Line of Duty gripped the entirety of the UK and Ireland for a sixth season as the hunt for the “fourth man” has kept millions in thrall. Each episode garnered record viewing figures. Sunday’s finale attracted a whopping 12.8 million, the highest in the UK since records began. Following each episode social media was awash with conspiracy theories, reactions and memes as it seemed we were closing in on the elusive H.
Written by Tresca Mallon
Episode one set the scene for the season, and in typical Line of Duty fashion, caused mass confusion with the introduction of a new acronym, CHIS (Covert Human Intelligence Source). A slower start than usual, the first episode mostly served the purpose of setting up the main and side plotlines and introducing us to the suspicious DCI Joanne Davidson (Kelly MacDonald) of the Murder Investigation Team. This also happens to be Kate’s (Vicky McClure) new team and an interesting dynamic develops between the two women. Episode two is much more eventful and does a solid job of ironing out some creases from the information overload of the first installment. In this episode we also get our first classic Hastings and Arnott lengthy, tag-team interrogation. Despite an eventful start to episode three, there is a lull in momentum as the side stories of Steve’s (Martin Compston) drug addiction and his (completely inappropriate as usual) relationship with Steph Corbett, takes centre stage. An action-packed episode four brings the pace back up with a few big reveals and a dramatic shoot-out. In addition we are left with an intriguing cliffhanger which had the entire viewing public screaming, “Who is the relative?!” Episode five offered some answers but posed even more questions, as the loose-ends piled-up. We also get the audacious Jimmy Nesbitt red herring which threw the audience completely off the scent for the next week. Another tense cliffhanger leads us into episode six which, despite the initial fast-paced car chase and a few interesting twists, does little to resolve unanswered questions.
At this point, all eyes were on the final episode to offer a resolution to the multitude of open ended plotlines, and what an underwhelming let-down! The finale left the audience aghast as a lackluster H reveal and a dense departing statement from Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar) saw out the beloved series. Writer and showrunner Jed Mercurio decided to make a statement on the frustrating and systemic nature of corruption, by completely infuriating audiences with the most dissatisfying TV climax since Game of Thrones. Fools failing upwards and Buckells, the self-serving agent of corruption masquerading as a bumbling idiot, as a thinly veiled comparison to Boris Johnson, was a point well made. However, to sacrifice the exciting tone and momentum of the show in favour of teetering out slowly was unnecessary.
Kate and Steve’s relationship is the one of the pillars of the show, so it felt appropriate that we got a final scene with them. It is so rare to see a male/ female friendship on screen that is completely platonic, based on mutual respect with no sexual tension. It was particularly stressed in this season with the reveal they have access to each other’s homes and cars in case of emergency. Their final goodbye, while slightly cheesy, was a heartfelt love letter to the connection between the characters
Ted Hastings is the undisputed fan favourite of Line of Duty. Busting out some stellar ted-isms like “Jesus, Mary and Joseph and the little donkey,” Dunbar never fails as the gruff but loveable superintendent of AC-12. His heartfelt plea for integrity in the face of corruption, while overshadowed by the weaker aspects of the ending, was extremely poignant and rounded the characters arc after a couple of seasons of suspicion and shady behaviour.
Kelly MacDonald as Joanne Davidson gave a compelling and layered performance as the bent copper with a heart of gold. Despite her involvement in organised crime MacDonald imbued such a vulnerability into Jo that it was impossible not to sympathise with her plight.
The relationship between Kate and Jo is textbook and unabashed queer-baiting, which served it’s purpose as a talking point but contributed little to the overall narrative. Despite the unnecessary allusions to romance, their Thelma and Louise moment in episode six was thoroughly enjoyable.
A major gripe with season six was the treatment of Chloe (Shalom Brune-Franklin). Despite carrying the entirety of AC-12 and consistently moving the plot by providing answers, we barely get to know her. She has little depth outside of her stellar police work and the only time we glimpse a layer of her character is in her reaction to the corrupt handling of the historic hate crime case. This writing seemed slightly cynical given that little attention is given to developing her personality outside of this moment.
Season six did provide us with some brilliant antagonists. Ryan Pilkington, played by Gregory Piper, is wonderfully menacing despite his tiny amount of dialogue and screen time.The continuation of his character from season one with the same actor was a stroke of genius and gave a full circle feel. Then we have the return of Patricia Carmichael (Anna Maxwell Martin), the personification of a slapped arse, who is so deliciously hateful. She embodies the frustrating bureaucracy that pervades as an easy aid to corruption within public offices. We also get a heart-wrenching turn from Tommy Jessop as the wrongly accused and horribly mistreated Terry Boyle.
Line of Duty has firmly solidified its place in the UK’s cultural zeitgeist after consistently producing riveting storylines and thrilling twists for almost a decade. Season six is no exception, delivering some of the strongest plotlines, antagonists and action scenes of the entire series. However, Mercurio failed to provide us with a satisfying goodbye. Choosing to go out in an antagonistic whisper rather than the fiery bang we expected left a captive audience disappointed and desperate for more. Could this really be the end of Ted, Kate, Steve and the AC-12? And Mother of God will we ever get the resolution we deserve?!