Line of Duty series 4, episode 6: The isolation game

From left: Martin Compston, Adrian Dunbar, Vicky McClure from Line of Duty. Photo Credit: Des Willie/Courtesy of Acorn TV.
From left: Martin Compston, Adrian Dunbar, Vicky McClure from Line of Duty. Photo Credit: Des Willie/Courtesy of Acorn TV. /

Line of Duty series 4, episode 6 brings the case to a close.

In honor of Line of Duty series 1 having re-aired on BBC One this summer, we’re looking back at the best TV crime drama in any country—likewise, from the very beginning. With series 1-3 in the books, now we move on to series 4.

SPOILER ALERT: This article contains spoilers for and discussion about Line of Duty series 4, episode 6. You can stream the episode on Acorn TV, Amazon Video, and BritBox now.

Line of Duty follows the casework of Anti-Corruption Unit 12 (AC-12), a team of police investigators who are solely dedicated to stopping corruption, no matter what the cost. Created and written by Jed Mercurio (Bodyguard), it’s the definitive crime drama for the modern era.

This week, we conclude the fourth season with Line of Duty series 4, episode 1. If you’ve missed anything so far, you can catch up with Precinct TV’s previous recap.

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Loyalty is a quaint concept now

There really are no bridges that can’t be burned, at least in the world of Line of Duty.

“Royal Hunting Ground” opens with Roz Huntley (Thandie Newton) doing all she can to frame her husband Nick (Lee Ingleby) for Tim Ifield’s murder. Granted, their relationship is in a terrible place; the whole previous episode proved they can’t stand each other now. But it’s still a new low to serve one’s husband up as a scapegoat for a crime that you know you committed.

Speaking of broken relationships, it’s one of those only on TV moments when the audience finds out that the two people overseeing the investigation are ex-AC-12 member Jamie Desford (Royce Pierreson) and Steve Arnott’s ex-girlfriend Sam Railston (Aiysha Hart). Of all the cops out there, it just has to be these two.

Desford is still snippy about not being “appreciated” by AC-12, while at least Sam provides our heroes some help—although not before Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) gets in a shot about how quick Sam was to dump Steve (Martin Compston) last series. As rough as things have been for Steve and Kate in prior episodes this series, it’s clear now that they’re back on the same side.

As well they should be, because everyone else is scurrying around in self-preservation mode.

That includes Assistant Chief Constable Derek Hilton (Paul Higgins), who tells Roz that she needs to resign. The only person shocked by this is Roz, who asks why she doesn’t have Hilton’s support like she did the whole rest of the series. But not only did she make clear that she wasn’t interested in his sexual advances, Roz has also become a liability, because she’s still married to the guy that’s up for murder. Hilton’s cutting the liability loose.

That just means Roz is free to get back at him, of course.

Missing pieces (of human bodies)

This Line of Duty episode isn’t for the squeamish, because the key piece of evidence is that Tim Ifield had MRSA, and passed it to Roz in the wound he inflicted on her when he died. Over the rest of this installment, we get to hear about Roz’s severed hand, Tim’s severed fingers, and a whole lot about infections. Ew.

The short of it is that Roz can be connected to Tim through that infection, and from that point on there’s all kinds of discoveries. Superintendent Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar) figures out that Roz’s tampered with evidence, and Steve has another “aha” moment when he deduces Tim’s killer stole clothes from his apartment so as to bury their own now-contaminated wardrobe.

Even though Nick Huntley is formally arrested for Tim’s murder, and therefore becomes the new prime suspect in the serial killings, a lot of legwork leads AC-12 to where Roz buried everything. In most shows, this would be the end, but not Line of Duty. This is where the fun really starts.

It’s particularly fun to note that Steve is still capable of commanding a room even though he’s still stuck in a wheelchair, and that Hastings has been looking at traffic cameras so long that it’s gotten totally dark in his office. These characters have real personality inside of the procedural frame, which is part of what makes this a superlative TV crime drama. It has that perfect balance where story and character coexist comfortably.

Another boss bites the dust

Roz isn’t finished selling people out. “Royal Hunting Ground” sees her insist on speaking only to AC-12 so that she can incriminate both Jimmy Lakewell (Patrick Baladi) and Hilton. If the latter is going to stab her in the back, she’s going to stab him in the front. She’s even got all the paperwork to back up her accusations, although as Line of Duty points out, that doesn’t make up for all the people who were killed or hurt (hi, Steve) by her actions or those of her allies.

The final interrogation scene is a thing of beauty for a variety of reasons. First among them is Thandie Newton’s performance as Roz finally collapses, going from rage to sadness in the same monologue. Another is just seeing how it’s handled versus Nick’s interrogation at the top of the episode. Desford and Sam have no finesse; theyre practically bullying him, whereas Hastings and the team are just calmly mowing through the facts.

Plus, Steve’s reactions as they delve into the details leading up to and surrounding his attack are affecting to watch. Martin Compston doesn’t have tons of dialogue in this sequence but he says so much with his expressions, which is one of his greatest strengths. We feel how much this hits for Steve even if he doesn’t say it.

From that point on, though, is when Line of Duty series 4 goes off the rails. For the second series in a row, AC-12 becomes the site of armed police activity.

Desford arrives, and exposes himself as another of Hilton’s flunkies, while a balaclava man (there are many, not just one) takes a hostage downstairs. Hastings lands a perfect shot to take care of the latter while Steve, with some help from Roz, talks down the former. Hilton, however, is found dead on the same dock from last series. It’s ruled as a suicide, but is it really…?

Hastings is convinced that Hilton was himself “H” and deflecting blame by accusing Hastings of corruption, but he also gives viewers their first look at multiple boards with all the names and the images of folks that have been caught in the web since the show started. Line of Duty didn’t look like a conspiracy thriller when it started, but it’s become better than any spy novel.

Roz Huntley becomes the first primary antagonist to be unconditionally put away, and Steve is up on crutches in the last scene, suggesting that his condition is improving. As far as endings go this is one of the more clear-cut ones in series history. Yet it also feels like more of a beginning than an ending, since the show has now wiped out all of the senior police characters we were introduced to, revealing them all to be corrupt—so there’s no clear direction to look next.

But thanks to a great performance by Newton, and a surprising plot twist for Steve that changed his character forever, this is one of the better series of an already superlative show. On to the next series…

Next. Martin Compston talks Line of Duty and The Nest. dark

Line of Duty series 4 is now streaming on Amazon Video, Acorn TV (with a 7-day free trial) and BritBox.