Line of Duty finale: Have we just sat through our final Ted talk?
TV Review: After ‘a mental 10 years’ it seems mad to quit the UK’s most popular drama
Season six of Line of Duty achieved the highest ratings for a UK drama in 13 years. Photograph: Steffan Hill/BBC/PA
Season six of Line of Duty has concluded amid levels of hype that felt like the Twitter equivalent of a convoy of police sirens screaming past your house. And it has given fans what they craved by unmasking nefarious nasty “H”. But if AC-12 finally have their man, what next for Superintendent Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar) and DIs Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) and Steve Arnott (Martin Compston)?
“H”, the fourth in a quartet of Big League bent coppers, was revealed to be none other than Detective Inspector Ian Buckells (Nigel Boyle). This, to put it mildly, came out of left field.
I’m the blundering fool? I’m the one who’s made total mugs of you lot
Buckells had played AC-12 for idiots by pretending to be an incompetent sloth. All this time, though, he’d been pulling the strings and working hand-in-hand with organised crime: the “OCG” in Line of Duty lingo.
“I’m the blundering fool?” he crowed as the truth came out. “I’m only the one who’s made total mugs of you lot.”
He was also ultimately responsible for the killing of Gail Vella. She was the journalist who knew too much and was on the brink of exposing Buckells and Chief Constable Philip Osborne as co-conspirators in the cover-up of a racist murder 15 years previously.
But if Buckells has been caught bang to rights, what of the future of the Belfast-filmed Line of Duty itself? Have we just sat through our final Ted talk?
The show has never been more popular. Season six achieved the highest ratings for a UK drama for 13 years. Nearly 11 million people in the UK tuned into the penultimate episode – which, when you factor out children and people who hate television, means that almost a quarter of the British population has been glued to the adventures of Ted and Co. And obviously Ireland has become obsessed too. LoD isn’t a blockbuster – it’s a phenomenon.
So at one level it would be madness to quit now. And yet, there was a ring of quasi-finality to the latest instalment. The “H” conspiracy has seemingly been blown wide open. Buckells, who finally implicated himself with his wonky spelling of “definitely”, went so far as to helpfully lay it all out for Ted, Kate and Steve.
The organised crime threat was, he said, more dispersed and nebulous than AC-12 had suspected. The death of criminal overlord Tommy Hunter in series two had led to a splintering of criminal activity. Rather than one big cabal, there were lots of small ones. And far from being the megalomaniacal Machiavelli, Buckells, as H, was merely a glorified facilitator.
It has been a strange season for Line of Duty. One of the highlights was a big set piece shoot-out in episode four as Arnott whisked corrupt solicitor Jimmy Lakewell in for interrogation. The OCG caught wind and staged an ambush. Cue a spectacular gunfight in downtown Belfast – but one which only temporarily delayed the OCG from getting its claws into Lakewell, who was strangled back at the prison.
But there have been letdowns. Kelly Macdonald’s DCI Jo Davidson never convinced. We were supposed to believe she had infiltrated the police over a period of years – yet she kept breaking down into sobs whenever the pressure of spying on the cops for the OCG became too much. How had someone so brittle made it so far? And it was obviously a mistake to kill off Ryan Pilkington, the grinning villain who was Line of Duty’s answer to Prince Joffrey in Game of Thrones.
In Ireland, there has been an added layer of weirdness as Adrian Dunbar has become a superstar largely due to his penchant for sprinkling his dialogue with folksy aphorisms. “Hold your whisht” and “Now we’re sucking diesel” are textbook “auld lad” banter. And yet in the UK they can’t get enough of it.
The question is whether Ted will have another opportunity to declare he didn’t “float down the Lagan in a bubble”. The indications are that he will not and that this is indeed the final curtain.
“Working with Vicky McClure, Martin Compston [and] Adrian Dunbar has been the highlight of my career,” tweeted Line of Duty writer Jed Mercurio, which certainly sounds like “goodbye”. In March, he told the Radio Times: “We’re in a situation where it’s not entirely clear that there will be a seventh series.”
Compston likewise seemed to be saying farewell to AC-12 when he wrote on social media that it had been “a wild few weeks and a mental 10 years”.
Line of Duty devotees will be disappointed. But there is good news. Mercurio has stated he’s “reasonably confident” there will be a second season of his equally-ludicrous 2018 hit, Bodyguard. All he need do now is find a way of bringing Ted Hastings into the expanded Mercurio-verse. Fans may very well be able to do without further Line of Duty. But you can sense they are already mourning the looming lack of Ted Hastings in their lives.