All the big questions from the finale of Line of Duty series 5

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Gareth Watkins
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Polly Walker as Gill Biggeloe in the BBC drama series Line of Duty

After a riotous, nerve-jangling journey, here are all the questions we’re still reeling from after watching the cracking finale of Line of Duty series 5 (spoilers ahead)


OK, everyone present? Let’s begin. Well there we have it, a vintage season of Line Of Duty comes to an end. We’ve seen some trademark high-wire set pieces, tense stand-offs, shoot-outs, interrogations and more double crossing than a drunken game of Christmas Monopoly. As we have come to expect, the acting has been superb – special mention to the controlled rage of Stephen Graham as John Corbett, the masterclass in side-eye from Adrian Dunbar as Ted Hastings, the grim determination of Rochenda Sandall as Lisa McQueen, the deadly siren that is Polly Walker’s Gill Biggeloe and the sniper’s focus of Anna Maxwell Martin as our new favourite DCS Patricia Carmichael. Plus, obviously the incomparable good cop, good cop partnership of Vicky McClure and Martin Compston.

So after a feature length finale, what have we got? Um… Anyone? No, us neither. Goddammit Line Of Duty, after all that, you’ve not really given us any answers, only more questions. We should have known. Somehow though, we don’t feel cheated, we are slightly more in awe than we already were of the talents of Jed Mercurio and the intricate web in which he has caught us all, but Mr Mercurio, Jed… can we call you Jed? We do still have a few questions for you. Here’s what we are still asking after season five…

Adrian Dunbar as Ted Hastings in the BBC drama Line of Duty

1. Was that the end of H?

Imagine having the surname, for example, Holdsworth, and turning up for your first day at AC-12. You’d be like, “Oh what’s this board of ex-suspects over here, oh look, they’re all dead, oh look at that they all have surnames beginning with H… like me… Oh… Kay… Nice meeting you all, but I’m just, I’m just going to go I think.”

Carmichael is desperate to prove that Hastings is H and Hastings has indeed been using the cipher H – he was working the OCG as H and Carmichael ties him up in knots when he tries to deny this, presenting him with his H laptop as ‘H’ard evidence. Things definately (sic) don’t look good. But she is adding two and two and making five. He didn’t slash Corbett’s throat after all. So, if he isn’t the real H, who is? We suspect H does not really exist at all. Having a ‘H’andy acronym available to ‘H’ang someone with, or even use in the fight against organised crime, has proved very convenient to someone. In reality, the actual puppet master pulling the strings, either on the wrong or right side of the law has a name which begins with another letter altogether.” Dot’s dying confession of ‘H’ and his morse code message (dot, dot, dot dot – could have just been saying his own name we reckon) are proof that whoever H was or is, is still out there, it’s just their surname could begin with any letter. DS Holdsworth, come back! You’re safe, we think, for now at least. Until next series…

2. Is Ted Hastings a bent copper or not?

Or is he just a good cop who has made a lot of bad decisions. Even back in his RUC days Ted put his standard-issue size nines right in it, falling into a misjudged relationship with an informant – Corbett’s mum, Anne Marie McGillis – which led to her death. He also slept with Biggeloe, the femme fatale who then took a lock of his hair as a deadly keepsake to plant on Corbett’s body. Everywhere he goes there’s bent coppers, but there’s just something about Ted that makes us think he’s not really bad to the bone.

He didn’t know Corbett was the son of Anne Marie and the realisation that what he did led to her son’s death hits him hard. And as we have established above he was using ‘H’, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he is definately (again sic) the H. And you just know that the job is everything to Ted, it’s all he has left and losing it is not an option. If nothing else Ted is a survivor, he’s an old-school street brawler of a cop and if you take a swing at him you better knock him clean out, otherwise he’ll get up off his Belfast arse and come back at you twice as hard. It’s certainly got him out of enough scrapes so far, but there’s still an awful lot of circumstantial evidence and dead bodies mounting up, series after series. Even though you got away with it this time, you’re not in clear Ted. Go back to your office and have a suspicious peer through the window, while we think about it.

Polly Walker as Gill Biggeloe in the BBC drama series Line of Duty

3. Who is Biggeloe protecting?

We knew it, Bad News Biggeloe was behind it from the start, recruiting the vengeful Corbett and setting operation Peartree in motion to frame Ted as the high-level corrupt officer. She gets Ted off on a technicality in the first round of interviews when it turns out the search of Ted’s flat which turned up the 50 grand was carried out incorrectly (really? Is it that easy to get out of a major crime? Bad paperwork?) and encourages him to take a dive, thus getting a major corruption coup but without it causing too much of a public outcry. But when the dynamic duo of Kate and Steve ride in to save the gaffer, slap their evidence on the table and foil her emergency exit strategy – get some bent cops to shoot her out – she still remains tight lipped, insisting that there is no such thing as high-level corruption and confessing herself to be “the one rotten apple” who will take the fall. She has to be protecting someone higher up the chain, but even if she is, she knows too much and her remaining alive is not an option for the OCG. It is only thanks to that great honest coppers’ trait of needing a cuppa after any stressful situation that saved her, otherwise Kate and Steve wouldn’t have been on hand in the kitchenette to stop her from being stabbed by Carmichael’s sidekick DS Brandis. Which leads us nicely on to…

4. Whose side is Carmichael on?

Her cold-eyed dedication and withering dismissal of anything that demeans her intelligence is absolute #goals. She is utterly focused on her task, willing to make big calls – fill in the wrong form? You’re toast mate – but she is also willing to reassess situations on the fly when new evidence presents itself and is the one who finally arrests Biggeloe for perverting the course of justice. However, she also leaves Biggeloe in the charge of DS Brandis and we know how that goes. Up until the end she is still trying to convince DSS Wise that Ted’s guilty as ‘H’ell, which is when DSS Wise has to remind her that she is not immune from having bent coppers in her organisation and just needs to let it go. So what is her deal? Is she protecting whoever is right at the top, trying to take out both Hastings and then Biggeloe when the latter’s cover is blown. Or is she just the ultimate policing machine, the true saviour of anti-corruption? Either way she has to come back next series, she needs to keep an eye on Ted, making sure he treads that fine line of duty (couldn’t resist it one last time). Or, and this would be amazing, she and Ted team up and go after the real corruption in high places – now that would be the dream team.

Anna Maxwell Martin as Patricia Carmichael in the BBC TV series Line of Duty
Line Of Duty's Patricia Carmichael is played by Anna Maxwell Martin.

5. Any other loose ends?

Oh yes. Ryan. Who would have thought he was taking the police entrance exams and he would turn up, as, and we’re quoting from someone here, “a newly minted bent copper”? Oh yeah, WE DID. WE TOTALLY CALLED IT! RIGHT HERE IN OUR EPISODE FIVE RECAP. HAH IN YOUR FACE MERCURIO, WE OWN YOU! Although the fact that we did figure this out shows just how much Line Of Duty has got into our brains. I mean thank you for crediting your audience with a general baseline of intelligence, but as Elvis said, “we can’t go on together, with suspicious minds”. Please can next series just hinge on something more mundane, like an argument in an Aldi car park, or the theft of a giant marrow from a garden fete. Something a bit less taxing, something a bit more… Midsomer.

Even so, the cycle continues, the snake still bites its own tail and a new bent copper enters the force set to aid and abet in who knows what foul deeds. By the time we return Ryan will be AC-12’s newest team member – again you heard it here first – Hastings will have blundered into some new den of corruption and our long-suffering heroes Kate and Steve will have to bail him out, together with the help of Carmichael, who is now the head of AC-12. But how could we know this? Is it pure speculation or do we have an undercover agent of our own? Have we been getting our information from the inside? A line directly in to Line Of Duty? If you can turn your attention to item EP 13 in your folders… Sorry. No comment. *Reaches for phone* “Emergency exit required.”

Interview terminated.


Line of Duty will return for series 6, but we don’t know exactly when. The usual cycle is every two years so you can expect something new around 2021, just enough time for us all to have forgotten all the acronyms.

Images: BBC Pictures