Line of Duty spoiler-free review: a triumphant return – with a menacing new villain and plenty of twists and turns

Stephen Graham makes an excellent new guest lead as AC-12 gets back to work

Line of Duty - Series 5

If you’ve spent the last couple of years pining for more Line of Duty and obsessing about the identity of ‘H’, we have excellent news, fella: you are going to love series five. Showrunner Jed Mercurio is ready to take us back inside AC-12 – and what he delivers in episode one is 100% classic Line of Duty.

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With epic interrogation scenes, surprise betrayals, grisly murders, untold secrets, massive twists… well, it’s just good to be back.

And after a quiet two years while Mercurio went off to make a minor BBC drama called Bodyguard (you might have heard of it), it’s like seeing old friends again as we reunite with anti-corruption boss Superintendent Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar), newly-minted DI Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) and DS Steve Arnott (Martin Compston). There’s a lot to catch up on. For one thing, Steve now has a beard.

Naturally, Mercurio gets the ball rolling with a Big Bad Crime that reminds us exactly what show we’re watching. As already revealed in the trailer (don’t worry – no spoilers here!), series five kicks off with an ambush: the “balaclava men” hijack a police convoy and kill three officers in cold blood.

Hastings and his team immediately clock that there must have been a police insider passing on information – and so begins a new AC-12 investigation.

We also have a new guest lead in the form of Stephen Graham. But breaking away from the usual formula, you will not find his character John Corbett in a police uniform; this is not a man who would be worried by a Reg 15 notice.

Instead, series five turns the spotlight onto the organised crime gang led by Corbett, who must surely be one of the biggest bulk-buyers of balaclava masks in the country. By his side is Lisa McQueen (Rochenda Sandall), another key player in organised crime – and she refuses to be underestimated.

Line of Duty S5

The success of each series of Line of Duty rides on the performance of the guest leads. Early indications are that Graham is absolutely in the same league as previous antagonists Keeley Hawes (DI Lindsay Denton) and Thandie Newton (DCI Roz Huntley); he exudes menace from every balaclava-covered pore and you would not want to cross him. It’s an inspired piece of casting.

And now for the big question. Obviously, the identity of the shadowy figure known only as “H” has been a national obsession ever since we heard the recording of DI Dot Cottan’s dying declaration, which planted the seed of doubt in the minds of Line of Duty fans. Was “H” otherwise known as Derek Hilton? Or Les Hargreaves? Or even… dare we think it… Ted Hastings?

As far as Hastings himself is concerned, the whole thing is done and dusted ever since the so-called “suicide” of Derek Hilton. But a question mark still hangs over the head of the AC-12 boss. And judging by Line of Duty’s track record, we’ll be waiting for the answer for quite some time to come…

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Line of Duty series five begins on Sunday 31st March at 9pm on BBC1


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