Review: Line Of Duty (S4 E6/6), Sunday 30th April, BBC1

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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.   

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As an aside, we saw this on Twitter and it made us laugh. Poor old Jodie…

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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)  

For all our Line Of Duty news and reviews, go here

 

 

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12 thoughts on “Review: Line Of Duty (S4 E6/6), Sunday 30th April, BBC1

  1. John Matthews

    You’re right about it not being the best season – It had plenty of reversals but you didn’t get the sense of conflict and ambiguity within the characters that made the first three so good.

    I’m not entirely sure why the criminals would want to frame farmer (and thus why Lakewell would serve him up) as it would surely be in their interest for cases to remain open. If Hilton knew he had that held over him I can see why he would want a closure but the mechanic of that and Lakewell’s involvement seem a bit confused.

    The ‘Is Ted H?’ business with himself and Kate (and the final shot) looks like bait for Season 5. That the Caddy knew the copper’s name but never gave any clue (even in the depths of interrogation) or that Hilton seemed oblivious (the accusation seemed unconvincing) I tend to think otherwise.

    I hope not. Season 4 lacked the power of the previous runs as there was too much plot and too little character – the brilliance of the first three was how deeply they were entwined. Let’s hope we get back to that.

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  2. Interestlungly I really enjoyed the last episode. Although it was far fetched and contrived, it covered (almost) all bases and packed so much in I could only just keep up. When Ted shot BM I was gob smacked – go Ted! But what of Maneet? One of few lines that wasn’t tied up…..surely she will resurface then, but what’s was her motivation??

    Overall I felt Steve and Kate were underused and too one dimensional in this series, I hope for more for them next time. As for Ted, I’d like to think he wasn’t H…..that would be a twist too far for me :)

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    • Paul Hirons

      I agree Sara – for all its inconsistencies, I really enjoyed the finale. Daft, thrilling stuff. As for Maneet… did she go off on maternity leave?

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    • Annie

      I’m guessing Hilton just wanted another person from inside AC-12. Maneet might have been an easy, vulnerable target by being pregnant – if she was given money to help with the baby, or had it threatened in some way. Once it was time for her to leave, she was talked into setting up Jamie. He would be cross at AC-12 for blaming him for things he didn’t do, and Hilton could then use this to get him on side – possibly with the backup of using the evidence he’d got against Jamie to say, ‘I’ve created the evidence to show you’re up to no good, so now you’ll do as I want’.

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  3. Next series the final one? NEVER SAY THAT! There’s enough police corruption for several more series I’m sure.

    I thought the finale was just right and I’m glad Roz confessed. Steve’s brilliant idea to search the specific CC TV was inspired. I thought Lakewood was balaclava man and in so many respects the mystery would have been better had that been the case. Hilton was dirty but I could have stood a season of AC12 going after him.

    I thought Lee Ingleby was exceptional as well. Quite the change from George Gently.

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  4. Mike Sargent

    Why did Hilton get Maneet to trick Desford out of his password so she could access the film of Dot’s death? Desford was Hilton’s man, so isn’t that a plot hole? Why didn’t he just ask Desford?

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    • Hmm, I thought Desford only became Hilton’s man after he had been accused of accessing the file of Dot’s dying declaration. He said he was going to ask for a transfer, so presumably he trotted off to Hilton to moan about being set up. Hilton would, of course, have known – having asked Maneet to obtain the info in the first place.

      That’s my theory anyway!

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  5. Mike Sargent

    I suppose that’s possible. I’d assumed Hilton had assigned him to AC12 to keep tabs on how close they were getting to the truth….

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  6. I claim my prize for pointing out from the off that Hilton was probably the highest-placed police member of the conspiracy . I even tried to ‘out’ Paul Higgins on Twitter during the last series (OK, I didn’t expect him to reply – I just wanted it on record that I was on to him – haha!). I knew it from the finale of series one when he and Dot packed Tommy Hunter into the paddy wagon. He was weak and a pretty poor cop.

    I don’t think that PC Desford was Hilton’s man initially. He was sore at being fired by Hastings so would have been easy to turn – being very inexperienced and probably starstruck by being hand-picked by Hilton to take in Lakewell.

    I never really thought it mattered who balaclava man was – as soon as we realised in the previous episode it couldn’t have been Lakewell. We never found out what the criminals had on Hilton (with Mike Dryden it was his penchant for underage girls and Carly in particular) but we can guess that he was too much of a wuss to commit suicide – it had to be murder (especially as we had seen that riverside spot as a murder location before).

    The tie-up was not as frenetic or Hollywood as last series Bourne-style action so, unlike others who have commented, I found it a bit more satisfying. Here’s to Jed Mercurio’s next series – maybe he’s busy writing the backstory of how Ted started off as a discredited priest on an isolated island with only 2 idiots for company…

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