'Line Of Duty' series 6 episode 5 recap: Jo Davidson's past revealed and a nerve-shredding Mexican standoff

Ross McGuinness
·11 min read
WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 13/04/2021 - Programme Name: Line of Duty S6 - TX: n/a - Episode: Line Of Duty - Ep 5 (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: *NOT FOR PUBLICATION UNTIL 00:01HRS, TUESDAY 13TH APRIL, 2021*  DCI Joanne Davidson (KELLY MACDONALD), Ryan Pilkington (GREGORY PIPER) - (C) World Productions - Photographer: Steffan Hill
DCI Joanne Davidson (Kelly Macdonald) and PC Ryan Pilkington (Gregory Piper) not looking suspicious in the slightest. (World Productions)

If you thought the cliffhanger from last week's episode of Line Of Duty was tense, then you'd better sit down, fella.

The end of episode 5 of series 6 not only left viewers hanging with their bitten fingernails to the cliff - it plunged the whole cliff into the sea.

It's been a big week for writer/creator Jed Mercurio's BBC police drama.

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Almost everyone in Britain with a TV has been pondering the family history of DCI Joanne Davidson (Kelly Macdonald), while the show had a mention in the House of Commons, when Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said Superintendent Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar) and AC-12 should be brought in to investigate the alleged cronyism in prime minister Boris Johnson's government. 

But, as a character exclaims in this week's episode, "We serve the public not the politicians", so time to ditch the Palace of Westminster for Hillside Lane police station. 

*WARNING: this article contains spoilers for episode 5 of series 6 of Line Of Duty*

1. Family matters

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 13/04/2021 - Programme Name: Line of Duty S6 - TX: n/a - Episode: Line Of Duty - Ep 5 (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: *NOT FOR PUBLICATION UNTIL 00:01HRS, TUESDAY 13TH APRIL, 2021*  DCI Joanne Davidson (KELLY MACDONALD) - (C) World Productions - Photographer: Steffan Hill
A key aspect of Davidson's past was revealed. (World Productions)

Well, did you get it right? Chances are you probably did, and you didn’t even need to watch a single episode of this series.

The family history of DCI Joanne Davidson (Kelly Macdonald) has been the subject of 1,001 online detective pieces - and this stunning timeline from entertainment website Den Of Geek - but, in the end, the revelation about her blood relative was rather prosaic.

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She is related to Tommy Hunter (Brian McCardie), the organised crime syndicate boss from way back in series 1, who was murdered at the start of the following season after going into witness protection.

For those theorists who swore Davidson and series 5’s undercover cop DS John Corbett (Stephen Graham) were sister and brother, unlucky, but you were too clever for your own good. Instead, anyone who lazily reasoned, “Well, Hunter was Scottish and so is she” was bang on the money.

2. The sting

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 13/04/2021 - Programme Name: Line of Duty S6 - TX: n/a - Episode: Line Of Duty - Ep 5 (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: *NOT FOR PUBLICATION UNTIL 00:01HRS, TUESDAY 13TH APRIL, 2021*  DS Chris Lomax (PERRY FITZPATRICK), DCI Joanne Davidson (KELLY MACDONALD), DI Steve Arnott (MARTIN COMPSTON) - (C) World Productions - Photographer: Steffan Hill
DS Chris Lomax (Perry Fitzpatrick), DCI Joanne Davidson (Kelly Macdonald) and DI Steve Arnott (Martin Compston) at a crime scene. (World Productions)

With all that business about Davidson’s DNA (Hey! You can’t spell “Davidson” without “D”, “N” and “A”! Just noticed that!) finally resolved, Line Of Duty can concentrate on the biggest workshop hunt since Santa Claus moved his elves to a bigger operation at the North Pole.

DI Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) is determined to find the location where the organised crime gang (OCG) is manufacturing its previously untraceable weapons, one of which was used in the murder of journalist Gail Vella (Andi Osho), and she also wants to avoid any leaks.

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That means everyone in the Murder Investigation Team (MIT) must hand in their phones (it’s no surprise that DS Chris Lomax, played by Perry Fitzpatrick, is the first to moan about this. He’s been on my potential extra mole list for a few episodes now - he's got a strong Matthew 'Dot' Cottan vibe), and PC Ryan Pilkington (Gregory Piper), everyone’s least favourite babyfaced cop killer, must ride in a car with Fleming and Davidson.

It’s a wonderful sequence, completely turned on its head when Kate tells the team they are raiding three potential gun workshops and not just one, sparking Ryan to sneak off for some unregistered-mobile-phone-or-so-called-burner-phone action, trying to alert the OCG, not knowing that AC-12’s DC Chloe Bishop (Shalom Brune-Franklin) is watching.

3. Saving Police Constable Ryan

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 13/04/2021 - Programme Name: Line of Duty S6 - TX: n/a - Episode: Line Of Duty - Ep 5 (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: *NOT FOR PUBLICATION UNTIL 00:01HRS, TUESDAY 13TH APRIL, 2021*  Ryan Pilkington (GREGORY PIPER) - (C) World Productions - Photographer: Steffan Hill
PC Ryan Pilkington stands guard. (World Productions)

Dot Cottan (Craig Parkinson) is still on everyone's minds at AC-12, three series on. Which is understandable when the OCG shot the office up just to free him.

He gets a mention this week in reference to Ryan, who Ted calls “the new Caddy”. Hastings hasn’t forgotten about the mysterious “H” either, suggesting “The Fourth Man” pulled the strings to drop Pilkington into MIT. He thinks Pilkington will lead AC-12 to “the big fish”, so he will remain under surveillance along with Davidson.

4. Follow the money

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 13/04/2021 - Programme Name: Line of Duty S6 - TX: n/a - Episode: Line Of Duty - Ep 5 (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: *NOT FOR PUBLICATION UNTIL 00:01HRS, TUESDAY 13TH APRIL, 2021*  DI Kate Fleming (VICKY MCCLURE), Superintendent Ted Hastings (ADRIAN DUNBAR), DI Steve Arnott (MARTIN COMPSTON), DC Chloe Bishop (SHALOM BRUNE-FRANKLIN) - (C) World Productions - Photographer: Screen Grab
DI Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure), Superintendent Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar), DI Steve Arnott (Martin Compston) and DC Chloe Bishop (Shalom Brune-Franklin) discuss the case. (World Productions)

For someone hell-bent on nicking bent coppers, Ted appears to have picked up some of their tricks. 

DI Steve Arnott (Martin Compston) learns that the huge wad of cash in Corbett’s widow Steph’s attic is traceable to fifty grand’s worth of OCG blood money that conveniently went missing at the end of the last series because, um, Ted said it did.

Steve soon finds out why Ted might have given Steph the money after paying a visit to Blackthorn Prison to see OCG member Lee Banks (Alastair Natkiel), brother of the murdered Carl, a suspect in Vella's murder.  

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It turns out Vella was on to something big - why else would she request interviews with every character in the history of Line Of Duty? - but only Banks would talk.

Fresh from murdering crooked lawyer Jimmy Lakewell (Patrick Baladi) in last week’s episode, Banks claims Ted gave up Corbett as an undercover cop during a mysterious prison visit in the fifth series.

This is a claim that was backed up by none other than Mercurio himself in an interview given to Digital Spy at the end of series 5. 

5. Lawrence Christopher

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 13/04/2021 - Programme Name: Line of Duty S6 - TX: n/a - Episode: Line Of Duty - Ep 5 (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: *NOT FOR PUBLICATION UNTIL 00:01HRS, TUESDAY 13TH APRIL, 2021*  DI Steve Arnott (MARTIN COMPSTON) - (C) World Productions - Photographer: Steffan Hill
Steve springs into action. (World Productions)

Episode 5 drops a new name, that of Lawrence Christopher, a Black architect who died in police custody back in April 2003. 

While they were trapped in that bullet-ridden prison van last week, Lakewell told Steve that Vella was investigating Christopher’s murder.

Chloe reveals to the team that Christopher died of a skull fracture in a police cell after being beaten with a lead pipe in a racist attack. The five suspects in his killing were released and granted anonymity, while police custody officers who mocked him by making monkey noises as he lay dying still received pensions and claimed compensation for so-called stress.

The show is making a clear nod to the real-life events of the Stephen Lawrence case - the Black teenager was murdered in south-east London in April (in 1993) and five suspects were originally cleared, although two were later convicted of the crime following a public inquiry that found the Metropolitan Police was institutionally racist. Mercurio is executive producing an upcoming drama about the murder.

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The name Lawrence Christopher also links to the case of Christopher Alder, 37, a Black trainee computer programmer and former paratrooper who died in police custody at a police station in Hull in April 1998. 

Five police officers went on trial in 2002 charged with his manslaughter, but were acquitted. Four years later, an Independent Police Complaints Commission report found that four of the officers in the custody suite at the time were guilt of “the most serious neglect of duty” and “unwitting racism”.

In Line Of Duty, Chloe reveals the senior investigating officer on the case was DCI Marcus Thurwell, who was also the SIO for the murder inquiry of Oliver Stephens-Lloyd, a social worker tasked with investigating allegations of sexual abuse in the Sands View Boys Home, the main storyline in series 3. 

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Viewers with photographic memory will recall that his death was originally deemed a suicide, until a second post-mortem examination revealed he had two broken arms and had suffered a blow to the back of the head.

And who was one of the suspects in Christopher’s murder? Darren Hunter, son of Tommy. Could the fact that DSU Ian Buckells (Nigel Boyle) and Chief Constable Philip Osbourne (Owen Teale) were on the investigation team at the time have anything to do with Hunter Jr getting off, or with Vella getting killed?

6. Hang on, is that Jimmy Nesbitt?!

There's only a dodgy profile photo and a blurry long lens shot to go on, but it looks like Thurwell is played by James Nesbitt. Crikey! That might be the most shocking twist in Line Of Duty history. 

In fact, I may have to watch the episode again to check I didn't DREAM that Jimmy Nesbitt had been in Line Of Duty.

If if is him - and come on, it is - it would be a reunion of sorts if Thurwell clashes face-to-face with Hastings - Nesbitt and Dunbar have appeared in a number of TV shows and films before, including movies Hear My Song and Wild About Harry, as well as an episode of Murphy's Law.

Thurwell retired from the force and fled to Spain for a time, but his last whereabouts are unknown. Could the Line Of Duty spin-off movie see Ted slap on the suntan lotion and fly out to the Costa del Crime?

Hmmm... maybe I've dreamt that too.

7. MOTHERLAND OF GOD!!

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 13/04/2021 - Programme Name: Line of Duty S6 - TX: n/a - Episode: Line Of Duty - Ep 5 (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: *NOT FOR PUBLICATION UNIL 00:01HRS, TUESDAY 13th APRIL, 2021* Carmichael (ANNA MAXWELL MARTIN) - (C) World Productions - Photographer: Screen Grab
DCI Patricia Carmichael (Anna Maxwell Martin) returned in episode 5 of series 6. (World Productions)

Hastings has bigger fish to fry for now, however, and this comes in the slippery form of the returning DCS Patricia Carmichael (Anna Maxwell Martin), back to torment Ted after she grilled him at the end of the last series.

Oh, how I love Patricia Carmichael, she's just wonderful. Everyone has had a boss - or more likely a teacher - just like her, dripping in condescension, and unfortunately, it's usually because she's in the right. 

Martin clearly has an absolute ball playing her, and no Line Of Duty episode recapper can resist shouting "Motherland of God!" every time she embarrasses poor Ted.

Carmichael has come in from AC-3 to take over AC-12 as part of the new anti-corruption merger trailed last week, and her first act is to call off surveillance on Davidson and Pilkington.

8. Park life... or death

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 13/04/2021 - Programme Name: Line of Duty S6 - TX: n/a - Episode: Line Of Duty - Ep 5 (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: *NOT FOR PUBLICATION UNTIL 00:01HRS, TUESDAY 13TH APRIL, 2021*  DCI Joanne Davidson (KELLY MACDONALD), DS Chris Lomax (PERRY FITZPATRICK), DI Steve Arnott (MARTIN COMPSTON) - (C) World Productions - Photographer: Steffan Hill
DCI Joanne Davidson (Kelly Macdonald) and DI Steve Arnott (Martin Compston) don't see eye-to-eye. (World Productions)

Davidson and Pilkington don't know that - well, they didn't know they were being watched in the first place, but the disinformation comes in handy for Kate after the shady pair lure her to a lorry park in the episode's nerve-shredding conclusion.

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Should Kate have twigged that Davidson was setting her up? Of course! I can't recall the exact wording of Davidson's invite but it was something along the lines of "Do you fancy meeting up for a drink tonight so I can have you murdered because my laptop ordered me to do it?" Oh Kate!

Her sudden brain failure does however pave the way for a teeth-grinding Mexican standoff showdown with Pilkington. Both draw their weapons. Both shout a lot. The screen goes black. Two shots are heard...

We're going to have to wait until next week to find out who fired them.

Episode 5 verdict: I wasn't sure if this instalment could match up to its predecessor, one of the best hours of Line Of Duty for years, but mother of God did it deliver. 

Mercurio has wisely steered his show's storyline back to the thread that burned brightest in its strongest series - number three - and the results are riveting.

Last week's cliffhanger was about something in a file, but when we find out the outcome of this one, a member of the show's sacred triumvirate could be gone. We'll all be there next week to find out.

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