In my review of the opening instalment of this series of Line of Duty I praised Jed Mercurio for diverting the audience’s expectations by not offing Roz Huntley (Thandie Newton) at the end of episode one. However, I hadn’t noticed that over the course of this series how the drama’s creator had been subtly diverting my expectations in the way he was moving the story.
I, like most long-time Line of Duty fans, had expected that Mercurio would essentially reboot the story so as not to alienate the new viewers who would be joining the show as it moved to BBC One. This wasn’t a crazy thought to have especially AC-12’s villainous Dot (Craig Parkinson) had been revealed to be the mysterious caddy at the end of the series three. However, in retrospect, Dot was only a minor cog in a bigger wheel of police corruption that still hadn’t been uncovered when series four kicked off. Even when Hilton (Paul Higgins) and Buckells (Nigel Boyle) both returned having not been seen since series one I just thought it was a coincidence. But, after tonight’s penultimate episode, it’s clear that a lot of what’s happening in this most recent series can be linked all the way back to an event in series one.
As Steve (Martin Compston) returned to duty at AC-12 he learned that the case against Roz had been dropped after the events of the stunning interview scene in last week’s episode. Although AC-12 had been given the order to desist their investigation against Roz, Steve pointed out that they still had the option of looking into the murder of Tim Ifield (Jason Watkins) and the movements of Roz’s husband Nick (Lee Ingleby). At the same time more remains from Leonie Collersdale were discovered, wrapped in newspapers that were dated after the time Michael Farmer (Scott Reid) had been charged by Operation Trapdoor. After learning that Leonie’s remains had been kept in cold storage, Steve was able to make a link between the team’s current case and the murder of Jackie Laverty back in series one. Furthermore, as Steve reminds us, the men who murdered Jackie were also carrying baseball bats and wearing balaclavas which appears to link the crimes committed in this series back to series one.
This brings us back to Hilton, who was station chief at the time of Jackie’s disappearance and who in fact recommended Dot take the investigators exam at the end of series one. At the beginning of this episode Hilton demands that Ted (Adrian Dunbar) hand over Dot’s confession claiming that AC-12 have had a year to investigate his allegations. When he fails to come up with the goods, Hilton once again uses Maneet (Maya Sondhi) to come up with the goods for him. It does appear as if my theory was unfounded and that Maneet is in fact working with Hilton although her recovery of Dot’s video confession is seemingly her last underhanded act. She also frames poor Jamie (Royce Pierreson) for the crime who generally has had a bit of a rough time of things since starting at AC-12 a couple of weeks ago. After Ted accuses him of the crime, based on evidence gathered by Kate (Vicky McClure), Jamie requests to leave the department and after being given the cold shoulder by the majority of his colleagues I can’t say that I blame him. However, at least Jamie was able to leave AC-12 before being shot or thrown out of a hospital window by a dodgy copper dressed as a nurse.
Hilton’s eagerness to watch the footage of Dot’s confession is revealed when the ACC reveals to Ted that he has seen the tape at the end of the episode. The tape sees Dot reveal that the head of the organisation he’s been working for has a surname that begins with the letter H. This confession allows Hilton to the point finger of blame squarely at Hastings; accusing him of keeping his hands on the tape as he’s the one that’s corrupt. But I think as an audience we can all agree that Hilton is more than likely the head of the organisation of corrupt coppers which explains his animosity towards AC-12. With Hilton having the upper hand for now it appears if AC-12 are on the backfoot but then, as we learnt last year, a lot can happen in a Line of Duty series finale.
One big question I do have after watching episode five is what is Roz’s part in this whole cover-up? If we are to assume that Hilton is the corrupt mastermind that he appears to be then why is Huntley running around trying to frame Michael Farmer for the Operation Trapdoor murders? I’ve been re-analysing some of Hilton’s words about backing Roz and having every confidence in her getting the job done. Initially I assumed he was talking about going to bat for Roz to his superiors in the police force but I now wonder if he was referring to other people in the corrupt network of officers for which Hilton presumably works.
Whatever Roz’s role is in the cover-up she appears to be losing control as she is hit with several curveballs during this episode. The discovery of Leonie’s remains coupled with the news that Michael Farmer isn’t changing his plea to guilty starts to get Roz shaken. Meanwhile, Nick has completely lost faith in his wife and now feels he should testify against, enlisting Jimmy Lakewell (Patrick Baladi) to represent him in an independent police interview. If she hadn’t lost control enough already, Roz later loses her hand and lays all of the blame squarely at her husband’s door. The episode ends with Nick being tried for Tim’s murder and it may well be that Roz will try to charge her husband with all of balaclava man’s crimes. However, it does seem that some of her team her have already lost faith in her abilities with Neil (Mark Stobbatt) turning to AC-12 and letting them know about the forensic evidence shown on Leonie’s body.
In an episode that left us with so many questions it’s still the quieter moments where Line of Duty thrives for me. In this instalment this was best represented by the relationship between Steve and Kate, whose partnership seems to have been reinvigorated now the latter’s undercover identity has been revealed. Martin Compston was particularly brilliant in this episode as he portrayed Steve’s inability to cope with his new condition expertly. Steve’s refusal for Kate to initially follow him up to his flat made the scene where she finally did so all the more compelling. The scene where he admits that he may not fully recover from his injuries it’s absolutely heartbreaking and is brilliantly played by both McClure and Compston.
Looking forward to next week’s final episode there’s so much for Mercurio to resolve in just one hour I’m not sure how he’s going to fit it all in. At this stage the only thing I am sure about is that Nick Huntley isn’t guilty of anything apart from being a dutiful husband who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I may even be wrong about Hilton’s guilt and that the officer with the surname beginning with an ‘H’ may be Huntley or someone we met back in series two and completely forgot about. Whatever the case I’m sure next week’s finale will be a thrilling ride and I’ll be on the edge of my seat as all of this series’ secrets are eventually revealed.