Anti-Corruption crew: assemble.
If you've been watching Jed Mercurio's new cop drama, Bloodlands (and if you're not then know it's already looking like one of 2021's best TV shows), and thinking: "Yes this is all very good, but when the hell are we going to find out who H is?" then rest easy. Because we finally know when Line of Duty will be back on our screens for its sixth season.
And this time, Jed Mercurio's police-procedural-with-a-difference looks like it might actually answer some questions. There are new leads that could burst open the bent coppers case that’s been plaguing AC-12 for nine years. New recruits, new double-crossing agents and new twists mean the BBC thriller's sixth season looks just as gripping as the five that preceded it.
A new mini-teaser has revealed that this series is going to be 16 per cent longer than usual – we're getting a bonus seventh episode, instead of the usual six – and with filming also wrapped, it can’t be long until the dream team of Supt Ted Hastings, DS Steve Arnott and DI Kate Fleming (aka Adrian Dunbar, Martin Compston and Vicky McClure) are back doing what they do best.
Houl yer whisht – here’s everything we know about Line of Duty season six so far.
Listen up, fellas. When the gaffer asks for more, you better deliver.
#LineOfDuty returns for Series 6 with an extra episode (7 instead of 6). Coming soon to @BBCOne and @BBCiPlayer. pic.twitter.com/6An7jywJI1
— BBC Press Office (@bbcpress) February 2, 2021
What happened at the end of Line of Duty series five?
We were thrown a major red herring when it was implied that arch-villain H – responsible for orchestrating high level corruption, not to mention a load of murders, in, ironically, the anti-corruption department – was the gaffer, Ted Hastings. Of course it wasn’t; instead, his lawyerly lady friend, Gill Biggeloe, was revealed to have been recruited as part of the evil crew.
In what felt like a huge stretch, Fleming realised that footage of Dot Cottan’s dying moments saw him tapping out four dots, the letter H in morse code, as he was revealing that H is actually four people. We can account for three of them: him, Gill Biggeloe, and Derek Hilton. Which left a cliffhanger: who’s the final person making up this evil quartet?
Meanwhile, Stephen Graham’s character, the under-cover agent John Corbett, was killed off, leaving gang members Lisa McQueen (Rochenda Sandall) and sociopath-in-training Ryan Pilkington (Gregory Piper) to conversely infiltrate the police force. Lisa showed up as a reformed character, educating children on the dangers of gangs, and Ryan as an actual police cadet. This is not going to end well for AC-12.
What can we expect from Line of Duty season 6?
Well, all the usual gang will be returning, and guest stars this series will be Kelly Macdonald and Shalom Brune-Franklin.
Macdonald will play Detective Chief Inspector Joanne Davidson and “her unconventional conduct will raise suspicions as the senior investigating officer of an unsolved murder."
Creator of the series, Jed Mercurio, described her character as "the most enigmatic adversary AC-12 has ever faced" and told The Guardian that Macdonald was "probably the most enigmatic guest lead we’ve had" on the show. Cue all the other previous guest stars feeling a bit miffed now.
— Line of Duty (@Line_of_duty) February 3, 2021
In a recent turn of events, Brune-Franklin was announced through an “AC-12 memorandum to staff” (yes, we know it’s just a press release; please let us just have a small moment of fun in this soul-sucking year).
In it, Hastings wrote: “I am writing to inform you that DC Chloe Bishop will be joining AC-12 to assist in their important work on a tricky upcoming case. This action will be effective immediately.”
Brune-Franklin is best known for her role as Maisie Richards in Our Girl, and recently starred alongside Hugh Laurie in BBC series, Roadkill, last year. She’s also appeared in the Netflix series, Cursed.
The clues were already there that she had been cast in Line of Duty – but surprisingly, normally eagle-eyed fans missed them. She first posted a picture looking out to sea in Belfast – where the series is famously shot – then made it more obvious with a reference to “LOD” in another post.
She revealed that she and the transport captain had regular betting sessions running on Formula One, and she was presented with a balloon when she won. She posted a video on Instagram: “This was the awesome welcome to set this afternoon. #bestcrewever #greatcraic”.
Meanwhile, Compston hinted that there was going to be an explosive plot twist around episode four of the new series. He tweeted a picture of the script and said: “It’s been a long few months to linger on that ep4 bombshell, I can tell you it was worth the wait.” The mind boggles.
— martin compston (@martin_compston) August 28, 2020
Dunstan also revealed the challenge of filming this new series – one and a half episodes were in the can before March 2020, when the pandemic took hold, and then the rest of the season was filmed in autumn, finishing in November. He told The One Show: “I’m actually dying to see it with everybody else because you know, sometimes it gets a bit confusing, but it will all be fixed in the edit, as they say.”
Mercurio once again played his cards very close to his chest when asked what we can expect from the sixth outing. He told The Guardian: “I know what’ll happen if I tell you anything. There’ll be articles all over the internet: 'Jed Mercurio reveals Line of Duty season six spoilers!' And then the rest of the piece will be filled with fan theories ripped off Twitter.” We feel seen.
Is this the end for Steve Arnott?
Rumours of DS Arnott’s death have been greatly exaggerated, but an image released by the BBC already has inspired conspiracy theories, possibly started by the actor himself, possibly as a double bluff.
Posting a picture on his Instagram which showed a promo image for the series, with the ‘O’ in Line Of Duty being a bullet hole in his chest, he asked: “This a not so hidden message @bbciplayer?”
Fans were quick to object to seeing one of their favourite characters apparently in peril. Commenting under his image, one person wrote: “I swear! If Steve gets shot, this year has been hard enough already”. Another added: “I hope you’re not suggesting Steve gets shot, are you, Martin?”, while someone else commented: “Is it not enough he was chucked down a stairwell?”. Well, quite.
Now’s just around the time when some diversionary tactics around the storyline are thrown out, so keep your ears to the ground, yeah?
Is there a trailer for Line of Duty season 6?
Not just yet, but as soon as one drops, we’ll let you know.
So, who is 'H'? Any clues?
Well, Line of Duty creator Jed Mercurio actually revealed the identity of 'H' in a tweet on 21 February.
— Jed Mercurio (@jed_mercurio) February 21, 2021
Ahead of #LineofDuty Series 6, I can reveal the identity of "H." - a shadowy figure serving as the lynchpin for a network of institutional corruption
If the health secretary does turn out to be the man behind it all, that will be quite the twist. Although it would at least explains how he's ballsed up the pandemic response so badly – he's been busy on-set.
Fine, laugh it up. So when is Line of Duty season 6 actually on TV?
Damn soon. The BBC told Radio Times that we can expect it “before the end of March”. Now we’re sucking diesel!
And is it too early to ask about Line of Duty season 7?
"It certainly is a very fortunate and privileged position," he told Rayner. "As a writer you dream of getting to the point where people watch your work in such large numbers but also that you get a little bit of name recognition as well."
The "privileged position" is presumably one that can, to some extent, dictate terms to the BBC. And it sounds like those terms largely consist of the phrase: 'give me a bunch more seasons'. So even though season seven hasn't been commissioned yet, we're not banking on the big H reveal happening imminently.
"I really want to carry on with Line of Duty," Mercurio said. "I think that season 6 proves that there is much more ground for us still to cover."
The writer also discussed his other blockbuster series, The Bodyguard, which was originally intended as a one-and-done but became such a national conversation that he's mulling a return for Keeley Hawes and Richard Madden (if he's not been made the next James Bond by that point, presumably).
"I think that I learned a lot from the success of Bodyguard," he said. "It really was very heartening to see the way in which an audience would come to something that was completely fresh and original. So much content is an adaptation of something that was a book or a film, but Bodyguard was just an original concept.
"The fact that we hit the ground running and people really got into the characters and stories made a huge impact I think on what my ambition is for doing more original series. I would love to do something within the next couple of years. If it isn't Bodyguard 2 then it is something on the same scale as that."
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