When the nation starts discussing ‘balaclava man’ or having heated debates about the identity of ‘H’, you don’t want to be left in the dark.
The return of police corruption drama Line Of Duty — the most eagerly awaited show of the year — hits the ground running on Sunday with a first episode that will leave you gasping for breath.
But you don’t need to have seen the four previous series to enjoy this intricately plotted thriller, although it helps to have some background.
So if you don’t have time to catch up on iPlayer — or you simply can’t remember what’s happened since it started seven years ago — here’s a handy cheat’s guide to make sure you know your Hastings from your Hilton, your AC-12 from your AC-9 and exactly what that noise is at the start of interrogations on the most compelling show on TV.
The return of police corruption drama Line Of Duty — the most eagerly awaited show of the year — hits the ground running on Sunday with a first episode that will leave you gasping for breath (pictured)
Line Of Duty centres around a tight trio who form part of AC-12, a secretive internal police department that investigates corrupt coppers. The team is led by Superintendent Ted Hastings (played by Adrian Dunbar), with undercover officer DI Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) and DS Steve Arnott (Martin Compston).
At the start we learned how Arnott became a member of AC-12 when he turned whistleblower on his anti-terrorism colleagues over the shooting of an innocent man.
AC-12 veteran Fleming is an expert at going undercover in police departments, inveigling her way in so that she’s close to the target. Hastings is the boss and, apparently, the moral core of the show, who occasionally has to put a restraining hand on those beneath him to stop them putting too many noses out of joint.
In each series they investigate a different police officer who appears to be corrupt, but over the course of the previous four series their investigations have led them to realise there’s a huge police-wide conspiracy protecting an organised crime gang. And they soon learn that this corrupt police network will do anything to protect itself and its boss, the mysterious ‘H’.
Series 1: THE CONSPIRACY STARTS
The team was called in to investigate the suspiciously high case-clearance rate of DCI Tony Gates, played by Lennie James. He’d just been named Officer of the Year and was the leader of the so-called ‘big sexy crime unit’, but there was a suspicion that he’d been cutting corners — or worse.
Gates’s mistress was businesswoman Jackie Laverty (Gina McKee). She enlisted his help to protect her after telling him she ran over a dog — but he discovered ‘the dog’ was her accountant who had discovered she was laundering money for a gangster called Tommy Hunter. Just as Gates was about to reluctantly arrest her, he was knocked out and she was killed — with his fingerprints left on the murder weapon.
Line Of Duty with Lennie James as DCI Tony Gates, Craig Parkinson as DS Matt Cottan and Neil Morrissey as DC Nigel Morton
Hunter then blackmailed Gates, who at first agreed to help. But with AC-12 on his tail, he saw there was no way out and killed himself, asking Arnott to say he’d been killed in the line of duty so his wife would get his police pension.
In a last-minute twist, it emerged one of Gates’s ‘sexy crime’ officers, DS Matthew ‘Dot’ Cottan (Craig Parkinson), was an associate of gangster Hunter. He was known as The Caddy because he had a job in his teens carrying Hunter’s golf bag.
Series 2: KEELEY UNDER SUSPICION
This started with an ambush on a police convoy carrying a protected witness. Several officers were killed, with only one surviving — DCI Lindsay Denton, played by Keeley Hawes, who immediately came under suspicion.
The witness turned out to be the gangster Hunter from the first series. AC-12 were called in to investigate when it became clear there must have been inside knowledge of the convoy. Arnott and new girl DC Georgia Trotman (Jessica Raine) visited Hunter in hospital, where they found him being murdered by a man dressed as a nurse.
Detective Sergeant Steve Arnott (Martin Compston), Detective Inspector Lindsay Denton (Keeley Hawes) and Detective Constable Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure)
Arnott was knocked unconscious while Georgia was pushed out of the window in a shocking first episode. Later on, Arnott discovered cash at Denton’s house and she admitted she had colluded with the ambush — which was ordered by The Caddy to stop Hunter talking — because she felt sorry for a teenager being abused by Hunter, but did not expect her colleagues to be murdered. She was imprisoned for conspiracy to commit murder while, in the final episode, Cottan got a job in AC-12.
Series 3: UNVEILING THE CADDY
This series took a dark turn after armed response unit leader Sgt Danny Waldron (Daniel Mays) shot dead gangster Ronan Murphy in cold blood. After bullying his team to hide his secret, and then torturing Murphy’s brother, Waldron was then killed himself by one of his own team — this all happened in the first episode.
AC-12 unravelled what appeared to be a paedophile ring — Waldron was one of their victims. DS Steve Arnott enlisted the help of a surprising accomplice, Lindsay Denton, who had been released from prison on appeal.
Line of Duty with Vicky McClure as DC Kate Fleming, Daniel Mays as Sergeant Danny Waldron and Martin Compston as DS Steve Arnott
Determined to hide the names involved in the sex abuse because they included corrupt cops and their criminal accomplices, DS Cottan attempted to frame Arnott.
But in a memorable climax, Fleming turned the tables on Cottan and revealed she knew he was The Caddy, only for a balaclava-clad gang of corrupt officers to break him out of AC-12 with her in hot pursuit.
After a tense chase he ended up taking a bullet for Fleming and gave a dying declaration that put the paedophile coppers in jail, and also revealed the existence of the mastermind ‘H’.
Series 4: THANDIE AND THE BALACLAVA MAN
Starring Thandie Newton as DCI Roz Huntley, this focused on a serial killer called ‘balaclava man’.
Huntley, in charge of the investigation, quickly targeted a disturbed sex offender, to the joy of her boss ACC Derek Hilton (Paul Higgins), but her forensics coordinator Tim Ifield (Jason Watkins) suspected she’d got the wrong guy and contacted AC-12. She went to his house to have it out with him, but they ended up having a huge row and she killed him in self-defence. Another first-episode death.
Tim Ifield played (Jason Watkins) and Detective Chief Inspector Roz Huntley (Thandie Newton)
DS Steve Arnott later had his own brush with death when the attention switched to Huntley’s husband Nick. Before Arnott had a chance to talk to him, he was thrown down the stairs by a man wearing a balaclava, leaving him in a wheelchair for the next few episodes.
The investigation then turned to Nick’s friend and lawyer Lakewell — who also once represented the man being held on suspicion of being the ‘balaclava man’ serial killer.
It turned out that Lakewell framed his ex-client to appease a whole gang of balaclava-wearing killers after being blackmailed by them.
In a dramatic shoot-out, Hastings killed one of the balaclava men who had tried to kidnap Lakewell.
It then emerged that police chief Hilton, too, was being blackmailed — with a frozen corpse covered in his DNA — and he ended up dead in an apparent suicide. But not before accusing Hastings of being the mysterious ‘H’.
AND NOW SERIES 5 . . .
Billed as AC-12’s most dangerous mission yet, this time the team are brought in when another police convoy goes wrong. Set two years on from the last episode, this time £10 million of drugs are being transported to an incinerator, but in a dramatic shoot-out, three cops are killed and the narcotics are stolen.
AC-12 become involved because it’s clear it’s an inside job — the gang knew the exact route the convoy would be taking. But the police links to the gang are much more complicated than even AC-12 can imagine. And in the meantime, the AC-12 team are in more danger than ever because these guys are genuine baddies who don’t baulk at murder.
COULD HASTINGS BE ‘H’?
Superintendent Hastings is the moral core of the team and has often pushed harder than anyone to get the villains. But the programme makers seem determined to make us believe he’s not as pure as we think — even if no one wants to.
At the end of series 4 Fleming was surprised when Hastings was so quick to label Hilton ‘H’. Particularly as he was now dead. Hastings also has, we know, money problems and is a Freemason.
All things that mean he’s definitely under suspicion. The final shot of series 4 showed Hastings in his office, deliberately framed to make it look like he was behind bars.
BAD AND BACK?
There are other characters associated with the crime syndicate still in the show. AC-12 PC Maneet Bindra (Maya Sondhi) was last seen looking heavily pregnant. In series four she was seen giving inside information to Hilton but told him she was ‘finished’ and took early maternity leave.
Another AC-12 member, Jamie Desford (Royce Pierreson), who felt undervalued, was reassigned to Hilton’s team and played a key role in making sure the lawyer Lakewell wasn’t killed. Could he make a comeback?
- Line Of Duty starts on Sunday, at 9pm, on BBC1.