Catching criminals is tough enough, but catching coppers? Give me strength!” After five frankly exhausting series of Line of Duty, we’re inclined to agree with this assessment from a world-weary Ted Hastings.
Packed with unrelenting twists and turns, Jed Mercurio’s police procedural has brought us some of the most genuinely jaw-dropping TV moments of the past decade.
Characters being chucked unceremoniously out of windows? Tick. Big name guest stars killed off after minimal screen time? Sure. MRSA-infected hands and deathbed confessions tapped out in Morse code? Consider it DONE.
Things are unlikely to shift down a gear in the imminent sixth series, which Mercurio has promised will see our favourite anti-corruption unit facing their “most enigmatic adversary yet” in the form of Kelly Macdonald’s DCI Joanne Davidson. While we wait impatiently for new episodes, we’ve rifled through AC-12’s case histories to bring you the wildest, most shocking and (sometimes) most unbelievable moments from the show so far (naturally, there are plenty of major spoilers below)…
DC Trotman is pushed out of a window (series 2)
When Jessica Raine was unceremoniously thrown out of a window in the first episode of S2, we realised that nobody was safe. As the plucky young DC Trotman, we thought Mercurio was gearing up to make her our new favourite character. Instead all she got was a cheeky snog with Steve Arnott (Martin Compston) before she plunged to her death trying to protect a witness in hospital.
Steve Arnott falls down three flights of stairs (series 4)
Steve’s tussle with Balaclava Man in S4 saw him attacked with a baseball bat before he was sent flying down three flights of stairs. The logical conclusion was that Steve would clearly be brown bread and not live to wear another waistcoat. Sure, he landed head first on a concrete floor with blood pouring out of his head, but a few days later he was fine. It was a miracle.
Roz Huntley lives on (series 4)
By S4, it was common practice for Line of Duty’s top tier guest stars to get killed off early on (see Gina McKee and Daniel Mays’s characters in S1 and S3 respectively). So, when DCI Roz Huntley (Thandie Newton) ended up lying unconscious on Tim Ifield (Jason Watkins)’s kitchen floor as the forensics supervisor revved up his chainsaw at the end of episode one, we assumed it was goodnight Vienna for her – until her eyes snapped open and the credits rolled…
Urgent exit required (series 3)
Fancy raising your stress levels to frankly dangerous new heights? The last 10 minutes of S3 should do it. Bent copper DI Matthew ‘Dot’ Cottan (Craig Parkinson) does a runner from AC-12’s interrogation room after sending a text (from one of his 5,831 burner phones) calling in reinforcements. Cue Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) coming over all budget action hero and jumping onto the wing mirror of a delivery lorry to track him down. James Bond could never. Their ensuing face off gets weirdly emosh when Dot redeems himself… by launching himself into the path of the bullets his crime pals have aimed at Kate.
Danny Waldron doesn’t last long (series 3)
We were expecting to see a bit more of S3 guest star Daniel Mays as Sergeant Danny Waldron. They put him on all of the posters. But no, it was Mercurio up to his old tricks again. After shooting a suspect at the beginning of the episode, he’s a goner by the end, bleeding all over the floor after being picked off by one of his colleagues.
Kate Fleming is bored of your s**t (series 5)
We will never tire of watching an entirely over it Kate eviscerate DI Michelle Brandyce, who made a late play to be crowned the precinct’s most irritating copper when she cropped up in S5. When Brandyce tries to harangue Kate and Steve into handing over a vital bit of evidence, AC-12’s most competent (only competent?) officer finally loses her carefully maintained composure. “We’re witnesses, not suspects,” she says, barely raising her voice as she spits out the immortal line: “Now stop making a tit of yourself and piss off.”
No one asks about Roz Huntley’s hand (series 4)
“Why haven’t you used your right hand for several weeks, Roz?” is the question asked by absolutely nobody in Line of Duty. This is perhaps even more surprisingly given that her infected wound has gone gammy and is apparently giving off quite a whiff. Alas, this smooth operator is too busy to even pop to Lloyds Pharmacy and get some Savlon, and next thing we know, her husband’s instructing doctors to chop her whole arm off. That escalated quickly.
Lindsay Denton is pushed to the edge by techno music (series 2)
Lindsay Denton (Keeley Hawes) had a lot going on, so it’s no surprise that she wanted her annoying neighbour to stop playing loud techno music in the middle of the night. She probably shouldn’t have bottled her, though.
Hastings chats with the OCG… on MSN? (series 5)
How does an organised crime gang communicate with its most valued police informant? Over a rudimentary online chat platform reminiscent of now-defunct Noughties favourite MSN Messenger (RIP) – presumably with better encryption. When AC-12’s Cybercrime expert manages to hack the gang’s network, Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar) takes the conversational lead, impersonating top dog ‘H’ with suspicious ease. Did we spot the same messenger service on Ted’s laptop screen in his hotel room later? It’s all very suspicious, fella.
Dot’s near-death Morse code message (series 5)
AC-12 have managed to wring more hidden meaning out of the grainy video of Dot’s dying declaration than a GCSE English class reading Of Mice and Men. Just when we thought they’d given up re-watching footage of their (admittedly quite evil) former colleague dying dramatically, Steve pipes up with a brand new theory. On closer inspection, he reveals, it seems that Dot was tapping out the Morse code for the letter H – that’s four dots – with his left hand. “H is not an initial, it’s a clue,” he muses as S5 comes to a close. “Four dots, four caddies, four police leads in organised crime.” Got it? Us neither – hopefully S6 will make things (slightly) clearer.
Tony Gates’s final act (series 1)
Poor old Tony Gates (Lennie James). As S1 came to an end, we learned he wasn’t really a bent copper after all – he’d just wound up making a series of increasingly bad decisions to cover up his affair with Jackie. After he manages to arrest gang boss Tommy Hunter in the finale, it seems for a moment that he might be able to claw back his position as the force’s golden boy – but it’s not enough, and things soon take a turn for the tragic. Believing his reputation is unsalvageable, Gates asks Steve to testify that he was killed in the line of duty, before walking into the path of an oncoming lorry.
Dot frames Steve as the Caddy (series 3)
Dot spends most of S3 furtively croaking into a series of pay-as-you-go burner phones, dishing out instructions to his criminal associates in a ‘south London’ accent. This is all part of another master plan – to frame south London’s own Steve Arnott as the inside man. Cut to Dot delivering a Powerpoint presentation to the entire AC-12 office detailing the Caddy’s suspected personal profile – it’s so close a description of Steve, he might as well have claimed the Caddy exclusively wears waistcoats. What’s most shocking about the whole thing is that Dot’s rudimentary scam actually works, and poor little Steve ends up behind bars – until Kate steps in later with new evidence.
The kettle incident (series 2)
After the newly incarcerated Lindsay Denton is brutally attacked by a fellow prisoner, a guard ushers her into the medical room, where she starts making her a cup of tea to soothe her nerves. How lovely – until it becomes painfully clear that the water in the kettle is not for making a brew. Instead, the guard pours the boiling water onto Denton’s hands, while warning her not to cooperate with AC-12’s enquiries. Ouch.
John Corbett’s gruesome death (series 5)
Compared to some of his fellow Line of Duty guest stars, Stephen Graham had a pretty good innings. His character John Corbett, an undercover cop who goes rogue in a bid to finally uncover the corrupt cop at the top of the police force, manages to make it to episode four before he’s killed off in dramatic, gruesome fashion. When the gang he’s infiltrated finally works out he’s a rat, Corbett ends up with his throat slit in one of the show’s most shocking scenes so far.
Lindsay Denton’s downfall (series 3)
Lindsay Denton’s S3 redemption arc was a rollercoaster. Finally released from jail, she hits up what is surely one of the UK’s last surviving internet cafés to access Danny Waldron’s email account and send herself a copy of his list of abusers implicated in a paedophile ring. She then makes the absolutely amateur error of accepting a lift from Dot, who drives her to the industrial estate and tries to pay her off. When she declines (“because I’m a police officer!”) he shoots her – but not before she’s managed to send the evidence that will bring him down to Hastings and co.
Line of Duty S2 is on BBC One, Saturdays at 9pm; S1-5 are available to stream on BBC iPlayer