After last week’s shocking finale, filled with blood and revelations, AC-12 try and pursue their investigation into Operation Pear Tree, an undercover mission led by the OCG leader John Corbett (Stephen Graham). He was revealed last week as being one of the good guys, but is that a masquerade?
A constant question throughout this episode is whether he’s gone rogue, or just very deep undercover. Any intrusion from AC-12 could mean destroying the progress he’s made, or revealing the true extent of his corruption.
DSI Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar)
Mercurio sprinkles lies and deceptions through this episode like combustible dust. It’s hard to comprehend how much energy he has in constructing these twists, since every turn leads to a different road, each stickier than the last. Corbett is integral to that unpredictability, being one of Mercurio’s most intriguing characters.
Given Corbett’s police history, to trust him is a constant temptation. He’s a reverse of Line of Duty’s previous villains and antiheroes, most of whom were corrupt officers pretending to be good. Corbett, it turns out, is a good officer pretending to be bad… at least, that’s how it seems.
It’s also hard not to fall into that tempting way of thinking. The question is: how much is Corbett pretending? This shakes up Line of Duty's usual structure, which was at risk of being exhaustively told. And as the realisations about Corbett’s character start to rise through the episode, Stephen Graham shines even brighter as an actor – unleashing his uniquely aggressive and emotional talents.
DS Arnott (Martin Compston) and DI Fleming (Vicky McClure)
The focus on Corbett’s character slightly shortchanges the AC-12 heroes. DSI Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar) is enduring a separation from his wife, DS Arnott (Martin Compston) gets closer to his ex in a surprisingly awkward scene, and DI Fleming (Vicky McClure) is barely explored aside from a few mentions of her past as an undercover agent. These character moments feel almost formulaic, like breaks in the action rather than genuine development.
Line of Duty’s deceptions are key to its excellence, and Mercurio has provided plenty of thrilling turns this week. Lisa McQueen (Rochenda Sandall), Corbett’s right-hand woman, is especially exciting to watch as she performs the right gestures, says the right words, and smiles at the right points to ensure the OCG’s lies are impenetrable.
Mercurio achieves something similar: lying at the perfect points with all the same diversions and dead ends, making it nearly impossible to predict. And with this episode’s unnerving cliffhanger, it’s hard to know where the series will turn next.
Line of Duty series 5 continues Sundays at 9pm on BBC One
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07 Apr 19 – 07 Apr 20, 9:00 PM – 10:00 PM