Where earlier seasons had us wondering how things were going to unravel for the crooked cop in the spotlight, Season 5 has us puzzling over who are cops and who are crooked. Halfway through the season and we’re still discovering more mysteries to be uncovered.
This Line of Duty Season 5 Episode 3 recap contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
The latest episode of Line of Duty was such a tease, over and over again. First, last week’s cliffhanger is just brushed over like it was insignificant; later, we get to see the (likely) Top Bent Copper (TBC), but presented in such a way that it looks like someone else at first; and then at the end, we get another cliffhanger. And it’s all about boundaries this time: lines being crossed, being fuzzy, people switching sides, or confusion about what side others are on.
Lisa: “This is how he operates. He’s one of us.”
John: “Is he? Or is he one of them?”
Lisa: “It’s the same thing.”
So at the end of Season 5 Episode 2, Cafferty pointed at the picture of the officer who recruited her and there was talk all over Twitter about it being Matthew “Dot” Cottan and the implications. He’s been dead since the end of season three, after all… or is that just what Mercurio wants us to think? At the beginning of Episode 3, Fleming and Arnott kind of sheepishly discuss that she had indeed pointed to Cottan, but brush it off that she must have been mistaken: not only would it have been embarrassing if true, but they were half expecting her to point to Hastings’ picture. And they just move on from that, like it hadn’t kept us hanging for a week!
Moving on… the Organised Crime Gang is working on plans for raiding Eastfield Depot, where millions of pounds worth of police evidence and seized goods are held. That’s what the guns from last week were for, and it’s all go now, with (slightly hesitant) approval from the Unknown OCG boss on the computer app. Corbett asks McQueen to tap into her police contacts so that security will look the other way; and also tries to find out the boss’s identity, but even she doesn’t know.
John Corbett (the antsy Stephen Graham) meets with Steve Arnott again, itching for a proper partnership, and in a gesture of goodwill gives him Lisa McQueen’s phone number. Arnott gets Sam (Aiysha Hart, his flirty ex from last week) to dig into the calls McQueen’s made and they work out a couple of places to investigate: Kingsgate print shop and Pulton House, a small block of flats. (Note Sam’s involvement shows how AC-12 is now working closely with Serious and Organised Crime Unit, which they were obliged to since Bhindra’s kidnapping.) They raid both, on Hastings’ instruction: they find the print shop cleared out, but find a brothel of young Eastern European women in Pulton House. Arnott had tipped off Corbett about both, and naturally, McQueen is somewhat suspicious that he knew to empty the print shop, though he says it’s just good practice to keep moving when something big is being planned.
The team gets what could be a great lead when interviewing the women from the brothel: one of them (through an interpreter) talks about Lisa McQueen visiting the flats, as the team had observed, and how one time she went into a bedroom with a white man, middle-aged with an accent, and she seemed to intimidate him. They got him on a CCTV picture, but it was teasingly unclear. The description, though, could have been interpreted as Hastings, or Hargreaves, or Hilton, or – you know – any senior bloke in the police. The other little teasing pointers towards Hastings this week include a brief scene of him taking his laptop to a shop, apparently to be wiped clean… did he have pictures of trafficked women on there or some messaging app?
Before I tell you the rest of the main story arc for this week, the episode is also about a number of apparently minor characters coming closer to the fore. I’ve already mentioned Sam, whose boss is Lester Hargreaves (played by Tony Pitts, more on him later); but Gill Biggeloe (Polly Walker), the legal advisor who caught Superintendent Hastings by surprise last week, also steals a scene with aggressive-yet-somehow-flirty talk over dinner with Hastings. It’s very difficult to know what her agenda is, but she seems to know a lot about what goes on behind the scenes in police politics… and she ends the episode in Hastings’ hotel room. Then there’s Mark Moffat (Patrick FitzSymons) who’s tempting Hastings into taking out an enormous loan in order to recover that investment loss of his; is that to get him into a blackmailable position?
But the main arc (and for the most part, this episode is pretty focused) is all about the raid on Eastfield Depot. Corbett tells Arnott about it, but not full details, because it stung that the gang’s locations were raided. What he does say, though, is that the Top Bent Copper will be there (making out he’s keeping the name to himself) and that the police should be ready to arrest a key officer. Arnott feels very uncomfortable about this plan, and back at the office tells Fleming about meeting with him; together they tell Hastings too, who lets rip about rules being broken. But it’s particularly clear he hates being out of the loop.
The scene of the raid is very tense, at first because we see the van going into the depot with just a nod from security, and grabbing whatever they want; but also because there is no sign of the big TBC. AC-12 are watching, and they’ve put trackers on some of the evidence bags, so they can follow the gang, who are grabbing more and more, loading money, drugs, weapons into a van. Corbett is tempted at one point to pack it in, as the Top Bent Copper should take the same risks as they are, but they keep going… and then a police car arrives, and a serious looking man in a balaclava turns up. The watching AC-12 know he’s police, but they cannot tell whether he is H, or what’s being said or even if he’s there willingly, so they just watch, and not storm in for now. Then in the middle of a pow-wow between him, McQueen and Corbett, AC-12 get an emergency call from officers on nearby Farmer’s Lane, and Arnott has to go to assist, taking armed support with him.
The police trackers are found in the loot, presumably because the Top Bent Copper knew (but how?) and the gang gets ready to drive off. But Corbett yells about him being a double-crosser by nature and shoots him, apparently in the legs, before they go. So Fleming and team run down to arrest/question/help this fellow officer, who’s bleeding very badly and remove his balaclava, revealing Les Hargreaves (though the angle did make it look like Hastings at first).
Interviewing the officer who called them to Farmer’s Lane, Fleming and Arnott discover that he had been instructed to do so by Hargreaves, ostensibly to make sure he had an excuse to be in the area, should he be spotted going into the depot. But was that call to get the armed police out of the depot, and how did he know they (never mind the trackers) were there? Corbett meets Arnott – again! – and is furious that they didn’t arrest the top guy and the gang when he’d told them what was going to happen, says that he shot the visitor to give them that chance, he couldn’t let the Top Bent Copper slip away. (Funny, he’d previously been suggesting H might have been Hastings, but now he was suspicious that Hastings said they should split to Farmer’s Lane.)
And this is when things get really, really tense: Arnott tells Corbett Hargreaves is dead (“But I only shot his legs!”) and it’s apparent to Corbett that now that he’s shot an officer, he’s really crossed a line; Arnott reckons he crossed it ages ago. Corbett unravels, waving a gun around, at Arnott, at himself… then refocuses his tantrum towards Hastings again, yet saying “this is on you” to Arnott.
The last scene shows Corbett conning his way into the home of Hastings’ estranged (and still beloved) wife, using fake Arnott ID… and putting on a balaclava.
So what’s going to happen to the wife? My bet is she’ll be kept as a hostage and threatened, to get Hastings to give up any corrupt officers he’s in league with… but what if that’s none? Did Hargreaves go to the depot as H, or was he sent by someone higher up? Is Corbett still working undercover, or is he simply trying to protect himself at this stage?
We have an interesting woman to watch on both sides: Biggeloe and McQueen. It wouldn’t surprise me if both are playing other sides… but we might not find out about both until Line of Duty Season 6.
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.