Line of Duty: 5.06
Boasting the BBC’s highest viewing figures this year, the series finale of Line of Duty was always going to be a high stakes operation. The anticipation was high as the unmasking of H felt inevitable, though savvier viewers/conspiracy theorists will have noted that a sixth season has already been confirmed and as such, it began to look less and less likely that H's identity would be confirmed in the hour and a half finale. Several confessions and one long interrogation later, did episode six live up to expectations?
Generally speaking, Line of Duty usually does it’s heavy lifting in the season finale. It’s where all the carefully planted evidence comes to light, the last minute reveal of corruption and tense interview scenes take place. In terms of jam-packed action, season five peaked around episode four and then shuffled slowly towards the finish line, culminating in an hour and half of Ted pleading innocence, while Kate and Steve frantically try to exonerate him.
To recap: it was sexy Gill all along! Well, yes and no - as always, these things are never black and white. It turns out Gill recruited Corbett for the undercover operation into the OCG, pumped him full of (true) information about Ted being involved in the Northern Ireland police unit that his mother was an informant for and (false) information about Ted being a corrupt officer. The team has believed from the start that they are looking for H, from Dot’s dying declaration, but as it turns out, Dot was trying to communicate (via Morse Code) that there are four corrupt senior officers. Gill is one of them and has been framing Ted all along, then defending Ted as his defence counsel, presumably to bump Ted out of AC-12 and prevent him from revealing the institutional links to organised crime. All is explained, and then some, in an almost hour long interview scene, interrupted by an attempted escape, an attempted stabbing and some wonderful synchronised sitting by Kate and Steve.
That’s not to say there isn’t a great deal of skill involved in putting together what was essentially an hours worth of dialogue between Ted and Carmichael. Though it may have got tedious (particularly the part where Ted’s supposed phone number was read out about six times), this is not a reflection on Maxwell-Martin and Dunbar’s acting abilities. The two are mesmerising to watch, and went a long way to making those overly long sequences actually engaging. However, the spotlight was on Polly Walker here - watching Carmichael and Gill spar over authorisation forms was the highlight of the episode (apart from Kate telling DI Brandys to “piss off”, of course).
Still, the closest we got to any gripping action was PC Tina attacking Gill in the ladies, a predictable move after that shot of Tina ominously staring down on Kate and Steve from the balcony. Line of Duty is renowned and revered for these long interrogation scenes - they are the moment where the curtain is lifted, the bent copper unmasked - but this season just didn’t bring the same energy here as it has does previously. Perhaps it’s because we don’t really believe Ted is capable of corruption, or perhaps it’s because the whole thing felt like a summary of what we’ve seen happening over the past five episodes. Either way, episode six was a lot of talking, rather than showing.
As predicted, there's still a fair amount of loose ends. Ted’s explanation of why he got rid of his laptop is quite shady - has he not heard of simply clearing his browser history? Maybe it’s the Catholic guilt but having his laptop decimated because he watched porn seems like a complete overreaction. Similarly, is it believable that Ted had meticulously studied every single message between the OCG and H and that he was able to mimic the spelling error of ‘definately’? In the words of Kate, coincidence my arse. Plus, little Ryan has successfully got into police force, so there’s still some corruption to be sought out there.
Line of Duty works at its absolute best when the audience are on the journey with Steve, Kate and Ted. Yes, Steve may or may not have sexual relations with Lindsay Denton and Ted has had financial difficulties throughout the entire run of the show, but the audience need to believe that all three of the AC-12 superstars are fighting for the right cause, otherwise the narrative never moves on. Due to the complicated nature of Ted’s Northern Ireland backstory, the link with Corbett and the true identity of the person pulling the strings, there was very little time left over for our main players to really come through with the goods. Kate may have got the killer lines this episode, but her role this season has basically been relegated to shouty DI/bad mother and Steve’s defining personality trait has been his bad back.
Equally, I am disappointed that Lisa McQueen had only a few minutes of screen-time in the last few episodes. It might have been naive to assume that Line of Duty wasn’t doing the old bait and switch with her character - it turns out she was just an OCG member, albeit one looking to get out. Once captured, it seemed like the writers completely forgot she existed, only to write her a hopeful epilogue at the end which, quite frankly, felt like a cop out.
Season five started out promising, peaked midway and came down to the earth with a bang at the end. Pitting Ted and Corbett against each other was a great move to begin with, raising the question of whether one can ever really take the system down from the inside. Yet, the more Ted was framed as a villain, the less interesting the season became. It’s clear that season six will move, once again, towards finding the identity of H - but who’s to say that Dot’s dying declaration won’t be studied again, only to find his nose twitch indicates another line of enquiry? It’s a disappointing end to a season with such remarkable characters (Stephen Graham’s John Corbett is one of the finest characters to grace our TV sets in a long time).
Despite everything, I truly believe the show can still redeem itself, and of course I will be watching season six. Any takers for H number 4, anyone?