Line of Duty, series six – the weekly blog

Complete with predictions, mysteries that need resolving, and a glossary of all the acronyms that everyone loves to hate… I aim to have this updated by early afternoon on the Monday after an episode, so if you’re here early, don’t worry, just check back later!

Episode Four:

What I liked:

Buckells’ comeuppance

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.

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.

The firefight

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 DieHard-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…

Ok. Fine.

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 extend 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:

Steve’s headshot

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.

Episode Three:

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.

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.

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?

Hastings bingo

‘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.

Episode Two:

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.

Episode One

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.

Less action

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?

Mysteries:

Who is Jo Davidson’s blood relative?

What sort of hold does the OCG have on Davidson?

What is Davidson’s plan? Is she working for or against the OCG?

What exactly was Gail Vella working on?

What does Buckells know that means the OCG has to threaten him so openly?

Who (besides Cressida Dick) is the inspiration behind the character of Chief Constable Osborne? Much like the parallels with the Dando and Morgan 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? Who could be the basis for such a man? And why does the Daily Torygraph keep giving series six such downright hostile reviews? It’s a mystery, that’s for sure…

Mysteries solved:

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.

Predictions:

The OCG has a hold on Davidson, but she’s trying as much as she feels she can to work against them.It’s clearly through whoever she’s a blood relative of. She’s no hero though, being prepared to sacrifice both Farida and Buckells to stay free. Although she doesn’t want to send Terry Boyle down, she’s prepared to do that too to keep herself free.

Davidson is Tommy Hunter’s sister. Hunter was the OG OCG, the Big Bad of series one who blackmailed and manipulated Tony Gates, only for Gates to turn the tables on him with a recorded confession to murder. He managed to squirrel his way into Witness Protection, but was killed in series two by corrupt police officers concerned that he’d attempted to blackmail the Deputy Chief Constable, worried what else he might try. There were some hints from Jed Mercurio in a pre-series interview that he’d chosen a Scottish actor for a reason…

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’s clearly made some corrupt relationships along the way.

Steve’s drugs test is going to lead to his duties being restricted. Steve obviously isn’t ok, and AC-9’s drug test will show that. He’ll be medically advised to restrict himself to office duty whilst he’s put on physio courses. Occupational Health will not be put off by deleted emails forever. He will, however, ignore this…

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.

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) promoted to lead 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.

I reserve the right to update these as the show progresses…

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.

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…

If you like this blog, please follow my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/StephenHenryWriter/ and my Twitter at https://twitter.com/StephenHenry90. And, if you want to get some behind-the-scenes looks at my creative process, and further elaborations on points I make in my blogs and reviews, https://www.patreon.com/stephenhenry is the place to look. Or, if you feel I deserve a coffee (I actually detest it and prefer tea) then go to https://ko-fi.com/stephenhenry. Or don’t. No pressure.

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