Eammon Jacobs reviews the sixth episode of Line of Duty Series 5…
After the penultimate episode piled on the evidence that the stoic Superintendent Hastings was the leader of a corrupt network of Police officers. In the series finale, the situation we’ve thoroughly enjoyed time and time again has been turned back onto AC-12 as Hastings is interrogated for the majority of the 90 minute runtime. Kate dished out a perfect line to one of the over-zealous members of AC-3, and it worked a treat; “stop making a tit of yourself, and piss off”. The performances from McClure and Compston were fairly standard for their characters, but that one moment was a definite highlight. The finale had plenty to live up to with theories aplenty flying around the internet. Could Hastings really be ‘H’? Could anybody? Before we unpack the revelations, it’s time to praise what the episode did excellently.
Adrian Dunbar’s performance is gripping as Hastings’ desperation only gets more feverish. He’s grasping to prove his innocence here – and Dunbar’s portrayal was pitch perfect. He only becomes more broken with each layer of his history surgically peeled back for all to see. The big picture is laid out entirely for the audience to see as each piece of evidence is discussed and pulled apart, it’s overwhelmingly clear that it’s a set-up by this point. Corbett’s Mum was brutally murdered, and found with the same injuries that Hastings’ wife would later be subjected to by Corbett in revenge.
The episode also pulls puzzle pieces from previous series, like Hastings shooting one of the OCG in Ac-12’s reception. Why not keep him alive? Ted constantly has to come up with answers for all of these moments – and when he doesn’t, DCS Carmichael rips him to shreds. And while some fans might’ve been expecting an explosive finale, it proved that it didn’t need to pull out stereotypical action beats to keep the story flowing. Anna Maxwell Martin’s Carmichael proved that effortlessly, her performance is a fierce force of strength throughout the episode.
Annoyingly, Line of Duty doesn’t really manage the information dump quite so eloquently as it once did. There are moments throughout the finale where it feels the need to splurge every piece of the conspiracy in one smorgasbord of exposition. It’s a far cry away from showing the audience what they need to know rather than explicitly saying so. Perhaps it’s because of the near over-complicated nature of this particular story, or perhaps it’s just a simple weakness of this series…
Luckily, it doesn’t stall for long as Gill Biggeloe instantly becomes a devious ticking time-bomb as soon as she sets foot in the interrogation room. She keeps appearing as a friendly face throughout the entire series, but it’s only become clear now that after the lawyer shows up – something bad happens to Hastings. She’s been pulling the strings on him from afar from some time. The chemistry between Biggeloe and Hastings has been undeniable, but here it turns sour within an instant. When Kate and Steve return, they bring with them a staggering piece of evidence that reveals Gill has been the one framing Ted right from the start. After several instances of her acting suspiciously over the last few episodes, it’s fair to say that she shot up everyone’s suspect list.
Once the recording is unveiled by DS Arnott, it’s obvious that Hastings is out of the woods for now. Gill met with John Corbett a month before the operation was created, directly pointing him at ‘H’, meaning that he was gunning for Hastings thanks to his history in Northern Ireland. The finale cleverly plays with the audience’s expectations as she attempts the ‘urgent exit required’ tactic that Dot Cottan went for back in series three. And although it was thwarted very swiftly, it still left the door wide open for another attack, which predictably came from a younger officer who had been looking shifty the entire episode.
But finally, let’s talk about the reveal. After briefly looking at the footage of Cottan’s dying declaration – Steve noticed that he tapped his fingers four times which stood for ‘H’ in morse code and put the pieces together that he meant there were four corrupt officers working for the top figure. What does that mean? Well, we’ve all been led on a wild goose chase trying to suss out who ‘H’ really was… When it was really irrelevant. Considering all the promotion has been leading up to this giant reveal, only for the series to try and pull the rug out from underneath us felt like a bit of a betrayal of the audience’s investment this far. Even though it’s a clever way of continuing the series further with more suspects and Hastings’ actions still not completely excused, it was incredibly underwhelming.
Although Jed Mercurio masterfully ties so many plot elements, clues and suspects together in one dramatic crescendo – the finale of series five was disappointing. Hopefully by the time series six comes around, the story will reach the dizzying heights it once soared at.