REVIEW Line Of Duty (S6 E7/7)

And so it comes to this (I always say that when it comes to series finales).

To say this sixth series of Line Of Duty has captured the imagination has been an understatement. The whole nation has been talking about it – on news programmes, on chatshows and in newspapers. Not since Broadchurch has a crime series transcended its genre and caught fire like this. Social media has been going nuts, and it always interests me why it does that with certain series and not for others (but that’s for another conversation another time).

But Line of Duty has very ‘definately’ been one of those shows.

The big question was coming into this series finale was: would it reveal who ‘H’ or ‘The Fourth Man’ is or would it keep us guessing for another series, as it has before?

The good news is that the show very much did, but in such an almost mundane way it went against all the sensational, over-the-top stuff that had gone before.

There was a lot to wrap up in this episode, and it was sometimes breathless in its revelations. And yet the whole episode left me curiously unsatisfied.

Some theories were confirmed to be nothing more than that. Marcus Thurwell was indeed dead. Chloe Bishop was not Tony Gates’ daughter. Chris Lomax was nothing more than a hard-working copper.

But let’s get to what actually happened.

A strong box was found beneath the OCG workshop and was a useful device to tie a lot of things up. The gun that killed Gail Vella was inside, with Carl Banks’ fingerprints all over it. Two knives were found – one that killed Maneet Bindra, the other to kill Jackie Laverty.

Tying things up.

In fact, this series has always been about devices. Clever, clever devices. Gail Vella was nothing more than a device to link all the past series together, while Marcus Thurwell was nothing more than a device (as well as a red herring) to link Osborne and Buckells. Chloe Bishop and her evidence, in effect, was only a device to keep the plot moving.

This is clever, fun writing.

We also got some poignant, low-tempo moments. Steve being interviewed by the Occupational Health department was one such moment. It’s often easy to forget that these characters have been through a hell of a lot during these past six series, and I fully approve that it takes time out to examine the toll events have taken, even if it’s during the series finale.

Even Hastings, who has been coming apart at the seams in the past few episodes, showed signs of pressure and combustion as he confessed all about the money he gave to Steph Corbett.

However, I’ve always thought that Line Of Duty is at its absolute best when this peripheral character nuance is actually left out. No messing – just get on the ride and go nuts with the twists and the turns and the pace and the tempo. Here, in this finale, there were moments when things began to drag.

But there was more, of course.

Davidson was saved from her OCG fate during a tense AC-12 ambush, and she finally revealed who she thought her father was. This was the episode’s first big reveal – it was Fairbanks.

But he was not The Man.

And then the big twist, around 35 minutes in.

The spelling of ‘definately’ really came into it and proved to be the evidence that revealed the identity of ‘H’. The idiosyncratic spelling was cross-referenced with the database, and some ‘new files’ that had become available (a bit too convenient that one). It turned out that the spelling ‘definately’ had been used during the Lawrence Christopher investigation, during the correspondences between Corbett, McQueen and Davidson, and, crucially, Operation Lighthouse.

The actual reveal of ‘H’ was a thing of beauty, and brilliantly staged. We saw shots of Arnott, Hastings and Fleming actually preparing for their interrogation. I loved this because these scenes in real life would take days if not weeks to prepare for – slides, evidence, tactics, the works.

And as shots showing the trio preparing were intercut with shots of unseen figure walking through the AC-12 office, handcuffed and accompanied by an armed guard.

They really strung it out until the very last minute, until he (it was a he) sat down in the interrogation room.

His name was Ian Buckells.

Yes, the man who has popped up in series one and and series four, and now series six, was the fourth ‘H’.

And it was Line Of Duty’s Keyser Söze moment – someone right under their noses and someone so unlikely that it was a surprise Jed Mercurio went for him. But then you look at his backstory, and his past appearances, and it all kind of makes sense.

Everyone thought he was just incompetent, but he was actually pulling the strings.

However, during the interview – Buckells now dropping the stupid act – it was revealed that although he was ‘The Fourth Man’ he also revealed that he was nothing more than a fixer. Tommy Hunter was the ringleader, but since he died disparate OCGs were operating things.

There was no ‘Top Man’.

And this disappointed me a little because I felt a reveal of this nature surely warranted a top man, a big bad boss baddie.

Instead we got Ian bloody Buckells.

This may have been the most realistic outcome, but in a series that has provided high theatre throughout, not only the reveal of Buckells but also the fact that there is no big boss was a little bit of a let down.

After this was determined, the pace dropped considerably again. Steve and Kate ruminated their position within AC-12, and Ted told Carmichael that he was going to appeal against his forced retirement.

And that’s where we more or less left it – the trio in a lift looking out into the middle distance.

It was a strange episode – full of reveals, tense, action-packed moments and everything you love about Line of Duty. But just bursts of them, nothing sustained.

In the end there was probably too much to fit in, and too much of a need to show how much these cases have taken their toll on the characters. As such, the bursts of the high-octane action didn’t satisfy as they should have done.

I came away a little flat from this finale.

And yet, I’ve loved this series. Kelly Macdonald was deceptively superb as Jo Davidson, and Adrian Dunbar – always a fabulous actor – really flexed his muscles in this series. His capitulation was very well played, almost Lear-like in its tragedy; his moral fortitude that he has built his life on crumbling around him.

This series simmered nicely until it absolutely exploded – stunning cliffhangers, amazing twists, it’s had it all.

And in a year that has seen so much upheaval and anxiety, tuning into Line Of Duty each week has been magical escapism – a real rollercoaster for an hour each week.

As Kate Fleming said: “You don’t realise what you’ve got until it’s gone”.

Let’s hope we get more.

For your consideration:

• Honestly, imagine getting nailed because you spelled ‘definately’ wrong!
• The absence of Carmichael in this episode was perplexing – she stormed back into the series, but was completely left out in this episode. Strange. Perhaps she felt a bit silly when Buckells was found guilty.
• Some of the dialogue in the chat between Arnott and Fleming was just cringeworthy: “I’ve got you mate.”
• Seeing Ted Hastings in civvies is like seeing your parents naked. Wrong.
• There’s definite (or should that be definate?) room for more. Osborne is definitely dodge, and the new amalgamated anti-corruption ops are now full of Osborne’s men and women.
• Hates off to Jed Mercurio and the cast and crew for battling through the COVID maelstrom and producing something pretty spectacular, despite restrictions.
• Promotion for Chloe Bishop please – she’s been the one who has pretty much solved everything.
• “No one makes mugs out of AC-12” *punches the air*

Paul Hirons

Episode rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Series rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.







19 Comments Add yours

  1. Andy D says:

    This will be a controversial ending for a lot of people I think, but the overall construction of the episode was excellent. Hats off to Mercurio, I honestly couldn’t see how he’d wrap it up but he did it, albeit with a few BIG exposition dumps and plot devices to get us there.

    I’ve enjoyed the show a lot but I feel it jumped the shark around S4, and as it gained popularity it seemed like it was spinning its wheels a little to keep things running. I don’t think it needs another season – anything else would seem a bit redundant now – but it’s been a pleasure to watch.


  2. malerogue says:

    Shame Buckells was revealed months ago on some social media. So yes the final wrap up was a little disappointing but overall the series was way above anything else around at the moment


  3. Keith says:

    I always suspected that the finale would be disappointing and that’s how it turned out.

    A critic wrote recently that the series adds ammunition to those who feel the police are corrupt and, while I don’t necessarily subscribe to that view, the opportunity to show that the bad guys get their comeuppance in the end was ignored.

    Another series? Maybe, but I’m not sure it would be as solid as those that have gone before.

    PS: Steve and Kate ARE going to end up together aren’t they…?


  4. Patty says:

    This had all the markings of a finale, loose threads being taken up and resolved, but for me, the ending was more bitter than sweet. After catching the 4th man, who flew under the radar with his “dad suits” and banger cars, the ultimate message had that banality of evil ring about it. A disbanded AC-12, and a new operation under the carefully blind eyes of Osbourne and Carmichael, in their way more cynical and dangerous than garden variety bent coppers.

    But those glorious moments – Ted seeking penance and absolution with his impulsive confession to Carmichael and Ted being flawed and human, angry over his wife’s beating, dropping a word about the rat to prod Corbett without mentioning Corbett;s name. And of course, “No one makes mugs of AC-12.” I would have been crushed if he didn’t say it.

    Saddened to see Line of Duty end. And yes, I think Kate and Steve will end up together, mates for life.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Helen Liu says:

    On Sun, 2 May 2021 at 10:02 pm, The Killing Times wrote:

    > Paul Hirons posted: ” And so it comes to this (I always seay that when it > comes to series finales). To say this seventh series of Line Of Duty has > captured the imagination has been an understatement. The whole nation has > been talking about it – on news programmes, on c” >


  6. Jane says:

    A very flat episode. For me what this series really lacked was its trademark engrossing interview scenes with clever verbal interplay, cat and mouse tactics, a worthy adversary. The no comment interviews with the interrogators mainly providing exposition for the viewer just didn’t hack it this time round. Also as viewers I don’t think we were invested in the Buckells character as he was by and large a peripheral figure. We wanted a baddy we loathed to get their comeuppance and wanted to see the smirks wiped off Osborne’s and especially Carmichael’s face. Perhaps there is another series in the offing as I did read once that Jed Mercurio wanted to do seven. I guess this would mean Ted going rogue!


  7. Celia says:

    This was the sixth series


  8. Chris Jenkins says:

    I found the finale disappointing, but then that’s what I expected – nothing could have lived up to the hype. But if it had ended with a massive shootout and some casualties, at least we’d have felt more of a sense of closure. Instead we have this feeling that the writer and producers just weren’t able to deliver a satisfactory conclusion. (The same happened with French series Spiral). Time for some new writers and producers, I say.


  9. Elaine says:

    Paul, a great review thank you. You nailed a lot of what I felt but we have a few differences (more of that later). During the episode, which I enjoyed, I felt slightly underwhelmed, but I must admit I felt satisfied by the end and the reveal.

    I wonder if some people who are unhappy with it, are unhappy because it didn’t fit with their own theories. Thurwell? Why have someone crucial who was brought in at the last couple of episodes? That would have left me unsatisfied. Carmichael? I never thought she was anything other than a careerist jobsworth? Wise? Always struck me as an officer going about her business who ended up doing the Chief Constable’s dirty work. Nigel Morton? Why him, other than to see Neil Morrissey again not sure about that. Hunter is alive? We would know. DNA etc. One of the main trio? So much would have had to have been retconned and retold to make that believable. I would have been quite happy with Osborne and for Steve to have taken him down. That would have come full circle, but life isn’t always like that. I am also happy that it appears that Chris and Chloe are both hard working coppers; it would have been so unrealistic if everyone is bent, because they are not.

    So I might be in the minority but I am pleased it was someone who was there from s1 was H, although he was an enabler, and just in it for the money. And was cleverer than he appears. Reminds me of someone…

    Paul, one of the big differences between us in the ratings. I think you got it spot on, 4/5, but there are ratings of series recently I don’t agree with. I can’t believe that you have ranked LOD the same as Unforgotten, and less than Too Close. And The Serpent-still not sure how that didn’t get a 5, that and It’s a Sin have been the best things I have watched this year by miles. My own ratings (of a few I have seen this year) are:

    The Serpent: 5
    LOD: 4
    Too Close:3
    Man in Room 301: 3
    Unforgotten 2 1/2
    Bloodlands 2
    Intruder -5 (don’t do it to yourself folks, watching is self harm)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jane says:

      Those ratings are pretty spot on. Might have moved Unforgotten up slightly but that was another series with a disappointing ending when it went all soap opera. With Intruder I was never sure if we were meant to take it seriously as all that hammy over acting turned it into a black comedy 🙂


      1. Elaine says:

        I’d say it would be interesting to watch Intruder again thinking it’s a comedy…but I am not sure I could do that to myself 😊


    2. Elizabeth Macpherson says:

      I agree with your opinion on LoD finale.


    3. Paul Hirons says:

      That’s what it’s all about though Elaine, surely – opinion and fun discussing them. For what it’s worth, I thought The Serpent was great in places but too many flashbacks meant I couldn’t get an emotional connection to the characters, or if I did it was fleeting. Very good series though. Too Close was very good I thought (if you forgave the obvious procedural stiff). Plenty more disagreements and discussion to come, I think. Also, if you fancy doing some reviews, you’re more than welcome!


      1. Elaine says:

        Totally correct Paul, which is why I love this site so much, in that we all do have different opinions but can discuss them without the need to put on our protective clothing! I do take your point with the flashbacks in Serpent, but I thought they did it so well and made it easy to navigate but understand they may have caused the story not to flow as well. I know you loved the performances in Too Close which were excellent, but a word for Anna Maxwell Martin. I am enjoying Motherland repeats and it is truly hard to believe that Julia and Carmichael are played by the same actress!


    4. Andy D says:

      I totally agree with you on the point of fan theories leading to inevitable disappointment, which is where a lot of the ire for this episode online is coming from. Obviously it’s part of the fun watching TV shows, but it also means it’s never going to live up to fans expectations. Maybe more pronounced these days with social media etc, so I think writers can’t ever really make everyone happy with a conclusion.


  10. Jarle says:

    “Hates off to Jed Mercurio and the cast and crew for battling through the COVID maelstrom and producing something pretty spectacular, despite restrictions.”

    Not a single masked up civilian to be seen though, why is that?


  11. marblex says:

    I actually like that it wasn’t a criminal mastermind, but a hapless incompetent who got kicked upstairs repeatedly…a living example of the Peter Principle. Buckells was an opportunistic office manager. Well done.


  12. D says:

    Late to commenting on this article ha.

    This is the first series i’ve watched in real time, and not binging and i loved the excitement of it.

    For me, I was so disappointed that nothing was really said or detailed about Jo and Kate, there was so much will they wont they and then it was like episode 7 fell off a cliff and it was never mentioned again. I know us ladies of a certainly persuasion can get a bit carried away, but ‘moment’ between Kate and Jo in the 1st episode was before Kate was told about any suspicions so it can’t have been her playing to get info and what was Jo trying to do if at that point she was saying that Kate was straight to her ex. I’d love to hear Jed asked about this particular issue as it seemed all glossed over/forgotten about. I know there was lots to tie up but their connection seemed such a big part of the plot up until that point and then just thrown away. Would just love to know if there was something that was meant to be shown but wasn’t or what…. It was so exciting after the 1st episode that it may feature a same sex storyline and it was soooooo queer baity how it ended up :-(


    1. Keith says:

      I think that might just have been Jed playing games, in much the same way that he was when he introduced photos of James Nesbitt in the final stages of the series that never came to anything other than raising expectations of a bigger twist.


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