Line of Duty, series 5 episode 3 recap: what the H is going on with Hastings and Corbett?

Stephen Graham as Corbett - 1
Stephen Graham as Corbett - 1

Another armed raid, hotel trysts, hostages taken – and did we see the unmasking of corrupt kingpin “H”? Here are all the talking points from a breathlessly eventful third episode…

The mugshot was The Caddy after all

Last week’s tantalising cliffhanger saw DS Jane Cafferty (Sian Reese-Williams) identifying the officer who’d first recruited her to the clandestine network of corrupt cops.

As some online sleuths had predicted, she pointed out the mugshot of DI Matthew “Dot” Cottan (Craig Parkinson), aka the deceased string-puller codenamed “The Caddy”. Supt Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar) was indeed a “Ted herring”. This time, anyway…

Crime gang were planning high-risk raid

We rejoined the crime gang, led by undercover cop DS John Corbett (Stephen Graham), preparing their audacious raid on Eastfield Depot, a high-security compound where three regional police forces store seized drugs, cash, jewels and precious metals.

Corbett planned to use untraceable assault rifles from last week’s weapon cache hijack but "go in quietly". For that, they needed to pay off security guards (relatively straightforward) and use bent coppers (trickier) to minimise potential police response. Corbett ordered second-in-command Lisa McQueen (Rochenda Sandall) to make the necessary contacts.

They soon opened up the laptop link to their high-ranking police insider – quite possibly the nefarious "H". "It’s definately high risk," he typed (might that typo turn out to be a clue?) but Corbett reassured him the potential rewards were worthwhile. "It’s on," said the mystery man before logging off.

McQueen insisted she didn’t know his identity, explaining: "For my own good, I want to keep it that way." Corbett promptly insisted that her bent copper must be present on the night of the raid, taking the same risks to ensure he didn’t double-cross them. Cut to Ted closing his laptop and pacing anxiously around his hotel room. Writer Jed Mercurio was dropping more heavy hints that Hastings was “H”.

Ted’s money troubles continued

Back in series two, Hastings lost a fortune in an Irish redevelopment project, the Kettle Bell Complex. Now he met up with not-wholly-trustworthy retired cop Mark Moffatt (Patrick Fitzsymons), who now worked for an investment firm and said Ted might be able to recoup his losses.

Over whiskies in a pub, Moffatt summarised Ted’s parlous financial state. He’d sold the family home so was living in a hotel, while his estranged wife was in “a poky flat” (remember that detail for later). All Hastings had to do to get his money back was pay a £100K deposit, which Moffatt’s company was prepared to loan him.

"We’re both seasoned coppers," said Moffatt. "Haven’t we earned a payday?" Oh, Ted. Please don’t make another daft decision.

Corbett fed Arnott crucial intel

In a stereotypical shady underpass, Corbett met DS Steve Arnott (Martin Compston) for an exchange of info. The undercover cop told Arnott that McQueen was "reaching out to bent coppers" and gave him the number of her unregistered pay-as-you-go phone, so AC-12 could put her under surveillance.

Corbett also told Arnott about his audio link to the high-level contact, who replied only in text. When Arnott suggested Corbett come in to work with AC-12, Corbett reacted furiously, insisting they'd "made a deal for keeps" and "we’ll go after the bent b-----d, no matter how high, whatever it takes". Arnott arranged for McQueen’s burner phone to be tracked and looked into her background. We got a brief glimpse of a social services document, hinting at a troubled upbringing.

He tailed McQueen to the gang’s HQ behind the Kingsway Printing Services shop and a block of flats on a council estate, where she was accompanied by a familiar face: Miroslav Menkovic (Tomi May), a longtime enforcer for the gang dating back to Tommy Hunter’s days, who’d tortured Arnott way back in series one – an agonising scene that featured his fingers in a vice and a pairs of boltcutters. So what were the dodgy duo doing?

AC-12 busted brothel and print shop

Investigations showed the six flats inside the block had been bought with cash, meaning they were likely being used for drugs or prostitution. It appeared the latter when surveillance cameras snapped various male visitors, many of whom were on the sex offenders register. Shudder.

Hastings ordered armed raids on both the print shop and brothel, even using one of his catchphrases: "Now we’re sucking on diesel!" Arnott tried to talk him out of it, arguing they should instead maintain surveillance and gather more leads. However, the gaffer pointed out the strong possibility of modern-day slavery and their duty to protect vulnerable women.

Arnott slyly tipped Corbett off beforehand, so he could clear out of the printing shop – taking the depot heist plans and all-important laptop with him, leaving just the lowly workers in his forging operation. McQueen's suspicions were aroused. How had Corbett known to vacate the premises?

Meanwhile, two doors at the brothel were padlocked from the outside. When police broke in, they found underage girls, trafficked from Eastern Europe. Surveillance photos showed an unidentified man in an overcoat and flat cap leaving the house. It didn’t match any police recognition data but bore a striking resemblance to Hastings – as did the description provided by sex worker Mariana (Polish actress Caroline Koziol) of "a middle-aged man with light hair and a strong accent". Uh-oh.

Corbett briefed Arnott on depot raid

At his next rendezvous with Arnott, Corbett was furious again (Stephen Graham plays hair-trigger tempers so well). Despite the advance warning, they’d lost promising leads at the two premises. Corbett hinted at how native he’d gone by callously referring to sex workers as "livestock".

However, Corbett proceeded to brief Arnott on the upcoming Eastfield raid, telling him a "big fish" – a high-ranking corrupt officer – would be present, so Arnott should have surveillance and firepower in place. Tension was mounting nicely.

Arnott came clean to Fleming

Vicky McClure and Martin Compston as Kate and Steve - Credit: BBC
Vicky McClure and Martin Compston as Kate and Steve Credit: BBC

Arnott couldn’t keep his source secret any longer, so told his "mate" DI Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) and Hastings how he’d been in contact with Corbett, meeting him not once but four times. "For God’s sake, son!" exclaimed Ted, going all Ulster again.

Kate’s nose was out of joint but Arnott convinced them that Corbett was still on the right side, having given them corrupt cop Cafferty and gangster Lee Banks, identifying McQueen and Miroslav, and helping break up the gang’s sex trafficking and counterfeiting operations. Any crimes Corbett had committed, claimed Arnott, were to maintain his cover.

Now he told them about Corbett’s computer comms link to a corrupt senior policeman and Thursday night’s impending Eastfield raid. "What’s he got backing him up, a Panzer division?" snorted Hastings, before promising to "back his best team to the hilt".

Laptop panic put Ted in frame again

No, not again. After hearing about the laptop link, Hastings hurriedly returned to his hotel room, wrapped his laptop in bubble wrap and took it to a computer disposal facility (I confess I didn’t know such places existed) to be destroyed.

First the suspicious messaging software. Now the incriminating hardware. Surely he can’t be that ashamed of his Candy Crush habit and folder of Gloria Hunniford photos?

All-action heist proceeded with plot twists

Midway through the episode came a heart-pounding 14-minute action sequence as the Eastfield raid took place. Watched by AC-12, three of the gang’s ubiquitous black Range Rovers drove into the depot, waved in by those bribed security guards.

Brandishing guns "for show", Balaclava Men restrained staff with cable ties, cut the CCTV cameras and began loading gold bullion, heroin and other contraband into a hijacked truck. Corbett kept an eye on the main gate but "the bent copper was a no-show".

Suddenly, the sound of sirens put them on high alert – except they weren’t heading for Eastfield. Radio calls came through about an armed ambush of police vehicles on nearby Farmer’s Lane. Hastings insisted the priority was preservation of life, so diverted firearms officers to attend the scene. There Arnott and his team found a squad car in a ditch. PC Bloom (Richard Sutton) said oil had been put on the road so he skidded off and balaclava-clad gunmen were waiting in the trees. Arnott’s men swept the area but found nothing.

Back at Eastfield, an unmarked police car arrived and the corrupt officer got out – wearing a black balaclava, carrying a laptop. Was this the mysterious H? He showed the gang that police tracking devices were fitted to the loot. They promptly removed them and the signals disappeared.

By now Fleming was panicking. The gang were about to get away. She pulled rank, calling back Arnott and a carload of firearms officers but it was too late: the gang shot out the vehicle’s tyres and sped off down a disused service road.

Before their escape, though, there was one last twist. Corbett yelled "He crossed us!" and shot the retreating corrupt cop in the legs. So who was the masked figure now laying prostrate on the ground?

Hargreaves was bent cop, not Hastings

Adrian Dunbar as Supt Ted Hastings - Credit: BBC
Adrian Dunbar as Supt Ted Hastings Credit: BBC

Fleming ran to the wounded man, sighing when she noticed his police radio. Pulling off his balaclava, it was revealed to be… not Hastings. Phew. There had been a brief moment when she couldn’t reach Ted on the radio but that was merely another Mercurio tease.

Instead it was Serious Crime Squad’s DCS Lester Hargreaves (Tony Pitts), who was bleeding out from arterial wounds in his thighs. We later heard that Hargreaves had died in hospital. Was this really H? His surname began with the right initial and his mugshot had been on AC-12’s rogues' gallery but now he couldn't be questioned, it was inconclusive.

The gang escaped with seized goods worth £50m – "Mother of God!" exclaimed Hastings – but how had Hargreaves known about the tracking devices? Just educated guesswork, as Arnott theorised, or was there another inside man?

Ambush had been faked and DNA harvested

Back at AC-12, Arnott and PC Tatleen Sohota (Taj Atwal) interviewed PC Bloom, who turned out to be one of the worst liars in Line of Duty history. Traces of oil found on his hands matched the substance on the road. He’d crashed his own car to make it look like an ambush and made up the line about the Balaclava Men who’d allegedly fled.

Charged with conspiracy to commit armed robbery, Bloom confessed that Hargreaves had put him up to it. He’d needed an excuse to be in the area, so persuaded Bloom to fake an emergency call.

Meanwhile, a freezer containing used condoms was found at the brothel. The girls had been ordered to keep them after certain clients. Harvesting DNA and keeping it in frozen storage to use at crime scenes was the same blackmail method previously used by the crime gang.

Sex worker Mariana confirmed that they’d captured DNA in this way from the mysterious strong-accented man who’d spoken to McQueen and been snapped leaving the premises. Was it Hargreaves and that’s how he’d been blackmailed to collude in the raid?

Gill Biggeloe got her claws into Hastings

Polly Walker as Gill Biggeloe - Credit: BBC
Polly Walker as Gill Biggeloe Credit: BBC

Hastings got a visit in his office from old adversary-cum-love interest, police legal counsel Gill Biggeloe (Polly Walker). On behalf of PCC Rohan Sindwhani (Ace Bhatti), she put Ted under pressure to apprehend Corbett.

Scheming, unsisterly Biggeloe claimed that DCC Andrea Wise (Elizabeth Rider) was only appointed because of her gender: "She oversees anti-corruption and women can’t be Freemasons." She also "teased" Ted about finally promoting a female inspector, while he protested in his old-skool way: "Kate’s a great wee girl doing a bang-up job."

Ted later met Gill for dinner-à-deux in a swanky restaurant. Making viewers' flesh crawl with her flirtatious conniving, she threatened him with early retirement and advised him to look after number one, sacrificing his team if need be. "Don’t let Operation Peartree be a disastrous coda to an otherwise distinguished career," she cooed.

Taking Gill back to his hotel room, Ted turned a framed photograph of Roisin face-down. First the investment, now this. Hastings is making some bad calls. Let’s hope there’s a masterplan behind it all.

Corbett went rogue

Accosting Steve at gunpoint in an underground car park, Corbett was even more incandescent this time – incredulous that AC-12 had fallen for the diversion, insisting that Arnott betrayed his trust and claiming: "Hastings pulled you out so we’d get away with the gear. He’s the one calling the shots. He’s H."

Corbett claimed he’d shot Hargreaves low, just to wound, so he couldn’t get away and AC-12 could question him, and was aghast to hear he’d died. "I’ve crossed a line," he sobbed. "There’s no way back." In an electric confrontation, he shot over Arnott’s head to subdue him and put a gun to his own head. Either could have died. Neither did. Instead Corbett vowed: "I’ll get the job done my way, my rules. This is all on you." Arnott asked what he meant as Corbett fled.

We soon saw the next phase of his rapidly spiralling plan. Posing as Arnott with a fake AC-12 ID badge that we’d earlier glimpsed him forging, Corbett visited the home of Ted’s estranged wife Roisin Hastings (Andrea Irvine). She’d met the real Arnott way back in series two but "only once, a fair while ago". When Roisin went inside to phone Ted, Corbett donned a balaclava and forced his way into the flat, closing the door behind him. Roll credits. Is Corbett set to use a hostage as leverage to unmask H?

Line of Duty lingo decoded

Arnott and Fleming repeatedly referred to Corbett as their "CHIS" (covert human intelligence source, or confidential informant) embedded within the "OCG" (organised crime group). According to Arnott, he "insisted we met on the DL" (on the down low, meaning secretly).

Radio calls during the depot heist included “sitrep, no obs” (situation report, nothing observed), references to the “LGV” (large goods vehicle, a 3.5-tonne truck) and talk of “AFOs” (authorised firearms officers). Reporting on the robbers’ weapons, an AFO spotted “M4s” (a carbine assault rifle popular in the US forces) and “SA80s” (one widely used by the British military).

The mid-heist "status zero" call referred to the coded radio call issued by officers who need urgent assistance, often when they are under attack or their lives are in danger. That concludes this week’s jargon briefing. Over.

Is this series becoming too complicated?

Line of Duty has never made it easy for viewers, demanding complete attention to its dense language, relentless pace and intricate plotting. However, it became particularly perplexing this week.

It was often difficult to discern what was happening during the nocturnal depot raid. Meanwhile, Fleming barked a baffling string of acronyms that would have confounded casual viewers. "We have obs on high-ranking nominal joining the OCG, I need AFOs status six ASAP" anyone?

Still, Jed Mercurio usually overcomes any such doubts and remains in complete control of his creation. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and trust it will all fall into place.

Twists keep coming next time

Still three episodes to go, so it’s anyone’s guess what Mercurio has in store. The series enters its home stretch next Sunday with tensions rising in the crime gang following events at Eastfield. Meanwhile over at AC-12, suspicions mount over the identity of “H”. See you back here to study all the biometric data.



Has undercover officer John Corbett crossed the line? Or is it just a plot line to throw viewers off the scent? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. 

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