Line Of Duty series 5 episode 3 review: past the point of no return?

There's no coming back for some in Line Of Duty's latest series 5 episode. Major spoilers ahead...

This review contains spoilers.

This is where zealotry gets you – to a point of no return. John Corbett knows he can’t come out of this a free man, so in his eyes, he’s going down fighting. Inflamed by an unbending sense of moral superiority over “bent coppers” (now his catchphrase, not Ted’s), Corbett has broken into an innocent woman’s home with a balaclava and a gun, set to commit a great wrong in the name of doing right. 

If anything happens to Roisin, it will destroy Ted Hastings. His beloved wife in danger while he’s entertaining a lady friend in his standard single? The guilt! Why not take a hammer drill to Stone Henge and drain the Thames while you’re at it, John? The result would be the same. Hastings is a national edifice. Seeing him crumble would hurt us all.   

Which is why, fluent as it is in raising the dramatic stakes, Line Of Duty continues to prod our man, sending devils like Moffatt and Bigelow into the desert to tempt him. “Haven’t we earned a paaaayday?” they ask, circling, their smirking faces looming in and out of view, “Maybe the time’s come to look after number ooooone.” “Loan facility against the crediiiit.” Will Ted survive his forty days and forty nights? 

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Should we even care? Didn’t episode three provide confirmation that Ted’s dirtier than a rolled-up magazine stuffed into a 1970s chain-link fence? Oh, ye of little faith. Hasting’s not the only one being tested in series five; we are too. 

Short of having him glide through the back of shot wearing a top hat marked with ‘H’, this hour did everything in its power to make Ted look corrupt. He ordered raids that could mess up ongoing lines of enquiry, looked panicked at the snap of a man emerging from that brothel, looked spooked near a laptop, disposed of said laptop, ordered his team to answer what turned out to be a phony Status Zero call, didn’t answer his radio for a bit, was roughly the same height and build as DCS Hargreaves… Damning, no? 

No. Not necessarily. Of course Ted looked panicked; these are panicky times. And as for the laptop disposal, what lonely man with hotel Wi-Fi hasn’t regretted the odd search term after a few too many whiskies (one piece of ice). Especially with the PCC breathing down his neck.  

Besides, as established last week, User 2972 can’t be Ted Hastings because unlike User 2972, Ted Hastings would know the correct spelling of ‘definitely’ without a spellcheck, fella. In his schooldays they’d probably have whipped you for less, and you’d have been glad of it, son.  

No, Ted’s not bent, but Line Of Duty is using him to play a game of moral Buckaroo! for our entertainment. How much can a mule like Ted Hastings bear before he kicks out? If dealt enough blows, could the miasma of corruption permeate even his thick hide? This drama has never dealt in moral absolutes. It’s always been about people – not all good and not all bad – making mistakes that put them under geological levels of pressure and seeing how they bear up. Poor Ted. Series five isn’t a crime thriller; it’s an act of vandalism. 

This episode was thrilling, of course, in the same way that being blindfolded and bundled into a moving van must be thrilling. Things went very fast and loud, and it was tricky to keep a sense of every swerve in the road, but you knew it was absolutely vital that you did so. Director John Strickland did an excellent job with a complex series of events in the Eastfield raid playing out simultaneously at several locations. A less firm grip and we might have all been lost, but he created a sense of chaos and exhilaration without quite baffling us. (If you still have questions, perhaps this may help.)  

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Corbett told Steve that killing Hargreaves left him with no option but to do things ‘his way’. If that was really so, then why was he preparing his fake AC-12 ID long before Steve – as he saw it – crossed him? Corbett’s just like any of them. He needs to see himself as the good guy. Whatever course of action he takes, he justifies as the only possible choice in the circumstances.  

It’s worth the sofa detectives among us remembering that Corbett’s fixation with the notion that a police officer is running the OCG is just that – a notion. He admitted as much twice this episode, telling Steve, “For all I know, there could be a bent copper at the top of the tree, pulling all the strings,” and saying “There’s a bent copper running organised crime, I’m sure of it.” Corbett’s also sure that Hastings is corrupt. Let’s not make the same mistake. 

Steve avoided a mistake this week by telling Kate the identity of his CHIS (Covert Human Intelligence Source, add it to your glossary), another example of this show’s breakneck pace providing relief. Rather than his deception dragging on, it was over in a flash and we were onto the next thing.  

The speed of proceedings this year is almost comic. It used to take AC-12 a whole series to get a crooked officer to confess; between Malhotra, Maneet, Cafferty and Bloom, they’ve nailed four in the last three weeks alone. If this success rate continues, by series six, great wee girl Kate will only need narrow her eyes at a passing DC in the sandwich queue and they’ll confess all. 

Now that Hargreaves has been (literally) unmasked, who’ll be uncovered next?  

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My vote? Anyone but Ted. Definately.