'Line Of Duty' series 6 episode 7 recap: Finale 'definately' falls flat as 'H' is unmasked at last

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Ross McGuinness
·11 min read
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WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 27/04/2021 - Programme Name: Line of Duty S6 - TX: 02/05/2021 - Episode: Line Of Duty - Ep 7 (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: *STRICTLY NOT FOR PUBLICATION UNTIL 00:01HRS, TUESDAY 27TH APRIL, 2021* DI Kate Fleming (VICKY MCCLURE), DI Steve Arnott (MARTIN COMPSTON) - (C) World Production - Photographer: Steffan Hill
DI Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) and DI Steve Arnott (Martin Compston) take on the OCG in episode 7 of series 6 of Line Of Duty. (World Productions)

What have we learned then from series 6 of Line Of Duty?

Always crack open a window on a late night drive, that’s one. Don’t ever get in the back of a white van unless you know exactly where it’s going - very important.

If a work colleague arranges to meet you in a pub then changes the location at the last minute to a seedy lorry park, best to knock the night on the head and catch up next day back in the office.

Read more: 'Line of Duty' - seven questions after series 6 finale

And, finally, and perhaps most crucially… spelling is very important. Your teachers were right all along.

For the last time this series - perhaps the last time ever? - it’s time to dissect a Line Of Duty episode. 

*WARNING: this article contains spoilers for episode 7 of series 6 of Line Of Duty*

1. Occupational hazard

Programme Name: Line of Duty S6 - TX: 11/04/2021 - Episode: Line Of Duty - Ep 4 (No. n/a) - Picture Shows:  DI Steve Arnott (MARTIN COMPSTON) - (C) World Productions - Photographer: Screen Grab
Steve has experienced his fair share of trauma in his time at AC-12. (World Productions)

Viewers expecting a blistering action scene or a big reveal at the beginning of episode 7 may be left slightly disappointed when it opens with some much needed quiet reflection.

It's probably about five series too late, but DI Steve Arnott (Martin Compston) finally gets some help from the occupational health department.

Read more: Martin Compston doesn’t know if there will be another series of 'Line Of Duty'

"You might benefit from some time off work," the medical counsellor, played by Steve Oram (Sightseers), tells him, in the biggest understatement in Line Of Duty history.

This is a series finale, pal, like Steve is ever going to take a back seat.

2. Don't even Jo there

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 06/04/2021 - Programme Name: Line of Duty S6 - TX: 11/04/2021 - Episode: Line Of Duty - Ep 4 (No. n/a) - Picture Shows:  DCI Joanne Davidson (KELLY MACDONALD) - (C) World Productions - Photographer: Steffan Hill
The fate of DCI Joanne Davidson (Kelly Macdonald) hangs in the balance. (World Productions)

In fact, Steve is riding up front as usual, only this time it's in the prison transport van that had been taking DCI Joanne Davidson (Kelly Macdonald) out of HMP Brentiss to meet a sticky end at the hands of the organised crime gang (OCG).

But Steve and DI Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) have intercepted the transport, whisked Davidson to safety and got the drop on another batch of balaclava men.

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It's a super twist, particularly as we know from earlier in this series what usually happens to prison transport vans.

AC-12 sped to the rescue after it emerged that Davidson had been surreptitiously signed out of prison by someone using Kate's signature and that of DS Chris Lomax (Perry Fitzpatrick).

“Driver, put your foot flat to the floor,” orders Superintendent Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar), missing a golden opportunity for a "sucking diesel" reference.

3. No Nesbitt

Photo cop: James Nesbitt as former DCI Marcus Thurwell. (BBC)
Photo cop: James Nesbitt as former DCI Marcus Thurwell. (BBC)

Ever since he popped up - or rather, his photos did - in episode 5, fans have been waiting for a dramatic entrance from James Nesbitt as former DCI Marcus Thurwell, who had dodgy links to the botched Sands View Boys Home and Lawrence Christopher cases.

Viewers shook their heads at the end of last week's episode when Thurwell was found dead by Spanish police, insistent that Nesbitt wouldn't just turn up to have his mugshot taken for a role.

Read more: 'Line of Duty' viewers convinced James Nesbitt’s character still alive

But in the finale, it's confirmed by DC Chloe Bishop (Shalom Brune-Franklin), who has pretty much carried AC-12 the entire series (promote her, please!) that Thurwell is indeed dead.

“Spain is a decoy, Thurwell’s the stooge,” shouts Ted, almost as angry as the audience about being hoodwinked.

4. Father figure Fairbank

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 06/04/2021 - Programme Name: Line of Duty S6 - TX: 11/04/2021 - Episode: Line Of Duty - Ep 4 (No. n/a) - Picture Shows:  DCI Joanne Davidson (KELLY MACDONALD), DI Kate Fleming (VICKY MCCLURE) - (C) World Productions - Photographer: Steffan Hill
Davidson and Kate working together on the Murder Investigation Team. (World Productions)

It's a no-show from Nesbitt, then, but there is another appearance from paedophile and former CS Patrick Fairbank (George Costigan), who Davidson has named as the bent copper she was led to believe was her father.

Last week, it was revealed former crime lord Tommy Hunter (Brian McCardie) was both her uncle and her father, but if AC-12 were hoping for more answers, they don't get them from Fairbank, who claims he cannot remember Davidson.

Read more: 'Line Of Duty' viewers spot new detail about Jo Davidson's past

Which begs the question, is Davidson's father figure someone else? Did she name Fairbank knowing his deteriorating mental state would protect her?

Anyway, this latest dead end further riles Ted, who was starting to believe - like Davidson - that Fairbank was "H", also known as the "Fourth Man".

“Yes, we’re going back years! He’s bloody right we’ve been going back years! This thing has been driving me mad for years!”

Join the club, Ted. Join the bloody club.

Watch: Alexa responds to Line Of Duty fan's 'Who is H?' question

5. H for… hapless?

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 13/04/2021 - Programme Name: Line of Duty S6 - TX: n/a - Episode: Line Of Duty - Ep 5 (No. n/a) - Picture Shows:  DI Kate Fleming (VICKY MCCLURE), Superintendent Ted Hastings (ADRIAN DUNBAR), DI Steve Arnott (MARTIN COMPSTON), DC Chloe Bishop (SHALOM BRUNE-FRANKLIN) - (C) World Productions - Photographer: Screen Grab
Kate, Superintendent Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar) Steve and DC Chloe Bishop (Shalom Brune-Franklin) try to crack the case. (World Productions)

Well, I'll say one thing for Line Of Duty - it has made the whole of the UK population know how to spell "definitely" correctly.

Chloe has some shocking results back from the cyber crime unit. An officer used the same incorrect "definately" spelling seen in OCG messages in two separate police reports written 16 years apart - the Lawrence Christopher investigation and Operation Lighthouse, the probe into the murder of journalist Gail Vella (Andi Osho).

And the officer in question?

Read more: 'Line Of Duty' season 6 finale trailer teases capture of H

“Come off it, no way," says Kate. “This can’t be right," agrees Steve. “Are you sure, Chloe?" asks Ted.

“If this is right he’s been under our noses from the very beginning,” adds Steve, before Kate asks: "For God’s sake, what does this make us look like?”

Hmmm... a right bunch of morons? Let's just hope the audience don't feel the same when they find out.

And after the longest walk into the AC-12 interview suite in Line Of Duty history, it is revealed that H is...

Programme Name: Line of Duty S6 - TX: 11/04/2021 - Episode: Line Of Duty - Ep 4 (No. n/a) - Picture Shows:  DCI Ian Buckells (NIGEL BOYLE), Superintendent Ted Hastings (ADRIAN DUNBAR) - (C) World Productions - Photographer: Screen Grab
DSU Ian Buckells (Nigel Boyle) faces off against Ted. (World Productions)

BUCKELLS!!

That's right, DSU Ian Buckells (Nigel Boyle) is the Fourth Man, “once wrongly codenamed H” (thanks Ted).

So, did you figure it out? I know I didn't.

Here's what I wrote four episodes ago: "Eagle-eyed viewers (not me, I must admit) of earlier episodes of this series spotted that DSU Ian Buckells (Nigel Boyle) keeps a set of golf clubs in his office (The Caddy vibes, anyone?) but surely we can rule him out as being “H” or “The Fourth Man”, given he waves his 8 or 9 iron (sorry, I’ve not played for a while) directly in front of the camera this week."

Hiding in plain sight. Oh well, you can't get them all right. As Ted tells Buckells, "You certainly did a grand job of hiding this, I'll give you that."

Read more: 'Line of Duty' fans think subtle misspelling uncovers H's identity

Ted tries his best to get a reaction from Buckells ("Your corruption was mistaken for incompetence”), who copies the Jo Davidson "no comment" school of interview techniques for a while, until he can no longer resist a bit of gloating.

“I just pass things on,” he says of his link to the OCG, saying he wants immunity and witness protection.

So is Buckells really "the last man standing”, or is Chief Constable Phillip Osbourne (Owen Teale), who was also on the Lawrence Christopher investigation, still pulling the strings?

Buckells is in a tight bind. If he talks, he gets his immunity but it comes with a huge target on his back. If he keeps schtum, he takes his chances behind bars, which hasn't exactly worked out well for anyone else.

“No one makes mugs of AC-12,” Ted tells him, inadvertently launching an inevitable line of Line Of Duty hot drinks merchandise.

6. “This is weird innit, wrapping everything up.”

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 23/03/2021 - Programme Name: Line of Duty S6 - TX: n/a - Episode: Line Of Duty - Generics (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: *NOT FOR PUBLICATION UNTIL 00:01HRS, TUESDAY 23rd MARCH, 2021*
 DCI Ian Buckells (NIGEL BOYLE) - (C) World Productions - Photographer: Steffan Hill
Buckells returned in series 6. (World Productions)

You said it, Kate. Line Of Duty specialises in leaving things open by refusing to give any answers, so the Fourth Man reveal falls a little bit flat.

While I love the idea of Buckells being H, the problems lie with the unveiling's execution.

If even Ted, Kate and Steve are peeved at the twist, what are the audience going to think?

It's perhaps more realistic that Buckells wasn't exactly a criminal mastermind, but it would have had more impact if he'd demonstrated that he had shown at least some smarts in outwitting AC-12 all these years.

And in the end, catching H came down to spelling, not anything concrete that came from Vella's murder. It all feels a little bit detached.

7. Last Battle of Hastings

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 16/03/2021 - Programme Name: Line of Duty S6 - TX: n/a - Episode: Line Of Duty - Generics (No. n/a) - Picture Shows:  Superintendent Ted Hastings (ADRIAN DUNBAR) - (C) World Productions - Photographer: Steffan Hill
Ted is up against the wall in the sixth series. (World Productions)

With the Fourth Man revealed, there is nothing more for Ted to do but retire, as DCS Patricia Carmichael (Anna Maxwell Martin) takes over the anti-corruption reins, not that she seems that bothered, which also leaves Kate and Steve in an uncertain position.

"You don't realise what you've got until it's gone," says Kate, clearly a Joni Mitchell fan. When it's her turn to visit occupational health, she talks about Steve, saying: "To be honest, I don't know what I'd do without him." 

Awwwww, maaaaaate.

Quiz: How much do you know about ‘Line Of Duty’?

Ted bursts into Carmichael's office to give her hell, then bursts back in there to come clean that he told OCG member Lee Banks (Alastair Natkiel) during a prison visit they had a rat in their crew, which led to the death of undercover officer DS John Corbett (Stephen Graham).

He follows this up with a rousing defence of the idea of pursuing the truth whatever it takes. “You do it… because you carry the fire.”

It's some speech, and some performance by Dunbar, but it feels like it's wasted on Carmichael, who appears to have as much interest in nicking bent coppers as Steve does in suits that don't come with a waistcoat. 

After the bluster, all that is left is for Ted, Kate and Steve to cram into that tiny lift and leave the building... hopefully for a pint.

Programme Name: Line of Duty S6 - TX: 11/04/2021 - Episode: Line Of Duty - Ep 4 (No. n/a) - Picture Shows:  DCI Ian Buckells (NIGEL BOYLE), Superintendent Ted Hastings (ADRIAN DUNBAR) - (C) World Productions - Photographer: Screen Grab
Ted gives Buckells a grilling at AC-12. (World Productions)

The customary end-of-series epilogue reveals criminal proceedings were dropped against Terry Boyle (Tommy Jessop) and PS Farida Jatri (Anneika Rose); Hunter's son Darren is being investigated in the murder of Lawrence Christopher and Davidson has a new cottage/dog/partner in witness protection.

As for Buckells, he's in a vulnerable inmates wing of a maximum security prison, and any information relating to institutionalised police corruption is unlikely to see the public light of day, especially as a Tedless AC-12 is powerless or disinterested in proving such links.

What a downer!

Episode 7 and series 6 verdict: So that was Line Of Duty - episode 7: The Force Awakens, a lesson in careful spelling and looking out for what is right under your nose.

And, in truth, it was all something of an anti-climax, lacking heft despite tying up loose ends, one of which has kept viewers on tenterhooks since the end of series 3.

Buckells is H, and while that makes sense, it didn't make for the kind of great TV drama we've come to expect from writer/creator Jed Mercurio's show.

Read more: The first five series of ‘Line Of Duty’ ranked

As for series 6 itself, it was a rather uneven beast, starting off steady then peaking wildly in the middle before trundling to its conclusion.

Episodes 4 and 5 were among the best the show has ever produced, but the two that followed felt lightweight, packed with red herrings and dead ends but no real emotional punch.

As the series wore on, Vella's murder became less and less important as the renewed search for H and Davidson's family history dominated everything else.

In the end, it all came down to a spelling mistake. But despite its far from exciting ending, was series 6 of Line Of Duty worth watching?

Definately.

Watch: Martin Compston shares Line Of Duty pranks with Vicky McClure