It has been two, long years since we last saw AC-12 officers Hastings, Arnott and Flemming in BBC One’s hallmark drama Line Of Duty (we’d be upset if it wasn’t for writer Jed Mercurio creating his other hit series Bodyguard during that time), but the countdown to the fifth series is officially on.
With the show set to return for six action-packed new episodes on Sunday 31 March, HuffPost UK was one of a handful of journalists invited to an exclusive preview of the first instalment, and to say we were beside ourselves with excitement would be an understatement.
And we’re relieved to report that it does not disappoint, with the quality of the episode more than justifying that painful two-year wait.
While we’re currently bound and gagged from revealing too much about it, here’s seven things we’re able to share with you without totally spoiling it...
The case AC-12 are looking at differs to previous ones, but is also connected
All four previous series of Line Of Duty have seen AC-12 investigating a serving officer who is suspected of being corrupt, usually when an incident has happened that has breached procedure.
While the opening minutes of the episode lead us to believe the series will follow a similar format, AC-12’s initial line of enquiry soon leads them to something much bigger than just one particular suspect.
As writer Jed Mercurio has previously revealed, the focus will be on the organised group of balaclava men we discovered were operating at the end of series four, who were also connected to corrupt AC-12 officer Dot Cottan and the equally corrupt ACC Hilton.
Jed told Pilot magazine earlier this year: “That is the fresh ground that we break in the series... We’ve never really gone behind the mask and identified them as proper characters and found out about them.”
There are some brilliant new characters
Last year’s announcement that Stephen Graham was joining the cast was met with widespread applause from fans. He plays John Corbett, who is a pivotal figure in the deadly organised crime group who are suspected to be under direct command of the shadowy figure of ‘H’, and his performance is terrifying and compelling in equal measure.
Among Corbett’s associates in the gang is Lisa McQueen, who is played by the excellent Rochenda Sandall. The opening episode has you looking at this character from every possible angle, and we can tell there’s going to be a lot more to come from her.
Fellow newcomers include Sian Reese-Williams – best known as Emmerdale’s Genie – Taj Atwal as new AC-12 regular PC Tatleen Sohota, and former EastEnders star Ace Bhatti, who fans will remember as Yusef Khan.
A significant amount of time has passed since the end of series four – and the characters are not all where we left them
Line Of Duty has been off our screens for two years now, and we’re not picking up from where we left the characters.
While it is not explicitly clear exactly how much time has passed, Maneet – who was last seen going on early maternity leave – has had her baby, who is now a toddler.
Arnott is attempting to get his love life back on track after his split from DS Railston in series three, but it still feeling the effects of being pushed down the stairs in series four, as you’ll remember the incident left him in a wheelchair.
Meanwhile, Flemming’s personal life is flourishing, but the same can’t be said for Hastings, whose marriage has gone down the toilet, leaving him living in a budget hotel that he can’t afford to pay for.
The interrogation scenes are back
They have become a trademark of Line Of Duty, and we are pleased to report we are treated to one in the first episode. Of course, it’s not on the scale of the legendary Dot Cottan or Ros Huntley interrogations, but this mini one reminds us why these uncut, tension-building scenes are just so brilliant, and has us pumped for the ones that are bound to follow as the series continues.
Maneet’s betrayal has not been forgotten
There wasn’t one fan who didn’t feel totally let down when Maneet passed information to the corrupt ACC Hilton during the last series, and while we see her back at work, her actions will be revisited.
The hunt is still very much on for H
If you’ve been a fan of Line Of Duty since the beginning (or at least managed to catch up on them all on iPlayer) you will remember AC-12 officer Cottan’s dying declaration. When the contents of it were revealed in the last series, we discovered that someone with the codename of ‘H’ is heading up the organised crime gang from inside the force. Hilton originally accused Hastings of being ‘H’ before his own corruption was revealed and he was later found dead.
With Hilton brown bread, the Regulation 15 order against Hastings was dropped, but as the series picks up again, Arnott and Flemming are determined to get to the bottom of the matter once and for all.
There’s not one, but two huge shockers
The first episode of each new series of Line Of Duty always serves up a truly shocking moment that changes the game completely, and we don’t think we’re giving anything away by saying this series is no different.
We audibly gasped for breath twice during the screening, and no doubt people will have a lot of theories to share the morning after the episode airs. For this reason, we 100% recommend watching live, as there is no way you’re going to be able to avoid spoilers.
Line Of Duty returns on Sunday 31 March at 9pm on BBC One.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.