No one makes mugs of AC-12!

WARNING: This post contains spoilers for Line of Duty, series 6.

We waited until series 6 finished before watching all the episodes on consecutive nights.

The precarious part of waiting was avoiding all the spoilers. Everyone was talking about the new series!

After seeing the last episode, we were watching GoggleBox, which was covering the season’s finale. Of the comments they showed, the GoggleBox viewers were surprised and somewhat disappointed. The funniest comment was, “Buckells can’t even believe it’s him!”

It wasn’t just on GoggleBox that the ending was disappointing. The series was controversial on social media too. It divided viewers so much that the creator, Jed Mercurio, tweeted:

1. No one disputes the Line of Duty finale divided social media opinion but the audience research so far shows a far less extreme picture. We knew a “down” ending would rate less favourably with some viewers, however all 7 episodes varied by under 10% on average viewer score …

For me, series 6 was a return to form after the disappointing series 5. The idea in series 5 that Ted could be bent was too implausible to carry the series.

The sixth series repeatedly and credibly misdirected us. Old characters from earlier seasons returned. Apparently significant new ones appeared: surely, James Nesbitt wouldn’t appear just for a cameo? Was he the Fourth Man? And the grandiose Chief Constable (Osborne) or the smug Carmichael were dislikeable enough to be a popular H.

Many TV dramas and films, understandably, go for spectacular endings but there is an audience for quiet, low key, dénouements — the sort indie films specialise in. The creator, thankfully, avoided the clichéd option of having a Blofeld-like criminal mastermind. As Martin Compston (Steve) put it:

I think he [show creator Jed Mercurio] felt it would have been a bit of a cop-out to have — and he’s right — some sort of cat-stroking mastermind and then a crazy gun shoot-out. I think he felt that would have been the easy option.

Having worked in a few large organisations, I’ve seen that reality is more humdrum than people on the outside imagine. Incredible, implausible events sometimes happen not because a single person willed them but through a series of small interactions, each of which is plausible.

It was, for me, inspired and brave to have Ian Buckells become this criminal linchpin by virtue of undeserved promotion, networking and greed. Buckells is the sort of person that managers promote because they think he’s not a threat to them. He “failed upwards” — as someone who is not especially competent but who, through incremental steps, became an intermediary, a fixer and, ultimately, indispensable to various organised crime groups. He greased the wheels for them and they made him wealthy.

The series started with Ted and Steve separated from Kate; and, in the case of Ted and Kate, positively estranged. The series gradually reunites them: it was a lovely moment to see them all together again at AC-12 interviewing Buckells.

One of the subplots in series 6 was the stress that police officers are under. Steve is depressed and addicted to painkillers. Briefly (perhaps too briefly) the series ends with Kate also in therapy, describing the relationship she has with Steve and how it has sustained them.

All in all, I enjoyed this sixth series. The plot and pacing were right and there were some strong new characters: the conflicted Jo Davidson, the incisive Chloe Bishop and the menacing Ryan Pilkington, to name three. The more I thought about it, the better the story became. There were, however, enough loose ends (Ted’s appeal against being retired, Kate’s possible return to AC-12 and the future of AC-12 itself) to leave the door open for a seventh series. As much as I love the three central characters and the chemistry between them, I hope that the creator decides to call it a day. You can have too much of a good thing. It would be a shame for Line of Duty to descend into mediocrity. We have six mostly glorious seasons to watch again — and I’m happy with that.

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