This contains spoilers for Episode 3 of Line of Duty Season 5. Not up-to-date? Read our spoiler-free review of the opening episode here.
If you had a drink every time someone said the words “bent cop” during Line of Duty, this episode of Season 5 would be the one to put you in hospital. The words mostly come from the mouth of John Corbett (Stephen Graham), who shouts them every few minutes, whether he’s chatting with BFF Steve Arnott (Martin Compston) or ordering about his number two, Lisa McQueen (Rochenda Sandall). Planning a raid with the rifles they stole? They better find a bent cop to help them, he declares, saying the phrase so often that it’s a wonder nobody suspects he might be one.
Graham’s performance as Corbett remains just convincing enough to leave us completely clueless as to what his game is. Is he the undercover cop he claims to be, trying to bring down the OCG with his new mate Steve? Or is he a rogue cop pretending to be an undercover cop, stringing Steve along, so he can carry on with his deeds without being arrested? Either could be true, since Corbett cut ties with Operation Pear Tree months ago, and the fact that he’s obsessed with the idea that Hastings is corrupt only muddies the water further. In an attempt to clear them, he shows some trust in Steve by giving him the phone number for Lisa, so that AC-12 can use it for surveillance – of both the Borogove Estate and the printing services where they do business.
Steve, bless his cotton socks, finally admits he’s made contact with Corbett, and Hastings responds by raiding both properties, on the grounds that, at least in one of them, women might be vulnerable or being exploited as slaves. (It turns out he’s right: they are, and one of them tells AC-12 that she’s been ordered to keep condoms after visits, most likely to use them as evidence for blackmailing people, leading to – you guessed it – more bent cops.)
That, of course, only jeopardises the Stevebett bromance, but not enough to stop Corbett telling AC-12 about the job they’re planning with the stolen firepower: Eastfield Police Storage Depot, where evidence, including drugs, guns and cash, are all kept locked away. Why does he tell Steve, if he doesn’t fully trust him? Therein lies the fun of Line of Duty: Jed Mercurio specialises in weaving plots that are entirely ridiculous and borderline illogical, but are executed with just enough gravity and conviction to make you go along with it – and enough nailbiting tension to stop you pausing once you have.
And so Eastfield unfolds, with Steve and Kate (Vicky McClure) keeping watch, as Corbett’s crew hit the place up. But a status zero calls come in on the radio, and Kate has no choice but to respond, just in case it’s genuine. Inevitably, of course, it isn’t, and the dummy call is enough of a distraction for the Eastfield raid to be completed, and for AC-12 to miss their chance to arrest H and bring him in for questioning. Because H, believe it or not, seems to make an appearance at the raid, after Corbett pulled strings to get the senior bent copper behind the web of corruption to turn up. When AC-12 fail to snap him up, though, Corbett goes even more rogue than he already is and sprays some bullets from his automatic rifle. He claims to Steve that he was aiming for his legs, but the man dies of his wounds, which makes that entire account of events pretty suspect, to say the least. “I’m on my own. And there’s no way back. I couldn’t give myself up even if I wanted to,” Corbett tells Steve, before storming off.
So who is the man who got gunned down (by accident or not)? That would be DS Les Hargreaves (Tony Pitts). But with him now out of action, we’ve no way of knowing whether he was H, or whether he was merely a pawn for the actual H. Which seems like a good time to revisit Episode’s closing moments, as AC-12 presented Jane Cafferty (survivor from Episode 1 – keep up) with a load of photos of possible H suspects. It turns out she pointed to… not Ted, but DI Dot Cottan (Craig Parkinson) from Season 1 and 2.
All of which means that Hastings is still in the picture for H, with the reveal of Cottan and Hargreaves not conclusively solving the mystery at all. Although we do learn that Hargreaves ordered the fake car incident and radio call on the night of the raid – presumably because he was one of the cops being blackmailed by the OCG. Indeed, one of the Borogrove Estate trafficking victims gives us a description of a man being blackmailed, who visited the property around the time that Lisa McQueen was there. It could have been Hargreaves, but it could also have been Hastings.
Ted is certainly in the line of fire elsewhere: being approached by former cop Mark Moffatt (Patrick Fitzymons) about that possible scheme to recuperate his money from the property deal gone wrong is highly suspicious, and smacks of Ted being slowly set up with a conveniently timed wave of cash into his bank account. Legal counsel Gill Biggeloe (Polly Walker) may well be involved too, as she pops up to take Ted for dinner – and for him to take her back to his cheap hotel room for the night. You know, the one where he still has a photo of his soon-to-be-divorced wife on display. Just as things start to look grim for Ted, why, oh why, is also acting suspiciously himself? That moment where he takes his laptop to be erased is surely a red herring, isn’t it?
One things that is for sure, though, is that his ex, Roisin Hastings is in danger, as Corbett closes out the episode by turning up on her doorstep and – putting on a balaclava – breaking in to presumably take her hostage. With Corbett faking an AC-12 ID and pretending to be Steve to get near her flat, though, he’s clearly got a long-term game plan going on. Prepare for things to get even more twisted as Season 5 passes the halfway mark… The main lingering question we have: is Steve’s old flame, DS Sam Railston (Aiysha Hart), involved at all?
Line of Duty: Season 5 is available on BBC iPlayer until July 2019.