Eammon Jacobs reviews the fourth episode of Line of Duty series 5…
After the previous episode left viewers on a dangerous cliffhanger, we finally discover what happened when undercover copper John Corbett broke into Hastings’ estranged wife’s flat, and it’s not pretty. When Ted sees her brutal injuries, his reaction is staggered throughout the episode. Initially he’s understandably horrified, until that develops into a thirst for revenge before boiling down to simmering anger – something that DS Arnott takes the full brunt of by the end of the episode. Writer Jed Mercurio once again proves his skills at balancing emotion, character development and suspense, all in one nail-bitingly tense episode.
The team finally uncover more about John Corbett’s shady past, and it becomes apparent that his history in Northern Ireland is somehow connected to Hastings’ career before his AC-12 appointment. After he tortured Roisin, he spoke with a native Belfast accent claiming that the horrific act was in revenge for something Hastings is responsible for. Once again, the series weaves in multiple layers to the plot, and this new revelation that Corbett and Hastings are directly connected will no doubt spill into the corrupt network of officers.
But just as the episode seems to relax a little, it quickens the pace as Steve and a team of armed officers are ordered to bring Corbett in – giving audiences the first incredible stand-off of the episode. The dialogue here is surgically precise as Corbett quickly catches on that Steve’s wearing a wire and is recording the entire conversation about a potential meet with ‘H’. Martin Compston’s morally unwavering Arnott manages to de-escalate the situation, once again delivering a great performance. Although it’s resolved without any shots fired, he defies a direct order to shoot Corbett from Hastings – the evidence is really mounting up here against Ted, and it’s only going to get worse. Adrian Dunbar’s performance is captivating throughout as the audience is compelled to overanalyse every single annoyance, muttered reactions or angered outbursts. Is this a misdirection to keep us looking one way while the real ‘H’ lies in plain sight, or is he really the bad guy?
READ MORE: Is Hastings Really ‘H’ in Line of Duty?
The only disappointing element in the episode is the near dismissal of Vicky McClure’s Kate Fleming once again. She’s gone from a main character to a near supporting role, she’s criminally underused. It’s clear from McClure’s performance that Kate is only becoming more desperate to solve the mystery, especially when she and Arnott are continuously pointed at Hastings as a culprit. He only further pushes himself into a corner as his temper skyrockets and his actions become even more mysterious – even discussing a plan with McQueen and Corbett at AC-12 in front of everyone by ‘impersonating’ H. If Hastings is innocent, then it’s a great tactic in making him seem guilty in the audience’s eyes… Otherwise, it’s also clever from a plot perspective, what better way of conducting a criminal operation covertly than under the guise of AC-12?
*Caution, spoilers ahead*
The obvious star of the episode is once again Stephen Graham. Corbett’s situation becomes increasingly difficult as he’s backed into a corner with the organised crime gang. His morality is pushed to the limits as he has to allow the group’s sex trafficking of vulnerable illegal immigrants to go ahead. The expression on his face is clear as day – he’s only just holding it together. The operation becomes more intense by the end of the episode in a truly uncomfortable way as the girls are shepherded into an abandoned building and Corbett is backed into a corner… Luckily, his moral compass is finally centred – restoring some faith in the character before a genuinely shocking twist; the OCG discovered that he’s undercover and execute him as he attempts to save the girls. It comes out of nowhere as one of the other gang members slits his throat from behind. Dramatic deaths like this prove that no one is safe in Line of Duty, almost in a Game of Thrones manner. With two episodes left… Who’s next?
It’s made all the worse as Mercurio twists the knife even further by framing his death against the imagery of his wife putting their daughters to bed… Ouch. But moments later after seemingly having Corbett killed, Lisa McQueen silently sobs into her hand after the other gang members have walked away. There’s more to her than it seems. Again, Jed Mercurio has layered this episode with so many twists and turns that it’s easy to lose track. Just a quick example; look back at season one – Jackie Laverty’s body was stuffed into the freezer owned by Terry, a vulnerable man who was being taken advantage of by the crime gang. Her body is still in the same freezer when McQueen and her goons come round pressuring Terry for information. Mercurio really isn’t leaving any plot thread left dangling is he?