Line of Duty, series 5 episode 4, recap: suspicions about Hastings deepen – and a shocking death

Michael Hogan
Adrian Dunbar as Ted Hastings and Polly Walker as Gill - 4
Adrian Dunbar as Ted Hastings and Polly Walker as Gill - 4

Phew. After another white-knuckle hour of shady dealings and shock deaths, here are all the talking points from an incendiary fourth episode…

Ted’s wife was tortured paramilitary-style

The good news was that Roisin Hastings (Andrea Irvine) survived the home invasion. The bad news was that the estranged wife of Supt Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar) was hospitalised after being tortured by a balaclava-clad assailant. 

When a visibly shaken Ted – there was a lot of “Good God!” and “For Christ’s sake!” this week – visited her in hospital, Roisin revealed that Balaclava Man was “from back home… he spoke with a Belfast accent”. Undercover cop DS John Corbett (Stephen Graham) had won her trust by posing as DS Steve Arnott, despite his glaring lack of a waistcoat. So did Corbett then hand over to a second man? 

The real Arnott (Martin Compston) noted that the pattern of Roisin’s wrist, knee and ankle injuries were “classic paramilitary punishment wounds”. There were rumours before this series started that we’d learn more about Hastings’s past. Now we got hints that his Ulster days were coming back to haunt him. 

Martin Compston as Steve - Credit:  World Productions Ltd
Martin Compston as Steve Credit: World Productions Ltd

Corbett’s crew rattled after heist

They’d netted £50m worth of contraband loot in last week’s audacious raid on Eastfield Depot, but the goods were too hot and Corbett’s gang were having trouble shifting them. Opening up the laptop messaging link to their high-level contact, they asked for help. 

Corbett was convinced he was talking to “a senior police officer”, but his second-in-command Lisa McQueen (Rochenda Sandall) said “you can’t know that”. Corbett seemed to be losing his grip, pushing too hard for a meeting with “H”, and McQueen looked suspicious. Tensions were rising. They would soon rise even more. 

Hargreaves wasn’t “H” after all

Whoever the elusive “H” might be, it seems that it isn’t Serious Crime Squad’s DCS Lester Hargreaves (Tony Pitts). After colluding in the Eastfield raid, being shot by Corbett and dying from his wounds, Hargreaves was certainly corrupt with the right initial – but now he was ruled out of being the top dog.

The crime syndicate had been blackmailing officers with semen deposits collected in condoms at their brothel, then kept in cold storage. These included Hargreaves who, Corbett claimed, was “a perv into underage girls”. 

But Hargreaves’s sample was relatively fresh and he’d only made contact with other corrupt cops in the last few months, suggesting he’d recently turned to the dark side – whereas “H goes back years”, as DI Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) pointed out. This tallied with McQueen having met Hargreaves at the brothel but telling Corbett she had no idea what their criminal overlord looked like. “H” remained at large. 

Could Gill Biggeloe be bent too?

All fluttering eyelashes and barbed comments, police legal counsel Gill Biggeloe (Polly Walker) faux-sympathised with Roisin’s plight, bitchily telling Ted: “Poor woman. At her age.” But she backed him when DCC Andrea Wise (Elizabeth Rider) threatened to take him off the case now that it had acquired a personal dimension. Is the manipulative Gill setting up Hastings to take a fall?

There was a flash of Victoria Wood-esque wit from writer Jed Mercurio, when Rider was told not to send flowers to the hospital for “infection control” and mused: “I’m veering towards muffins.”

The morning after their hotel tryst, Gill touched Hastings’ hand flirtatiously but was rebuffed. “My wife was attacked at exactly the same time that I was with you,” Ted told her. “If that’s not a sign, I don’t know what is.” Gill doesn’t take kindly to rejection and has form for being compromised, having been in cahoots with DI Matthew “Dot” Cottan, aka “the Caddy”, back in series three. So was it more than coincidence that she was distracting Ted when Corbett made his move?

Surprise returns for Terry and Jackie

McQueen, Miroslav Menkovic (Tomi May) and Ryan Pilkington (Gregory Piper) paid a visit to a familiar face: Terry (Tommy Jessop), the man with Down’s syndrome who was last seen in series one when he was bullied into letting his flat be used by the gang, back when Ryan was a lippy errand boy on a BMX. 

Mercurio has been rewarding longtime Line of Duty devotees with these knowing callbacks to previous cases – and we got another when Miroslav opened Terry’s freezer, only to find the frozen corpse of murdered money launderer Jackie Laverty (Gina McKee), also from the debut run. “How long has she been there?” chuckled Miroslav. About seven years, mate. 

It turned out the flat was opposite the gang’s Kingsgate Printing Services HQ, and lookout Terry had photographed AC-12’s raid on the premises. When McQueen recognised Arnott from the pics, she noted that he “works for the same outfit as Maneet Bindra” (RIP) and “we never told Hargreaves about the print shop”. It all meant that “the leak came from someone else – we’ve got a rat”. Uh-oh. Cut to Corbett…

Polly Walker as Gill - Credit: World Productions Ltd
Polly Walker as Gill Credit: World Productions Ltd

Corbett exposed Ted’s marriage and money problems

Corbett was about to drop a package at Arnott’s home when he spotted a surveillance car and new CCTV cameras, so settled for phoning him instead. “Never kid a kidder,” said Corbett with grudging admiration. 

He proceeded to play Arnott a recording of Roisin’s torture, which involved a man with a broad Belfast accent interrogating her, while power tools whirred menacingly in the background. Ouch. Roisin confessed not only that she and Ted were separated but that he’d “invested their life savings in some crackpot scheme”, lost the lot and “sold up to make ends meet”. 

All this was news to Arnott and Fleming. Did it mean Hastings was compromised and at the mercy of criminals? Or just a proud man who didn’t want his private affairs known? Cut again to Hastings…

Ted herring or bent backhander?

The pensive boss was in his hotel room, slugging whisky and opening the package from shifty retired cop Mark Moffatt (Patrick Fitzsymons), who said it was “a little more background on our investment proposal”. Except the bulging brown envelope was stuffed full of £50 notes. Tens of thousands worth, it appeared. Oh Ted, tell us this isn’t how it looks. 

Corbett’s grudge traced back to Belfast

Assuming Roisin’s attack was Corbett, said Arnott, his accent “wasn’t amateur, it was spoken like a native”. So AC-12 paid another visit to Corbett’s wife Steph (Amy De Bhrún), grilling her about whether he’d ever served in the Royal Ulster Constabulary or had family connections over there. 

Stony-faced Steph denied it, but in a furtive phone call with her husband, he seemed spooked. “Do they know about my mum?” John asked, before Steph mentioned the name “Anne-Marie”. It had become increasingly apparent that Corbett blamed Hastings for all his woes. Now it was looking like their beef went back a long way. 

Back at AC-12 HQ, quietly impressive PC Tatleen Sohota (Taj Atwal) made a breakthrough. Via his personnel file and marriage certificate, she discovered that Corbett was Belfast-born but both his biological parents, Anthony and Anne-Marie McGillis, died during the Eighties. He was adopted aged 10 by a close relative in Liverpool. 

This new intel – combined with Corbett saying cryptically to Roisin that Ted “knows what he cost me” and to Arnott that “bent coppers don’t care what happens to people’s families” – raised the possibility that Hastings was involved in the death of Corbett’s parents 30 years ago. Corbett’s determination to unmask him as “H” could be deeply personal. 

Vicky McClure as Kate - Credit: GRABS
Vicky McClure as Kate Credit: GRABS

Arnott and Corbett had armed stand-off

Some of the standout scenes this series have been between the two terrier-like cops, Corbett and Arnott. Now they met again. Having traced his calls home to Liverpool, AC-12 pinpointed Corbett’s covert residence and had Arnott intercept him on the street, tooled up and wearing a wire, with an armed response team on standby.

Arnott tried to persuade him to come in and work with AC-12 but Corbett refused, insisting that he was not only getting close to the top man (who was “close to home”, hint hint) but that McQueen was about to turn informant too. “We’ll never get this chance again,” he argued. 

Back in the control van, Hastings looked rattled – even more so when Corbett confessed to “assaulting your gaffer’s wife”. Hastings ordered Arnott to apprehend him and authorised lethal force, even if it meant losing Corbett’s intel. Arnott pulled his firearm. So did Corbett. 

After a tense stand-off, Corbett told Steve “I’m meeting the top man today” and persuaded Arnott to take off his wire so he could tell him the details in confidence: “Palisades shopping centre at 4pm”. Hastings ranted that Arnott was a “wee gobs---e” for ignoring his orders. Corbett made his escape, disappearing Keyser Soze-style via an underground car park and a service door. 

Shopping centre showdown called off

Back at AC-12, both Fleming and Arnott questioned whether Hastings’s authorisation of legal force was lawful. The furious chief responded by rattling off his “beloved regulations”, giving Arnott a public reprimand and demanding to know the intel Corbett gave him. 

Reluctantly, Arnott gave up the time and place of the meeting. Hastings stomped back to his office and closed the blinds. As Corbett said: “If the meeting doesn’t happen, you know you’ve got a leak.” 

At the appointed hour, AC-12 and armed back-up were in place again but “H” was a no-show. With Corbett’s crew carrying guns and so many civilians around, police couldn’t risk them resisting arrest and had to let them walk away. Was the meeting supposed to be with Hastings? Had Corbett given Arnott false intel? Had McQueen faked it to smoke out “the rat”? The already soupy plot thickened further.

Martin Compston as Arnott and Stephen Graham as Corbett
Martin Compston as Arnott and Stephen Graham as Corbett

Line Of Duty lingo decoded

As well as the usual “OCG” (organised crime group), “UCO” (undercover officer) and “SITREP” (situation report), we had a few new pieces of police jargon this week. Fleming was on the radio to the “TFC” (tactical firearms commander) before Hastings gave a “Fahrenheit order” (shoot to kill). This would be included in their report for “SFC” (specialist firearms command). 

The sex traffickers also used their own lingo, referring to a “pop-up on The Bog” (temporary brothel on rhe Borogrove Estate) and “livestock” (a dehumanising term for sex slaves, with some real-life gangs even going so far as to “brand” their victims with tattoos).

Prison visit looked deeply dodgy

Just when he couldn’t appear much more shady, Hastings visited HMP Blackthorn to see Lee Banks (Alastair Natkiel), the gang member arrested by AC-12 in episode two. When Banks realised who Hasting was, he growled that he “wasn’t talking to that b------d”. 

Hastings calmly replied: “Sit down, fella. This b------d’s got a thing or two to say. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.” We later saw him driving away, looking pensive. Was he in league with the gang after all? Could he even have told Banks that Corbett was an undercover cop? 

Did a typo “definately” unmask Hastings as H?

In the stockroom of the gang’s favourite seedy nightclub, McQueen opened the laptop link to “H” – although she warned Corbett: “Let’s be careful. Things are getting strained.” Except it wasn’t their high-level contact, it was AC-12 impersonating him. The Cybercrime unit had analysed the metadata from the print shop’s IP address and simulated the link, enabling them to pose as the unknown user. 

When cybercrime expert Amanda Yao (Rosa Escola) took too long selecting her response from a flowchart of pre-formulated statements, Hastings impatiently took over at the keyboard – and seemed all too familiar with the process. 

Crucially, when he promised safe passage to a port for the stolen Eastfield goods, he typed “I can definately pull the right strings.” It was the same spelling mistake the gang’s contact made last week when describing the raid as “definately high risk”. Viewers’ stomachs lurched. This was surely too much of a coincidence.

Hastings signed off the webchat with “I need you to bring all this to a close.” While this baffled Corbett, McQueen suddenly looked unnerved. Was it a coded message for her? 

Adrian Dunbar as Hastings - Credit: World Productions Ltd
Adrian Dunbar as Hastings Credit: World Productions Ltd

Distaste for sex slavery proved Corbett’s downfall

As a family man and undercover cop, Corbett was increasingly uncomfortable with the sex-trafficking side of operations. They still had “supply lines” of “livestock”, but since their brothel was raided, no premises from which to operate. When they met with a rival gang in a vacant office building to do a deal, Corbett wasn’t keen, but McQueen convinced him that “business is business”. 

Corbett thought he detected similar feelings in McQueen, and vowed to “get us both out”. It was tricky to tell whether the inscrutable second-in-command was on his side or stringing him along. 

When they returned to deliver a minibus full of trafficked women, Corbett was seriously on edge. He grew even more jittery when gang member Ryan began to noisily abuse the terrified victims behind a locked door. An agonisingly tense poker game saw Corbett grab Miroslav’s gun and yell: “I’m gonna let the girls go. And you’re gonna let me.”

When he kicked down the door, though, it was a trap. A rival gang member was faking the noises. Corbett hesitated. Ryan emerged from behind and slit his throat, echoing Maneet’s execution in episode one. 

Goodbye then, Stephen Graham

Mercurio has always been willing to bump off major characters played by big-name actors, and this was another classic example. Perhaps it was inevitable that guest star Stephen Graham wouldn’t see out the series. Besides, his character Corbett was in so deep, he was heading for jail anyway. 

While Corbett bled out on the floor, McQueen knelt beside him and snarled: “You’re a rat, John.” As he gurgled and twitched his last, Corbett fired one shot from his pistol. Was this a deliberate final act to leave some ballistic trace behind?

Poignantly, Corbett’s death throes were intercut with wife Steph reading a bedtime story to their two daughters: Chicken Licken, who thought the sky had fallen in. Did this mean Hastings was Foxy Loxy and ordered the hit?

Stephen Graham as Corbett and Rochanda Sandall as Lisa McQueen - Credit: GRABS
Stephen Graham as Corbett and Rochanda Sandall as Lisa McQueen Credit: GRABS

Could McQueen be undercover too?

She was all business, ordering her underlings to “get this mess cleaned up before we trade the livestock”, but when McQueen walked away, she was tearful, trembling and nauseated by what had just occurred.

There have been references to McQueen having “earned her place”, implying long involvement in the gang, as does her knowledge of original boss Tommy Hunter. Judging from her social services file and other hints, Lisa was recruited as a teenager to deal drugs along so-called “county lines”. 

Is she a sort of “reverse Caddy”, embedded in organised crime as a long-term informant? Has Hastings been covertly communicating with her through the laptop? Am I clutching at straws to convince myself that Ted is still on the side of the angels? Only time will tell.

Ted under the spotlight next time

Just two episodes to go, and writer Mercurio’s foot is firmly on the pedal. Next Sunday’s penultimate instalment sees the hunt for “H” intensify, while Arnott and Fleming wonder if Hastings is guarding a dark secret. 

Line of Duty returns on Sunday 28 at 9pm on BBC One