Line of Duty series six episode four recap: A truly internet-breaking episode

Jessie Thompson
·10-min read
 (BBC/World Productions/Steffan Hill)
(BBC/World Productions/Steffan Hill)

If you’ve just finished watching this week’s episode of Line of Duty, you’re probably walking around your front room shouting ‘OH MY GOD’.

Once you’ve calmed down, read on for our recap of this week’s episode as we unpick the twists and turns of the most action-packed episode of series six so far.

As ever, the following contains spoilers, so don’t scroll any further if you haven’t caught up yet - and we’d love to hear your thoughts and theories in the comments.

Cheat sheet

  • DCI Joanne Davidson gets the Operation Lighthouse gang together for a debrief following the arrest of their boss, ‘rotten apple’ Ian Buckells. She explains that certain leads may have been overlooked (ie, that there was in fact a burglary after journalist Gail Vella’s murder) and, oh, by the way, she’s now acting Detective Superintendent. But when Kate congratulates her on the promotion, Davidson looks VERY mournful - and we don’t think it’s just a case of #girlboss imposter syndrome. Cut to: new police recruit and OCG poster boy Ryan Pilkington watching Davidson from a window - so who’s really the boss here?

  • We’re back in the graffiti-ed underpass of secrets, where Kate is meeting… Hastings. It’s getting next level. She has offered to keep AC-12 informed on the activities of Ryan Pilkington. Hastings wants to start proceedings against him, fearing that he could be a danger to Kate, but she insists it would mean losing their best OCG lead. Hastings then swallows his pride and mentions Kate’s decision to leave AC-12, partly because of the disciplinary action he faced. The man’s bringing deep and meaningfuls into discussions of top level crime - Ted, we adore you.

  • Following his arrest for perverting the course of justice, it’s Buckells’ turn to face the big beep, in an AC-12 interrogation that I will quite simply never recover from. Not only has the former DS forfeited his right to be interviewed by an officer at least one rank senior (ouch), he has to endure a room full of people reading his police-themed sexts with dodgy witness Deborah Devereux. The evidence mounts against Buckells - his orders to remove surveillance from Carl Banks’s flat, the missing Operation Lighthouse files in his car boot - but he claims he’s being framed. Is he a criminal mastermind or just crap at his job? Steve thinks he’s too shambolic to be capable of such machinations and that Davidson still has questions to answer, but Kate remains loyal to her new boss.

  • Hastings is hauled in for a meeting with top brass, who are not happy that he has once again arrested a senior officer without consulting them. PCC Rohan Sindwhani leaves the dirty work to his deputy, Andrea Wise, who informs Hastings that he is “no longer able to lead his team”. After 30 years of service, he’ll be allowed to go quietly with a full pension, but there are job cuts coming, and AC-12 will be merged with other departments. Nooooo! Side note: why are the PCC’s office interiors so loud? Has Jed Mercurio brought Laurence Llewelyn Bowen in as a consultant?

The underpass of secrets is backBBC/World Productions/Steffan Hill
The underpass of secrets is backBBC/World Productions/Steffan Hill
  • A new development in the Vella case: although the murder weapon was never found, the killer left behind the cartridge. It looks as though the gun was made in a workshop, so as to be untraceable - just like the firearms found at the armed robbery from episode one.

  • AC-12 search Jatri’s house for prints again, with Chloe Bishop telling Steve that if anyone else was in the house, they’ll definitely find out. Davidson is watching them from behind a bush, so she’s definitely not worried about this. She heads home and pops on OCG MSN, tells them ‘I’m finished’ and then promptly throws her laptop on the floor. This is the second time we’ve seen her smashing up her own belongings so all I can say is that I hope she has insurance.

  • AC-12’s surveillance on Pilkington has shown that he’s been following Davidson. Kate suggests that she might be at risk and should be warned, but Hastings thinks that might blow the operation, and Steve is still suspicious that the pair are in cahoots.

  • After merrily deleting some emails from occupational health about the drugs test he never booked in for, Steve goes to listen to a newly uncovered audio file from Gail Vella’s podcast, found on her work computer. It turns out to be solicitor Jimmy Lakewell, the Balaclava Man overlord who helped Roz Huntley and her husband back in series 4 and ended up in prison for perverting the course of justice. He says that sometimes the police lie for understandable reasons, but sometimes the reasons are more obscure. And they remain obscure, because he does not reveal what they are.

OCG poster boy Ryan PilkingtonBBC/World Productions
OCG poster boy Ryan PilkingtonBBC/World Productions
  • Kate tells Davidson she needs to talk to her about ‘personal stuff’ and does exactly what Hastings told her not to: reveals that Pilkington has been following her. Next thing we know, Davidson has sacked Pilkington from the team and he’s giving her a thousand-yard stare that shows he is going to totally f*** her up.

  • Steve visits Jimmy Lakewell in prison and tries to get him to spill the beans on what he told Vella, but he’s not up for it. So Steve puts together a plan to give him immunity and witness protection, which for some reason he can only tell him in a van with loud sirens going off, trailed by several police protection vehicles. Suddenly everyone starts saying Alpha Charlie and wearing bulletproof vests, so we know something is about to go down. And go down it does, in the first truly internet-breaking moment of the series; the operation is intercepted by the OCG, who hail down bullets from every direction, including a sniper in a window, and a police officer is killed in the crossfire.

  • Just when my nerves had recovered, Ryan Pilkington arrives at Davidson’s flat and puts a gun to her head. In the most David Brent of violent blackmail threats, he declares: “Let’s go inside and discuss this. I say discuss. I’ll explain why I won’t be posted off your team... and you’ll listen.” And lo and behold, he’s back on the team, with Davidson asking Kate to pipe down on the matter.

  • Heart attack #3: Lakewell returns to his cell to find bumbling Buckells in there, making a cup of tea. It’s all a set-up to distract him from the fact Lee Banks, OCG member from series 5, is standing behind him about to do him in. “You watch what happens to a rat,” Banks hisses, mid-strangulation.

  • The forensics results from Jatri’s house are in: Davidson’s DNA has been found, but there’s another significant finding which has left them baffled. The DNA matched from the scene could only be explained by one thing: the person is a blood relative of Davidson’s. We’ll have to wait until next week to find out who it is, but Hasting’s cry of ‘Mother of God’ before the credits kicked in suggests the reveal is going to be pretty major...

The verdict

So… how many heart attacks did you have? I haven’t felt that much adrenaline since I heard that non-essential retail was reopening. Series six has been a huge return to form for Line of Duty, and this was probably the best episode yet. There were gasp-worthy moments, developments in the case, and further insight into the inner battles of the golden trio.

Davidson’s despair continuesBBC/World Productions/Steffan Hill
Davidson’s despair continuesBBC/World Productions/Steffan Hill

There’s a sense that Mercurio might be starting to wrap things up: the retirement of Hastings and the restructuring of AC-12 point to the end of the line. But the various shots of Hastings looking poignantly out of his window or putting his hat on stoically are a reminder that AC-12 is more than a job for this fella. “What has happened to us? It wasn’t a rhetorical question, ma’am,” aren’t the words of a man who is ready to give up the fight to follow the letter of the law.

We also saw more than ever that the bent coppers who get involved with the OCG are really only foot soldiers. The ‘thoughtful middle distance look of despair’ shots of Davidson have really started to ramp up, and now even Buckells is doing them as well. Both know they are trapped in a web of crime with some truly terrible people - but the true puppet masters still remain out of sight.

Burning questions

Who is running the weapons workshop? According to one of the lads involved with the robbery of the bookies, he and his pals were given a crate of weapons from an old shed to do the business. Not very glam, but this weapons workshop seems to have been delivering the goods faster than an Amazon warehouse. We learned that it also produced the weapons for the shoot-out as well as Vella’s murder - so tracking it down, even just to shut down operations, will be key to hampering the OCG’s violence.

Chloe Bishop and Steve Arnott had a rough week at workBBC/World Productions/Steffan Hill
Chloe Bishop and Steve Arnott had a rough week at workBBC/World Productions/Steffan Hill

Who tipped the OCG off about the Lakewell plan? We knew this operation wasn’t going to plan the minute Lakewell was put in the back of a van. One of the rules of Line of Duty is that moving vehicles do not tend to arrive at their planned destination without things going dramatically off-piste. The leak could have come from inside the prison where Lakewell was an inmate… or was it from AC-12? Hastings shuts down Bishop’s speculation faster than Ryan Pilkington on a BMX.

Whose DNA was found in Jatri’s house? AC-12 were baffled by the rogue DNA found in Jatri’s house, which they say could only be explained by the person being related to Davidson. Could the reason for their confusion be that it belonged to someone who has died? Props to my colleague and fellow Line of Duty scholar Katie Rosseinsky, who suggested it could belong to former OCG leader and fellow Scot, Tommy Hunter, who trained up DI Matthew Cottan (aka Dot/The Caddy) as his inside man and was killed in series 2.

Seriously… what was on Gail Vella’s podcast? A shoot-out, Steve nearly being killed by a sniper, a dead police officer and Lakewell being bumped off in prison… it’s a lot of faff for a podcast. Whatever was on there must have been absolute dynamite. It might have even knocked Peter Crouch off the number one spot on the podcasts chart.

The Ted Hastings catchphrase-ometer

Will Hastings go quietly?BBC/World Productions/Chris Barr
Will Hastings go quietly?BBC/World Productions/Chris Barr

‘Mother of GOD.’ Hastings really said his top line with feeling when he was looking at those DNA findings, which will never, ever get old. But he was in a more mournful mood this week - understandably given he got some ‘personal news’ - and wasn’t catching bent coppers with such a glint in his eye. “I’m counting on all of you to carry the fire,” he told Steve, Kate and Chloe, before going off for a quiet moment in his office. We’ll carry the fire for you, Ted.

Line of Duty series six airs on Sunday nights on BBC One. Series one to five are available to stream on BBC iPlayer.

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