Superintendent Edward “Ted” Hastings (Adrian Dunbar) is the bastion of AC-12; the beating heart of the overstretched anti-corruption unit, a man whose life purpose is one thing, and one thing only: uncovering bent coppers. You may have heard him mention it once or twice before. But as we’ve followed our wise-cracking gaffer throughout six series, it has to be said that he’s racked up some pretty dubious behaviour of his own. Is Ted actually guilty of the precise bent-coppery that he claims to be fighting so valiantly?
Look, we’re not saying he’s H, or the criminal mastermind behind all of the past 10 years of action on the BBC series – despite creator Jed Mercurio leading us down that way of thinking in series five. But his morally weak decisions have now placed his ever-loyal colleagues in a difficult position: shouldn’t they report the evidence they’ve found out about their boss, if he’s truly anti-corruption?
It’s a strange, ethically grey area, as Hastings seems to imply that all corruption is bad, just not the corruption he’s responsible for. With that in mind, let’s go back through Hastings’ own rap sheet and look at the man who puts the corrupt into anti-corruption, whether that’s his true intent or not.
Financial dire straits
Follow the money, we’re always told, and much of the root of Hastings current predicament can be traced back to him losing his life savings in a dodgy property development deal. Gill Biggeloe (later revealed to be one of the members of the H quartet) knew about this, and realised it made him susceptible to bribes – although, it has to be said, not to a man who prides himself on his morals.
A member of the OCG, Mark Moffat, then approached Hastings with £100k as a deposit for an investment on another property, a proposition that Hastings struggled with, but eventually accepted (red flag!). When this was uncovered at the end of series five, Hastings swore that Moffat had only given him £50k – so where was the other £50k? It transpired that he’d given it in guilt money to John Corbett’s widow, Steph Corbett.
Back in his Royal Ulster Constabulary days, Hastings formed a friendship with a woman called Anne-Marie McGillis, and it’s hinted that they were more than just pals (despite him possibly already being married to his wife, Roisin, at this time). Because of their involvement, McGillis was accused of being an informant, and was murdered by the IRA, leaving her son, John Corbett, an orphan.
Corbett was sent to live with his aunt in Liverpool, grew up to join the forces, and was the undercover officer in series five as part of Operation Pear Tree. But the villainous Biggeloe told Corbett that Hastings had tipped off the IRA to his mum, leading to her death. Corbett’s revenge? He then tortured Hasting’s soon-to-be ex-wife, Roisin, in the same way his mother had been attacked.
What happened next is up for debate. What we do know for a fact is that Hastings paid a visit to the gang member Lee Banks in Black Thorn prison and told him: “Sit down fella. This bastard’s got a thing or two to say to you. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.” The next thing we know, Corbett’s had his neck sliced open.
In series six, Banks tells Arnott that it was Hastings who informed him that Corbett was the UCO, effectively sentencing him to his death. Was Hastings so furious, and hell-bent on revenge for the attack on his ex-wife, that he leaked the information to Banks? Or is Banks – hardly known for his relationship to the truth – telling tall tales?
Relationship with Steph Corbett
Steph was the woman who got Hastings off the hook in series five, as she provided a recorded phone call of Biggeloe falsely telling Corbett about Hastings snitching on his mum.
Since then, we’ve seen Steph in contact with Hastings telling him that she didn’t know what to say when HMRC have been calling her – behaviour that was enough to intrigue Steve Arnott. Steph told him that she’d received some life insurance and had bought shares in a friend’s hairdressing business, but after hooking up with Steph and rummaging through her attic, Steve found “tens of thousands of pounds” in a Jiffy bag. He had these analysed, and forensics proved that they were part of the same batch of OCG money found in the Edge Park Hotel – the same place Hastings had been living out his Alan Partridge-esque life. Finally, the missing £50k could be accounted for, but it proved Hastings had lied under oath.
His chickens coming home to roost?
So what happens next for Hastings, as all his violations of conduct seem to be catching up with him? In pictures released from the final episode of the series, he’s shown in a standoff with Steve Arnott and Kate Fleming, suggesting they finally confront him about the money, and his withholding evidence about it – or, let’s be honest, straight up lying.
It’s as though a man who has spent so long in the upper-echelons of the police force can’t help but eventually be tainted by corruption. Through Hastings’ behaviour, which has gone from virtuous to ill-judged as the series has gone on, it’s proven perhaps that it’s impossible for any compromised police officer to be totally snow white, especially when they believe they’re working for the greater good. All the LoD characters are hiding their own dubious secrets (Steve’s painkiller addiction, anyone?) and each has their own ethical code, but Hastings has backed himself into a desperate corner.
Meanwhile, other fans think the seeds are being sown for Hastings to bow out in the season finale, perhaps even be killed off. After watching him breakdown in episode six of this current series – and following him learning he’s being forced into early retirement – journalist Elizabeth Day on the podcast Obsessed With... Line of Duty believes Mercurio is signalling that this could be the end for Hastings: “My fear and worry is that Ted will not last this season…and maybe there’ll be a point where he sacrifices himself, even lays his life down, for some reason...I do think it’s going to be an exit.”
As Hastings sadly told Steve in the last episode: “Sometimes you don’t lose, you just run out of time”. For Hastings, it might be a different ending: your years of messy multiple misdemeanours and misconduct finally catch up with you.
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