I copped a bit of flak last week for my summation that episode three of Line Of Duty was a bit a lacklustre and edging into too-ridiculous-to-take-seriously territory.
I still stand by that, but I’m pleased to say that this week’s instalment was bang on, back-to-form and did what Line Of Duty does best and like no other show on British TV – provide 100mph action and absolutely no extraneous, personal stuff. And in this episode, we had two deaths, more returning characters and an absolute thrill ride.
Last week, we saw a set piece when Ryan Pilkington made PC Linda Patel’s car go off the road, making an attempt on Terry Boyle’s life. This week saw another, even bigger set piece and more spectacular, edge-of-the-seat action than the week before.
Before we get to that set piece, the story continued to bubble along nicely.
We began with one of the series’ patented interview scenes, this time featuring DCI Ian Buckells. He’s had previous with AC-12, so the question was why it took this long to properly bring him to heel. His catastrophic handling of Operation Lighthouse finally led him into the AC-12 interrogation room, and Steve, Hastings and Chloe gave him a good going over. Especially Ted, who was on fine Ted Hastings form (we’re talking ‘letter of the law’ and ‘fella’ in the same sentence kind of form).
It was revealed that he had indeed known dodgy witness Deborah Deveroux, had kept a number of female names (initialised, of course, this is Line Of Duty after all) in his phone and had links with Ryan Pilkington. Buckells looked completely at sea, and this very much wasn’t one of Line Of Duty’s best interview scenes – there was just no comeback from Buckells, where the very best ones have an ambiguous interviewee who twist and turns like an eel. To me the scene existed purely to get Buckells out of the way, because he was clogging up valuable air time.
I’ve always wondered whether Buckells was too much of an obvious red herring. At least later in the episode it was revealed that he was part of the OCG, if only a particularly feckless, cowardly one.
And so we continued.
Davidson – disgusted with herself for her own links to the OCG- was intent on removing herself not only from the conspiracy, but also Ryan Pilkington from her team. However, Ryan was having none of it – threatening Davidson with extreme harm if she even thought about trying to get herself out of the situation.
Hastings, meanwhile, was given a dressing down by Wise and Sindhwani for arresting Buckells, with Wise then telling him that his days were numbered – he was being forced into early retirement and some serious budget cuts would mean that AC-12 would merge with AC-3 and AC-9. He had one month before an announcement was made.
Quite apart from the impending end of Ted Hastings and AC-12 (that was a lot to deal with), it reinforced my sentiment that Hastings is a modern-day sheriff in a kind of western – he’s the relentless good guy, sanctimonious to some, and how many times have we seen in westerns where the sheriff is on his way out and has to solve a case or an unresolved issue in a certain amount of time.
Time to pull on those boots for perhaps the last time, Ted.
Elsewhere, a new recording of the Gail Vella was found and the voice on it was dodgy, incarcerated lawyer from series four, Jimmy Lakewell (he of the Roz Huntey case), was indeed the man being interviewed (some fans already had guessed this on social media). He mentioned the case of the botched counter terrorism raid and death of innocent Karim Ali right at the start of series one, insinuating there had been an almighty cover-up.
For 40 minutes things built and built and built – Davidson tried to get Ryan Pilkington off the team, Kate and Chris investigated the source of weapons used in both the armed robbery on the bookies and the Gail Vella murder, and Kate was pretty sure Buckells was the rotten apple.
However, with 20 minutes to go, this episode (literally) exploded.
And, just like a western again, there was a jailbreak – Steve had a plan to spring Lakewell from jail and provide him with a new identity, all so he could talk about the Gail Vella interview. However, on their journey from the jail to the station, they were ambushed and an absolutely thrilling shoot-out ensued. A police officer was killed, and it ended with Steve delivering a pretty incredible headshot to a sniper.
It was just utterly thrilling – bonkers and ridiculous, but edge-of-your seat stuff. Brilliantly choreographed, too.
Lakewell was murdered by Lee Banks when he got back to his cell (Buckells looked on, shitting himself), and if that wasn’t enough there was even time for a terrific cliffhanger – the extended forensics work on Farida Jatri’s house revealed, yes, Jo Davidson’s DNA was there, but someone else’s too… a blood relative of Jo Davidson.
Mother of, indeed, God.
The perfect end to a perfectly constructed episode. Brilliantly tense, pared back, action-packed and obviously quite insane.
For your consideration:
• The Ian Buckells interview scene was hilarious on a few different levels, but seeing his sexts to Deborah Deveroux (ahem, ‘trunshon’) was just laugh-out-loud funny.
• Also during that interview scene, Chloe revealed that Buckells had other initialised names in his phone – FAF, NA and BJL. Could these be significant?
• Lost in among all the excitement of the shoot-out, it seems to me the source of the ‘workshopped’ weapons will crack this case. Especially after said shoot-out and forensics finding that the weapons used were also ‘workshopped’. If Kate and co find the source of the weapons, they’ll find who’s behind all this.
• Jimmy Lakewell (Patrick Baladi) looked awfully good for a man who’s been in prison for several years. Did he have access to a sunbed in there?
• During the shoot-out, was it just me or did anyone else for Steve’s back during all the grunting and the flying around?
• Post-shoot-out, Jimmy and Steve shared a bit of a moment. “They’ll know I didn’t talk, so yes I hope [I’ll be safer in prison]. That’s right, isn’t it DI Arnott? I didn’t talk.” As Lakewell got up to leave, Arnott gave him a little nod. Did Lakewell share intel in the van that we weren’t privy to?
• Lakewell back, Buckells back, Pilkington back… Ted put out to pasture… this really does feel like Jed Mercurio is tying things up and this is the last series. I’d like to be proved wrong, but that’s the vibe I’m getting.
READ MORE: OUR EPISODE ONE REVIEW
READ MORE: OUR EPISODE TWO REVIEW
READ MORE: OUR EPISODE THREE REVIEW