This review contains Line of Duty spoilers.
Like a plump Christmas stocking, the real treats of series six have worked their way down to where we are now – somewhere around the heel. Having dutifully unwrapped the first couple of episodes and politely smiled at the satsumas and novelty tissues, we’ve reached the really good stuff. Episode four was nothing but single malt miniatures and Hotel Chocolat, both of which, incidentally, would be excellent ways to recover our nerves after all that excitement.
Everyone fortified? Let’s go.
RIP Jonesy. RIP Jimmy. RIP AC-12? Of all the balaclava-men-and-bolt-cutter peril the team has survived over the years, who’d have thought that in the end, they’d be brought down by bureaucracy. ACC Wise can blame it on redistribution of funds, department mergers and staff redundancies, but we know the deal. There’s no place for Ted Hastings in this rotten world. And if Ted won’t leave the unit, they’re going to dismantle it around him.
Wise’s deadline leaves series six with a ticking clock. Ted now has until the end of the month to either a) go quietly or b) swing into Central Police headquarters on a Tarzan rope, rip off H’s mask, pull out a grenade pin with his teeth and blow that whole snake pit to kingdom come, leaving behind the words ‘honesty’ and ‘integrity’ blazing on the charred earth. I know which ending I’d want my licence fee to go towards.
Adrian Dunbar’s heartfelt, despairing “What has happened to us?” speech wasn’t just the culmination of his character – the last good man in a world of PR spin and alternative facts – but the lament of series six. The background hum of furious frustration has grown louder with each episode, as more and more instances of real-life corruption and public deception are openly referenced or alluded to. Were the scripts this heated before the series’ Covid-19 hiatus, you wonder, or did the governmental response to the pandemic inspire some last minute additions?
On the subject of lies costing lives, a warm welcome back to Patrick Baladi as solicitor snake Jimmy Lakewell. Have a seat, Jimmy, can I get you anything to…? Oh, garrotted is it? A flying visit. Baladi’s return added yet again to the reunion tour feel of this whole series. So Jimmy was the voice on that Vella clip (an extra shoulder stripe to everybody who got there a fortnight ago). He knew which story Vella was circling, and in the back of that van, there’s a chance that he told Steve. How else to interpret his emphasis on “That’s right isn’t it, DI Arnott? I didn’t talk,” unless he was checking that Steve wouldn’t rat on him.
If Steve does have a tip-off, he’ll need to work fast before his own ticking clock deadline expires. Hastings may have until the end of the month, but Steve only has until his drug test follow-up appointment before he could be off the case. Godspeed, Steve. And nice shot, mate.
The ambush scene was knuckle-biting stuff and I have the knuckles to prove it. Tense, terrifying and unpredictable scenes from director Gareth Bryn, from the moment the first Range Rover slunk out of that side street to the final dramatic overhead shot of the bullet-pummelled police van as a train thundered by. It all made for an overwhelming hour, with enough high-stakes drama to floor anybody who’s been calling this series slow. Tremendous television, and that was just the loud bit.
Episode four had quietly thrilling moments too, not least Gregory Piper’s Psychobot-2000 temporarily glitching when Jo tried to post Ryan off her team. That blank-faced pause went on longer than the DIR bleep until Ryan’s programming kicked back in and he thanked Jo for everything she’d done, ma’am. Then it was a Vella-style gun to the back of her head on her doorstep, and Ryan was back on the squad.
Definitively off the squad is Ian Buckells, who gave us a treat this episode with his demonstration of what an ordinary idiot and not a sleek jaguar of deception looks like in that interview room. It was like watching AC-12 interrogate a Golden Retriever about who’d eaten the butter paper out of the kitchen bin – head-hanging, whimpers, confusion and the occasional bark. When Davidson was in that glass box, she had an answer for everything; Buckells had an answer for nothing. Not his case, not the contents of his car boot, and not the meaning of those tacky initialisms on his phone next to the suspects he was coercing into sexual favours. Here’s what you’re saved under on my mobile, Buckells: Ian SFB. Use your imagination.
Now that Buckells has seen first hand what happens to rats, chances are he’ll shut up about having been framed and get on with his time. So… it’s over for Jo? It’s not over for Jo. She tried to reassert control this episode, but as Ryan and the radio silence from her laptop contact proved, she’s simply not the one with the power.
The shock episode cliffhanger may point us towards why. Jo isn’t just being run by the OCG, it transpires that she’s a blood relative of somebody with historical links to them and AC-12. Fellow Glaswegian Tommy Hunter is perhaps the top prospect (we delve into the various possibilities here). At this stage though, only conjecture is possible. We rule nothing in, nothing out.
Line of Duty continues next Sunday the 18th of April at 9pm on BBC One.