injury. Alder was able to climb into a police van unaided but was already unconscious when he was dragged out of it, and left face-down on the floor of the custody suite. Officers commented on the pool of blood forming around his mouth but took no action, and were heard commenting that Alder was faking illness, and were also heard making monkey noises. After eleven minutes they noticed he wasn’t breathing and began trying to resuscitate him, but it was already too late.
Line of Duty’s fictional ‘Lawrence Christopher,’ case, meanwhile, features… a black architect who was the victim of a totally unprovoked racist attack carried out by five white youths with a history of racist violence. Christopher survived the attack, but was arrested by the police when they arrived and found him uncooperative, leading to his being taken to a Central Police custody suite where he died whilst several officers looked on and made monkey noises. A murder inquiry was launched, but spent two weeks chasing gangland leads, ignoring the five youths who had been named by several tipoffs, one of whom was the son of gangster Tommy Hunter. In a public inquiry, the senior detective claimed… he didn’t know he could arrest them on suspicion of murder.
There are some differences. Line of Duty’s fictional SIO, DCI Marcus Thurwell, has been mentioned before and is known to be linked to corrupt paedophile Chief Superintendent Patrick Fairbank, so the suspicion is that he deliberately sabotaged the inquiry to protect Tommy Hunter’s son. DSI Weeden, the real SIO who bungled the Lawrence case, just seems to have been stupid. That’s quite minor though. Series six hasn’t been shy with the real-world parallels, and this episode threw two of British policing’s most shameful episodes straight in everyone’s faces.
DC Chloe Bishop (played by black actor Shalom Brune-Franklin) relates the details of the Lawrence Christopher case to Steve and Hastings, and is visibly shaken afterwards. It would be very easy for the script to blow right past how personal racially-motivated violence is for Chloe (Hastings, for one, seems a bit oblivious) but instead the character is given a chance to fully express her feelings of disgust and shock at how Christopher was treated by the police. Equally as importantly, Steve doesn’t have any answers for her. He doesn’t tell her that it’s all right, most cops aren’t like that, or that it wouldn’t happen today, or that things have changed. In fact, he doesn’t really know what to say.
So he shuts up and lets her speak. Line of Duty’s focus is police corruption, but there are obvious racial elements to this series and I hope Chloe gets more of a chance to speak out about them.
The return of Patricia Carmichael
The AC-12 scenery stills bears some tooth-marks from the last time Anna Maxwell Martin’s character appeared, and I’d been hoping to see her return. It was a bit inevitable after the Deputy Chief Constable’s announcement that the new super AC-12 would be led by a Chief Superintendent, as to who it would be. Martin’s performance was superb again, reminding everyone why Carmichael was a secondary antagonist we love to hate. As the Chief Constable’s personal choice to lead the new, improved, vastly reduced anti-corruption unit, she immediately dropped all the charges against Ian Buckells, and removed surveillance on Terry Boyle, Ryan Pilkington, and Jo Davidson, leading to an episode finale that could best be described as, well, stressful…
A political animal appointed by the Chief to lead his new anti-corruption unit intended to tell him that there’s no corruption? I’m sure that’s all that’s going on there.
Objects in motion
So many plates spinning now.
Police and Crime Commissioner Rohan Sindwhani forced to resign after being thrown under a bus by the Chief Constable, turns out to have been in Ted’s corner all along (to be fair, he never did look happy with the conclusion to Operation Pear-Shaped in series five).
A racially-motivated murder covered up by corrupt cops, potentially about to be exposed by Gail Vella. The motive for her murder is clearly established, but we’ve got more than one suspect as to who could have ordered it. Buckells, for one, clearly knows something about what happened. The Chief Constable, of course, is also implicated.
Did Hastings out John Corbett as an undercover cop to the OCG? I don’t think he did (Lisa McQueen said he didn’t, and although she lied about some of their activities to avoid implicating Ryan, I don’t see why she’d want to protect Hastings), but Steve clearly does. And, if Hastings didn’t out Corbett… why did Lee Banks say he did?
What will Steve do about Steph Corbett’s Cash-in-the-Attic moment? Remember, Steve claimed that DCI Tony Gates had been killed in the line of duty at the end of series one to ensure his family received his pension. Be a bit hypocritical of him to complain that Ted used some of the OCG’s money to compensate the family of one of their victims.
Does Patrick Fairbank really have dementia? He claimed he did when exposed during series three, but at the time this appeared to be an attempt to get him off the child abuse charges. Of course, he could have really developed it in the meantime.
Please comment anything I’ve missed.
Davidson: still a mystery even as she seems to have picked a side
Davidson has clearly crossed the line by the end of the episode. Earlier, she stood by whilst Kate arranged a raid on the OCG’s gun workshop that wouldn’t allow Ryan to tip them off… but chose the site of the workshop as her own target when it became apparent that it could be one of two locations. What her plan was we’ll never know, because Kate had also tipped Steve off and AC-12 were able to seize the workshop first.
This seems to have been Davidson’s last attempt to play both sides against the middle, however, as her contact on OCG Facebook Chat demanded that she get rid of Kate for good. Davidson had obviously tried to push Kate away to keep her safe (I think she was also doing the same with Farida), but, just like with Farida, when it became a choice between herself and Kate, she chose herself – and whatever her overall plan is. Seeming genuinely sorry, she set Kate up to be shot by Ryan (fucking Ryan)… only for Kate to draw down on Ryan in turn and leave us with a Mexican stand-off. I may have shouted ‘For God’s sake Kate just shoot him!’ at the screen. Maybe I didn’t. Only my housemates know for sure…
What I didn’t like:
Put the guns away before you hurt someone
I love a good cliffhanger, but… even though it’s been previously established that Kate is firearms-trained, and even though there’s an obvious threat to her life, I’m not convinced she would be allowed to carry a concealed firearm. Steve definitely wouldn’t be allowed to carry a gun so soon after killing that OCG sniper.
Part of the attraction of Line of Duty is the combination of minute attention to procedural detail combined with the frequently outrageous plot twists. The guns make me uneasy because it upsets this balance a bit. Professional Standards units don’t have their own authorised firearms officers. I buy that Steve might have firearms training because of his counter-terrorism background, and that Kate might have it because of her undercover background. I don’t buy that they’d keep being allowed to take their toy shooty-bangs with them all the time.
‘Lee Banks is Carl Banks’ brother.’
Yeah, the audience has known that since episode one. Feels like someone forgot to put it in the script before now though.
What I liked:
Ian Buckells has been hovering around the fringes of Line of Duty since series one, a smarmy git who’s never quite as good at his job as he thinks he is. In that time he’s somehow managed to be promoted from Inspector to Superintendent, and he’s managed to obstruct and frustrate AC-12 more than once, often by just being a bit thick. He was the officer, after all, who failed to locate Jackie Laverty in series one.
Seeing Hastings and Arnott finally able to turn their guns on him was a treat, therefore, especially as some of what they’d learnt (his relationships with suspects, for instance) definitely hadn’t been planted by either Davidson or fucking Ryan. Some of his acronyms really betrayed his attitude – RGT meant Really Good Time and BJL was, of course, Blow Job Lover. I took an indecent relish from watching Hastings slowly take him to pieces, and nope, I felt no sympathy whatsoever watching him cry at the end. He was systematically broken down and humbled, a lazy, complacent dupe skewered by three investigators so much smarter than he was.
Although, the twist at the end… now, that was something. Buckells is probably not the Fourth Man, but he knows a few things the Balaclava Men would rather keep quiet.
EDIT AFTER EPISODE SEVEN: This has not aged well.
The return of Jimmy Lakewell, L-A-K…
Patrick Baladi’s James Lakewell was one of the best characters in series four, a colourful upper-crust tosser who knew where the bodies were buried. He was the man recorded talking to Gail Vella. Even in prison he was sniping at Steve, calling him ‘taller… relatively speaking.’
He refused to talk to AC-12 after series four and, well… you can see why. Even his conversation with Vella didn’t really involve him really saying anything. He gave a layman’s breakdown of why the police account of the fatal shooting of Karim Ali didn’t add up, but the audience knew all about that. More significant and ominous was his comment that Central Police would rather be seen as racist than corrupt. This is clearly leading to something, and it’s also referring to one of the UK’s most notorious murder cases.
I’ve often complained that the action scenes in Line of Duty go on too long, and I was definitely not a fan of how many series five had. Bullets were flying every which way at one point.
Series six has massively reduced the amount of Die–Hard-in-Birmingham going on, so that when a police convoy was ambushed and a shootout resulted, it was absolutely fantastic. The build-up to the shooting was tense, the cinematography excellent, Steve had a badass hero moment, there was a genuine sense of peril for both himself and Chloe. Central Police has clearly stopped handing out guns to everyone, because Chloe was unarmed, and I liked her nearly getting killed by trying to see what was happening. The scene was perfectly paced, with the appearance of a sniper adding extra tension just as Chloe seemed to be getting Steve to safety. Steve’s efforts, with his back clearly causing him pain, to manoeuvre himself to shoot back, were gripping, and I may have loudly uttered a four-letter word beginning with F when he managed it.
Given the previous record of Central Police’s Authorised Firearms Officers we should be grateful that half of them didn’t turn on the other half.
Davidson: the plot thickens
Why is the head of the OCG ghosting her on OCG Facebook chat? Why exactly did she think she could move Ryan off her team? These are big questions that need answers, and raise further ambiguity about her motives…
Just whose blood relative is she?
On the night itself, a friend and I agreed that it was probably Lindsay Denton. Then the next morning my sister pointed out that Steve identified the relative as ‘he.’ He also referred to them as a ‘nominal,’ (see my police terms glossary), and I think when you put those clues together, along with Hastings’ response, there’s only one person it can possibly be.
But you’ll have to read my Predictions section to find out who. No I’m not sorry.
Actually, though, the whole thing of Davidson trying to transfer Ryan off her team, only for him to refuse the transfer at gunpoint (and later tell her that Jimmy Lakewell had died of being a rat) further throws her relationship with the OCG into doubt. She clearly has one. But Ryan seems more like her handler than a co-conspirator at this point. Threatening her and calling her ‘Jo,’ when he’d previously been careful to call her ‘ma’am,’ even in private were clearly power moves, Ryan trying to remind her who was in charge in their relationship.
I still don’t know if she’s working for or against the OCG. Based on the clues from the trailers, I don’t think we’ll know for sure until the final episode.
The real-life links, now hitting very close to home
A parallel I’ve not previously noted is the rise of Philip Osborne. As a Chief Inspector he presided over the fatal shooting of an innocent man in a bungled counter-terror operation in series one, and has since been promoted to Chief Constable. The Karim Ali shooting was always intended as a parallel to the Jean Charles de Menezes shooting, and the officer in command of that bungled counter-terror operation, Commander Cressida Dick, is now Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.
There were two huge moments this week. Jimmy Lakewell’s statement that the police would rather be seen as racist than corrupt is a clear indicator that, whatever Gail Vella was looking into, it will be a parallel to the Stephen Lawrence murder. Lawrence’s murder was an unprovoked, racist attack. The aftermath led to a finding in 1999 that the Metropolitan Police were institutionally racist. Now, whilst this was undoubtedly true (and the Met hasn’t made anything like as much progress as it claims), institutional racism may not have been the only thing going on. There was a good deal of plain incompetence… and rumours of corruption. Lawrence’s murderers seem to have had ties to organised crime groups operating in South-East London at the time. One of them was the son of a mid-ranking gangster, whose boss allegedly had corrupt links to a Detective Sergeant investigating the murder. This is public knowledge, being discussed in both Wensley Clarkson’s The Real Line of Duty (which doesn’t name the suspect officer) and Graeme McLagan’s Bent Coppers (which does).
I’d been wondering if Line of Duty would do any sort of Stephen Lawrence parallel, and it seems like they will. The premise for this season was pretty clearly ‘What if Jill Dando was murdered because she was investigating the murder of Stephen Lawrence?’ Lakewell’s line ‘They’d rather be racist than corrupt,’ is a pretty direct quote from Clarkson’s book. Lots of Met insiders apparently believe that the police decided to accept the finding of institutional racism in order to distract from the extent of corruption.
The other real-life parallel that made me go ‘Oof,’ was when Hastings started to give a speech about upholding standards in public life and the PCC said ‘You must have been living a completely different country for the last few years.’ Yeah. As a country, we don’t seem to be too fucked about those anymore, do we? Hastings’ retort ‘When did we stop caring about honesty and integrity? It isn’t a rhetorical question,’ was aimed squarely at the voters of the UK.
No wonder the Telegraph keeps giving it bad reviews.
What I didn’t like:
Ok, I know I just said I liked it, and in the moment, I did. And when I re-watch it on Wednesday, I’ll still like it.
It’s a bit improbable at that range with a pistol (fifteen metres is really pushing it with a sidearm), for one. For another, Steve should be restricted to desk duty whilst the shooting is investigated. Even if shooting a sniper who is firing on your colleagues is pretty much the definition of ‘lawful killing,’ Steve will still need to be questioned. In real life he wouldn’t return to full duty until after an inquest.
What I liked:
Steve and Kate are friends again
Kate’s suspicions about Ryan led to her following him when he took Terry Boyle home, and led to her being on the scene both to save Terry, and to realise that what had happened had been an attempted murder. Who’s she gonna call?
AC-12, of course.
Seeing her, Hastings, and Steve all on the same team again was good for the soul. The nod between her and Hastings made me smile, a reminder that Kate is still an honest copper at heart and not one who puts loyalty to bent colleagues above doing what’s right. And if your heart didn’t melt just a little when she and Steve called each other ‘Mate,’ you’re probably dead inside.
Kate is now aware that Ryan had a longstanding association with the OCG and once tried to torture Steve. She gave him quite an easy treatment when she questioned him about the crash though. I wonder if she’s saving her ammunition for later. POST EPISODE SIX EDIT: well this aged well.
Still can’t get a handle on Davidson
Discussing Davidson with my sister last week, we agreed that there was a distinct Tony Gates vibe about her (Gates being the DCI from series one who was manipulated by the OCG). Now I’m not so sure, I think Davidson is trying to manipulate them as much as they are her. And I think that explains those seven hundred locks on her door, she’s worried that they’ll find out she’s playing both sides and come after her.
The plan was obviously to set Terry Boyle up as Gail Vella’s murderer, then have a witness come forward to identify him as the man seen arguing with the CHIS. Davidson unravelling all of that to expose her boss as corrupt, and in league with the stitch-up, obviously isn’t the plan… so what did she mean when she typed ‘It’s all under control,’ into her computer? In what way is this all under control? She claimed that Buckells is an old family friend of Ryan’s, something that surely won’t take even someone as thick as Buckells too long to disprove.
She’s clearly buying time, but for what? Does she a plan to take on the OCG? Or is she just trying to dance herself out of danger, with the dancefloor turning to lava around her?
Ryan Pilkington, a baddie we love to hate
Fucking Ryan. If he doesn’t die this series, I’m going to kill him myself. POST EPISODE SIX EDIT: SEE ABOVE.
Ryan has grown from smart-aleck teenager to murderous smarmy git, and good God do I ever want to punch him (the character, not the actor, just to be clear. The actor’s doing a fantastic job). He set my teeth on edge when he told Terry ‘I’m still your best mate,’ and I could only feel sorry for PC ExpendaPatel when he got in the car with her, knowing what was going to happen. But I’m not sure anything made me want to growl more than when Buckells gave him his commendation and he pretended to be modest. Kate’s scowl said it all. Whoever Davidson is and what she’s done, I really couldn’t care less as long as fucking Ryan gets his comeuppance at this point.
The BBC self-owning
There was already a strong element of this, what with the Saville references and all, but Gail Vella dropped any pretence of punch-pulling when she outright asked Police and Crime Commissioner Rohan Sindwhani about his collusion with the BBC to use a helicopter to film their arrest of an elderly pop star on later-dropped child sex abuse charges. You mean they did that twice?
‘The letter of the law, sir. The letter.’
‘I am an old battle, ma’am. It’s in the name.’
Ok that last one isn’t quite ‘Like the battle,’ but it’s close enough. It’s been a good season for Hastings bingo so far. Although we’re not quite sucking diesel yet…
On a serious note, I still like the way Ted’s bosses are trying to get him to back off for no other reason than their concerns about the image, and public perception, of the force. This is one of the biggest problems real-life Professional Standards departments face, but it’s been mostly absent from Line of Duty until now.
What I didn’t like:
Chloe knows more about random drug tests than Steve
When AC-9 return to do AC-12’s second round of drugs tests, Chloe explains to a shocked Steve that this is classic tactics as it gives all the druggies a chance to get clean. Steve’s been in AC-12 for nine years now, surely he knows this better than she does?
Also, AC-12 finding Terry’s fridge before Davidson. Who reported the fridge to the police, and why was it passed on to AC-12 and not MIT? The explanation given on screen is that MIT weren’t looking for it because Davidson thought it was used to store drugs, but, does that mean AC-12 were looking for it? I don’t remember anyone saying that on-screen.
Davidson and Kate do a walk-in with Buckells
‘Wait, do we do walk-ins?’
I get that this is supposed to be one of Davidson’s genius moves to escape detection, but it feels like a stretch that Kate would advise her to outright arrest Buckells, who is her boss after all. It also lacked a bit of punch. I don’t like Buckells. I want him to be taken down a few pegs. Even if he is innocent.
What I liked:
Ballsy links to real-life crime
I talked a lot about the Jill Dando murder last week, as the inspiration for series six, but this week Line of Duty went all-in on tying its fictional world to real-life police corruption, name-checking the murder of Daniel Morgan. Morgan, a private investigator, was murdered with an axe in the car park of a south London pub in 1987, and Gail Vella was inspired in her journalism by a podcast looking into it. It’s long been suspected that Morgan’s murder was either commissioned or carried out by corrupt police officers he was investigating (although numerous investigations have failed to prove a link). Lack of a deadly pandemic aside, Line of Duty is intended to be set in, and reflect, the real world, but the inclusion of the Morgan murder was a jolting moment for sure. Makes me wonder if Mercurio intends to take a few more pot-shots at the Metropolitan Police over it in the next few weeks.
Oh, and there’s the small matter of the Sands View care home scandal from series three being linked to Jimmy Saville. In series three, Saville was shown on screen socialising with fictional Chief Superintendent Patrick Fairbank and Councillor Dale Roach. This time around, he was actually named on screen.
Steve’s split loyalties
Poor Steve, getting that promotion to Detective Inspector he’s always wanted, just as his nice ex-girlfriend looks set to swing him a transfer to the Serious Crime unit. Hastings praised his loyalty. Poor Steve looked totally torn afterwards.
Although the hints at a romance between himself and Steph Corbett were nice. If anyone in AC-12 deserves a happily ever after at this point, it’s Steve.
DCI Davidson: Riddle wrapped in an enigma
Hastings looked as surprised as the audience felt when Davidson agreed with him that there could be a leak in her team. First time that’s ever happened…
In her interview Davidson came across as genuinely wanting to be helpful at times, and her refusal to name Buckells as the senior officer who’d screwed up the surveillance operation in episode one looked like misplaced loyalty. Right until she dropped her ex straight in the shit. It’s clearly no coincidence that a cache of burner phones was found at Farida’s, where Davidson had been spending a lot of time prior to their breakup.
Getting picked up by Ryan Pilkington, a member of the OCG who has infiltrated Central Police, just made her look worse. And then she picked up a burner phone of her own…
But, but, but, we know she lied to Farida about having no family. She threw a wine glass at a picture of her mum in episode one. There’s something dodgy about her, but like DI Denton in series two and DCI Huntley in series four, I’m pretty sure it won’t be as straightforward as ‘she’s corrupt.’
Ted back on form
Super Ted looked almost tired in episode one. But I almost got chills when he growled ‘I am interested in one thing and one thing only, and that is bent coppers,’ at the Deputy Chief Constable. You tell her, Ted! Incidentally, I like the wilful blindness on display from both the Deputy Chief Constable and the Police and Crime Commissioner. The unwillingness of senior officers to acknowledge how widespread corruption actually is has been one of the major problems with British policing for over fifty years now.
Also when Davidson tried to defend her decision to divert her arrest operation to intervene in an armed robbery that she saw out of the corner of her eye as a ‘Copper’s instinct. You get those sometimes.’ Ted’s reply ‘I may be getting one now,’ was right on point.
What I didn’t like:
Oh Kate. Why?
Why though, Kate? Why?
After episode one, the internet came alive with predictions that Kate was still undercover, just not for AC-12. The more time passes though, the more I think she’s just gone native. Partly because ‘Kate’s undercover,’ is maybe a bit obvious, but also because it’s very much Kate’s turn to be on the other end of a lengthy interview. In series three, the audience knew that Steve was innocent. In series five, we never really believed that Hastings was guilty. The set up this series seems to be for Kate to be under suspicion, with the audience not sure what, if anything, she’s done. In episode one, she was prepared to cover for Buckells’ failure on the surveillance operation, which was concerning enough. In episode two, she outright betrayed Steve to Davidson, allowing her to delay AC-12’s investigation into her. And it was a little heart-breaking to see Steve so obviously hurt by Kate’s actions.
No more bro-hugs and calling each other ‘mate?’ Say it ain’t so?
This is all very good from a character perspective and it’s the kind of twist I’d’ve written. I’m just sad about what looks very much like a broken friendship.
Davidson’s crying fit
Kelly McDonald has been brilliant so far as Davidson, but the crying fit at the end where she was beating up her windscreen stretched my credibility a little. It was just a bit over-acted in a generally understated show.
What I liked:
AC-12 are at a low ebb
Feeling a bit like a nod to the general feeling amongst fans that series five had not been as good as series two to four, series six opens with AC-12’s responsibilities greatly reduced, Superintendent Ted Hastings frozen out of important meetings, and Steve bored of investigating low-level misconduct. Kate has left altogether. The events of series 5 have left their mark on all our heroes.
One of series five’s big weaknesses was the amount of guns-blazing, bullets flying action it had. The first episode of series six has reduced this massively, with only the one shot fired by the end of the episode. There’s much more of a focus on the dodgy goings-on in Operation Lighthouse, with questions about both DCI Davidson and DSI Buckells set up. Buckells has always struck me as too thick to be corrupt, but Davidson so far seems to be living up to her billing as ‘AC-12’s most enigmatic opponent.’
Real-life crime parallels
Jed Mercurio has never been shy about the fact that Line of Duty takes inspiration from real life crimes, although he’s never been quite so open about it as he is in series six. Series three could have taken any number of care home abuse scandals as its inspiration, series four took the conviction of Stefan Kiszko as its starting point but dealt with it very differently, series five again could have used any one of dozens of armed robberies (but the Eastfield Depot raid owed more than just a little to the Brinks-Mat robbery). Series six, on the other hand, looks to be a not-very fictionalised retelling of the murder of Jill Dando. The main suspect has learning difficulties, gunshot residue forms a huge part of the case against him, the murder bears all the hallmarks of a professional hit… so far, the major difference is that Davidson, as Senior Investigating Officer, appears to have realised that Terry Boyle lacks the capacity to have carried out the murder of Gail Vella. In the case of Jill Dando, Barry George was convicted of her murder despite, in the words of his lawyer, barely being able to make a sandwich.
What I didn’t like:
Gay characters being set up for tragedy
It’s nice to see gay characters in Line of Duty, which has been painfully straight up until now, but God almighty, can we please see gay characters not be given doomed romances for once? Davidson and her ex-partner Farida’s relationship looks like it’s going to fit right into the ‘Tragic Gay Romance,’ trope. It’s long past time writers gave gay characters better arcs than this.
Everyone’s still alive at the end of episode one
No one died at the end of this episode. Seriously, Mercurio, what gives?
Who (besides Cressida Dick) is the inspiration behind the character of Chief Constable Osborne? Much like the parallels with the Dando, Morgan, and Lawrence murders, his character feels like it draws inspiration from someone in the real world. Someone who promises 500 extra nurses, sorry, police officers, half of whom turn out to already be serving? A bare-faced liar occupying our highest office? Stripping the organisations which could investigate him of their power, and filling positions of authority with his cronies? Which current Prime Minister called Boris Johnson could be the basis for such a man? It’s a mystery, that’s for sure…
Does Davidson know who the Fourth Man is?
In the end she never did know who she was working for. Hilariously, she actually tried to frame Buckells for being the Fourth Man, not realising that he, in fact, was.
What is under the floor of that gun workshop. Or whom?
Well I got this one wrong.
The gun that killed Gail Vella, along with the knives that killed John Corbett, Maneet Bhindra, and Jackie Laverty. It was Buckells’ blackmail bank.
What happened in the Lawrence Christopher case? Who sabotaged the murder inquiry?
Thurwell, the original Dot Cottan, who lured Buckells into corruption at the same time. What we don’t know is what role then-Inspector Philip Osborne played in that. Thurwell and Buckells were protecting Tommy Hunter’s son, and Buckells had his criminal associates kill Gail Vella to stop his role in what happened from coming out.
What does Buckells know that means the OCG has to threaten him so openly?
Everything, apparently. Hilton ran the corrupt network with Dot as his bagman for years, using Buckells to clear up messes like the disappearance of Jackie Laverty with a special brand of apparent incompetence. With their deaths, Buckells once again failed upwards, taking Hilton’s place at top of the tree.
WHO SHOT WHO?
WELL DONE KATE.
Who is Jo Davidson’s blood relative? It very much had to be, didn’t it? From the moment Steve referred to her blood relative as a ‘nominal,’ meaning that he had a criminal record, it could only be Tommy Hunter. But that was curiously unexplored in episode five. There’s more to come. EDIT AFTER EPISODE SIX. There was, indeed, more to come.
What sort of hold does the OCG have on Davidson?
Oof. And then oof again.
Tommy Hunter was known to be a paedophile as well as a major gangster, so it wasn’t surprising that he’d raped his sister. A lot of sex offenders start in their own families. But it was still a shocking moment, and left me feeling desperately sorry for Davidson.
What is Davidson’s plan? Is she working for or against the OCG?
In the end she was trying to work for them as little as possible. Although she was prepared to see her ex-girlfriend go to prison and kill Kate in order to stay free (and frame Buckells, but honestly I’m ok with that), so that’s got to temper my sympathy for her somewhat.
When will we see James Nesbitt?
What was Gail Vella working on? The murder of Lawrence Christopher. But, remaining a mystery, who exactly helped Tommy Hunter sabotage the inquiry?
Who was Gail Vella talking to in the audio recording? The partial recording included the line ‘There are some people you just can’t challenge.’ At the end of series four, Jimmy Lakewell had said ‘There are some people there’s no immunity from.’ So it was there for those of you who picked up on that to guess. I didn’t, personally.
Davidson knows who the Fourth Man is. She also knows who or what is under the floor of that gun workshop. Given that everyone’s favourite prison officers were sent to intimidate her, it looks pretty certain that she knows who she’s working for. And they know she said more than she should have… even if she didn’t say anything helpful. She tried to head to the gun workshop herself. I’m sure her plan was to ensure that the floor remained un-dug-up.
Buckells isn’t the Fourth Man, he’s just an idiot of the kind who rises in any large organisation, being too dim to make any enemies that could block his progress. I still stand by this… although he was involved in the failure of the Lawrence Christopher case, and his promotion (despite his obvious lack of ability) has always been due to the influence of other bent coppers. He’s someone they know they have a hold over.
WRONG. WRONG, WRONG, WRONG.
AC-12 will not learn who the Fourth Man is in this series, but the audience might. Just as we knew that Dot was the Caddy for two series before Kate figured it out, I expect that the identity of the Fourth Man might be revealed to the audience, but not to AC-12.
Patricia Carmichael is the Fourth Man. Or woman. They’re setting it up to be Chief Constable Philip Osborne a little bit too much at this stage. Osborne is a known liar, but he and Deputy Chief Constable Wise are all about the reputation of the service. The whole ‘scaling back Anti-Corruption,’ thing is about wanting to see and hear no evil, so they can speak no evil. Carmichael, on the other hand, is quietly acting very suspiciously, pulling surveillance on Ryan and Davidson, letting Buckells out of prison, shutting down Ted’s questions about institutional corruption, planting trackers on everyone’s cars, and generally doing everything she can to get in the way. Maybe she’s just political… but bear in mind, she somehow didn’t spot that John Corbett could not possibly have ended up on an operation targeting Ted Hastings by accident. And who better to spread a lie that Hastings had outed Corbett as an undercover cop using Lee Banks? Everyone thinks that H, the Fourth Man, is someone we know. Ted’s nemesis is the obvious not-obvious choice.
Series six is about the audience learning who the Fourth Man is. Series seven will be about whatever AC-12 becomes finding out. The events of this series will lead to Hastings being (grudgingly) transferred to be Carmichael’s deputy at the new Super AC-12. Kate will remain with the murder squad, and Steve will move across to the Serious Crime unit, positioning both of them to investigate OCG activity and help Hastings in differing ways in series seven. Still-not-dead or obviously corrupt Chloe will be promoted to Sergeant, becoming the New Steve. And, gradually, the truth about Carmichael will come to light…
Carly Kirk is buried under the floor of the gun workshop. She was the underage girl Tommy Hunter was using to blackmail Deputy Chief Constable Dryden in series 2, the girl whom Lindsay Denton accepted a bribe to try and save. Steve and Kate had thought she was buried under a garage back then, only for the body to turn out not to be hers. Hunter presumably murdered another of his underage sex slaves, intending to bluff Dryden into thinking he could frame him for murder. Carly, a childhood friend of fucking Ryan, was last seen heading for Ireland. She knew Tommy Hunter personally. Could she also have known the Fourth Man, or woman? Spain wasn’t far enough for Thurwell. His – or her – reach could definitely extend to Ireland.
So that’s a grand total of 0 out of 6. In summary, AC-12’s jobs are safe from me…
Police acronyms glossary:
Since everyone complains about this so much, here’s a list of what those acronyms actually mean:
AC-12 – Anti-Corruption Unit 12 (this designation is fictional, real-life anti-corruption units are usually referred to as ‘Professional Standards,’ and often known colloquially as ‘The Complaints’).
AFO – Authorised Firearms Officer.
ARV – Armed Response Vehicle.
CHIS (pronounced ‘chiz’) – Covert Human Intelligence Source, an ‘informant,’ in old money.
CID – Criminal Investigation Department, the detective branch of British police forces.
CPS – Crown Prosecution Service, which prosecutes alleged offences.
DCC – Deputy Chief Constable, second-highest ranking office and Chief Disciplinary Officer.
DIR – Digital Interview Recorder.
MIT – Murder Investigation Team.
Nominal – not an acronym, but used about OCG members. A nominal is anyone with a criminal record.
OCG – Organised Crime Group.
PIM – Post-Incident Manager.
PS – Police Sergeant.
SFC – Strategic Firearms Commander, the head of a Force Firearms Unit.
TFC – Tactical Firearms Commander, in charge of a firearms team on the ground.
UCO – Undercover Officer.
For my thoughts of Line Duty series 1 to 5, please check out my review located here: https://attemptedmurder.uk/reviews/line-of-duty/. And if you want to see if I can actually write anything myself, instead of just criticise the noble efforts of others, have a look at my own short stories here: https://attemptedmurder.uk/shortstories/. Now come shameless plugs…
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