We’ve reached the penultimate episode of series six of Line of Duty, but we still have so, so many questions.
After the gasp-inducing car park-based chaos from last week, this was a slightly more subdued instalment, with a meaty interview scene and more passive-aggression from Patricia Carmichael. It felt like Jed Mercurio was getting us ready for an explosive finale - any seasoned LoD viewer knows it would be foolish to relax at this stage in the game.
If you’ve just finished watching, read on for our blow-by-blow (and spoiler-heavy) guide to this week’s events. As ever, join us in the comments - we’d love to hear where you think the show is heading for next week’s final episode.
Police have arrived at the dodgy car park where Kate and Ryan Pilkington faced off at the end of last week’s cliffhanger episode. Kate and Davidson are nowhere to be seen, and Ryan lies dead on the floor with two bullet wounds in his chest, gone to the great OCG in the sky. Farewell to the Draco Malfoy of bent coppers.
Carmichael, Steve and Hastings arrive on the scene and exchange some cross words about Carmichael’s decision to withdraw surveillance on Davidson and Ryan, which certainly turned out to be a very bad idea. Kate’s car is found abandoned; Steve insists he has no idea where she might be. Yeah, right. Carmichael issues an order for Davidson and Kate’s arrest, declaring them “armed and dangerous.”
Cut to Kate and Davidson sneaking in the back entrance to Steve’s flat, flapping their guns about like Bonnie and Clyde but with regional accents. Kate seems weirdly chill about the fact Davidson has just tried to have her assassinated; Davidson is an emotional wreck, trying to make up for all the hoo-ha by slathering her prints all over Kate’s gun so she can be blamed for Ryan’s death. Kate then picks up a phone and car keys left for her by Steve, and they hop into his very shiny, unscratched new sports car and veer off into the night.
Bishop reports that Carmichael has asked her to update the evidence on Operation Lighthouse, the inquiry into journalist Gail Vella’s murder. She takes down a picture of Chief Constable Philip Osborne and mournfully puts it through a shredder, as Carmichael, reaching new heights of tyrannical micro-management, watches on.
Is there ever a bad time for a deep and meaningful? As they evade the authorities in Steve’s sports car, Kate and Davidson are having an intense chat about whether Kate has been lying to her this whole time. Yes, this is the same woman who just lured Kate to a car park to have her shot by an amateur BMX-er. Davidson then starts to open up about her family, lamenting that she did not choose the bent life, but was born into it - her mum was Tommy Hunter’s sister, her dad a bent copper. Or so she thinks… To prove she’s not bent, she tells Kate to drive to the Kingsgate Printing Services, an old OCG front which just so happens to be opposite Terry Boyle’s flat.
Uh oh. The police seem to have tracked Kate and Davidson down, and suddenly we’re in a car chase. Poor Steve - I hope he’s got that fancy new ride insured. Kate employs some very bold high-speed reversing, but they still end up cornered. “How the hell have they managed to intercept us?” wonders Kate. “Something’s not right.”
Something is definitely not right. Before we know it, Carmichael turns up with Steve and Hastings, wielding a loudspeaker and telling them to surrender. Naturally, Kate starts to freak out, believing that she’s been betrayed by her AC-12 pals and that they’re being framed, one heartbroken tear sliding down her face as she refuses to give up her weapon. Steve goes over to calm her down and get her to comply, Hastings tells her she’ll be well looked after, and Carmichael orders them to be arrested. The sight of Kate Fleming in a cell is too much to handle for any LoD fan - what on earth is going on here?
Carmichael’s people management skills are on full display back at HQ. “Just learnt the vehicle was yours,” she tells Steve, with a rictus grin. He explains that he and Kate had access to each other’s keys for extreme circumstances - such as an unexplained disruption in the chain of command. Carmichael chooses that moment to reveal that Hastings is retiring and AC-12 is being disbanded - not the way either of the lads wanted this bombshell to be handled. “Dismissed, thank you!” she says, smizing all of the air out of the room.
The reason Kate was intercepted? The Chief Constable had ordered trackers to be put on all AC-12 vehicles. Hastings says it’s a flagrant breach of trust, to which Carmichael responds: “The chief and I don’t trust you.” Hmm. Why would the Chief Constable of the police be so invested in obstructing the work of the police’s anti-corruption unit?
It’s Davidson’s turn to face the big beep. We always knew she’d end up in an interrogation room with AC-12, but... not like this. Carmichael leads the interview, assisted by Hastings and Steve. It all seems like a bit of a non-starter as Davidson keeps saying “no comment” to everything, but it takes a turn when they present evidence that the deceased OCG kingpin Tommy Hunter was her dad as well as her uncle - something which she appears not to have been aware of. Of course, Carmichael handles these sensitive revelations with all the warmth of a malfunctioning patio heater, but a picture begins to emerge of Davidson as a vulnerable woman who was coerced into a life of crime by her family. Her mum killed herself when Davidson was 16 - the same year that Tommy forced her to join the police in order to do his bidding.
During her interview, Davidson also reveals that Tommy wasn’t killed because he was an informant, as previously suspected. It was actually because the corrupt police officers he had nurtured relationships with had started to turn against him, and he was threatening to expose them. It was his protege, Dot AKA The Caddy, who orchestrated the plan. It was a turning point for the OCG, which broke into factions at this point. Hastings, thrilled by all of these OCG revelations being injected into his veins, excitedly tries to pursue this line of questioning, but Carmichael repeatedly shuts down all H-related chat. “This force has detected no evidence of institutional corruption,” she says, trotting out the words as if she’s reading from a press release.
Other pertinent info to come from Davidson’s interrogation: Davidson’s mysterious correspondent on OCG MSN happens to be based in Spain, where person of interest Marcus Thurwell happens to reside. Davidson was parachuted into the Vella case because the previous Senior Investigating Officer was pursuing the idea the murder was a contract killing. The burner phones at Jatri’s house, the decoy armed robbery at the bookies, the files in Buckells car? All the work of Davidson. And Terry Boyle - very much not guilty of the murder of Gail Vella. He was a convenient fall guy for the OCG, but Davidson had too much conscience to go through with charging him.
And most crucially… Gail Vella’s missing computer has turned up during a forensic search of Kingsgate Printing Services, the location Davidson flagged to Kate when they were on the run. It turns out Vella was looking into historic child sexual exploitation and police failures in the murder of Laurence Christopher, and particularly the involvement of Marcus Thurwell, Ian Buckells and Philip Osborne in that case. Davidson won’t give anything away about Thurwell, but it’s obvious that she knows him… and she’s quite scared of him.
And to wrap it all up, Davidson then falsely confesses to shooting Ryan Pilkington, saying she did it to stop him from killing Kate. All in a day’s work. Carmichael isn’t buying it, but then Davidson starts reeling off some long-winded legislation about her duty as a police officer in the face of ‘imminent threat to life’. Hastings looks at her like she’s the cleverest wee girl he’s ever seen in his life. Pilkington was placed on her team to intimidate her - but who was he getting his orders from? Hastings starts pointing at PowerPoint pictures of the perma-tanned Thurwell again (who operates that PowerPoint, by the way? It’s so efficient), asking if he’s the one giving the orders, but Davidson is tearful and too scared to say anymore, and Carmichael has quite simply had enough of Ted shouting things out. Davidson’s off to be remanded in custody for… a lot of things.
Alert: return of the Steve painkiller addiction subplot. After not making any groaning noises for a while, we’re reminded our favourite waistcoat wearer isn’t in a great place: he’s now on a final warning for skipping his drugs test, and if he doesn’t comply he’ll be suspended and given a yellow notice.
Carmichael pops in to tell Kate that she’s free to go: “the Crown Prosecutor is gullible enough to consider proceedings against Jo Davidson alone”. However… it hasn’t escaped her notice that Ryan died from two shots to the chest, exactly as a firearms-trained officer such as herself would know to do. “I’m not gullible, Kate. But I am pragmatic,” she says, before she and her tightly pinned bun disappear into the night.
As soon as she’s out of prison, Kate meets up with Steve to pop down to the OCG weapons workshop at Whiterock and tells them to dig up the floor. Good to see she’s not dwelling on things.
A grainy video link back at HQ has AC-12 teaming up with Spanish police to ambush Thurwell’s casa. They circumvent the swimming pool nicely but find him and his senora very much muertos, and probably for some time - there are flies buzzing all over the place.
The episode ends with a huge sense of foreboding: Davidson goes to her cell under the watch of a pair of threatening prison guards, who make it very clear they are ready and waiting to f*** her up, while Hastings rewatches Chief Constable Philip Osborne’s recent mic drop of a speech about the fact everyone needs to leave the police alone. “There are enemies within… I will personally see to it that those enemies within are made to suffer the consequences,” he said. Mother of God!
After having to breathe into a paper bag for the majority of the last two episodes, season six’s penultimate instalment was a more understated affair. As ever, there was a lot to take in - particularly Jo Davidson’s intense interview scene with AC-12, where we learnt more about her background. But surely it’s all building up to a finale of fireworks? Not since The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Part I have I felt so much like I’m waiting in a queue for a very big rollercoaster.
And what about those two riveting performances from Kelly Macdonald and Anna Maxwell Martin? If there’s any justice in the world, the pair will be slugging it out for a Bafta. So far, Macdonald has played Davidson as a bit of an unknowable character, but here she revealed a woman who is far more fragile than her controlled exterior suggested. As her OCG involvement became clear, we watched her become smaller before our eyes, nervously deferring to Kate and desperate to show she isn’t really a bad apple. In the hands of a lesser performer, the volte-face might have seemed a stretch, but Macdonald made it make sense.
And Carmichael, with her rictus grin and incredibly brisk attitude towards the children of incest, is proving once again to be the MVP of the series. In every interaction with Hastings, Maxwell Martin seems to be channeling her finest work in Motherland, talking to him as though she is his irritated, sleep-deprived parent and he is the over-zealous unplanned child she had just when she thought she’d finally got back onto the career ladder.
Is Carmichael bent or just really petty? Quite frankly, this is all I can think about. Carmichael is clearly tight AF with Osborne, the malevolent-seeming Chief Constable, who wants to bring down AC-12 and was a person of interest for Gail Vella. But is she bent, or just a ruthless operator trying to smize her way into a bigger office? “You let her off the hook,” Hastings snapped after Davidson’s interview. But there’s no evidence against her yet - being extremely pass-agg is currently completely legal.
Is Marcus Thurwell really dead? So, you’re telling me there’s NOT going to be a fancy cameo from James Nesbitt in a Hawaiian shirt? I don’t believe you. Thurwell - the SIO on the Laurence Christoper case that Vella was looking into - was living the expat life in Spain, which is where the IP address located Davidson’s OCG MSN buddy to. Not only does he seem too powerful to have been conveniently bumped off, we also never got a proper look at the body. Is he trying to throw AC-12 off his scent?
What’s under the floor of the workshop? You don’t ask someone to dig up a floor unless you’re going to find something really good. Just ask Tony Robinson’s Time Team. Whatever’s down there, it’s not likely to be pretty. I’m just praying it’s not another of Jackie Laverty’s dismembered body parts. That woman is everywhere.
Will Davidson be safe in prison? Stupid question: of course she won’t. The prison guard who broke Jatri’s arm like a twig is watching her, and we all know prison isn’t a safe place for anyone who broke away from the OCG - just ask Jimmy Lakewell. (You can’t, he’s dead.) Has Jo reached the end of the road? The challenge for AC-12 will be to try and get her to reveal more of what she knows before she has an unfortunate ‘accident’.
The Ted Hastings catchphrase-ometer
Our favourite fella was subdued this week. At every turn, he was foiled. There were no ‘mother of gods’, no ‘letters of the law’. Finally, we got to see the moment from the trailer where Hastings was so distraught that he forcefully pressed his head against the wall of a moving lift. His time is running out, and he knows it - so, instead, he turned to the hard-won wisdom he’s learned from 30 years with the force. “Sometimes you don’t lose, son,” he told Steve, mournfully, “you just run out of time.”
Line of Duty series six airs on Sunday nights on BBC One. Series one to five are available to stream on BBC iPlayer.