Warning: contains spoilers.
An eyewitness’ ability to accurately recall key details of an event can be adversely affected by anxiety. If said event was stressful to watch, testimony can become unreliable. Additionally, if a weapon was employed during said stressful event, eyewitnesses are more likely to concentrate on details of that than, say, the hair colour of the person brandishing it. It’s called Weapon Focus and it’s a totally legitimate, actual, true, real-life thing.
All of which goes to explain why a TV reviewer of otherwise mostly sound mind might miss some glaringly obvious details from the final moments of the latest Line Of Duty episode.
Look, I was stressed about poor Steve and in the grip of Balaclava Focus. That’s my excuse anyway.
With the help of our old buddies the freeze-frame and the screen grab, here’s an attempt to rectify all that and break down precisely what went on in that shocking final scene. Spoilers, obviously, ahead…
“Excuse the state, we’re in the process of moving floors.”
When DS Arnott goes to visit Nick Huntley’s law firm, Webber & Barratt Partners LLP, in his undercover disguise as Steve Arnold, they’re moving from the third to the fifth floors.
Look at Huntley’s eyebrows here. Not dark are they? This may become relevant later.
The moment Steve leaves Huntley’s office, Huntley calls Jimmy Lakewell. Previously, he used Jimmy as a fake alibi for where he was on the night Tim Ifield was murdered, telling Roz that he was having a drink with his pal when he was really following her to Tim Ifield’s flat, suspecting her of having an affair.
“Please, you should talk to my solicitor”
A panicked Huntley here hides behind a wall of paperwork (typical lawyer) and urges Steve to call criminal solicitor, the aforementioned Jimmy Lakewell.
“Going up to the fifth floor”
When Steve enters the building later, he shows the security guard his police ID and tells him he’s going up to the fifth floor. The third floor is now listed as vacant for refurbishment.
“You’ve got one minute. I’m on my way up”
Steve presses the button for the fifth floor…
…but on the third floor, the lift doors are opened and Steve is viciously beaten by a man wearing a balaclava and a dark jacket, fitting the description of Balaclava Man.
But, confusingly, not quite fitting our knowledge of Nick Huntley. This chap looks bigger.
And check out these eyebrows. Not pale at all. As has been pointed out by wily commenters, Nick Huntley would have struggled to have changed his clothes and gone down two flights of stairs on foot in the time it took Steve to travel up three flights of stairs in a life.
I’ll tell you who is stouter than Nick Huntley and has dark eyebrows – the security guard!
Who else knew Steve was in that lift? Only Nick Huntley and the security guard, that we know of. If it wasn’t either of them, did they have time to tell somebody who was already waiting in the balaclava gear on the third floor?
Anyone in Steve’s office also knew he was on his way to Huntley’s office, including newcomer Jamie. Did he, or somebody else, call ahead to tip off the attacker that Steve was coming?
Why was the attacker already in the building? If he’s not Huntley, nor in cahoots with Huntley, could he in fact have been sent there to silence Huntley? Is it possible Steve’s attacker even mistook him for Huntley (we don’t yet know why was Steve attacked). Perhaps that explains Nick hiding behind all those moving boxes?
All help/theories/scalp massages gratefully received in the comments below!