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Line of Duty - Series 5: Episode 6 - Review

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Wrapping up the "who is H?" mystery in style whilst also allowing room for an upcoming Series 6, the show's feature-length finale hit all the home runs in delivering a tour-de-force of an episode. I joked with a friend earlier in the day when I went to watch Avengers: Endgame (for the third time) that pretty much all of the extended time of this episode would be spent in one of Line of Duty's famous lengthy interview scenes, and it turned out I was right. If last week's episode was billed as the Battle of Hastings it was only an opening skirmish, as this was where the full bloodbath really took place, with the show even deciding to turn into a slasher film in the climatic final moments in a near-perfect finale.

The evidence was brought forward once again by D.C.S. Patricia Carmichael of AC-3, played ever so brilliantly by Anna Maxwell Martin. Carmichael went to such lengths to get this job across the line - believing that Hastings was very much H and not wanting to have her mind changed, acting on the slightest bit of extra evidence, she tore Hastings' defence apart piece by piece. The dodgy disposal of the laptop came back to haunt him, and out of all of the coincidental moments that pinpointed his guilt in the run-up to the finale, nothing was were spared. Were it not for the intervention of Kate and Steve at the last second, Hastings would be a goner and H would have won.

But as it turns out, nothing is ever so simple. Kate and Steve returned to Corbett's widow in order to gain evidence on the identity of H and save Hastings' career. Pressured into a corner by both Carmichael and Gill, Hastings pulled out all the stops to do so, breaking down when being told that Corbett was the daughter of Ann-Marie McGillis, whom Hastings was close to. It could have planted the seeds for Corbett being Hastings' son, and although nothing was outright confirmed, the evidence did look pretty damning with Hastings outright giving away the blackmail money he'd kept for himself. Hastings took it heavily, in what was a brilliant piece of acting by Adrian Dunbar who has been put through the wire this Series. This is probably the most that any of AC-12 member has had to deal with, and Dunbar played up his role brilliantly, navigating through all the red herrings that were thrown his way with ease.

It became evident last episode after too much was stacked against Hastings for him to be H and this episode we got our answer that some may have suspected for a while, it was Gill. Gill Biggeloe, who swept in as Hastings' defence only to turn against him at the last. She'd planted evidence against Hastings going as far as to steal his hair and use it against him, and even recruited Corbett to gun for Hastings (manipulating his own son against him?) in a very cruel move. Corbett was right about there being a mole in the higher rankings of the police, but he was after the wrong man all along and that became his downfall. The presence of Stephen Graham's character has been felt all across this season regardless of whether Graham has been present or not, and it shows you the power that he's had under the spotlight. Line of Duty's reputation for creating compelling, complex characters that stand at odds with AC-12 has been one of its best assets.

Gill's betrayal may have been inevitable in hindsight after the last few episodes but it was the surprise actions of PC Tranter that shocked the most, lashing out at her when she was recovering from being exposed alone in the bathroom. The odds didn't look good for Gill when the OCG weren't willing to lay siege to AC-12's under-staffed HQ to protect her, and after a tense stand-off between the police officers that had been ordered to oversee the interview and the non-bent police officers, order was restored. Kate, Steve and Hastings were no strangers to having people storm AC-12's HQ, and Kate reminds the AC-3 team that AC-12 don't need to be told what to do. It's their job, and nobody is more qualified than them. Therefore, outsiders have no right to be interfering in private AC-12 matters. Or in other words; "Now stop making a tit of yourself and piss off," which has to be one of the best line deliveries of an insult outside of something being created by Armando Iannucci, and was executed to perfection by the brilliant Vicky McClure.

And then, after the dust settled, there was time for one last cliffhanger, one last surprise to roll over into Season 6. Returning to the old video footage of Dot's death at the end of Season 3, we learnt that he was tapping morse code as he died with his hand, revealing that there had been four Caddys in the higher level of police corruption. We already know three - Dot Cottan and Derek Hilton have been dead for a while now, and H/Gill, now in witness protection, which only leaves one player left in the game (meaning that those wildly speculative Kate is corrupt theories won't be going away anytime soon), and any evidence that Carmichael has had on Hastings has fallen apart after Gill's exposure, clearing Hastings' name but putting him on a final, written warning before a dismissal.

It's also important to note the after effects that will come back to haunt Steve, who shot a police officer for the first time in a devastating moment that will no doubt carry over into Series 6. Steve's been under a lot of pressure this Series too (Kate has had precious little to do in comparison even with her promotion, suggesting more screentime next time out), and it'll be interesting to pick up where we left off next time around.

It was cool to see Lisa McQueen get a happy ending whilst also wrap up her characters' arc nicely, as she reformed and turned into someone helping teens avoid being recruited into organised crime in the same way that she has been. Rochenda Sandall has been another standout this Series and the cast has been full of quality performances. Also interesting was an apparent set-up for an expanded role for Ryan Pilkington in Series 6 after his recruitment to become another corrupt officer, showing the endless cycle of corruption in the heart of the police department that will never go away anytime soon - and will continue even possibly with the eventual exposure of the fourth Caddy. Jed Mercurio likes to bring back characters across Series who haven't appeared in a while so it was cool to see Gregory Piper return at various intervals this season, who was once a drug runner for kingpin Tommy Hunter way back in Series 1. I wonder how much Line of Duty has looked to Martin Scorsese's The Departed for inspiration as I was reminded a lot of that this Series, even moreso than previous Series, with the whole cat and mouse game being taken to all new heights.

Where Line of Duty will go in Series 6 is anyone's guess, but perhaps what's great about this episode is that is doesn't spell the end for Dunbar's Hastings and keeps him in charge at AC-12. When you look up "Red Herrings" in the dictionary you're going to be rewarded with a picture of this man staring back at you, but the bar has very much been raised going into the hiatus period. Line of Duty has proven time and time again that it is among the best in crime television full stop (at least the best since The Wire), and the sooner Mercurio gets started on Series 6 (which hopefully, won't be long given Richard Madden's reported involvement in Chloe Zhao's The Eternals is likely to put a hold on any forward movement on Bodyguard Series 2), the better. Yes at times the show may be a bit too far fetched and push the boundaries of realism one step closer to the edge than before, Mercurio has proven he can create compelling, edge of your seat drama like the best of them.

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