It’s been nearly two years since Line of Duty last graced our screens – it’s fair to say the world has changed in the interim.
Line of Duty has changed, too. Picking up after a time jump, the sixth series premiere begins by placing you in the thick of “Operation Lighthouse” – an investigation into the murder of renowned journalist Gael Vella conducted out of Hillside Lane police station.
But when the Vella investigation throws up some suspicious activity during a police raid – which included the interruption of an unrelated armed robbery streets away – Arnott is turned onto the case.
As The Independent’s Ed Cummings wrote in his five-star review of the premiere: “After the more outlandish conspiratorial shenanigans of series five, the first episode of series six returns to what Line of Duty does best: dodgy coppers, tense action and characters who communicate almost exclusively in acronyms.”
Here is a run-through of the episode’s biggest talking points…
Kate Fleming has bid farewell to AC-12
That’s right – one of the big surprises of the episode was the reveal that DI Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) had left the police corruption unit and moved to the Hill.
Working under DCI Joanne Davidson (Kelly MacDonald) and DS Ian Buckells (Nigel Boyle, who appeared previously in series one and four), Fleming is near the centre of the Vella investigation. It’s no surprise when Arnott approaches her at the end of the episode to try and get her co-operation – though she hasn’t agreed just yet.
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Only scant information is given about Fleming’s reason for leaving AC-12 – she tells Arnott near the end that the job was “tainted” by last season’s scandal. However, Hastings’s tone when she is mentioned (“You can’t be sure about the loyalty of some of these people”) suggests there could be something else bubbling under the surface.
What was the deal with the armed robbery?
The episode begins as the murder squad get a tip-off from a CHIS (Covert Human Intelligence Source), saying that a man using the alias “Ross Turner” had admitted killing Vella. The CHIS provides the address of a flat, in which an unidentifiable figure, assumed to be Turner, is seen. As a convoy of armed police make their way to the address, DCI Davidson spots a suspicious van out the corner of her eye – and diverts the team to an armed robbery-in-progress of a local bookmakers.
The tactical team make short work of the robbers - shooting one of them dead. However, everything about the circumstances seems fishy. The robbery was taking place directly on the route to “Turner’s” flat. The convoy was travelling fast when it passed the tell-tale getaway van - how could Davidson have spotted such a quick, subtle clue? When the suspects are identified, it is revealed that they had no serious prior arrests – “they’ve never robbed anything bigger than their local Greggs”. It’s one hell of a string of coincidences if there’s no foul play involved.
By the time the police get to Turner’s residence, it seems like they weren’t too late after all. They arrest the man who appears to be “Turner” – but is really Terry Boyle (Tommy Jessop), the man with Down syndrome who was manipulated into assisting criminal activity in earlier series. With photos and news articles of Vella found all over both “Turner’s” flat and the home address Boyle provides, it seems like Boyle is being nicely set up as the murderer – despite evidence suggesting he was incapable of doing it.
Is Joanne Davidson crooked?
Line of Duty’s big cast addition for series six is Kelly MacDonald (Trainspotting; Boardwalk Empire), who plays the lead investigator of Vella’s murder, DCI Joanne Davidson. Davidson is at the very heart of everything here, with several hints dropped that she could be up to something sketchy.
It’s the armed robbery incident that seemingly prompts Farida Jatri (Anneika Rose), now working in Hillside Lane, to flag her suspicions about Davidson to Arnott, though the strange behaviour doesn’t stop there. As Davidson explains to her boss, DS Buckells, that they need to find out the identity of the CHIS, her wording – “If this is gonna go the way we want, we need to find out who he is” – carries all sorts of sinister implications.
However, it’s too early to be sure of Davidson's guilt – and two scenes at the end of the episode seem to contradict the obvious corruption theory. Firstly, she agrees to let Boyle out on bail – essentially turning down the chance to pursue an easy stitch-up. Then it is revealed that she had been in a romantic relationship with Jatri – and had recently left her, claiming that Jatri was too paranoid. Could Jatri’s decision to flag her boss to AC-12 simply have been motivated by their personal feud?
Another lingering mystery is the specifics of Davidson’s past – she tells Jatri she doesn’t have a family, but is seen smashing a glass to smithereens by the episode’s end, after looking at what seems to be a picture of her mother.
A convenient slip-up
Whether or not Davidson is the rotten rozzer or not, things are looking pretty dubious for her boss, DS Buckells. It was his paperwork “error” that opened up a three-and-a-half-hour window in the stake-out of “Ross Turner’s” flat, creating the possibility that Boyle was switched in as a scapegoat.
What does the name “Ross Turner” mean?
There’s still a whole lot of unanswered questions about Boyle’s case, including whether or not he was indeed using the alias “Ross Turner”, and why. The CHIS won’t be able to shed any further light on the issues, having taken a fatal tumble from a multi-story building.
Police discover a second set of fingerprints at Boyle’s flat, however, belonging to a man named Carl Banks who has some connections to organised crime. No doubt Banks is going to play a role in the series going forward. He could possibly offer an answer vis-à-vis the missing freezer in Boyle’s residence – which we know from previous series contained the body of Jackie Laverty.
Arnott on the way out?
Arnott didn’t feature all that much in the series premiere, but the scenes we do see are somewhat troubling – Arnott seems to be taking much too many painkillers, and, after an argument with Hastings, he feels out his old colleague and former flame Nicola Rogerson (Christina Chong), asking for a move away from AC-12.Of course, Hastings later agrees to open the investigation on the murder unit, giving Arnott the chance to sink his teeth into a case with some substance – perhaps it will be the hunt for Davidson that convinces him to stick around.
Line of Duty continues at 9pm on BBC One next Sunday.
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