Jesus, Mary and Joseph: just when we thought we’d reached peak stress with last week’s ambush and DNA cliffhanger, the fifth instalment of Line of Duty’s nerve-eviscerating sixth series came along and left us with our jaws on the floor.
From a paternity reveal to the return of a brilliant guest star, the latest episode brought us one step closer to figuring out why murdered journalist Gail Vella was targeted by organised crime - and left the fate of one of our favourite characters hanging in the balance.
The plot reveals came thick and fast - spoilers abound as we recap what happened below...
RIP Jimmy Lakewell. We’d barely had a chance to appreciate the lawyer’s radiant prison tan when he got bumped off by fellow inmate and OCG fave Lee Banks in the closing moments of last week’s episode. Before his death, though, he gave Steve a new lead: that Gail Vella was looking into the death in custody of a man named Laurence Christopher.
Kate’s back at the AC-12 office, which a concerned Ted - who is clearly as stressed as I am by the wee girl’s constant proximity to OCG pawn Ryan Pilkington - describes as “the safest location for [her] right now.” She’s even started carrying a concealed firearm. The gang reveal that Jo Davidson is now under surveillance after a revelation about her family history - aka the cliffhanger we’ve all been wildly theorising about since last Sunday night.
The DNA results are in - turns out Jo’s DNA is a partial match with Tommy Hunter, the Scottish OCG kingpin killed off in series two. Steve notes that there are “runs of homozygosity” in the sample, but rudely fails to explain exactly what that means to those of us without a Biology A Level - a quick Google reveals that not only does this imply a parent-child relationship between the two, but it also suggests... incest.
Over on the telly, Chief Constable Philip Osborne is doing a big spiel about how the police serve the public. It’s time to “take back control,” he says, which never bodes well. Ted heads over to Rohan Sindwhani’s office, where we learn that the PCC, who surely we’d all had pegged as bent from the moment he appeared on screen, is resigning after trying to fight back against Osborne’s cuts to anti-corruption services.
The financial forensics report on Steph Corbett’s stash of cash is in, so Steve legs it over to the grotty underpass to share his findings with Kate. The notes are part of the same batch found in the Edge Park Hotel - that’s the supremely depressing Travelodge-knockoff where Ted was living back in S5.
Now, who should Steve have a voicemail from but one Steph Corbett? He calls back and tells her he hasn’t popped up to Merseyside recently because he’s been “snowed under at work.” It’s a time-honoured ghosting excuse, but also quite valid: he did get caught up in a deadly shoot-out last week, and has been moonlighting as Jeremy Kyle, dishing out big paternity reveals, ever since.
Meanwhile Kate reckons she has narrowed down the location of the OCG’s gun workshop - and asks her team to turn in their phones to prevent the plan from leaking. MIT all don their special police caps and head off to an industrial estate - but the warehouse is completely empty. Ryan, of course, has managed to stow a spare burner in his sock, and sneaks off to alert his crime pals.
Kate has in fact identified three potential locations, but only told Davidson about the next stage of her plan - meaning that if there was a leak, she’d know that it came from her boss. Coleen Rooney would approve. She’s also shared details of the op with AC-12, meaning Steve is on the ground when two OCG types - including the mysterious beardy bloke who previously provided Davidson with a new burner - rock up at one of the warehouses.
Steve is less than convinced by Kate’s Wagatha Christie ways - instead, he reckons that Davidson will have seen through the ploy and played along so as to appear innocent. In other words, the leaks could still be coming from… Jo Davidson’s (OCG MSN) account.
Could it be time to pull the increasingly terrifying Ryan from the squad? Ted thinks not - and lays out his reasoning with an extended metaphor about fishing. If Ryan is the next Caddy, the spiritual successor to Dot Cottan, then he was most likely placed in the MIT by the elusive ‘fourth man’ (that’s the artist formerly known as H) - there’s no point, Ted argues, reeling in Ryan when there are bigger fish to fry.
Chloe has more information on the Laurence Christopher case that Vella was looking into. All the way back in 2003, Christopher was attacked by a group of white youths and later died in custody, where he had been mocked and racially abused by police officers. Ensuing attempts to find his attackers were bungled: suspects were released without charge after a mismanaged ID parade and forensics weren’t properly secured.
Who was the Senior Investigating Officer in charge of this mess? A man named Marcus Thurwell, represented in the police database by a digitally de-aged mugshot of James Nesbitt, with a glowing tan to rival Lakewell’s. There’s also a link to the Danny Waldron case from S3 and the child abuse ring at Sands View boys home: when the social worker who informed police about the abusers died in extremely suspicious circumstances, Thurwell was the officer who wrote the death up as a suicide. Did Vella learn of this connection? It seems so - she requested an interview with Patrick Fairbank, the officer locked up for his involvement in the ring at the end of S3, but was killed the night before she was meant to meet him.
Over at Hillside Lane, Davidson tells Kate it’s time for her to transfer to another team. “I thought we were friends!” she laments, before standing her ground and refusing to move on from this toxic work environment. Back at Davidson’s flat, her OCG MSN conversations take an ominous turn when her nameless correspondent tells her in no uncertain terms to “get rid of” Kate. She agrees - as long as it’s her final job. “Definately,” the person on the other end replies, with that tell-tale spelling mistake.
Chloe’s discovered that Vella had requested interviews with every minor LoD character currently with links to organised crime, from incarcerated ex-officers like Manish Prasad (S2), Hari Baines (S3) and Roz Huntley (S4) to the likes of Gill Biggeloe and Lisa McQueen (S5), who now have new identities under the witness protection programme. The only person to agree was the OCG’s own Lee Banks - whose brother Carl remains a prime suspect in Vella’s murder. When Steve visits him in prison, he drops a bombshell, albeit one we’d been fearing for a while: when Ted met Lee in S5, he told him that John Corbett, then working as an undercover officer in the OCG, was a rat. His revelation directly led to Corbett’s death. Now Steve understands why the boss gave Steph that £50,000…
One of the suspects in the Laurence Christopher case was Darren Hunter, son of Tommy and, presumably, sibling of Davidson. It seems obvious that Tommy pulled strings in the police to have the case hushed up - and who should have been on Thurwall’s squad back in the day but Osborne and Central Police’s most cringe-inducing man, Ian Buckells?
Pat is back, baby! Chief Superintendent Patricia Carmichael bursts into AC-12 HQ like a passive-aggressive whirlwind, dropping massive hints that she’ll be in charge when the restructuring plan kicks in and telling off Ted for going through the budget “like there’s no tomorrow - which in your case does actually apply.” Her first move? To pull all of the surveillance ops on MIT…
Warning bells start to ring when Davidson says she wants to meet up with Kate to discuss their “personal issues outside of a work setting.” After telling her to head to their go-to bar, she re-directs her to the Midlands’ creepiest, most desolate car park. It’s the worst time possible for Steve to break the news about the surveillance being dropped by Carmichael. Urgent exit required, Kate!
Ryan is with Davidson, and pulls a gun on Kate. Thank god for that concealed firearm - and thank god she’s sent her location to Steve, who rallies the troops (Ted, Chloe and erm, Pat) to head to the scene. As the episode ends, a shot - or was it two? - is fired - but who did it hit?
Before we get to the plot - and lord, what a lot of plot there was - let’s just take a moment to appreciate some of this season’s standout performances. Shalom Brune-Franklin has slotted seamlessly into the cast as AC-12’s principled rookie officer Chloe; her response to the Christopher case - and her frustration with Steve’s bungled attempt at allyship - in this week’s episode was a moving interlude amid an onslaught of big splashy reveals. If she somehow turns out to be bent, I’ll be shakier than Buckells pouring milk into his tea. After episode four’s Bond-style heroics, there were some quieter moments for Steve, too. What with the painkiller addiction and the, erm, performance issues, in this series so far we’ve seen major cracks in his bravado that even a shiny new set of waistcoats can’t gloss over: kudos to Martin Compston, because the moment when he finally realised Ted might have had a hand in Corbett’s killing felt like a gut punch.
She may have only clawed a few minutes of screen time, but Anna Maxwell Martin stole every scene she was in, delivering a masterclass in superciliousness as the love-to-hate-her Carmichael. Give her a Bafta for the moment when she countered Ted’s assertion that AC-12 are “the best in the business” with a devastating “Really?” You’ll find me investing in monochromatic roll neck jumpers, tying my hair into a low power-bun and treating everyone around me with barely contained disdain in tribute to the queen of AC-3.
The revelations came thick and fast in this episode. Over the course of a very tense 59 minutes, we learned that Tommy Hunter is (probably) Jo’s dad, that Vella was investigating institutional racism in the force - and that the officer who covered up the Laurence case, who is currently living it up doing watersports in sunny Spain, was linked to the abuse ring at Sands View. That connection back to the Danny Waldron case, along with Davidson’s family ties to Hunter, feels like another indication that this series could be our last - everything is finally coming full circle, not least because it seems like Stevie boy’s old boss slash nemesis Osborne (the commanding officer who tried to force him into covering up the shooting of Karim Ali all the way back in S1, when he was a baby-faced, clean-shaved AFO) could be a potential ‘H’ figure.
Our nerves were already frazzled from last week’s botched convoy, meaning that the final stand-off between Kate, Jo and Ryan was borderline unwatchable, though it’s always a joy to see Vicky McClure flip into steely-eyed action hero mode. Will Kate make it out alive? I’m going to go with yes, purely because I refuse to countenance the thought of the show losing its most competent operative.
Pat’s back - but is she bent?
There’s a fine line between being bent and just being a dreadful line manager (see also: Buckells) in this show, but which side does Pat fall under? The fact that her immediate action was to suspend all of AC-12’s important surveillance operations rang major alarm bells - not least because it just happened to coincide with Jo’s car park rendez-vous with Kate. With Sindwhani apparently ruled out of the ‘H’ guessing game for now, Carmichael could certainly be a contender, especially given that Osborne appears to have singled her out for the top anti-corruption job. But then again, is Pat the kind of gal who would repeatedly spell ‘definitely’ incorrectly? Absolutely not.
When will Steve confront Ted?
Spare a thought for Steve, who’s stuck by the gaffer all this time, only to learn that not only did Ted pay off Steph Corbett with £50k of dubiously sourced banknotes, he did so because he’d traded information with the OCG, which led to her husband’s gruesome death. It’s worth noting, though, that Lee Banks isn’t exactly the most reputable of sources, so we can’t take his word as gospel. Either way, Steve looks pretty gutted that his mentor has not been following the letter of the law. A confrontation between the two of them is surely imminent - though it seems likely that Steve might ask Ted to look the other way when it comes to his painkiller addiction if he does the same with his boss’s dodgy behaviour. Ted, we’re not mad, just disappointed.
Will Thurwell be dragged back from the Costa del Sol for questioning?
Thurlwell is the missing link between the Christopher case and the abuse ring, which means he’s due for a grilling in the AC-12 glass box. Unless Jed Mercurio is just wildly trolling us with a bright orange headshot of James Nesbitt, Thurlwell is definitely going to play a significant role in the two concluding instalments of series six. Clearly Nesbitt feels as passionately about bent coppers as our Ted does: he recently played a spectacularly amoral detective in Bloodlands, exec produced by… Jed Mercurio.
Who will make it out of the stand-off alive?
The cliffhangers have been coming thick and fast this series - now we’ll have to wait another painful seven days to learn whether Kate, Jo or Ryan - or any combination of the above - make it through. Naturally, we’re crossing all our fingers and toes for Kate, but then again, Mercurio has repeatedly stated for the tape that no one, even our golden trio, is safe this series…
Who is on the other end of OCG MSN?
This is the million dollar question, isn’t it? The notoriously bad speller chatting to Davidson must be high enough in the police force to be continually appraised of AC-12’s - and Kate’s - involvement in the Vella case. Sindwhani’s out - so could it be Carmichael? Or perhaps DCC Andrea Wise? Chief Constable Osborne is looking like another obvious contender.
The Ted Hastings catchphrase-ometer
With forced retirement looming, Ted is amping up the catchphrases in a big way, warning Sindwhani that “if I see a bent copper, I only know one way - and that’s full throttle” (note to the BBC - Bent Coppers: Full Throttle would make a great spin-off film for Hastings). No one knows their way around a garbled metaphor like the gaffer, either. “We don’t want to be left holding a sprat when we should have landed a mackerel,” he sagely informed his team when discussing whether to reel in Ryan. Never change, fella.
Line of Duty series six airs on Sunday nights on BBC One at 9pm. Series one to five are available to stream on BBC iPlayer