Whatever you think of this fourth series of Line Of Duty – and we definitely don’t think it has been the best of the bunch – there’s something so addictive and so intoxicating about this show, you just can’t help going along for the ride. And what a ride. People are now playing Line Of Duty bingo on the internet, people now speak like Ted Hastings on social media… Line Of Duty has really entered into the nation’s consciousness. Even though this site has expressed reservations about a few of the narrative elements and characters (read that here), tonight’s finale proved to be a superb ending to an enjoyable if frustrating series. It had a lot of work to do and a lot of questions to answer. There were at least four biggies: who is the Balaclava Man, and is he the serial killer? Who killed Ifield? Is Farmer guilty, or is Huntley framing him? And is any of this tied in with the network of police corruption discovered in previous series?
NB: For the love of God, spoilers inside, fella
A familiar face from past series, Hargreaves (Tony Pitts) from Murder Squad, turned up to take over the investigation – note that Hargreaves is another ‘H’, and therefore under suspicion after ‘Dot’ Cottan’s confession, as are Hastings, Huntley and Hilton.
Also on the scene was Steve’s ex, DS Sam Railston (Aiysha Hart), leading to a frosty face-off between her and Kate. Desford, meanwhile, had defected to ACC Hilton’s team, causing further tension. Silly boy.
Viewing the interrogation footage of Nick Huntley claiming that he sat outside Ifield’s flat in his car, Kate managed to drop a reference to Rob Brydon’s sitcom Marion and Geoff – you wouldn’t have thought that she would enjoy comedy; documentaries about wildebeest being brought down by lions would be perhaps more thing.
Hilton tried to persuade Huntley to resign, if only to avoid questions about Farmer’s guilt – but let’s face it, the smarmy ACC was probably thinking only of himself. In any case, without going the full Robocop on her, wouldn’t Huntley be forced to retire on medical grounds anyway? It’s hard to feel someone’s collar when you only have one hand.
While AC-12 searched through the night for number plate and DNA evidence to pin down which of the Huntleys killed Ifield, no-one seemed terribly interested in Balaclava Man. Sad little Jodie was feeding evidence to Roz, who seemed genuinely surprised that Jimmy Lakewell was Michael Farmer’s original lawyer – something we assumed she knew.
As an aside, we saw this on Twitter and it made us laugh. Poor old Jodie…
After finally finding some CCTV evidence, things began to click into place for AC-12. Roz Huntley was seen driving to The Chase, a large area of parkland. Clothing evidence implicating Nick may have been planted by Roz, but a bag she appeared to have dumped implicates her and this is where they were going to find it, even though it had a 20-mile radius and the clock was ticking. Hastings caught hell for interfering in a case he was supposed to have handed off, a big bag of bloodstained clothes and power tools was indeed found (“Look sir, this area of ground seems to have been freshly dug etc etc”). And if this felt far-fetched – Roz Huntley dumping clothes, murder weapons and, as it turned out, the severed fingers of Tim Ifield in a large patch of parkland only to be found by AC-12 in a matter of minutes – it was. But, as ever with Line Of Duty, you suspend disbelief because of the pace, the timing and momentum is so great, so forceful and so intoxicating. Once you’re in, you’re in.
So this evidence was used to bang up Roz, but there was a twist in the tale. A big one. One of the bits of evidence Jodie fed Roz (poor, deluded Jodie) was a series of mobile phone records. As soon as she saw them she raised a Macbethian eyebrow, and we knew that they contained something important. It set our minds racing: what was she going to do with them? When Roz was arrested and brought into AC-12, she arranged for Lakewell to meet her there, and asked him to defend her. This was when the tables began to turn and our twist antennae pricked up: was she about to do someting spectauclar here? In a trademark Line of Duty interview scene, Steve, Kate and Ted – who had been beginning to panic as the case seemed to slip away from him – methodically and calmly went through what they had found in the parkland: clothing and weaponry with Ifield’s blood and DNA on it, as well as Roz Huntley’s. They also had the test results back from Tim Ifield’s nose (yes, nose): MRSA was found; the same MRSA virus that infected Roz’s arm. See, typing this stuff makes it all sounds even more ridiculous. Watching it? Thrilling, helter-skelter procedural.
There were some great lines in this interview scene, not least when Roz, telling the story of the night she murdered Tim Ifield, said. “He couldn’t find a pulse.” Because of the coldness of her character, neither could we half the time.
But Roz wasn’t finished there, oh no. She had a little surprise for Lakewell, and she did indeed spectacularly expose him as part of the conspiracy in a stunning turn-around – not as Balaclava Man, but as someone who had been telephoning someone else to set loose Balaclava Man. That someone else was ACC Hilton.
The Balaclava Men, Lakewell explained, were suborning the powerful by killing young women and planting DNA evidence on their frozen bodies; the conspiracy went back to the notorious Tommy Hunter of previous series. That conspiracy is still at hand.
Hilton was found dead, an apparent suicide; Nick Huntley and Michael Farmer were freed, Farmer to go back and live with his nana; Roz was jailed for manslaughter, and Lakewell jailed for conspiracy.
But even if Hilton was the mysterious ‘H’, the conspiracy must go a lot deeper, and as Hastings says, unravelling it feels like a life’s work.
The question remaining in our minds is why the Balaclava Men chose this particular time to come out of the shadows and find a patsy, in the form of Farmer? If their scheme was operating so effectively, why draw attention to it in such a spectacular manner?
In the end the identity of this particular Balaclava Man wasn’t the the big whodunit it had been built up to be – he was a nameless, faceless character working for the corrupt network of shadowy figures who have underpinned all four series. Balaclava Man was a just another thug who carried out the dirty work for his superiors. There will be another Balaclava Man. And another, and another. He was integral to the plot, but in many ways Balaclava Man was a good, old-fashioned McGuffin. Yes, he was indeed the man who had carried out murders, and yes he had planted the evidence on Michael Farmer, but in the end he was a fairly small piece in a much bigger picture.
What this finale was really about was the (attempted) redemption of Roz Huntley; the stunning final interview scene, her admission of guilt; finally a crack in her armour. But did Huntley really achieve redemption in our eyes? Perhaps. But perhaps it was too little too late. Her motivations for doggedly sticking to her Michael Farmer theory suited her ambition and her eagerness to acquiesce to pressure from Hilton to solve the case furthered this inexplicable thirst. Her ambition and the Jupiter-sized chip on her shoulder worked against her. As she said: “I thought I was playing them, but they were playing me.”
But after this final episode, did we feel any sympathy for Roz Huntley? Her self-justication didn’t cut much ice with Steve, but compared to some of the other characters she did show some integrity. Unlike Lindsey Denton, who after her spell in jail wanted to go back into the force, Roz surely can’t have any future as a copper – and perhaps not even as a wife and mother. Frankly, we’d panic every time we saw her carving a joint.
Comparing the two, our sympathy is with Lindsay – she may have been less able to relate to other people, but she was not so absorbed with self-interest. Had Roz stopped short rather than crossing the line into criminality, as Steve points out, she’d have two hands and he’d be able to walk. The difference is that next series he’ll probably be dancing about, while she’ll still be single-handed.
So as finales go, it was pretty darn good: it was gripping, thrilling, fast-paced, ridiculous, brilliant, brave and ambitious. And it also tied everything up in bold, interesting ways. That’s all you can ask for from a series finale. That, and sowing some seeds for the next series. In fact, you could say that this final episode ended on a cliffhanger.
If the next series is the final one, presumably the conspiracy will have to be chased to its source; and if that doesn’t turn out to be Ted’s bête noire, the Masons, who will it be? As the credits rolled, Ted Hastings appeared to fade out behind closing bars. Could Ted – heroic sheriff, our paternal fella of fellas – be ‘H’ after all? Come on now, this is Line Of Duty. Who knows where this is going to next.
Chris Jenkins (with additional material from Paul Hirons)
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