This review contains spoilers.
When you come at Ted Hastings, you’d best not miss, son.
Just look at the man: the demeanour of a king, the alert, piercing eyes of a hawk. From the polish on his shoes to the side parting on his neatly combed hair, everything about Ted says ‘unimpeachable’. He’s five feet eleven of rock-hard morals who acts to the letter of the law. To the letter.
Hilton doesn’t stand a chance, does he?
I pray to the TV Gods he doesn’t. In Line Of Duty’s storm of moral murk and slippery wrong-doing, Ted Hastings is our rock, a stalwart who can always be relied upon to do the right thing, even—especially—when it’s not the easy thing. If they succeed in framing and discrediting Ted, we may as well chuck the whole concept of justice out the window and start living the lawless existence of Wild West frontiersmen. If they get Ted, why bother anymore?
Seeing as there’s only one episode left of the current run and a great deal still to resolve in it, Hilton Vs Hastings is likely to be a series five fixture. This fight’s been a long time coming. Line Of Duty creator Jed Mercurio planted its seeds back in series one when Hilton just seemed to be a PR-wonk, not a crooked criminal top dog.
Episode five made Hilton look guiltier than a gravy-bearded Labrador standing next to an empty roasting pan. His visible discomfort at the mention of series one victim Jacqui Laverty, reminder that he was station chief during all the Tony Gates business, and dogged attempts to keep AC-12 off the scent were all suggestive of guilt, but it took Dot’s dying declaration to truly pin it on him. “Caddy” “Told” “Promotion” Dot said to Kate, before blinking a confirmation that the bent officer’s name began with ‘H’. Who told the Caddy to go up for promotion in the closing scenes of series one? It was Hilton. Go and see for yourself on Netflix. It’s all there.
A series one rewatch is becoming more and more vital to Line Of Duty series four viewers by the minute. Steve made the connection between Balaclava Man and the balaclava-wearing, baseball bat-carrying goons who murdered Tony Gates’ girlfriend, money launderer Jacqui Laverty, and kept her Gates-contaminated corpse frozen to blackmail him should he refuse to play along in a cover-up. More connects both stories: in series one the gang used a man with learning disabilities to hide Jacqui’s body; in series four, they’ve framed another such man—Michael Farmer—for their murders. (In series one, the criminal gang also amputated the fingers of their victims to cover their tracks. Did Roz learn that trick from them?)
My punt at this point says that Hilton didn’t kill Baswinder and Leonie; he paid them for sex and whoever in the criminal underworld is pulling his strings murdered them to use their Hilton-DNA-contaminated bodies as leverage against him, just as they did to Tony Gates.
All of which would mean that ACC Hilton has been acting exactly as Tony Gates did, exactly as Lindsay Denton did, exactly as Dot did, and exactly as Roz Huntley is: in the impossible situation into which he’s got himself, he’s doing whatever he can to save his skin. That’s Line Of Duty’s real theme: what lengths are the people supposed to be policing the rest of us willing to go to survive? What and who are they willing to sacrifice?
Roz Huntley answered that question this week by throwing her marriage under the bus in a last-ditch attempt to evade arrest. Recognising that a checkmate was imminent, she planted evidence on husband Nick and watched him driven away by her colleages. The Huntleys’ scenes this week were terrifically tense, from the shock amputation to her empty hospital bed to that final confrontation ending with her reading him his rights. Blimey, those two. In no time at all, they’ve gone from frosty pasta suppers to accusing one other of murder. When Jimmy Lakewell predicted “no happy ending”, he wasn’t wrong.
It all made for gripping telly—unpredictable, heightened and just on the right side of outlandish. It’s done it again, this show. I don’t think I’ve ever been more anxious or excited for a finale to arrive.
Nothing is wasted in a series like Line Of Duty, which is what makes these late episodes such a satisfying watch. The incessant tattle-tailing of Roz’s besotted underling Jodie was what finally pushed DCI Huntley to sacrifice Nick. She learned that he planned to give evidence against her and launched her counter-attack. The lesson: never underestimate the importance of a bit-part lackey.
Speaking of which – why Maneet? We trusted you, man. We trusted you. (Wrongly, we didn’t trust Neil Twyler, who deserves an apology.) Ted’s warm words to Maneet as she slunk out of AC-12 were painful to watch.
There was yet more pathos in Steve and Kate’s final scene, which proved that Line Of Duty isn’t one of those shows where a character can be knocked senseless with no consequences other than an excess of heroism and the odd hair out of place. Movingly, Steve may never fully recover from his injuries, the poor fella.
Will Ted though, a man whose only crime is putting his self-described “big un-PC foot in it”, recover from Hilton’s scurrilous accusation? That’s what we’re here to find out. The people who’d like to see AC-12 out of the way almost succeeded in getting Michael Farmer to plead guilty to murders he didn’t commit (nobody lies to their nana), but Michael Farmer is no Ted Hastings.
“If we go down, we go down fighting.” Inspiring words. So, in the agonising wait for next week’s finale, what can we do to help in that fight?
Mobilise. Organise. Do whatever you can do to ‘Free Ted Hastings’. Sign a petition. Join a demonstration. Hold a bake sale in his name (plain oat flapjack only please). If you have love in your heart for our man Ted, act, and act now.
Come on, what are yous waiting for? The number nineteen bus?
Read Louisa’s review of the previous episode here.