This contains spoilers for Episode 5 of Line of Duty Season 5. Not up-to-date? Read our spoiler-free review of the opening episode here.
There are certain things fans have come to expect from Line of Duty. Shocking deaths, sudden twists, suspicious senior officials and, of course, police officers only being questioned by people one rank their senior. Season 5’s penultimate episode finally sees Ted (Adrian Dubnar) subjected to the latter, as he is thrown into jail and lined up for an interrogation by Patricia Carmichael (Anna Maxwell-Martin).
Why? Because of last episode’s shocking death, the killing of John Corbett (Stephen Graham) that saw him bleeding out (from his neck) on the floor. The theory? That Ted revealed Corbett’s undercover cop identity to Lee Banks, so that Corbett could be wiped out.
We, of course, see that visit by Hastings to OCG veteran Banks, who’s behind bars at Blackthorn Prison – and, in typical form from showrunner Jed Mercurio, although we’re sure there’s an innocent explanation for it, we don’t actually see their conversation, so we can’t actually vouch for Ted’s innocence entirely. That’s why DI Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) and DS Steve Arnott end up reporting the gaffer to anti-corruption, bringing AC-3 in to quiz the AC-12 boss. (Ted later says he did it to get possible intel about the personnel in the OCG, admitting that he’d help Lee’s sentencing if he thought it would give him answers, but that’s still vague and not very helpful – and doesn’t explain why he did it in secret.)
It’s a move that arrives just as all of Ted’s other dodgy behaviour comes out in the wash, including (in his searched flat) an envelope with £50,000 from ex-copper Mark, who (as far as Ted believes) is connected to that property company. With no sign of Ted’s fingerprints on the dough, though, and with Kettle Bell showing no sign of withdrawing that sum, it doesn’t look convincing. Our money’s still on Mark being connected to the OGC, making Ted the latest in a long line of targets with financial vunerabilities, but it still doesn’t add up brilliantly for Hastings. The only hope we’ve got is that it makes no logical sense for the OGC to be recruiting someone who’s already H – unless they’re somehow all in the dark about his identity and he hasn’t bothered to correct them.
Carmichael, nonetheless, is determined to prove Hastings is H, which also raises the question of her own culpability. It would be cheeky to introduce the real Big Bad only in the final two episodes of a season, but Maxwell-Martin’s performance is fantastically vindictive, as long-standing beef between her and Ted keeps on surfacing throughout the episode.
Speaking of beef, the most important mystery for now is the connection between Hastings and Corbett, who was gunning for Ted all along. Stephen Graham’s departure is sorely felt in this hour of TV, but Mercurio balances out his absence by ramping up the sheer volume of information to process, dumping every bit of exposition and every last red herring on our laps before the feature-length finale. Most of that revolves around Corbett’s mother, Anne-Marie, and his Irish family. She went missing back in 1989 in Belfast, thought to have been passing on information to the Royal Ulster Constabulary, where Hastings was based. Shot in her wrists, knees, ankles and head, her punishment matched the wounds given to Roisin Hastings, Ted’s not-quite-ex-wife, and there’s the fact that Hastings was promoted shortly after Anne-Marie disappeared. He also went on leave, after an explosion killed his friend and sent him into intensive care – is Anne-Marie connected to that tiny gem of backstory we got earlier in the season? With Corbett talking to his wife, Steph (Amy De Bhrun), on the phone before he was rubbed out, asking about Anne-Marie, surely the missing piece of the puzzle will be Steph being brought in for questioning?
The other major mystery is Lisa, as the OCG veteran remains tight-lipped in her interview, following the arrest of several gang members. That all came about from Ted’s ill-advised undercover operation, in which he stormed into the OCG’s nightclub and claimed he was H – precisely the kind of reckless behaviour you expect from a. a guilty man, b. a desperate man with nothing to lose, or c. a man in a Jed Mercurio drama determined to mess with your expectations as much as possible.
Last episode, he told Lisa via the computer link “I need you to bring all this to a close”, which might have been a veiled instruction to kill Corbett, but then when he goes into the nightclub as “H”, he demands to speak to Corbett, so that seems to rule out either one of them being connected properly – unless she suspected he was playing the part of H and was planning to capture/interrogate him herself. The other possibility, that she’s an undercover cop, also seems to be ruled out by the way that she doesn’t protest when being arrested – either way, Rochenda Sandall is wonderfully impossible to read.
The one thing she does do without equivocation was say that she found out about Corbett’s real identity from Lee in prison – is that just on orders by H, who’s hoping to stitch Hastings up for good? And, as Lisa asks, who exactly is watching the footage of her interview? With an extra-long final episode on the way, whatever theories you have, expect them to be thrown out of the window.
Line of Duty: Season 5 is available on BBC iPlayer until July 2019.