Line of Duty series 6, episode 5 recap: Theories and talking points from latest episode of hit BBC drama

Louis Chilton
·6 min read
Kelly Macdonald in Line of Duty series six, episode five (BBC/World Productions/Steffan Hill)
Kelly Macdonald in Line of Duty series six, episode five (BBC/World Productions/Steffan Hill)

Mother of God, indeed. After ending its fourth episode on a tantalising cliffhanger, Line of Duty returns with another that could be even bigger.

Spoilers follow for Line of Duty series six, episode five…

With the previous episode having teased that dodgy DSI Jo Davidson (Kelly Macdonald) was a blood relation to a figure from the series’ past, this week’s instalment reveals who that is – none other than Tommy Hunter.

Hunter featured prominently in the first two series of Line of Duty, as the boss of the organised crime group (OCG) who turns informant before he is killed on orders of Dot Cottan (Craig Parkinson).

Line of Duty doesn’t spend too long dissecting the revelation, however, and moves swiftly on to another hour of questions, suggestions and half-answers, punctuated with occasional scenes of gunfire.

Episode five perhaps featured some of the most plausibility-straining moments we’ve had for a while. Anna Maxwell Martin returned as the supercilious Patricia Carmichael, with the series really laying on thick how much we’re supposed to loathe her intervention.

But it ends with a bang– with two bangs, in fact, in short succession – as Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) is seen walking into a trap set by Davidson.

Here’s a breakdown of the biggest talking points and theories from Line of Duty episode five…

The tattle of Hastings

Every so often, Line of Duty seems to throw up the same old question: is Ted Hastings all he’s cracked up to be? While last season’s allegations of corruption levelled against the AC-12 commander were disproven, there still remains the very real possibility that Hastings himself is the so-called “fourth man”.

World Productions
World Productions

Episode five gave viewers a nudge towards this train of thought, as Hastings argues against arresting crooked PC Ryan Pilkington (Gregory Piper), after surveillance seemingly captures him tipping off the OCG about the police raid on the second firearm workshop. He’s got a point – Pilkington would almost surely clam up under interrogation – but, as Steve Arnott (Martin Compston) and Fleming note with a whiff of suspicion, Hastings had recently argued the exact opposite case.

There’s also the matter of the money which Arnott illegally found in Steph Corbett’s attic, which Arnott flags to Fleming after linking it to Hastings.

The real smoking gun, however, comes when Lee Banks (Alastair Natkiel) tells Arnott that Hastings tipped him off about a rat within the OCG, which turned out to be John Corbett (Stephen Graham). Banks could be lying, of course, but he certainly seems convincing – and is corroborated by a scene last season which saw Hastings visit Banks to tell him who-knows-what. Could Hastings really be “H”? At this stage, it certainly seems possible.

Davidson’s mystery contact

The episode features yet another scene of Davidson sending terse chat messages to an anonymous OCG handler, which are, by this point, seeming rather staged and silly. We’ve still no idea who this person is, though they are clearly unable to spell “definately” (could this be a deviously subtle clue? Mercurio, you devil!).

BBC/World Productions/Steffan Hill
BBC/World Productions/Steffan Hill

Given the authority this person seems to carry – ordering Davidson to do away with Fleming – it seems they’re reasonably high up the OCG rung. Could this be “H”?

It’s also worth noting Davidson’s apparent eagerness to be finished with the OCG; regardless of her ties to Tommy Hunter, she seems to be coerced into helping them. At some point soon, it’s likely she’ll start spilling her guts, in one sense or another.

A familiar face

Earlier this week, a supposed leak on the BBC website reportedly led to viewers identifying a major celebrity guest in Line of Duty episode five. There’s no trace of this online (with some Reddit users speculating that the whole story, and Jed Mercurio’s response, was a publicity stunt), but sure enough, the episode did feature a significant piece of casting.

As Arnott pulls up the file for Marcus Thurwell, a former police officer embroiled in the child sex trafficking scandal from previous series, we can see the character is played by none other than James Nesbitt. Nesbitt played the lead in the Mercurio-produced Bloodlands just months ago, so perhaps his involvement shouldn’t have come as too much of a surprise.

James Nesbitt seen in Bloodlands earlier this yearBBC / HTM Televison /Steffan Hill
James Nesbitt seen in Bloodlands earlier this yearBBC / HTM Televison /Steffan Hill

Thurwell took early retirement and then vanished somewhere in Spain after AC-12 exposed the paedophile ring. Nesbitt’s involvement is a sure indicator that the character is going to have some significant role to play– though Arnott’s visit to a deteriorating Patrick Fairbank (George Costigan) doesn’t shed much light on what it will be.

It’s also worth keeping an eye on the corners of Arnott’s computer screen while he’s pulling up Thurwell’s mugshot. An email from Occupational Health marked “urgent” seems particularly foreboding. We’ve not heard a peep about Arnott’s painkiller struggles this week, but that’s not to say he’s necessarily got a lid on things.

Vella’s investigation

We are given a much better look at the big, convoluted picture this week, as Arnott and start to tie Gail Vella’s (Andi Osho) murder to the death of young Black architect Lawrence Christopher in police custody years before.

Christopher was attacked by a gang of white youths, and beaten with a lead pipe. Police took him in and failed to diagnose the fatal head wound, racially abusing him while he died in their custody. The suspects got off scot-free, including Darren Hunter, son of Tommy. It’s clear there was a cover-up, with high-ranking police officials potentially implicated. As far as motive goes, this is the most plausible explanation yet for Vella’s death.

BBC/World Productions
BBC/World Productions

The storyline is heavy, and hews pretty close to the bone, recalling real-life scandals like the murder of Stephen Lawrence and the death in custody of Christopher Alder. The issues here– systemic police racism, institutional cover-ups – are all too real, and worth exploring, but Line of Duty, a series which devotes the majority of its screentime to white characters, is arguably a little heavy-handed in its approach. As she’s the only non-white person in the room, Chloe Bishop’s (Shalom Brune-Franklin) reaction to the Christopher murder is very deliberately foregrounded, but you can’t help but question how underwritten her character has been for the previous four episodes.

Will Kate Fleming survive?

The episode concluded with a tense stand-off, as Fleming and Pilkington point their firearms at one another. Then, a cut to black, followed by two gunshots. Could this be the end for our dear old DI? It’s possible.

BBC/World Productions/Steffan Hill
BBC/World Productions/Steffan Hill

The main factor on Kate’s side is probably the conventions of TV; if you’re going to kill off such a major character, you’re probably best to save it for the end of an episode – not the start of the next. That said, it could be a clever double-bluff on Mercurio’s part. With Kate having sent the address of the meet-up to Arnott ahead of time, it surely can’t be too long before he and AC-12 arrive on the scene. The only question is what state his friend will be in when he gets there.

Despite the shock ending, many fans believe that an old trailer for series six has revealed whether or not Kate makes it out of the trap alive.

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