***this article contains spoilers***
The UK is reeling off the back of the Line Of Duty series six finale last night. With almost ten years of narrative coming to a head, viewers were expecting some explosive revelations. But in the hours since it aired, the general feeling has been one of disappointment. And all of this has been further compounded by the fact that many believe last night’s episode to have been the last we’ll ever see of Jed Mercurio’s crime drama.
Is this really the end?
For what it’s worth, I don’t think so, or at least it’s not intended to be. As we’re all aware, 2020 was a disruptive period thanks to one thing and one thing only – the COVID-19 pandemic. The world of film and television was not immune, and many productions suffered interruptions, Line Of Duty included.
Supposedly Mercurio and co would like to do another series. However, its continuation is largely dependent on the pandemic as this will have a knock-on effect with future filming. Assuming this is really the case and not just a seed sown to throw people off the scent of series six being the last-ever series (let’s be honest – you can take nothing at face-value with this tricky bunch), there has been plenty set up to form the basis of another series. Even with the end that was reached last night, there are a few avenues that would benefit from further exploration, with the potential to blow the story wide-open again.
As well as this, it’s worth noting that as of yet, nobody has confirmed last night as the end. It seems to me that the crumbs scattered over previous weeks suggesting the end was nigh have been hoovered up by viewers, who have managed to convince themselves that the case is now closed and Line Of Duty won’t return. I think until someone (Jed Mercurio, we’re looking at you, fella) categorically states we’ve reached the end of the line, we should be prepared for more.
What would the build-up to the finale look like?
I don’t think we would know anything about it being The End until we’d reached it; that the finale would arrive somewhat unexpectedly and would be 100% absolute. It’s for this reason that I don’t believe last nights’ episode to be the last, pandemic-allowing. Line Of Duty doesn’t strike me as a show that would end with any major warnings of what’s coming. I can’t see a way that it could be hinted at without giving audiences too much chance of figuring it out before it could land the final blow itself.
What could we expect from a Line Of Duty finale?
This is a question that needs to be tackled in two parts. From any other writer, I think we could expect the closing episode to be the final showdown between H/The 4th Man and our main trio. It would likely be very explosive, but above all else it would be a very cut-and-dried ending.
However, Line Of Duty has always been a critique about the police force and the political landscape it has to navigate these days. It would be naive to assume that Mercurio wouldn’t think about following that through right until the very end, which is what makes a small part of me wonder if last nights’ episode could possibly be it for the crime drama. The way that things unfolded would be a very true-to-form conclusion for the show.
So where do we go from here?
If we go with my initial gut-feeling that we haven’t reached the end of the road, there are some loose-ends to be tied up.
First up, Ian Buckles as H/The 4th Man. We now know that he is the puppeteer who has evaded AC-12 for all these years, or at least we are supposed to believe so. The problem with Buckles is he’s not exactly the most convincing in the role. Given how petrified he seemed to be when James Lakewell was strangled in front of him, it’s hard to believe that he’s as powerful as the narrative would want you to think. My feeling is he’s a patsy so the OCG can put distance between themselves and investigations again.
Of course, one of the more interesting interactions last night was that between Hastings and Carmichael towards the end of the episode. After revealing that he planned to appeal his forced retirement, Hastings confessed to Carmichael that he believed he was in some way responsible for the murder of UCO John Corbett after disclosing to the OCG that they had an informant in their ranks.
Considering how much of a jobsworth she had been up to this point, it was strange to see Carmichael look so resigned in response to learning such information. One theory is that this was a litmus test for Carmichael, to figure out if she’s part of the corrupt network. If that was the case and she turned out to be bent, it would be the green light to get the original AC-12 trio back together. Hastings would be reinstated, and it would surely reopen the newly put-to-bed H case.
The series six finale works as an end-point for the whole of Line Of Duty
The idea that H/The 4th Man is as much the entire institution as one individual would be very in-keeping with the shows’ more critical elements. It’s a conclusion that has left fans disappointed, but also one that loudly echoes real-life. It’s apparent now – more so than ever before – that the best way to cover up corruption is with incompetence, and to draw attention away from anything that so much as hints at faults with the system itself. A statement that appears to say everything, when in actual fact it says nothing at all, is all it takes to appease in most cases.
If last night was the end, it landed a damning blow, and whilst it may feel empty right now, I think in five to ten years’ time there will be a real appreciation for what it did. That being said, it is hard not to feel like there is still more to the story, and assuming that what Mercurio said about wanting there to be a seventh series is true, we can only hope that the on-going pandemic situation doesn’t hinder those plans too permanently.