Line of Duty



AFTER nine years and six seasons this was it. The big one. The grand reveal of “H”. Not since who shot JR had millions gathered in front of their tellies, preparing to be amazed. There was even a whisper that a teenager in Newton Mearns was going to switch his phone off for an hour.

Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the wee donkey it was tense out there.

And then … Ian Buckells? The dopey Brummie Noddy Holder lookalike you wouldn’t send out for a pint of milk? He was H, the fourth man, the lynchpin of a clandestine network of corrupt police officers in league with organised crime gangs?

Never mind your OCG and your AFOs, WTF (What the Flip) was this? The last time the viewing public had been this underwhelmed was when Toto drew back the curtain to reveal the Wizard of Oz was a little old man working a sound effects machine.

But hang on: was it really that simple? When has show creator Jed Mercurio ever made it easy? The man has executed more twists than Olga Korbut and Simone Biles combined.

Granted, as the hour ticked on he seemed to be tying up loose ends. DI Steve Arnott (Scotland’s Martin Compston) finally went to occupational health about his pain pill popping. He had his gun licence removed but was unaccountably allowed to keep wearing a waistcoat.

Revelations arrived one after the other. Gail Vella’s killer was identified. The significance of DCI Marcus Thurwell was explained. There was even one last convoy ambush – yes, yet another one – for old time’s sake.

READ MORE: Line of Duty star backs SNP ahead of poll

But still we did not know the identity of “H”. Ted (Adrian Dunbar)was doing a lot of skulking, and he blew his top when bent cop Patrick Fairbank, one of the prime suspects, claimed not to remember anything.

“This thing has been driving me mad for years!” cried Ted. Join the club pal, we’ve had T-shirts printed.

Then it happened. The first crack in the ice. Young Chloe, using files not previously available (that was handy), solved the “definately” conundrum and the main man was revealed.

But not to us. Not yet.

“Come off it,” said Kate (Vicky McClure) when she spied the name. “No way.”

Steve was similarly gobsmacked. “If this is right he’s been under our noses from the very beginning.”

READ MORE: Susan Swarbrick on why we love Line of Duty

A dance of the seven veils followed as the top man was taken to the interview room. Who was it? We craned to see, but to no avail. Finally, there he was. Buckells.

After a lot of no commenting he gave in and asked for a deal. All was clear. Or was it? Were we to believe that Buckells, a bribe-taking liar, was now telling the whole truth? Or could he be covering for the real “H”, Chief Constable Osborne? Why did Buckells have a sly half smile on his face when the cell door closed on him?

Steve and Kate, job apparently done due to some nifty interviewing footwork, went to the pub, giving each other “mate” this and “mate” that. Best buds forever. “This is weird,” said Kate, “wrapping everything up.” Too right it was. Was this really the end of the line for Line of Duty?

Time and again, Mercurio seemed to be leaving just enough room for doubt, little gaps through which he might sneak another series, or a spin-off, should he decide he wants one.

READ MORE: Series shows appointment TV alive and well

Take Ted’s last gasp disclosure to DCS Patricia Carmichael (Anna Maxwell Martin), and his saying that she "carried the fire". Was that a reference to The Road, Cormac McCarthy’s father-son tale set in a post-apocalypse America, in which to “carry the fire” was to have hope for the future? Was Ted handing on the anti-corruption torch to Carmichael?

That will be one of many questions being pondered today as fans try to make sense of it all. If that was the end then commendations all round for Mercurio and his team.

OK, this last series has been a stretch at times. But Mercurio and a terrific cast have kept millions on edge for almost a decade, and are still keeping us guessing. Now that’s sucking diesel.