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‘Line Of Duty’ series 6 episode 1: Tense season opener takes place after major off-screen twist

Ross McGuinness
·8-min read
WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 16/03/2021 - Programme Name: Line of Duty S6 - TX: n/a - Episode: Line Of Duty - Ep 1 (No. n/a) - Picture Shows:  DI Kate Fleming (VICKY MCCLURE), DCI Joanne Davidson (KELLY MACDONALD) - (C) World Productions - Photographer: Steffan Hill
DI Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) and DCI Joanne Davidson (Kelly Macdonald) are on the case in the first episode of the sixth series of Line Of Duty. (World Productions/BBC)

Line Of Duty is back… and it’s straight back into the action.

Come on, did you think the series 6 opener would kick off with Ted, Kate and Steve standing around in the AC-12 breakout area joking over cups of tea?

While an hour of that would still have been sweet balm to the millions of LOD fans who have waited two years for the show’s return, it was swiftly back to business.

The business of nicking bent coppers!

Read more: The first five series of ‘Line Of Duty’ ranked

Except… there’s been a major off-screen twist that means it may not be that simple.

Read about it and all the major talking points from the first episode below.

*WARNING: This article contains spoilers for episode 1 of series 6 of Line Of Duty*

1. ‘I’m fed up with nicking coppers.’

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 16/03/2021 - Programme Name: Line of Duty S6 - TX: n/a - Episode: Line Of Duty - Ep 1 (No. n/a) - Picture Shows:  Kate (VICKY MCCLURE), DS Chris Lomax (PERRY FITZPATRICK) - (C) World Productions - Photographer: Steffan Hill
Kate is at a crossroads in the first episode of Line Of Duty. (World Productions/BBC)

Hang on, did one of Line Of Duty’s holy trinity of Superintendent Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar), Detective Inspector Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) and Detective Sergeant Steve Arnott (Martin Compston) utter the above line?

I know the show's writer/creator Jed Mercurio likes his series opener shocks, but surely this is just totally implausible?

‘Line Of Duty’ quiz: Test your knowledge ahead of series 6

Those words are spoken by DI Fleming, as she cosies up with her new boss, Detective Chief Inspector Joanne Davidson (Kelly Macdonald), head of the Murder Investigation Team (MIT).

That’s right, Kate has left Anti-Corruption Unit 12 to take down criminals instead of cops.

Under Operation Lighthouse, the MIT are trying to find the killer of a journalist named Gail Vella - the episode kicks off with their unit on their way to pick up a suspect after a tip-off from a CHIS (Covert Human Intelligence Source).

2. “You’d do well to spot a pipe band in there.”

Programme Name: Line of Duty S6 - TX: n/a - Episode: Line Of Duty - Ep 1 (No. n/a) - Picture Shows:  Supporting Artists - (C) World Productions - Photographer: Steffan Hill
The Balaclava Men are back in series 6. (World Productions/BBC)

This being Line Of Duty, the suspect pick-up does not go according to plan, chiefly because Davidson decides to take a detour en route when she claims to see a robbery in progress at a bookies.

But could she really have spied the getaway van in the split second her “going like the clappers” police convoy surged past? Ted isn’t having any of it and gives Steve the green light to crack on with the case.

“That’s what we do, son, we hunt the truth,” says Ted, in one of his rare appearances in this episode.

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 16/03/2021 - Programme Name: Line of Duty S6 - TX: n/a - Episode: Line Of Duty - Ep 1 (No. n/a) - Picture Shows:  Superintendent Ted Hastings (ADRIAN DUNBAR) - (C) World Productions - Photographer: Steffan Hill
Adrian Dunbar as Superintendent Ted Hastings in the new series of Line Of Duty. (World Productions/BBC)

In the fifth series of Line Of Duty, poor Hastings was haring all over the place as the show got slightly bamboozled by its constant search for the mysterious “H”.

As a character, Ted is always much more effective when used sparingly, as he is here, although he still gets all the best lines... "Houl yer whisht!"

3. “You have no idea what she’s capable of.”

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 23/11/2020 - Programme Name: Line of Duty S6 - TX: n/a - Episode: Line Of Duty - 6 Teaser (No. n/a) - Picture Shows:  DCI Joanne Davidson (KELLY MACDONALD) - (C) World Productions - Photographer: Steffan Hill
DCI Joanne Davidson is in AC-12's sights. (World Productions/BBC)

But what about Davidson? Where will she fit in the Bent Copper Hall of Fame? Judging from episode 1, she will be a lot more rounded character than series 4’s Roz Huntley, but perhaps not quite as abrasive as the much-loved/loathed Lindsay Denton.

The show initially goes out of its way to display her penchant for doing things by the book during the suspect's arrest and when dealing with subordinate male officers (“Is the word 'Ma’am' in your vocabulary?”), but before long she’s plotting with her superior (Buckells is back!) and staring into middle distance like the evil dog in The Simpsons. And just who is she trying to keep out with all those locks on her apartment door?

Read more: The ’Line of Duty' series 6 preview

Episode 1’s best moment is when we discover the officer who has alerted AC-12 about Davidson is also her ex-girlfriend, PC Farida Jatri (Anneika Rose), one of Huntley’s former crew.

Hmmm. Perhaps PC Jatri’s evidence may not hold up to scrutiny…

4. “Not what we expected.”

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 16/03/2021 - Programme Name: Line of Duty S6 - TX: n/a - Episode: Line Of Duty - Ep 1 (No. n/a) - Picture Shows:  DC Chloe Bishop (SHALOM BRUNE-FRANKLIN) - (C) World Productions - Photographer: Steffan Hill
Shalom Brune-Franklin is a new addition to the Line Of Duty cast as DC Chloe Bishop. (World Productions/BBC)

Jatri and the hapless Superintendent Ian Buckells (Nigel Boyle) aren’t the only returnees - heaven help Line Of Duty viewers who haven’t done a recent binge rewatch ahead of the new series.

When police pick up the suspect in the journalist’s murder, it turns out to be Terry Boyle (Tommy Jessop), a man with Down’s syndrome who we saw in series 1 and 5, when his freezer space was rather gruesomely exploited by the organised crime gang (OCG).

The freezer - and body parts inside - have conveniently gone missing, as has one Carl Banks, who may or may not be the real suspect who has fled, after a surveillance switching mix-up by Buckells, to let Boyle take the rap.

Fans might recall that series 5's OCG contained a member called Lee Banks, who Hastings visited in prison, so he and Carl could be related.

Boyle had a number of press cuttings featuring Vella all over his wall, which (RED HERRING cough) pretty much rules him out as a suspect immediately.

We don’t know anything about Vella yet - was she a journalist who stumbled on to the truth about links between police and organised crime… or was she in on it?

5. “I’ve reached the end of the line at Anti-Corruption.”

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 16/03/2021 - Programme Name: Line of Duty S6 - TX: n/a - Episode: Line Of Duty - Ep 1 (No. n/a) - Picture Shows:  DS Steve Arnott (MARTIN COMPSTON) - (C) World Productions - Photographer: Steffan Hill
DS Steve Arnott (Martin Compston) has a lot on his mind. (World Productions/BBC)

Not only has Kate left AC-12 (does her new office have a balcony spot to watch suspects arrive for and leave after interviews?), but Steve wants out too, as he tells his ex, Nicky Rogerson (Christina Chong) from Major Violent Crime, back after appearances in series 2 and 3 and recently promoted (“I should be calling you Ma’am”).

It’s hard to blame Steve, really. During his Line Of Duty duty, he’s been tortured, framed as a mole and thrown down a flight of stairs. And now he's stuck sipping a (rather topical) bottle of Corona while home alone, when not making trips to purchase painkillers at various pharmacies. He's still recovering from that series 4 shove from Balaclava Man.

Credit to Compston for the subtle changes he's introduced over the years in his portrayal of Arnott, who has gone from all-out gung-ho action man to a more cerebral - but a rather subdued and physically and mentally damaged - figure.

6. “There’s a nice little balti up the road - I’m guessing that’s not why you’re here though.”

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 16/03/2021 - Programme Name: Line of Duty S6 - TX: n/a - Episode: Line Of Duty - Ep 1 (No. n/a) - Picture Shows:  DI Kate Fleming (VICKY MCCLURE), DCI Joanne Davidson (KELLY MACDONALD) - (C) World Productions - Photographer: Steffan Hill
DI Fleming is working for DCI Davidson in the Murder Investigation Team. (World Productions/BBC)

But come on. This is Line Of Duty. You can’t keep our crooked cop-crunching duo apart for long.

Arnott and Fleming are about four seasons past the usual “will they/won’t they” nonsense that burdens some shows - at this point the biggest question about their relationship is will they or won’t they grab a curry?

Steve has no time for naan - instead, he makes Kate a lose-lose offer of going undercover for AC-12 in an effort to dig up some dirt on Davidson.

Read more: Martin Compston teases 'massive bombshell' in season 6 of 'Line Of Duty'

Just when you think you’re out (“Why am I still calling him gaffer?!” asks Kate about Ted), they pull you back in.

Given Fleming’s previous undercover experience (“Hey mate, would you like to open up to me and tell me how much of a bent copper you are even though you've literally just met me?”), it should be all of 20 minutes before Davidson smells a rat and packs her off back to AC-12.

But hey, sometimes you have to give the audience what they want and play the hits.

Episode 1 verdict: Line Of Duty season openers usually have someone gunned down/blown up/thrown out of a hospital window, but Mercurio is clearly toying with his already captive audience, so much so that I shouted “LOOK OUT!!” when Fleming’s potential replacement, DC Chloe Bishop (Shalom Brune-Franklin), performed the highly dangerous act of… crossing a busy road.

If that level of tension is maintained across its seven - not the usual six - episodes, then we are in for another nail-biting bent copper-catching ride.

Watch: 'Line Of Duty' series 6 teaser