Line of Duty recap: series four finale – the tentacled conspiracy grows

The series reaches its climax and throws everything in the mix, from switched allegiances to unmasked baddies

Warning: contains spoilers

Spoiler alert: this blog is for people watching series four of Line of Duty (it also contains spoilers from earlier series). Don’t read on unless you have watched episode six.

Phew. I don’t know about you but I found that a thoroughly satisfying conclusion. While wonderfully tense at times – most notably in the standoff with Jamie – it was also more downbeat than the shenanigans of last year. The key to Line of Duty is that it exists in a corruption-filled world in which anything can, and frequently does, happen. Does that mean that not everything is entirely realistic, that there are occasionally plot holes and moments where belief has to be suspended? Absolutely, but these gaps don’t matter when the whole package is so entertaining.

Take this final episode, which had everything: lengthy interrogations, switched allegiances, motivations revealed, conspiracies unveiled, bad guys unmasked, sweat-inducing moments of tension, and conclusive confirmation that sharp-shooting, straight-talking Ulsterman Ted Hastings is the one true hero in this bleak, brutal world. Or is he? Writer Jed Mercurio couldn’t resist one final note of ambiguity in a series that has consistently traded in them – there will be plenty of theories springing up about whether Hastings shot the man in the balaclava to save his own skin rather than the hostage’s, and whether he could yet turn out to be Line of Duty’s Big Bad.

The bad guys

One of the things I most enjoy about this show is the way the motivation for these crimes is often such a simple one, with many of the antagonists reacting to circumstances rather than creating them. In this case the truth about Roz Huntley and balaclava man was always hidden in plain sight. Both Tim Ifield and Huntley were victims of their own knowledge in that, as experienced police officers, both believed a plea of self-defence wouldn’t save them and chose instead to try and cover up their crimes. Thus Ifield panicked after failing to detect Roz’s pulse and decided to try and dispose of her body while Roz, after killing Ifield in self-defence, came to much the same conclusion. “I couldn’t save his life so I decided to save mine,” as she pragmatically noted. It was a pretty jaundiced take on the world yet it rang reasonably true, although I’d argue that by keeping Roz’s motivations so opaque for much of the series Mercurio lessened the impact of her final reveal.

Despite sterling work from Thandie Newton as the melting ice queen, I still found it easier to buy her as a sociopathic narcissist rather than a victim of circumstances – a take the suspicious Kate Fleming would appear to agree with. Even Huntley’s motivation remained unclear. Did she set up her husband as part of a well-played long con intended to bring down both Hilton and Jimmy Lakewell? Or did she sacrifice herself simply because she was finally out of options and people to blame? The grudging way in which she announced that her children needed a parent before exonerating Nick suggested the latter; the insistence on speaking to only AC-12 and having Jimmy as her lawyer the former. Perhaps in the end the key lies in her words to Nick: “Watch what I do, not what I say.”

Our one true hero? Superintendent Ted Hastings.
Our one true hero? Superintendent Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar). Photograph: World Productions/ BBC / Bernard Walsh

The good guys

Ultimately Roz’s deeds led AC-12 another step closer to unravelling the grand Spectre-style conspiracy that has spread its poisonous tentacles into every corner of this world. Again, the answers were logical. There were, as many commenters suggested, many balaclava men – this was not a serial killer case but one in which vulnerable young women were targeted and murdered as part of an ongoing blackmail scheme, and as such it is part of a wider storyline dating back to the first series. Jimmy Lakewell was a corrupt link in this chain but not balaclava man himself. Hilton was equally corrupt but possibly not the H of Dot’s dying confession. Did he kill himself or was it murder? Certainly there was significance in the staging of the death in the same spot as another murder/suicide, that of social worker Oliver Stephens-Lloyd last series, as Kate was quick to note. As for Jamie Desford, he was revealed as a sort of proto-Dot, weak-willed, ambitious, naïve and eventually pushed into a situation he had no idea how to back down from.

“This is beginning to feel like a life’s work,” remarked an exhausted Ted as he and the rest of AC-12 looked over their ever-expanding Board of Suspicious Characters and General Ne’er do Wells. It certainly is, Ted, but if next series is all about AC-12 trying to unravel that conspiracy in the face of great provocation then I shall be very happy indeed.

Case notes

• Could Ted, the one shining light in this dark, dark world, really be corrupt? Kate seemed slightly unhappy about removing his name from the board, but surely that would be too evil a twist, even from the king of them?

• I was glad that we saw Michael released from jail and back with his grandmother – my biggest concern was that he might kill himself before his release.

• And glad too that Steve was shown to be recovering from his fall. Line of Duty always needs at least one scene per series of Arnott storming furiously into a room.

Storming furiously... Detective Sergeant Steve Arnott (Martin Compston).
Storming furiously... Detective Sergeant Steve Arnott (Martin Compston). Photograph: World Productions/ BBC / Bernard Walsh

• The fact Nick visited Roz in prison suggests that he at least bought that she did it all for him and the kids but I remain unconvinced: his standing by her had an element of an abused spouse unable to leave an abuser.

• Welcome back Les Hargreaves, supremely unimpressed cop, professional Yorkshireman and cracker of bad Fugitive jokes.

• And welcome back Sam – clearly the eyebrow-aversion lessons still haven’t taken hold.

• Jed Mercurio clearly has as much fun writing Jimmy Lakewell’s dialogue as Patrick Baladi has delivering it.

• Hat tip to everyone who noted Jamie and Jimmy Lakewell’s probable corruption and to everyone who put together detailed explanations of how far the Line of Duty Grand Conspiracy really stretches.

• Forget complaints about Roz’s preternatural ability to recover from head injuries and amputations. My biggest issue is still: how does Jodie manage to know everything that’s going on everywhere at any given time? And why does no one ever notice her lurking with intent?

• Finally a huge thank you to everyone who posts here, you all make my head spin in the best possible way. Let’s raise a glass to Superintendent Ted Hastings – may all speculation about potential corruption prove wide of the mark.

Weasel of the week

In an episode full of self-serving justifications this can really only go to the late and very unlamented ACC Paul Hilton, a man who never met a situation he didn’t try and weasel his way out of.

Quote of the week

“There’s a fella lying dead downstairs because he didn’t cooperate – don’t test us, Jamie.” Deadeye Ted lays down the law.

So what did you think? Was it a satisfactory ending? What did you think of Roz’s motivation? Can AC-12 unravel the whole damn conspiracy next series? And surely Ted Hastings is on the side of the angels… isn’t he? As ever all speculation and no spoilers welcome below….


Sarah Hughes

The GuardianTramp

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