This article contains spoilers for Line of Duty series 6, episode 1.
Line of Duty series 6 erupted onto our screens with a botched armed robbery and the alarming revelation that DS Steve Arnott wants out of AC-12, and even more troublingly, appears to be addicted to painkillers.
The acclaimed police procedural from creator Jed Mercurio had us spinning faster than the flashing blue lights of DCI Jo Davidson's unmarked police van on its way to detain a murder suspect in tonight's (21 March) gripping episode.
Kelly Macdonald made her anticipated debut as the opaque DCI Jo - whether she's corrupt or not remains to be seen, but she's definitely guilty of abusing her power by conducting a covert relationship with an officer under her command.
We also saw the return of Terry Boyle, this time under the guise of murder suspect 'Ross Turner', as he continues to be exploited by the OCG, aka the organised crime group.
On a lighter note, it looks as though DI Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) is about to be reunited with her buddies on AC-12, and Adrian Dunbar's Superintendent Ted Hastings has a new catchphrase we'll all be inheriting in no time - "hold your whist!" - which translates roughly to: sod off, will you?
The first episode has opened up a lot of questions and given us few potential theories to play around with s0 (*mimes unsettling long beep of the tape recorder*)... We're ready to begin.
What in the mother of God is 'the Matrix'?
The episode begins with a phone call to the murder investigation team from a CHIS handler [an officer in charge of a CHIS, which stands for 'Covert Human Intelligence Source'] who claims their CHIS [the informant] has inside information about the murder of journalist Gail Vella (Andi Osho). The CHIS alleges that a man going under the name of 'Ross Turner' has confessed to playing a part in her death. New character DS Chris Lomax (Perry Fitzpatrick), assigned to the Vella case, urgently relays to DCI Jo Davidson that "intel's graded the info as 1a on the matrix". You what?
According to the Met police, the matrix is an intelligence tool applied by police to identify and risk-assess gang members who are involved in gang violence. It measures the harm the people who are named on the matrix pose by scoring them based on evidence of them committing violence and weapons offences. Every individual is graded on the matrix denoting the level of risk (victim) or harm (offenders) they present.
Now that we've set the scene...
What is Operation Lighthouse? And who is Gail Vella?
DCI Joanne Davidson is leading the murder investigation of high profile journalist Gail Vella, who was shot dead in what police believe to be a professional hit/contract killing, or a murder committed by a stalker/obsessive fan outside her home in Kingsgate on September 10, 2019. This investigation is called Operation Lighthouse, and DCI Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) is also assigned to it.
As we know, living in Kingsgate connects Vella to Kingsgate Printing Services, the base that the organised crime syndicate - including Lisa McQueen (Rochenda Sandall) and the late undercover officer John Corbett (Stephen Graham) - were using for illegal activities in series 5. It also connects her to Terry Boyle's flat (see below), situated opposite Kingsgate Printing Services. Was Vella planning an exposé unveiling the syndicate, including the network of corrupt police officers involved - otherwise known as 'H' - and as a result was killed?
At the start of the episode we see that Ross Turner's arrest is delayed twice - first by DCI Buckells (Nigel Boyle), who discredits the CHIS as "off his face" after DCI Jo tells him he's "a casual sex worker". Buckells asks for more time (some 12 hours) to gather intel. The following day, DCI Joanne Davidson diverts the operation when she detects an armed robbery at a bookmakers en route. Was the operation tactically delayed so that the real suspect could escape and/or frame somebody else in their place?
Terry Boyle's back - but what's the situation now?
Terry Boyle (Tommy Jessop) first appeared in series 1 of Line of Duty (then played by Elliott Rosen), when he was exploited by a criminal gang including Ryan Pilkington (Gregory Piper) and led by Tommy Hunter (status: deceased), who used Terry's freezer to store the remains of Jackie Laverty (Gina McKee). Laverty was using her property development company Laverty Holdings as a cover to launder money, a corrupt outfit that was linked to Tommy Hunter. Terry attempted to alert the police about his situation, but PCs Karen Larkin (Fiona Boylin) and Simon Bannerjee (Neet Mohan) failed to take his complaint seriously.
Terry returns again in series 5, when it's revealed that his flat is situated opposite Kingsgate Printing Services - where the OCG are carrying out their illegal activities. The remains of Jackie still remain in his freezer, having been untouched since 2012.
Returning back to series 6, and Terry is now the main suspect in the murder of Vella, having been planted in the suspect's property of Beechwood House which is covered with magazine cuttings of Vella which have his fingerprints all over them. It would appear that the OCG are trying to frame Terry as an unhinged, obsessive fan, thus creating his motive for her murder. Meanwhile, his real flat in Kingsgate has also been covered in images of Vella to incriminate him further - with his semen even being detected on her images. Vella was murdered outside her property in Kingsgate.
"Did you want to have sexual relations with Gail Vella?" Jo asks him during questioning, much to the horror of DCI Kate. What is she playing at?
Terry admits to knowing Vella ("nice lady") during the questioning - so did she perhaps discover Jackie Laverty's remains in the freezer in his flat? The freezer has since been moved, but we know it had been in Terry's home for years. At the end of episode 1, Terry is eventually released without charge.
Who is Carl Banks?
We are introduced to a new suspect Carl Banks aka 'Ross Turner' via his police mugshot, who we find out has an extensive history of violence, firearm offences, and a long association of organised crime. His prints, along with Terry Boyle's are discovered on the images of Gail Vella in the suspect's property in Beechwood House. But hang on, we're told the property was extensively cleaned down to expunge evidence - so why would he have left images with his prints on them? Surely that's an obvious error that a member of a sophisticated criminal gang wouldn't make?
Is Carl Banks a potential suspect, or is he a red herring? We thinks the latter.
Is DCI Joanne Davidson bent? Or a mere pawn in the OCG?
We see DCI Jo deviate her team's operation to arrest the Gail Vella murder suspect after she claims to spot a getaway vehicle outside a bookmakers on the way to the suspect's property. Her hunch is correct and they arrest a group of armed robbers (as well as shooting one) - yet we later discover that the suspects of the robbery are young men with mostly clean criminal records. Was the robbery set up by Jo to give the real suspect time to escape or set someone up in their place? Later on, we see DS Steve Arnott and Superintendent Ted Hastings investigating DCI Jo and questioning whether she would have had time to spot anything suspicious as their vehicles were going "like the clappers" to arrest their suspect.
What we do know for sure is that DCI Jo has abused her position of power by having a secret relationship with PC Farida Jatri, her subordinate officer assigned to the Vella case. She later breaks it off during a heated argument with Farida, who she blames for pushing her away with her jealousy and unrelenting "paranoia".
Jo also becomes defensive when the topic of her family crops up mid-argument, immediately reaffirming that she has "no family". Yet later on, when she leaves the home she and Farida have shared and returns to what we presume is her flat - why all the locks? - we see her hurl a glass of white wine at a framed photo of herself as a teenager cuddling what appears to be her mum.
And why does she smile like that when Terry is released?
Who is PC Farida Jatri? And is she really just "paranoid"?
Fans previously saw Farida in series 4, working out of Polk Avenue Station under the command of DCI Roz Huntley [status: imprisoned].
Farida has leaked her concerns about DCI Jo's behaviour during their operation to arrest the Vella suspect to AC-12's Steve Arnott. "You have no idea what she is capable of...none at all," a frightened Farida privately tells Steve over the phone, before saying she can no longer give him information because it's just too "dangerous".
During the aforementioned argument between Jo and Farida at their formerly shared home, Farida accuses Jo of wanting to make a move on DCI Fleming. Jo dismisses her as "paranoid" and unhinged.
However, at the start of the episode Jo singles Kate out during a debrief and jokes that she had noticed Kate "skulking in last minute like the dirty stop-out". There seems to be some sort of history between them, as Kate quips: "Don't go there, boss... Glass houses."
Towards the end of the episode, Jo also places her hand on Kate's for a moment longer than is comfortable, before walking away, pausing and looking at her intensely. Is she making advances on Kate? And will Kate pretend to go along with it, if she's back undercover for AC-12?
Is DCI Ian Buckells the dodgy copper?
Having previously been involved in the Jackie Laverty case, Buckells is now a rank above Jo in the Gail Vella investigation. As we mentioned, he delays the team's first attempt to arrest the suspect 'Ross Turner' because the CHIS is revealed to be a sex worker who Buckells discredits as "probably off their face".
Buckells was also in charge of signing off the surveillance in the Beechwood House, the property of the suspect, which we later find out that he messed up with the wrong paperwork. While the team were diverted by the apparent armed robbery, Buckells had given the wrong surveillance authority on Beechwood House, meaning that the surveillance team had to stand down for two to three hours. This would have allowed the real suspect plenty of time to escape the premises without being seen. He also seems very angry when DCI Jo tells him she's released Terry Boyle without charge.
Is Steve Arnott addicted to painkilers?
Back in series 4, Steve Arnott was severely injured when he was smashed in the face and thrown down a flight of stairs by a balaclava-clad member of the OCG. After the attack, he was confined to a wheelchair, and has since experienced crippling back pain.
Now it would appear that he's developed an addiction to painkillers after we see him picking up various over-the-counter pills from several pharmacies, which he then stashes in a cupboard-turned-drug-cabinet filled with an assortment of pills.
He then takes a handful, undoes his waistcoat, and takes a glug of Corona - is that a cheeky coronavirus reference? - surrounded by empty take-away containers.
He's also been snappy to co-workers at the office, and we find out that one going under the name "Officer S" has been calling in sick, but has been apparently helping out her husband with his haulage business. What's the significance of this?
And is Steve Arnott going to leave AC-12?
Steve tells colleague DS Nicola Rogerson (Christine Chong), assigned to the Major Violent Crime Unit, that he's "bored" of Ac-12 and hints at a transfer to her unit. Nicky and Steve previously had a relationship in series 2.
Could Steve be training DC Chloe Bishop (Shalom Brune-Franklin) up to take over in his absence? Ted Hastings praised her work, so could she be the next officer to be taken under Ted's wing? Could it be a good time to jump ship, as Hastings has been excluded from important meetings, and advised to keep his head down by DCC Andrea Wise (Elizabeth Rider)? But could their latest investigation rebuild their reputation?
Phew, we need a lie down after that. Roll on episode 2.
Line of Duty continues on Sunday, March 28 at 9pm on BBC One.
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