This review contains spoilers.
Line Of Duty has always been a clear-eyed sceptic about the law’s ability to protect the innocent. Not for any want of doing so, but because of the ways that PR-led target culture have warped the institution’s ideals.
Its very first series showed an elderly man repeatedly harassed and robbed, but his case downgraded and ignored until he eventually fought back – and was promptly arrested for it. Last series Roz Huntley and Tim Ifield, two experienced officers who accidentally found themselves in incriminating circumstances, both decided that the odds of getting away with a cover-up were better than the odds of getting away by telling the truth.
Witnesses murdered. Prison beatings. Inside men. The vulnerable framed … There’s very little reassurance here that goodness will prosper. In a drama about the exploitation of the fallible by the unscrupulous, perhaps we’d be naïve to hope for it.
Hope we must though, more now than ever. The stakes are too high not to, because series five hasn’t just stuck any old canary down the mine to see how toxic the air is – it’s taken Ted.
Superintendent Ted Hastings in casual wear? It was like seeing Aslan shaved of his mane. This is a man who goes to nightclubs in smart slacks, a button-down shirt and a water-resistant blouson. Ted cut a sad figure in his prison jog suit and lace-less shoes. The sight of him raising his eyes to the gallery of shame as he was escorted into AC-12 for interrogation by DCS Carmichael (a brilliantly nasty turn by Anna Maxwell Martin) was perhaps sadder yet. A full 22 seconds on the pre-interview DIR tone this time, by the way – definitely a record.
AC-3: the alt-dimension AC-12. Just imagine, for all these years we could have been watching Kate, Steve and Ted’s bizarro-doubles Brandyce, Tranter and Carmichael. AC-3’s every little victory in that interrogation scene would have been ours to share instead of another stab of pain. Every smug utterance and note of fake concern in the DCS’ voice would have been a win instead of a kick.
If Ted Hastings is taken down by Central Police’s Dolores Umbridge and her – admittedly persuasive thanks to Mark Moffatt’s entrapment – evidence file, then the law can’t protect any of us. Ted may have gone dangerously off-script with this week’s growly voiced Clint Eastwood crime boss improv scenes (Ted unleashed. Ted afterhours. Ted too hot for TV), but he’d been pushed there by a PR-focused PCC and his gloating legal counsel.
Oh, Gill. “There’s facts, and then there’s the truth,” said ACC Hilton last series, a chilling statement that didn’t just sum up the character’s moral bankruptcy but also serves as epigram for the stream of bullshit currently flowing through real-world public office. Gill Bigeloe picked up Hilton’s turd-baton this episode with her insidious line about sometimes needing to have “a non-exclusive relationship with the truth” in the interest of maintaining public trust. Had Ted agreed to an exclusive relationship with her – the point of real power in DCC Wise’s office triangle – it’s implied that he might not be in this mess.
Ted’s love life wasn’t the only one causing problems this week. Kate’s work is still impinging on domestic bliss, while Steve’s undercover officer has been suspended from duty, the poor wee fella. It’s all gone to pot for AC-12.
The OCG aren’t faring much better, at least. Miroslav’s dead, Lisa’s in custody and Ryan’s… well, Ryan’s exams went well thanks, he’s got a date for his interview. (How anybody can accuse Line Of Duty of being humourless is beyond me. Lisa’s “I feel terrible…” as she watched Corbett’s body being dumped being followed by the punch line “I never asked about your exams” was a slyly done thing. And who wants to bet that if Ryan’s successful at interview, the next time we’ll see him will be in uniform? That would be another sly gag.)
No, none of this is lining up well for the gaffer, not to mention the potential weight of Corbett’s police informant mother’s death on his already laden shoulders. The best case scenario now: Tatleen comes through with some synthesised metadata dongles to exonerate Hastings, and Carmichael, Brandyce and Tranter are kicked back through the portal to their own dimension. Help us, Tatleen, you’re our only hope.
Read Louisa’s review of the previous episode here.