Who is Tommy Hunter in 'Line of Duty'?

Michael Hogan
·6-min read
Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

Line of Duty season 6 episode 5 spoilers follow

Bloodline of Duty, anyone? It’s basically a reboot of BBC One stablemate Who Do You Think You Are? only with more tailored waistcoats, prescription painkillers and people calling each other "mate".

When a partial DNA match was found on the police database at the end of episode four, it made for a monster cliffhanger. Who was the mystery blood relative of AC-12's latest foe, Acting DSU Joanne Davidson (enigmatically portrayed by Kelly Macdonald)?

Five minutes into episode five – Line Of Duty supremo Jed Mercurio does like to tease us, building up to the big reveal with procedural distractions involving forensic suits, workshopped firearms and surveillance orders – we finally found out. And it wasn’t so much Mother of God as Father of Cop.

Davidson’s DNA was a match for John Thomas Hunter (widely known as Tommy and played by Scottish actor Brian McArdie), the organised crime kingpin who was a sinister presence during the hit thriller's early series. Their high-percentage DNA overlap ran to "homozygosity", associated with a parental relationship, which means Hunter was very likely her father. Now we're sucking on genealogical diesel.

Photo credit: World Productions/Steffan Hill - BBC
Photo credit: World Productions/Steffan Hill - BBC

So what does this shock revelation mean? Exactly what role did Hunter play in Line Of Duty's labyrinthine fictional universe? And how could this bombshell impact on the climactic two episodes of the current series? Read on for your full Tommy Hunter briefing – item TH1 in your folders…

Big bad from the start

Hunter first popped up in the debut series, aka 'the Lennie James one', initially as an angry voice at the end of a burner phone. A major player in organised crime and all-round nasty piece of work, Tommy had fingers in such unsavoury pies as sex trafficking, drug dealing and armed robbery.

Dodgy property developer Jackie Laverty (Gina McKee) was laundering money for his illegal operations. It was Hunter who sent his Balaclava Men enforcers to slit Laverty's throat and keep her corpse in frozen storage for leverage. They implicated her lover DCI Tony Gates (Lennie James) in the murder, meaning Hunter could manipulate Gates into doing his bidding.

Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

Hunter communicated with Gates via unregistered phones delivered by BMX-riding delinquent Ryan Pilkington (Gregory Piper) – who would grow up to become the psychopathic PC now hiding in plain sight on Davidson's Murder Investigation Team.

Gobby errand boy Ryan and fellow members of Hunter's organised crime group not only blackmailed Gates but tortured then-DS Steve Arnott (Martin Compston). No wonder Arnott was so beardily furious when he found out that Ryan was now a bent copper.

In the dramatic seriesone finale, Hunter was taken captive by the increasingly desperate Gates, who'd gone rogue. He got Hunter to confess but in a shock late twist, we learned that a member of Gates' team – slippery DS Matthew "Dot" Cottan (Craig Parkinson) – had been working for Hunter all along.

Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

Codenamed 'The Caddy' since a part-time job in his teens carrying Hunter's golf bag, inside man Dot slyly advised Tommy to offer scraps of intel to police, plead immunity and enter the witness protection programme. Balaclavas, bolt-cutters, burner phones and blackmail – all of it can be traced back to OCG OG Tommy Hunter.

Dead but not forgotten

By series two, aka 'the Steely Keeley one', Hunter was a protected witness, living in a safe house under the new identity of Alex Campbell. His criminal associates feared he would inform on them and ordered embedded fixer Cottan to have him silenced for good.

Cottan duly orchestrated the convoy ambush that provided an all-action opening sequence. Shaggy-fringed, downtrodden DI Lindsay Denton (Keeley Hawes) was the sole survivor, left alive to take the rap. Hunter himself was severely injured but not killed – a job that was later finished by a corrupt cop as he lay in intensive care.

Since his death, over which nobody shed any tears, Hunter's name has cropped up repeatedly in AC-12's investigations. His curly mop-top and evil eyes have been a fixture on those AC-12 evidence boards for three series now.

Later in series two, it transpired he'd still been carrying out criminal deeds while in witness protection, controlling a network of corrupt officers "from that bent bastard all the way down to the Caddy". The former presumably referred to ACC Derek Hilton (Paul Higgins) or the shadowy 'H', aka the still-at-large "fourth man".

In series three, aka 'the Daniel Mays one', Hunter's name appeared on Sgt Dany Waldron’s fateful list, naming members of the VIP paedophile ring who'd serially abused boys at Sands View care home. Hunter’s police contacts had not only helped cover up the child sexual exploitation but participated in it.

In series five, Hunter was briefly mentioned by OCG second-in-commend Lisa McQueen (Rochenda Sandall) as the gang's boss prior to undercover cop John Corbett (Stephen Graham). However, she noted that he was killed for being a police informant – foreshadowing the fate of 'rat' Corbett.

Night of the Hunter

That brings us up to date and this week's plot twist that Hunter is secretly the father of Jo Davidson. Many viewers had guessed it might be him, given the fact they're both Glaswegian.

As eagle-eyed fans have spotted, there's only a 14-year age gap between the pair. However, Hunter is a known sexual abuser, so don’t be surprised if there are more queasy revelations to come about the nature of his relationship with Davidson’s mother Samantha – or even young Jo herself.

Perhaps understandably, Hunter isn't mentioned in the family history section of her police personnel file and we've seen how she's secretive about her roots. Remember back in the episode one, when Jo snapped at ex-girlfriend Sgt Farida Jatri (Anneika Rose) that she "doesn't have a family", and later threw a wine glass at a framed photograph of the deceased Samantha?

If Tommy Hunter was her father, no wonder she's ashamed and keen to hide it. Her connection to him could also explain how Davidson first became embroiled with the OCG. Perhaps she was groomed from a young age and embedded within Central Police as a long-term asset, much like Cottan and Pilkington. Criminality is quite literally in her blood.

We also learned in the head-spinning fifth episode that Hunter's son Darren (presumably Jo's half-brother, now aged 38) was one of the five thugs unjustly cleared of the racially motivated murder of architect Laurence Christopher 17 years previously – a hard-hitting storyline with chilling echoes of the real-life Stephen Lawrence tragedy.

This scandal, along with the systemic abuse at Sands View, were among the cases being investigated by assassinated reporter Gail Vella (Andi Osho). Hunter was up to his neck in both.

As we enter the final fortnight of this hypnotic series, Tommy Hunter could prove the key to unlocking it all, bringing Line Of Duty full circle, back to where it all began. Let's just hope all our AC-12 favourites are alive to see it through to the end.

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