Every series of Line of Duty ranked, from worst to best

Cameron K McEwan
·6-min read
Photo credit: World Productions/ BBC / Des Willie
Photo credit: World Productions/ BBC / Des Willie

From Digital Spy

It feeks like an age since the AC-12 gang – Ted Hastings, Kate Fleming and Steve Arnott – were last on our screens busting bent coppers in the mesmerising Line of Duty.

The show from genius Jed Mercurio and starring Adrian Dunbar, Vicky McClure and Martin Compston began in 2012 and has treated us to five series so far.

Season six shooting wrapped in November, so it can't be long now… But while we wait, let's have at the show so far and how each series ranks. And let's be clear from the off – there are NO bad series of Line of Duty. But we like some more than others.

Watch out, fellas – spoilers follow.

5th. Series Four (2017)

Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

Thandie Newton joined the already immensely talented cast in the guest role of "main bad guy" with W1A's Jason Watkins and The A Word's Lee Ingleby bolstering the ensemble for the show's big channel move.

After three series on BBC Two, the show now found itself on BBC One and, in true Line of Duty fashion, it was a spectacular (and outrageous) opening episode. In fact, we called it "bloody ridiculous" (in a good way!).

The rest of the series was perhaps a touch more over-the-top than previous ones, but it was still bloody brilliant television, leaving viewers with more unanswered questions than ever before.

The move to BBC One paid off, too, with over 4 million new fans tuning in giving the show an overall audience of over 10 million for the finale!

We have been left wondering though, is Ted Hastings a bent copper?

4th. Series Five (2019)

Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

Stephen Graham was the big new signing of the year as a balaclava man who was actually an undercover cop – or was he? Alongside Anna Maxwell Martin as the coldly superior replacement brought in to supervise the investigation of Silly Old Ted, he brought all the intensity you'd hope for.

So why have we marked this series down? For drawing out the "Who is H?" storyline a little too far and for running around in circles, ultimately leading back to the beginning.

3. Series One (2012)

Photo credit: World Productions/Ed Miller - BBC
Photo credit: World Productions/Ed Miller - BBC

In terms of the now familiar Line of Duty patented shocks and twists, this first batch of episodes is a little less wild.

We were introduced to AC-12, headed by Adrian Dunbar, through the eyes of Martin Compston's Steve as he joined Vicky McClure's Kate on a quest to rid the force of bent coppers.

Their quarry here was so-called 'super cop' DCI Tony Gates (played with huge charisma by The Walking Dead's Lennie James), who'd got foolishly entangled with old flame and businesswoman Jackie Laverty (Gina McKee).

It was a comparatively low-key but utterly gripping series, with James putting in an incredible performance over the five episodes, one bursting equally with bravura and sensitivity. (He earned an RTS 'Best Actor' nod for his efforts.)

2. Series Two (2014)

Photo credit: World Productions/Mark Bourdillon - BBC
Photo credit: World Productions/Mark Bourdillon - BBC

Mercurio sure knows how to put together an opening episode.

We witnessed it recently with his new show but back in 2014 he cracked open the second outing for the AC-12 gang with an exhilarating and shocking premiere.

It kicked off with a whirlwind attack on the police and ended with the harrowing death of Jessica Raine's DC Georgia Trotman.

Photo credit: World Productions - BBC
Photo credit: World Productions - BBC

We'd only just met her – Raine was just hot off the heels of Call The Midwife and was expected to see out this series (well, by the audience at any rate) – but Mercurio had other plans and had DC Trotman thrown out of a hospital window.

But there was more mayhem and magic to come.

Photo credit: World Productions/Steffan Hill
Photo credit: World Productions/Steffan Hill

Enter the absolute Queen of the small screen – Keeley Hawes.

The actress played DCI Lindsay Denton, a woman scorned who wouldn't be intimidated or crossed with though many tried. Her takedown of Ted Hastings and the AC-12 crew was quite something as she revealed their collective flaws.

Tragically, this wasn't to help as she ended up being endlessly abused and having to deal a noisy neighbour and the death of her mother. She may well have been a slightly shady character but we were #TeamDenton all the way.

Throw in the return of the brilliant Craig Parkinson as lovable rogue Dot Cottan and you've got a series that's almost perfection.

1. Series Three (2016)

Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

Another killer series debut here. Shortly before his character's shock death, the always good-value Daniel Mays turned in one of the year's best scenes on telly.

Playing LoD newcomer Danny Waldron, Mays bested Ted Hastings, Steve Arnott and Dot Cottan in a classic interrogation scene that saw AC-12 left wanting. Waldron was a fascinating character who, like Denton previously, had so much more going on beneath the surface.

From hereon in, each episode ramped up the tension with surprises galore, not to mention the odd shock death and returning character.

Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

The return of Keeley Hawes as Denton was another gob-smacking moment for the show as she fought her way to "justice" and then teamed up with former foe Steve Arnott. It wasn't all good news for her though: Lindsay had to contend with a sexually inappropriate parole officer – who she dealt with in typically brilliant Denton style.

Hawes was on tip-top form again and this made her death, at the hands of 'The Caddy', all the more heartbreaking.

This inadvisable moment from Dot triggered the craziest finale yet. The ultimate showdown came as Kate and Ted went face-to-face with Cottan in another classic AC-12 interrogation scene though this one ended slightly differently to most interviews...

Urgent Exit Required!

Craig Parkinson's time as the bad boy behind so much nastiness came to end. The actor's performance throughout the first three series had been impeccable, managing the many, many sides to Cottan's hugely complex character with aplomb.

Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

In short, the Caddy was a legend. But he got his comeuppance, and a moment of redemption, as he saved the life of Vicky McClure's Kate Fleming.

By this point, the show became too big for its home channel BBC Two, where it had become the most successful drama ever, and was moved upwards to BBC One

Line of Duty returns in 2021 – here's everything you need to know about series six

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