The pressure to close a series as big as Line of Duty, admittedly, must be pretty immense. The show has gone from strength to strength, with the most recent series breaking viewing records weekly. If the Brits do one thing well, it’s police dramas, and Line of Duty has achieved iconic status amongst them. From the looping storylines surrounding Lindsay Denton to the “is he bent, is he not?” John Corbett whirlwind, Line of Duty showed time and time again that it had the ability to draw us into the world of corruption within the police force. It was something we were aware of, but are also so far removed from as viewers at home- and really, that was the magic of the show.
So, as stated, wrapping up a series like that was always going to be a task. But we the viewers, we had faith. We’d been treated to crazy season finales before - from Roz Huntley’s final interview to Dot Cottan’s infamous “urgent exit required” episode. Building up to the reveal of The Fourth Man, “once erroneously code-named H”, was the season’s main aim. For six series now, we’d been finding cracks in the case and the links between the police and the OCG - all the series 6 had to do was wrap it up.
Did it wrap it up? Yes. Did it wrap it up well? Erm.
It pains me to answer the latter question with a ‘no’. I’d recommended Line of Duty to every one of my friends, and previously described it in a conversation as “one of the last great things about Great Britain”. I held it in high esteem. But for some reason, everything that was good about it, seemed to crumble in the final episode, reportedly (and most likely) the final episode ever.
The story of Jo Davidson and her twisted ties to the OCG held our interest - we wanted to see where it was going, and Davidson, played by this season’s guest star Kelly Macdonald, acted amazingly. But last night’s conclusion felt rushed, and missed all of the superb elements that the show had relied on in the past.
It was clear that the writers wanted there to be a focus on themes that transcended police drama - Superintendent Hasting’s battle with atonement and DI Arnott’s battle with prescription drugs. Both of them were completely valid arcs and could’ve been used so well to support the show’s movement throughout the series. But at the end, particularly DI Arnott’s addiction, became gimmicky and unnecessary, with the only repercussion of this drug dependency resulting in Steve having to use a taser instead of a gun in the final OCG ambush of the season.
And what a pathetic ambush that was. The easy backing down of the OCG members that had been running rings around the entire country for years was ridiculous - there was no shoot out, no hostility; they simply surrendered. To Arnott’s TASER?!
The ambush was also remarkably similar to an ambush that had already happened earlier on in season 6, and began to feel a little bit like carelessness. This wasn’t the only element of the finale that felt a bit repetitive. Once again, young detective Chloe, acting on orders given by Hastings when he’s at his wits-end, delivered up the goods to essentially crack the case, and solve the mystery of ‘H’. For the 127th time this season.
Revealing The Fourth Man to be Ian Buckells was plausible, sure, but agonisingly unglamorous and with none of the flair that previous reveals have given us. The overall message, delivered in a series of excellent speeches by the likes of Hastings (Adrian Dunbar) were timely - essentially about how incompetence, if excused and overlooked for long enough, becomes easily indistinguishable from corruption. But the lack of action as a focus on poignancy was an awkward trade - and unfortunately, I’m not sure it paid off.