REVIEW: Line Of Duty (S5 E5/6)

Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here tonight at this grim breaker’s yard to mark the passing of rat John Corbett (Stephen Graham). And – as we commit his bodybag to this pile of scrap metal – why aren’t we cremating it?

 It’s an unceremonious end for the undercover cop and AC-12’s one link to the OCG hierarchy. But, looking on the bright side, his killer, Ryan Pilkington (Gregory Piper) has done well in his A-levels and is looking forward to a university interview. 

Remember little Ryan? He was the bike-riding 13-year-old in series one who was an envoy between Tommy Hunter (Brian McCardie) and cop Tony Gates (Lennie James)? My, hasn’t he grown? No wonder we didn’t recognise him in the cold-eyed killer he’s become.

 His memory is a long one – he even knows the identity of the frozen cadaver in poor Tommy Jessop’s freezer.

 That’s something else that is coming back to haunt Superintendent Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar), who is living an existential nightmare perpetuated by a monstrous regiment of women.

 OK, so Hastings is an Irish Catholic and John Knox was a Scottish Protestant, but the point is still a good one – he’s angry and he’s feeling sidelined by the unfairer sex. Particularly the newly arrived steely-eyed Detective Chief Superintendent Patricia Carmichael (Anna Maxwell Martin). Basically, she’s Ted in a skirt.

 And to pile irony upon irony, he ends up sitting on the wrong side of the desk in one of Line of Duty’s trademark interrogations. Creator and writer Jed Mercurio might still be cracking on that Hastings could be ‘H’ and police boss as crime kingpin has often been done well on screen, from Casablanca to LA Confidential right through to A Touch of Cloth – but Mercurio usually innovates rather than follows.

 So, after the debacle that he (unwittingly?) set in train in the previous episode, culminating in the murder of Corbett by his gang, Hastings has been hauled over the coals and told that AC-12’s investigation into the OCG is rescinded by the frankly rather dense Deputy Chief Constable Wise (Elizabeth Rider). All right, so most men could be led up the garden path by the enthralling police counsel Gill Biggeloe (Polly Walker), but you’d think another woman would see through the seductive harpie.

 Is Wise the puppet of Biggeloe and civilian Police & Crime Commissioner Sindwhani (Ace Bhatti)? Her decision gains the approbation of both. Well, Sindwhani is new to his role, so Gill (recently spurned by Hastings) is more likely to have the axe to grind. Moveover, does she have a “non-exclusive relationship with the truth” in upholding public trust?

 What did imprisoned gang member Lee Banks tell Hastings? Is ferreting through historic records on the RUC murder case of Corbett’s birth mother, Anne-Marie McGillis, to find a possible connection between Corbett and Hastings the best use of stalwart Tatleen’s (Taj Atwell) time, or merely a red herring? Corbett tortured Roisin using the same method used on his mum, a suspected police informer. But as it is a time-honoured Northern Ireland sectarian ritual killing, can anything be read into it?

 The fact that Hastings was on leave at the time after being injured by a pipe bomb does look a bit iffy to DS Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) and DS Steve Arnott (Martin Compston).

 Never one to obey rules not of his making, Hastings – despite having no undercover training as Arnott points out to former UCO Fleming – organises an undercover op at the gang’s nightclub HQ, posing as ‘H’. Cue more tutting on the police station’s glass landing as the pair decide that their guv’nor might be losing his marbles.

 Except, nope, guys – there is no way Hastings can be ‘H’. He might think he’s Harry Callahan but, seriously, has anybody in history ever looked so uncomfortable and out of place among the denizens of a sleazy club? You’d think that Lisa (Rochenda Sandall) and Miroslav (Tomi May) would rumble him but although they seem rather taken aback that ‘H’ would actually deign to come to them, they don’t discount it when he bluffs through with comprehensive-sounding ideas about how to disperse the mass of contraband they’ve swiped from police evidence stores. And when Arnott and Fleming turn up with the cavalry, killing Miroslav, they maintain Hastings’ cover by arresting him along with Lisa.

 She, under interrogation by Arnott and Fleming, stays tight-lipped when asked about her part in the conspiracy and asks to be taken into witness protection. Lisa’s a pro, but does reveal that the information about a rat in the OCG came from Banks in Blackthorn Prison. Having found Hastings’ visiting order, the couple realise they can’t keep their gaffer out of it any longer and report their findings to Wise.

 If turning in his boss doesn’t make his week bad enough, Arnott is still smarting about his failure to – ahem! – perform in bed during a rapprochement with old flame DS Sam Railston (Aiysha Hart). Now she’s summoned him and Fleming to identify Corbett’s body. But why would a fresh cadaver smell so bad? Grief-stricken Arnott doesn’t hang around to find out.

 Hastings – chirpily laying low in his office, proud of his Serpico-like exploits – is deflated when Biggeloe practically skips in to inform him of the allegations against him and serves a regulation 15 notice of his suspension from duty. She tells him his career is over and he should retire. Sweet revenge for a woman scorned.

 Poor Tatleen is unable to keep her boss in the station, so he finds himself at the pointy end of the PACE Act when he’s arrested at his hotel by Carmichael’s underling DI Brandyce (Laura Elphinstone) and taken to Deckett Avenue police station for a chilling chat with Carmichael, Brandyce and Sgt Tranter (Natalie Gavin) – Mother of God, more women!

 At first he seems more put out by being questioned by a hotshot, fast-tracked DCS, who he dismisses as someone who hasn’t “put the time in”. But his discomfiture escalates as she shows him an image of ex-DI Mark Moffatt’s £50 grand bung, and his default tactic of yelling does not intimidate the briskly efficient Carmichael, who quickly dissuades us from thinking she’s a rookie. “I can’t bear shouting – you really ought to try to be more calm,” she tells Hastings.

 As evidence of his personal debts and his unauthorised prison visit are uncovered, Hastings finds the ground being hacked away from beneath him. Carmichael’s interviewing style is whispering with pregnant pauses – and it’s very effective as Hastings is shaken by the image of the dumped bodybag containing Corbett and the decomposed remains of property developer Jackie Laverty – AKA the freezer popsicle – lover of the late Tony Gates from series one.

 Former Eastenders actress Sue Tully (now a seasoned director whose most recent work includes exceptional drama The A Word) takes over the reins from John Strickland (Bodyguard) for this episode, giving a superb handling of pace during the nightclub raid and a claustrophobic stillness to the exhausting interrogation scene.

 Next week’s episode is feature-length, and as we have little doubt that Hastings’ hands are fairly clean, we are not much nearer to finding out ‘H’s identity. There is still everything to play for as another series has been ordered, and so every likelihood that a leading character or two could yet be sacrificed.

 Just a passing thought: the events of this series are pretty much being played contemporaneously. So how is it that the City with No Name has so many well-staffed police stations? Bent or not, the service doesn’t seem to have suffered too much under a period of austerity when the number of police officers in England and Wales fell by over 20,000 between March 2010 and March 2018. PCC Sindwhani must be extraordinarily persuasive with the Home Office.

Deborah Shrewsbury





7 Comments Add yours

  1. Andy D says:

    “pointy end of the PACE Act” lol. Cracking stuff Deborah! We’ll still be debating who H is by Season 10 in a few years’ time at this rate.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Elizabeth Macpherson says:

    Lisa didn’t name Banks, she only said the info came from Blackthorn Prison.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Deborah Shrewsbury says:

      But as we heard during Carmichael’s interrogation of Hastings, Banks was the only OCG member in Blackthorn, so it is known by both the police and the OCG that ihe is the most likely source in the jail.


  3. Jane says:

    It can’t just be me thinking this but if Hastings isn’t H why have the OCG not received any laptop messages from the proper H who has otherwise gone strangely quiet on the messaging front?


  4. sel539 says:

    I can’t help thinking Gill B has set our Ted up as a scapegoat. I do think he’s behind the killing of Corbett though (tipping the bloke in prison off because Corbett tortured his wife). In some ways it’s all getting a bit silly (unlike previous series)…I mean leaving £50k in a hotel room?? And will there be a Lisa really undercover?

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Deborah Shrewsbury says:

    I am suddenly more preoccupied with Ryan; nowadays one assumes that if he has just taken his exams he is going to university. But maybe his interview is for the police force. Although all new police officers in England and Wales will have to be educated to degree level from 2020…

    I don’t trust Gill either; she spends far too much time in DCC Wise’s office. She is a civilian solicitor and although she may have worked as counsel for the police presumably she either works for the Crown Prosecution Service or she’s in private practice. Either way, she wouldn’t be hanging out with the civilian PCC and the Deputy Chief Constable so much IRL.


  6. Deborah Shrewsbury says:

    Lisa could be undercover but maybe M15 rather than police? The City with No Name has been in the clutches of OCGs running county lines and police corruption for so long that the Home Office must have noticed, surely…

    Liked by 1 person

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