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Sunday, 28 April 2019

REVIEW: Line of Duty Series Five - Episode Five



Following on from last week’s assault on Roisin Hastings (Andrea Irvine) and contact being established between the Balaclava Gang and AC-12 posing as H, tension mounts for both the Organised Crime Group and for AC-12.

After the murder of Detective Sergeant John Corbett (Stephen Graham), as a result of his cover being blown by the OCG, they dump his body along with the frozen remains of Jackie Laverty (Gina McKee). Meanwhile DS Steve Arnott (Martin Compston) and DI Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) further investigate the background of Corbett and discover both of his parents were apparently killed by dissidents in Northern Ireland with Corbett’s mother having acted as a police informant during the 1980s, casting further suspicion on Superintendent Hastings (Adrian Dunbar) who was wounded in an explosion not long after Corbett’s mother was murdered.

With pressure mounting from the Deputy Chief Constable (Elizabeth Rider) and the Police and Crimes Commissioner (Ace Bhatti) for AC-12 to end their investigation into Operation Peartree, Hastings decides to again contact the OCG and arrange a meeting between them and himself, posing as H. As Fielding raises her concerns about the operation being potentially unsafe, Hastings agrees to a compromise – to keep the nightclub run by the OCG under surveillance.





Yet, in a perfect subversion of the traditional relationship between them and their boss, which Jed Mercurio does with such subtle brilliance, Hastings decides to go undercover regardless of how it may look to Arnott and Fleming. By reversing the roles of Hastings and the rest of his team, Mercurio allows us to see a different side of Hastings which plays in neatly to the thematic core of the Fifth Series – that Hastings may be corrupt. It also allows Mercurio to further explore Hastings character and put him into situations that test him emotionally.

After meeting with Liza McQueen (Rochenda Sandall), Hastings is taken to the location where the OCG is holding the stolen material from the Eastfield Depot raid. As AC-12 raid the location, Hastings and McQueen are taken into custody though Hastings seems unaware of the seriousness of the situation. Realising that they cannot continue to protect their boss, Arnott and Fleming see the Deputy Chief Constable who assigns Detective Chief Superintendent Carmichael (Anna Maxwell Martin) from AC-3 to the investigation to determine whether Hastings is not only corrupt but also the mysterious “H”.



Episode Five of Line of Duty further ramps up the ante and artfully builds the series towards its conclusion in next week’s episode. Jed Mercurio understands that to keep his audience engaged he has to raise the stakes and subvert the expectations of his viewers. By having Hastings place himself in a situation that forces him to act in an uncharacteristic fashion, Mercurio allows his audience to enjoy not only a furtherance of the episode’s plot but also a means of understanding Hastings – how because of his desperation he puts himself and his team at risk in order to root out corruption.

Indeed, by utilising character as well as he does Mercurio allows the audience to feel fully immersed in the world he has created – the combination of his clever writing and Adrian Dunbar’s outstanding performance means that we don’t feel as if there is a distinction between what we are seeing on our screens and the real world – much of what happens in this episode could also happen in reality. The work Mercurio has put in to ensure that the world of Line of Duty is not only detailed and nuanced but easily relatable to is a testament to him and to this episode – rather than Hastings’ going undercover and the repercussions from it feeling artificial, instead they feel like a natural progression of the story we have been seeing since the first series aired in 2012.

Sue Tully takes over from John Strickland to direct the final two episodes of the series. Tully brings an eye for detail to her direction and guarantees the investment of the viewer in each scene she directs. Tully is particularly fine at ensuring that intimate, dramatic scenes such as Carmichael’s interview of Hastings have emotional resonance and keep a strong focus on the central players. Her direction also comes to the forefront in the scenes with Hastings and McQueen and enables the script and the actors to get the most out of the comic potential from them.

Adrian Dunbar gives an excellent performance as Superintendent Hastings. Hastings has, throughout the series endured a great deal of pressure – his monetary difficulties, the separation and later violent assault on his wife and the problems arising from the investigation into John Corbett. Dunbar perfectly plays the scenes in which Hastings is undercover as H – it is entertaining to not only see Hastings act as if he were H, but to also see the reaction that he gets from McQueen and Miroslav Minkowicz (Tomi May) which makes the scenes even funnier. Dunbar also knows how to perfectly plays Hastings irritation and vulnerability during his interrogation by Carmichael. Hastings’ much more direct and dramatic style of interviewing is perfectly set against Carmichael’s quiet determination and skilled utilisation of dialogue. Hastings’ final scenes in the episode are also handled with extreme delicacy by Dunbar; he knows how to elicit the audience’s sympathy when he states “I’m not bent” as his interview with Carmichael ends. In many ways, this series has been Dunbar’s and he is never better than in this episode.



Martin Compston gives an exceptional performance as Steve Arnott. Compston brings forth Arnott sensitivity to his back problem perfectly in an intimate scene with DS Sam Railston (Aiysha Hart). Compston’s playing of the scene is sure to exude sympathy from the audience and he brings a realism to the sequence which makes both it and the episode feel all the more truthful. Compston’s performance when he and Fleming realize that they have to deal with Hastings betrayal of their trust is also excellent; his heartfelt regret at the death of Corbett and confliction over how to deal with Hastings is a credit to his skill as an actor.

Vicky McClure’s fantastic portrayal of Fleming is particularly noticeable in this episode. As Fleming is faced with a choice between regulations and her boss, McClure enunciates her character’s inner turmoil with great efficiency and to an engaging effect. The scene in which Fleming and her husband Mark (Max Dowler) argue over Fleming’s long working hours is also realistically done with McClure’s exasperation evident and a credible reaction to the situation she finds herself in.

Though McQueen is not featured in this episode as much as the previous episodes in the series, Rochenda Sandall still manages to give an excellent performance. McQueen’s confrontation with Hasting is brilliantly played by Sandall and her bemusement as the idea of Hastings being H and meeting her in person is both genuine and funny. The scene in which Arnott and Fleming interview her is also engaging and demonstrates how hardened her character has become and how she must adapt to the situation she finds herself in.

Anna Maxwell Martin puts in perhaps the best performance of the episode as Detective Chief Superintendent Carmichael. Maxwell Martin doesn’t appear in the episode until towards its end but when she does, she utterly commands the scene. Maxwell Martin invests Carmichael, with a calm, quiet authority that is as effective as Hastings much more thunderous style of interrogation. She trades barbed comments with Hastings effortlessly and endeavours to get to the root of his alleged corruption with a style and efficacy that sets her out as a formidable opponent. Maxwell Martin brings a silent authority to the part of Carmichael and like Geraldine Somerville as Penhaligon in Cracker, knows just how to ensure the interview goes the ways she wants it. Maxwell Martin’s performance can only be summed up in one word – phenomenal.

As Line of Duty Series Five draws to its conclusion, the series’ penultimate episode ramps up the tension and places one of its central characters in true jeopardy. Episode Five is a searing cocktail of excellent writing, imaginative directing and thoroughly brilliant performances to give viewers one of the most engaging hours of television this year.

Line of Duty concludes next Sunday on BBC One.

Contributed by Will Barber-Taylor 

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