This review contains spoilers.
Mortals, give thanks and sing, for He is saved. The criminal plot to destroy Ted Hastings (both by this programme and by Gill-the-Shill Biggeloe) has been foiled. There’ll be no more red-eyed pain and prison-trackies for our man. From now on, it’s clean-shaven and pressed trousers all the way. The truth came first.
Well, not first. It came second to all that fannying about to make Ted look guilty, after being been lapped a couple of times by the cliff-hanger requirements of the TV thriller. Eventually though – all the other competitors having been disqualified – the truth crossed the finish line.
It was a marathon finale. Mile after mile of Ted staggering on, refuting accusations and getting more dog-tired and desperate while DCS Carmichael trotted coolly alongside him, using everything she had to try to trip him up.
She didn’t lack for ammunition. Every ‘Is Ted H?’ plot-point from the last five episodes was neatly reused in the finale. The laptop, the 50k, “definately”… they weren’t just ingenious ways to get us arguing between episodes, but a steadily growing arsenal of stuff to chuck at Ted this episode, the point at which our frustration turned into fear.
Ted’s true believers had never doubted his innocence. We’d spent this series rationalising and explaining away the gaffer’s behaviour, in every case giving him what four years of exemplary TV service had earned him: the benefit of the doubt. All of which meant we weren’t able to join in with series five’s ludicrous ‘Is Ted bent?’ game and were forced on the bench.
This finale though, brought the Ted Faithful back into play. Instead of asking the redundant question of ‘Is Ted H’ (after those planted hair strands were discovered, the set-up was in no doubt), it asked ‘Is Ted going to lose?’ That’s a question we could invest in. And one that came dangerously close to being answered in the affirmative.
Only the tenacity of Ted’s terriers saved him. While Hastings underwent humiliation and devastation – a supreme performance by Adrian Dunbar – Kate and Steve’s busy little paws were digging up the facts. When they bounded in to AC-12 to read Gill her rights, you could almost see their tails wagging. Mine certainly was. Kate had a good episode. When she earlier told Brandyce to stop making a tit of herself and piss off, I saluted, ma’am.
(“Going to have to blue light it” belongs to us now, btw. Use it the next time you’re pushing a trolley around Asda five minutes before closing.)
Gill would have gotten away with it if it weren’t for those pesky AC-12 kids bombing up the M6 and finding Corbett’s secret recording. The duplicity of that woman, sitting there in her lilac blouse of lies, telling Ted to trust her. Carmichael might be an expert in cold condescension, but compared to Gill’s “I’m on your side” lies, the DCS was a cheery milkmaid.
Besides, Carmichael was only doing her job, and doing it well (as was Anna Maxwell-Martin. She always does). The tennis match of Ted’s fraying emotion vs Carmichael’s acid-tongued control (“Best we treat you like any normal regular person who’s been accused of plotting to kill someone,”) was a cleverly-designed thing. His hooded eyes, her feigned compassion … Line Of Duty’s lengthy interview scenes are all about the rhythm of power being batted back and forth. These two were in a Grand Slam final. Carmichael vs. Hastings. Talk about an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object.
Gill’s punishment for her greed came in the poetically fitting form of a tatty hatchback, a drab semi and a new identity as (who knows) Bertha Frumpington, the North-West’s premier cat spayer. That’s what you get for messing with the gaffer.
Gill wasn’t the only one to get a fresh start. Lisa McQueen reused her considerable improv skills (though left the Tiny Tears doll at home) to play a reformed character scaring kids straight. Lisa’s not so reformed that she didn’t lie about Ryan having murdered John, covering up his new position as a … you guessed it, bent-copper-in-training. Chilling. As was the PCC’s public statement that “there is no institutionalised corruption in this police force”.
He couldn’t have been further from the truth. Corbett was right, bent coppers really are everywhere. Even AC-3’s Tina was working for the OCG, much to Carmichael’s embarrassment. Steve’s new interpretation of Dot’s dying declaration suggesting that there are just four, three of whom have already been uncovered, feels like an underestimate. Perhaps he meant forty? Did anyone think to check Dot’s feet for the conveyance of an additional message via the medium of tap dance? Series six (already commissioned, hooray) may yet.
Even Ted broke the rules and regs to give Steph Corbett the hooky 50k that was just resting in his account. Given what Corbett’s mother meant to him, helping John’s family must have felt like closure.
As Ted proved when he rescinded Maneet’s yellow notice, there’s slavish adherence to procedure, and then there’s having a heart. What though, one wonders, was he planning on doing with that money before he learned that Corbett was Anne-Marie’s wee fella? Did his morals come that close to breaking?
The sad ballad of Ted Hastings goes on. He may have failed in his primary mission: the preservation of wife. He may be penniless and living on Belvita biscuits in heartbreak hotel. But he still has AC-12. And so, praise be for a show this relentlessly gripping and deliriously entertaining, do we.
Interview terminated. You remain under caution.