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Line of Duty: Season 5 - Review

Line of Duty

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

THE fifth season of much hyped BBC police thriller Line of Duty may have wrapped up in typically tense style but answers remain few and far between.

For the show’s fans, this proved something of a bittersweet season. The inclusion of Stephen Graham as a rogue undercover cop was a definite plus, as the British stalwart brought typical intensity and moments of touching humanity to a character who might otherwise have seemed like a one dimensional monster.

It also brought the long-building ‘H’ conspiracy to a climax, placing AC-12 chief Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar) at the centre of the investigation and making it seem like he had to be the mastermind behind corrupt police and organised crime (aka OCG).

Indeed, the final episode saw Hastings put through the emotional wringer by dogged detective Patricia Carmichael (Anna Maxwell Martin), as the evidence stacked up against him. Was he ‘H’, as Carmichael asserted? Or was he being framed?

The final 85 minutes was a gruelling, talk-heavy affair, which took place almost solely within the confines of an interview-turned-interrogation room. Carmichael went at Hastings like a smiling assassin: polite to the point of being annoying, yet carefully turning the screw to build a seemingly airtight case against him.

Needless to say, viewers held their breath. But as the pressure cooker built, so other possibilities began to manifest themselves. Hasting’s team, led by DI Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) and DS Steve Arnott (Martin Compston), uncovered other possible motives, which placed Hastings’ guilt in doubt.

Indeed, by the episode’s close, it was an apparent ally of Hastings – sly lawyer Gill Biggeloe (Polly Walker) – who appeared to have masterminded the framing of the police chief. But this revelation, in turn, merely opened up more possibilities.

If Hastings wasn’t ‘H’, then who was? And then time ran out…

So, Line of Duty fans must wait for another year to find out the truth. More names have entered the fray. But while some undoubtedly revelled in the prospect of another six episodes, while breathing a sigh of [temporary?] relief for Hastings, others lamented a feeling of being underwhelmed.

Indeed, thus far, the overall reaction to season 5 has been mixed.

For my money, it was taut, exciting, attention-grabbing Sunday night viewing – not unlike Jed Mercurio’s other Sunday night ratings juggernaut, Bodyguard – the success of which undoubtedly helped Line of Duty to almost double its fanbase entering this fifth season. No wonder the BBC wouldn’t want to wrap things up just yet.

Season five also proved that there’s plenty of life in the Line of Duty format yet – not just from the three principals (Dunbar, McClure and Compston), but also from its sustained ability to bring in some of the UK’s top acting talent.

Early on in this series, Graham provided a powerhouse presence, captivating audiences with a performance that crossed the moral and ethical line on several occasions, but which always gave viewers pause to question themselves and their view of him. This was a man caught in a terrible situation, who was forced to extremes to survive. Did the ends justify the means? Maybe not (in the case of his torture of Hastings’ wife). But Graham was always able to convey his motivations in typically complex fashion.

His predicament – being embedded deep within the OCG, hoping to flush out the corrupt cop liaising with them – ensured there was also plenty of room for more of the show’s trademark action, with several heists and stand-offs littering the opening episodes.

By the time he had departed (again, in shocking fashion, proving that Line of Duty has lost none of its ability to surprise), it was Maxwell Martin who took centre-stage. And she scenery chewed on her own terms as the hard-as-nails internal affairs operative determined to bring ‘H’ to justice.

Indeed, there was something unpleasant about watching her take down Hastings… so much so that you could easily have sympathised with the police chief if he had been guilty of the charges put towards him!

And while the final episode may have relied more on words and emotions than action, it cleverly showed how Line of Duty deftly mixes both – while retaining its excitement and tension.

Hence, while there are those who may feel a little cheated at the show’s decision not to wrap things up and widen the conspiracy, there are plenty who will revel in unpicking the new clues and looking forward to a newly green-lit sixth run of this excellent series.