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*
READ MORE: OUR EPISODE ONE REVIEW
READ MORE: OUR EPISODE TWO REVIEW
READ MORE: OUR EPISODE THREE REVIEW
READ MORE: OUR EPISODE FOUR REVIEW
READ MORE: OUR EPISODE FIVE REVIEW
READ MORE: OUR EPISODE SIX REVIEW