Line of Duty season 6, episode 4 recap – shoot-outs and killings and cliffhangers, oh my!

By Alix Turner
Published: April 13, 2021
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Line of Duty season 6, episode 4 recap – shoot-outs and killings and cliffhangers, oh my!


So we have two MIT senior officers being pressurized by low- to middle-grade OCG, Hastings being stepped on from above, still no solid clues about who is higher up in the OCG, or connected from there to the police. We have loyalties being challenged and mended, and connections being found. Three more episodes of Line of Duty to go.

This recap of Line of Duty season 6, episode 4 contains spoilers.

We’re now over the halfway point in the final series, and this episode has ramped up the action, the conspiracy, and the shocks. There’s no point trying to structure my Line of Duty recap around key characters anymore: all the threads are weaving together to such an extent it would make an untidy mess. Wondering how to best present Line of Duty season 6, episode 4, I’m tempted to simply lay out bullet points. Here goes nothing:

After a warning that there are “scenes some viewers may find upsetting” (what are we letting ourselves in for this time?), we’re straight into the Murder Investigation Team with DCI Joanne Davidson reminding her team (and audience) that DS Ian Buckells has been charged and everyone should feel able to focus on looking for Gail Vella’s killer. Interestingly, she refers to Buckells as “one rotten apple”, reminding loyal viewers of Gill Biggeloe’s use of the phrase in the last season. Oh and Davidson is now Acting Detective Superintendent, and she’s looking rosy.

Superintendent Ted Hastings briefly meets DI Kate Fleming in that colorful subway, concedes to her that Ryan Pilkington has clear connections to organized crime. Nice to see them sharing a smile again, and building some tentative bridges. In a later scene, DI Steve Arnott also seems to be feeling more comfortable in his work, meeting with Nicky (Christina Chong) for lunch and asking her to put his transfer on hold. He’s still avoiding an Occupational Health appointment though.

Back in AC-12 offices, Buckells is brought in for an interview for perverting the course of justice. The interview naturally covers many things and raises many lovely phrases such as “decision dodger” and “scapegoated”. He doesn’t deny his interest in witness Deborah Devereux, but does deny selecting Ryan Pilkington to replace Farida Jatri. Buckells claims to be completely committed to the investigation into Gail Vella’s murder, but Hastings sneers at this that he must be “doing a god-awful job” in that case, suggesting that if he’s not corrupt, he must be incompetent. Buckells claims that he’s being “fitted up”, and interestingly Hastings jumps to the assumption that Buckells is accusing AC-12. That’s not necessarily what he meant, but the poor sod has no idea who would frame him. The scene ends with him quite pathetically repeating “don’t know” and Hastings barking “charge him” to his officers.

Arnott responds to the interview with utter disbelief, suggesting to Fleming that Buckells “couldn’t organize a p**s-up in a brewery”. He’s convinced Davidson was responsible for delays in reaching their suspect, but Fleming is increasingly on Davidson’s side and reckons Buckell’s apparent stupidity makes a good cover. (I’m not convinced.)

Next, we have the first shocking scene of Line of Duty season 6, episode 4. Hastings meets – yet again – with Deputy Chief Constable Andrea Wise and Police and Crime Commissioner Rohan Sindwhani, the latter angry that Hastings had given them no warning that he had planned to charge Buckells. In the face of flustering politics, Hastings is all about integrity, saying that this discretion was all about “attempting to uphold standards in public office”. Sindwhani storms off, leaving Wise to deliver difficult news: Hastings has had his final warning and she declares he is unable to lead his team and therefore is to retire. He’s had thirty years, so can avoid discipline, and this action is going to be tied to a budget-based restructuring of the department: AC-3, AC-9, and AC-12 are to merge under one chief super with 90% numbers to be cut. Sindwhani will be announcing the plan in a month. Hastings is naturally shell-shocked, though manages a brief “what has happened to us?” soliloquy.

Back in MIT, Fleming is authorized to look into the guns used for the bookmaker robbery: if that robbery had been specially set up to delay their Vella operation, there might be some connection between the robbery and the murder, and (seemed like a long shot to me, but) Fleming figured the guns might lead to that connection. The one used to kill Vella was untraceable, having been modified in a workshop; and having interviewed Jake Kilorgan (Ben Rose), who had been arrested for the robbery, it sounds like the robbers were offered guns like that too.

Forensics are just finishing up scouring Sergeant Farida Jatri’s house for DNA traces, and Davidson is worriedly watching from – cliché alert – nearby bushes. Is she worried about them finding her DNA, or something else? When she gets home, she opens that laptop again and sends a message: “job done.” Then another: “I’m finished.” Does that imply she had put something in the house for forensics to find? Or that she’s done everything OCG has wanted? Anyway, there’s no response to that message, which seems to frustrate her, but I’m not terribly surprised: at the top of the screen, it reads “offline. not connected”.

AC-12 surveillance on Ryan Pilkington suggests he may be watching Davidson, but Hastings tells Fleming not to warn her: they need to see how things play out. Poor Hastings is still pretty shaky from the previous day’s meeting and – although it’s clearly great to have Fleming and Arnott loosely in his team together again – encourages them to keep going although they “might not see this through”. It’s not clear if they know what he’s talking about, but I suspect not. Despite what Hastings told her, Fleming does warn Davidson that something is a bit off about Pilkington, but instead of mentioning surveillance, simply says that she’d seen him watching when they were in the pub. Davidson uses the expense of bringing in another senior officer now that Buckells is out as a diplomatic way to relieve Pilkington from her team. He gives her the iciest stare I’ve ever seen, leaves with a polite “thank you” and she feels much safer.

Attention moves back to AC-12, when another audio file from Gail Vella’s computer is cleaned up and Arnott recognizes the voice of James Lakewell (Patrick Baladi), the solicitor from season four, mentioning “Balaclava men”. Arnott meets with Lakewell in Blackthorn Prison and asks what Vella had been looking into, but Lakewell refuses to answer: “It doesn’t bode well to speak openly of such things”. This is the strongest lead to finding out why Vella would be killed — Lakewell must have told her something incriminating about someone big — and so AC-12 go to Blackthorn Prison in an armored convoy, remove Lakewell and Arnott attempts to persuade him to speak with the promise of protection and immunity.

Here’s the second of Line of Duty season 6, episode 4’s shocking scenes: the convoy is ambushed by two black vans and the white van that Arnott and Lakewell are in tips over. A gun battle follows that I cannot possibly do justice to here, largely attacking the white van (presumably to eliminate Lakewell as a witness), and returning fire to officers of the other vans in the convoy too. DC Chloe Bishop tries to get to Arnott’s door, but can’t; she’s traveling with a team of Authorised Firearms Officers led by Ruby Jones (Sherise Blackman) who does get the door open, but she is shot and killed. With that door (above him) wide open, Arnott is in a sniper’s firing line, but after several attempts manages to shoot the sniper himself. This is a fast-paced and impressive scene, and I could almost feel Arnott’s back pain when the van crashed, and could definitely see Lakewell’s fear when the van was being rained with gunfire.

Two quiet but cold scenes next, while we let heart rates settle down, and then a couple more shocking ones…

Thinking back to how the ambush could have happened, Hastings comfortably assumes the Organised Crime Group was tipped off by staff in Blackthorn Prison; but Bishop timidly offers “unless the leak came from AC-12.” They sit down with Lakewell, determined that after all that he will feel obliged to reveal Vella’s focus, but no such luck: he is taking the ambush as a warning, and declares he will never submit to an interview; as long as the OCG know he didn’t talk, he’ll be safe. “That’s right isn’t it, DI Arnott?” The audience is left to wonder whether maybe he had slipped some information during the journey.

Davidson returns home that evening but is surprised by Pilkington holding a gun to the back of her head at the door. He asks to go inside with her: “I’ll explain why I won’t be posted off your team and you’ll listen.” The next morning Davidson has come up with a reason why she can’t push Pilkington away: it could raise questions about why Fleming had been following that night at the reservoir, and why she didn’t call for back-up straight away. Drat.

Ready for the next shocking scene? In Blackthorn Prison, Lakewell is led to a cell, only to find Buckells is there too, apparently to share. Then Lee Banks (Alastair Natkiel) – arrested by AC-12 in the middle of season five – walks in and tells Buckells to “watch what happens to a rat”. A prison officer shuts the door and Banks garrottes Lakewell. Arriving at work the next day, Davidson is met by Pilkington who tells her about Lakewell’s death. Trembling, she asks what the cause of death was: “Being a rat, ma’am.”

Now finally in Line of Duty season 6, episode 4… Bishop gathers the DNA evidence collected from all around Jatri’s house and finds some of it confusing. Naturally, Davidson’s was found there, but what’s interesting is that this finding has led to cross-referencing across other police databases: it looks as though Davidson has a similar DNA to someone else already known to the police, similar enough that they can only be “a blood relative”. Arnott shows Hastings who he’s talking about, but doesn’t show us viewers; and Hastings gives his classic response: “mother of God”.

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