tue 18/06/2019

Line of Duty, BBC One, series 5 finale review - big highs and Biggeloe | reviews, news & interviews

Line of Duty, BBC One, series 5 finale review - big highs and Biggeloe

Line of Duty, BBC One, series 5 finale review - big highs and Biggeloe

A thrilling joust between superintendents, but the reveals lacked oomph. CONTAINS SPOILERS

Superintendent Carmichael with the passive-aggressive smile wiped off her face: Anna Maxwell Martin in 'Line of Duty'BBC/World Productions

The porn was a bit disappointing, was it not? Dear old Ted, no longer romantically active, admitted to being a user. The Superintendent Hastings fanclub sighed for sorrow to witness him toss away his status as an essentially decent heartthrob for the Saga generation. Sorry for your loss, ladies. It was also disappointing because the high-risk act of wiping his laptop turned out to have such a bathetic explanation. The 50k lying around in a brown envelope he clearly deemed to have less pressing potential for embarrassment.

At least now we know that Hastings is not H because - guess what? - no one is. As the fifth series of Line of Duty (BBC One) raced to the tape, I briefly developed a theory that H was in fact an eyeblink typo. As he breathed his last the Caddy’s reactions were understandably slow and H actually meant to bat an eyelid on G (for Gill maybe), or possibly even F (as in, ahem, Fleming?). But no. Sharp to the last, DI Cottan was handsignalling Morse code, the way you might if known as Dot.

Other more obvious solutions to the current mystery were hiding in plain sight. Self-declared rotten apple Gill Biggeloe has spent the series coming on like a pound-shop temptress. Leave it out, Gill, you kept thinking, half-expecting her to wear suspenders and a pointy hat. Her final gesture of purring smugness was her downfall: the words “Actually you don’t” triggered the alarm bell which prevented her rescue. I’ll wager an envelope full of fifties that this Christmas Polly Walker (pictured below) is to be inundated with panto bookings. Polly Walker in Line of DutyThen there was DCS Carmichael, the archetypal lemon-faced shrew who marched in off the set of a wholly different drama by someone like Kay Mellor, all office-bitch sarcasm and serpentine hiss. You rather hoped and possibly even knew that the frosty passive-aggressive smile was a temporary fixture. Sure enough, like a bad general she lost both her flanks. The tall gawky one (Laura Elphinstone) was purged for incompetence. The demure redhead (Natalie Gavin) turned out to be yet another wrong ‘un, causing one to reflect that these bent anti-corruption coppers are a bit like zombies: anyone at any moment might go raving mental and turn into one.

So Carmichael was not a popular boss. There’s a lesson there. Compare and contrast with Hastings, whose two loyal lieutenants in shining armour saved his bacon with some last-ditch off-screen sleuthing. It was possible to feel a bit sorry for Vicky McClure as Kate Fleming and Martin Compston as Steve Arnott, who in this series have been relegated to foot-slogging plot sherpas, tasked with much more telling than showing. They were barely higher up the pecking order than sweet PC Tatleen Sohota (Taj Atwal), while all around them characters were snacking on the office furniture. Nowadays, these two pretty much are the furniture. The briefest interest taken in their private lives (sore back possibly causing impotence for him, missing out on cinema trips for her) was cosmetic box-ticking intended to obscure this reality. Kate did have one splendid line, to her opposite number from AC-3: “Stop making a tit of yourself and piss off.”Adrian Dunbar and Natalie Gavin in Line of DutyThrow in the brutal treatment of Lindsay Denton and Roz Huntley, not to mention poor old Maneet Bindra, and you could make a case that Line of Duty is part of a deep-cover misogynist conspiracy to waste women. H is for Homocracy? Even the role of dead-eyed villainess Lisa McQueen (Rochenda Sandall), who didn’t let on that John Corbett’s murderer was about to join the force, turned out to be weirdly dull and functional.

Plotwise, Line of Duty has lost it a bit. Anna Maxwell Martin and Adrian Dunbar (pictured above with Natalie Gavin) could be trusted to keep the energy levels respectably up in the interview room, but the reveals lacked oomph. The procedural cock-up of DI Brandyce felt like a pernickety act of god. Hastings learning to misspell like H was a reported afterthought. And there was an awful lot of back story to wade through, courtesy of Hasting’s past in the RUC which enabled Gill Biggeloe to lay a false trail of breadcrumbs for Corbett. At least all that interminable talk of the Troubles, the stuff of baffling myth to viewers under 35, was a timely educational primer with regard to the trending Irish border. 

It turned out that Jed Mercurio was once more leading us round the houses, on a merry dance up the garden path and round the twist, and that there would be no resolution to the series. When is there ever? We reconvene in pursuit of the missing member of the bent posse of senior coppers some time in the future. For now we’ve probably all had enough of Hastings insisting he’s not corrupt and that he gave the order to shoot to prevent loss of life. Next time he can go back to prowling round his glass office like a caged lion, not appearing to do very much at all dot dot dot...

@JasperRees

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