Plenty of questions and moral quandaries raised, episode two is just as exciting, though there are moments of melodrama.
This Line of Duty Season 5 Episode 2 recap contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
We’re zooming in during this season, to focus on the mysterious H (again!), and zooming out to see the impact corruption can have, not least on families…
Bindra’s body is found by the dock, and AC12 realize that the location is the same as where Hilton was found shot at the end of the last season. Coincidence? Well, it makes them wonder whether Hilton’s death was a suicide after all. Hastings doesn’t bring up the natural question of whether this means Hilton might not have been H after all, but this is clearly still on DI Kate Fleming and DS Steve Arnott’s minds. And Hasting is looking nervous. He takes pity on Bindra’s family though, ensuring she is still officially a serving officer at the time of her death.
The investigation of the leaks to the organized crime gang (along with the rogue undercover officer involved with that gang) has gained an extra layer of seriousness with the abduction and murder of a police officer. So Hastings meets with a couple of high-ups about access to Operation Peartree files. He seems a little out of his depth to me in that meeting, but he might just have been flustered by the legal advisor’s *****.
Success: Fleming leads a team seizing information about Operation Peartree, even threatening Powell with arrest if she gets in the way. And they find out plenty: John Corbett’s objective in going undercover was to investigate corrupt police officers at senior levels, which AC12 had been doing too, as a by-product of their specific cases. So Hastings is pretty miffed that someone else had been looking into internal corruption and he hadn’t known about it. Now, what would that be? Hastings is suspicious. The files they uncover also reveal a number of connections to individuals who had cropped up in some of the cases from the previous few seasons, and some see this as a vindication of the direction the team had been taking. Many threads to follow, and the key goal is to find Corbett.
Fleming and Arnott visit Corbett’s wife, Steph, who tells them he’s never in touch and grouches that the undercover lifestyle is perfect for his selfish nature. So it’s a fairly standard picture that plays to their expectations, and no information of substance. The sentimental scene later when Corbett rings home tells us Steph had been primed for police hunting him, and he does miss his family (presented in quite an exaggerated way).
Family features several times in this episode, and we have to wonder if someone’s kids (or at least pet) might be in danger before the season is done. Lisa threatens Cafferty’s family to get more inside information from her. Hastings is heartbroken to discover his wife is serious about divorce; I wonder who she’s been seeing on the side? And Fleming tucks in her son, with a cheesy hug for her hubby. She tells Arnott “it’s your turn next to get settled down”, but he laughs that off; and even brushes it off when someone flirts with him. I don’t know if his confidence has gone down in recent years, but his lack of social obligations seems to tell him he is the one with the least to lose, and he takes the steps Bindra described to make contact with Corbett’s gang… without telling anyone. Unfortunately, one of the gang clocks him.
Fleming and Arnott interview Inspector Cameron, Corbett’s old boss (before Powell), and she reveals that his ploy of getting closer to the corrupt police by attracting the attention of those at the top of the criminal side caused friction with his undercover handler. Cameron had been in favor of this approach, but Powell not so much (why?), so Corbett had been moved away from Cameron’s management. And this is why he “went rogue”: he was determined to sort out all the bent cops his way, and his new manager couldn’t stop him if he remained apart from her.
Corbett’s new plan to reach up the criminal ranks is another attack on a police van, this time full of guns on their way to be destroyed. The escort is much bigger this time, and there’s lots of shooting, but no casualties: the police cars are shot, rather than the officers, and the gang gets away with the van full of guns.
Corbett also has a sneaky meeting with Arnott, begging him to help him with his anti-corruption vendetta, and calling all crooked cops “vermin”. The dialogue really is a bit on the laughable side in this scene, but nonetheless, our straight-as-a-die friend Arnott is seduced by Corbett’s maverick enthusiasm and agrees to support him; especially when he reveals that he doesn’t consider any of the police in the first hijack to have been innocent, even Cafferty. Helping Corbett could give him some interesting leads, though it does put Arnott in the awkward position of keeping things from his mate Fleming. Maybe he realizes that anyone with commitments could be at risk of blackmail. If only Hastings had realised that, when he was approached by an old contact who offered to help with recovering a large investment loss.
Arnott decides to keep an eye on Cafferty, asking Fleming permission ostensibly in case the gang came back to “finish the job”. So when Corbett and one of the gang go visit Cafferty to get some more tips, the police storm in and arrest both her and the thug.
But never mind that: when Corbett scarpers back to base he finds he has Mr. Big’s attention. Lisa tells him “he’s ready to talk to you.” Not talking in the traditional sense, mind you, but messages on a computer screen from the unknown boss (but like what we’ve seen in Hastings’ computer, though I think that’s a red herring) which Corbett responds to verbally, disclosing that his next plan is to raid the police warehouse full of evidence and weapons, not just a van.
Arresting Cafferty was clearly the right thing to do (though Arnott still doesn’t tell Fleming where he got the idea): not only does she confess her leaks, but she tells them all about how the gang prey on individual weaknesses and talks about various people involved. The episode ends with her identifying the police insider who recruited her to the criminal gang… But this was done by pointing to a photo, and viewers are left to guess whose photo she pointed to. In the background, Hastings was looking shifty.
Yes, to a large degree, this episode of Line of Duty was all about Superintendent Ted Hastings; Adrian Dunbar showing us plenty of feelings, though we cannot always tell what they signify. There are so many significant looks from him that it does feel like a heavy-handed attempt to get the audience to suspect he is the mysterious H. Personally, I’m not convinced: I think it’s more likely that we’ll find out he’s looking nervous a lot of the time because the web of corruption goes way beyond him, not points to him; and that there is so much he doesn’t know. If anything, I think he’ll be found to be an unwitting pawn, and possibly that H is unrelated to anyone’s surname. Actually, considering the increase in women in senior roles this season, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if it turns out whoever is unmasked this season turns out to be reporting to one of them in season six.
Talking of women, I really like Fleming’s no-nonsense style, especially now she’s been promoted. She’s getting a little complacent, though: after finding out Bindra was the source of leaks, why isn’t she more tuned in to those close to her, and aware that Arnott is meeting with Corbett out of hours. Well maybe she will be revealed in a later episode to be in full knowledge of what’s going on, and just playing dumb. Stephen Graham’s Corbett, too, is down-to-Earth, though in a different way: full of testosterone and passion. I think his time in self-imposed isolation from friends and family is making him a little stir-crazy, though.
Looking forward to next week!
Alix has been writing for Ready Steady Cut since November 2017. They cover a wide variety, including genre festivals, and especially appreciates wit and representation on screen.