Line of Duty season 6, episode 1 recap – anything could happen in the next six episodes

By Alix Turner
Published: March 23, 2021 (Last updated: last month)
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Line of Duty season 6, episode 1 recap - anything could happen in the next six episodes


Line of Duty returns with an episode not entirely action-packed but certainly with a lot to take in, and virtually anything could happen in the next six episodes.

This recap of Line of Duty season 6, episode 1 contains spoilers.

The fans of this show – a fandom that gets stronger with every season – have been waiting, and now they are debating and theorizing and gossiping again. I’m going to start this welcome back article with a warning though: if you’re jumping straight in here at season six, expecting Line of Duty to be something you can pick up at any season opening like Prime Suspect, you really should watch seasons one to five first. Any season can be enjoyed on its own, sure, but you’d be blind to a very big and convoluted picture.

This reflects Jed Mercurio’s story: in each season, Anti-Corruption Unit 12 (AC-12) are alerted to a suspicious individual in the force, and gradually discover just how big a picture this one individual is part of. When you first meet a modest copper, they could turn out to be an Organised Crime Group (OCG) mole; an ambitious young golf caddie could grow up to be the hub of the bent police network. You just can’t tell. Mercurio has been playing a long game with his audience, and seven years since this show started, we no longer know if we can trust what we hear and see on screen. Who’s lying? Who’s undercover? Who’s been planted in their seemingly innocent position since the first day they joined the job?

Anyway, season six. This opening episode is a little uneventful for some tastes; no shootings, no explosions, just a few swear words. It’s all about regrouping and setting the scene though, and this is fine: we have old faces and new, and there have been some changes. Granted there is some plot, but I’d describe them as glimpses of a plot that we will most likely see more clearly as each episode lands. As viewers may be used to, there are more scenes that plant questions and clues than deliver action, though there is a light twist or two as well.

I’ll give you the scene-setting, therefore, and some of the (possible) clues dropped throughout the hour, along with links to other seasons.

Detective Inspector Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure, This Is England) no longer works for AC-12, having put Superintendent Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar, My Left Foot) through the wringer at the climax of season five, about eighteen months ago. Now, she’s working for Detective Chief Inspector Joanne Davidson (Kelly Macdonald, Trainspotting, Giri/Haji), who leads the Murder Investigation Team (MIT) at Hillside Lane station. MIT has been concentrating on the murder of investigative journalist Gail Vella about a year earlier, and this episode opens with a lead to a suspect being phoned in.

Davidson puts surveillance on the address for this suspect and goes there with armed police the next day. On the way, however, she spots down a side street what looks like a robbery getaway van and insists on a diversion. Good news: robbery is foiled. Bad news: one of the robbers is shot. Double-plus bad news: dealing with this side issue (and shooting) causes a major delay in getting to their suspect’s place. When they get there, they apprehend a nervous young man with Down’s Syndrome, and the flat has been cleaned out.

The young man is not the Ross Turner they thought they were looking for, but Terry Boyle (Tommy Jessop, Coming Down the Mountain), a friend patsy of regular lowlifes, who had been conned into hiding Jackie Laverty’s body in a freezer back in season one (though played by a different actor at that time). It might be useful if Fleming remembers at some point that Terry Boyle likes taking pictures: he had some excellent snaps of neighbors last season. In this episode, he has pictures of Vella on his wall, calling her a “nice lady”. It’s not entirely clear whether Terry lived at that flat, or whether someone called Carl Banks did, as his prints are all over the place… presumably a relative of the notorious Lee Banks from season five. Terry’s interrogation doesn’t get them very far, so they try to track down the informant (known as a CHIS – Covert Human Intelligence Source – in this season) to clarify whether it was Carl or Terry he saw. Unfortunately, this CHIS turns up dead later in Line of Duty season 6, episode 1, bringing the investigation to a stalemate.

Meanwhile, Detective Inspector Steve Arnott (Martin Compston, The Disappearance of Alice Creed) is still working with Hastings, but the job seems to have got a little stale since the excitement of earlier days. Hastings is feeling it too, being left out of big meetings; but hey, somehow, he kept his job. There is a new Detective Constable in AC-12, Chloe Bishop (Shalom Brune-Franklin, Cursed); and there’s a strong theory going round that she was born Chloe Gates, in other words, the daughter of DCI Anthony Gates (Lennie James, The Walking Dead), the subject of Season 1.

We, therefore, have two police teams in the story, so it is inevitable they are going to clash. Arnott gets a call alerting him to Davidson’s odd diversion from her key operation, suggesting that it was initiated deliberately in order to waste time. This call came from Sergeant Farida Jatri (Anneika Rose, Deadwater Fell), part of MIT. We had previously seen her working with DCI Roz Huntley (Thandie Newton) in season four, but that was a small part; she’s clearly going to be important in this one. Easy to assume she reports her boss out of a sense of integrity or fear at first, but a scene towards the end of the episode shows that Davidson is in the process of ending a relationship with Jatri. Davidson is moving out the last of her things, and it seems as though Jatri had been too clingy or paranoid for that relationship to work. What should we believe?

Hastings is very reluctant to let Arnott dig into Davidson’s action, knowing that Fleming works in the same team and would be a natural resource for inside information. Poor Arnott is disillusioned and has a chat with his friend DS Nicky Rogerson (Christina Chong, 24: Live Another Day) about any chance of a role with the Major Violent Crime unit. He seems to be going overboard on prescription painkillers too; I hope he’s not going to slip up this season. But he wants Hastings’ endorsement of an investigation and comes back from a visit to the route Davidson took questioning how she could have spotted the van when the convoy was driving at speed. Jatri seems to have stopped talking to Arnott, and when he does finally reach her she seems scared that Davidson will find out she reported her.

Davidson has other troubles too. For one thing, her boss Detective Superintendent Ian Buckells (Nigel Boyle, Doctors) has told his boss that Vella’s murder is on the verge of being solved. A closed-door conversation between them is most suspicious though. Buckells was kind of annoying in previous seasons, and even at this promoted level, he seems to be a bit sloppy, having authorized the wrong kind of surveillance on Boyle’s/Banks’ flat, which resulted in the place being unwatched for over three hours. And if all this wasn’t enough, she’s trying to settle back into her own home, and even though it is empty it has some serious locks on the door and comes with some difficult feelings: in a temper, Davidson throws a full glass at a photo, presumably of herself and her mother. Late mother? The woman in the picture looks strangely familiar; could she be Anne-Marie McGillis, birth mother of John Corbett from season five, or is that resemblance a coincidence?

Ten minutes before Line of Duty season 6, episode 1 ends, at long last, Arnott and Fleming meet up and talk; not in a clichéd dark alley, but in a car. He warns her that her new boss is now being investigated by AC-12, and Fleming is naturally worried that she’ll be assumed to be informing on Davidson because of her background in anti-corruption. She’s in a very difficult position, but by the end of this scene, I’m questioning what she was doing in the job in the first place: was Fleming already keeping an eye on the MIT? If so, was it with Hastings’ knowledge and not Arnott’s? Either way, she doesn’t get out of the car before passing on to Arnott that Carl Banks’ prints had been found in the “suspect’s” flat; and because of his connection to organized and gun crime, it looks like a dangerous man was allowed to flee because of Davidson’s diversion, and so Hastings’ approves the investigation.

Looking back on all I’ve written here, although it wasn’t an action-packed episode, there certainly was a lot to take in. Very talky, like all Mercurio’s dramas, and although some of the performances may have been a little below par, I’ll be looking forward to going back for more next week. Anything could happen in the next six episodes. Davidson could be a naïve pawn, a clever and corrupt DCI, or a red herring; oh and she could be flirting with Fleming on the rebound. One thing I know for sure though is that only one person in this episode has a name beginning with H.

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