An astonishing 12 million viewers tuned in to watch the Line of Duty finale on Sunday night, and it’s fair to say that a sizeable proportion of them were left a little underwhelmed by the big reveal. Social media was abuzz with people decrying the fact that Buckells (Buckells?!) of all people had been ‘the Fourth Man’ this whole time, and for all those that praised the finale for presenting a more realistic view of institutionalised police corruption, there were several more lambasting the episode’s perceived lack of drama.
For what it’s worth, having seen the finale twice now, I reckon it works a whole lot better the second time round, and I predict many more fans will eventually come round to the ending once they’ve gotten over their initial disappointment. The reality is that after so much build-up, it had become basically impossible to include a reveal that would live up to audience expectations without being either obvious or ridiculous – and I can’t think of many options that would have been genuinely satisfying in the way lots of fans clearly craved.
Regardless, whatever your thoughts on the finale as a whole, there’s one thing that just about every Line of Duty fan can probably agree on: thank (Mother of) God, Ted is not bent. Ever since the gaffer was placed under the microscope for the first time in series four, rumours that he might potentially be corrupt have been constantly swirling around social media, and on more than one occasion the show has strongly hinted that the fella could be the real big bad.
Never was this more the case than in series five, when the gaffer came up against the formidable Patricia Carmichael – who relentlessly grilled him and at one point seemed certain to get her man, until Kate and Steve found evidence that shifted the blame to corrupt lawyer Gill Biggeloe. Although there were fewer suggestions of his guilt during series six, there was nonetheless a feeling that he couldn’t be ruled out as a suspect, and the possibility remained that he could still be exposed as ‘H’.
After the events of the finale though, those rumours can now be safely put to bed. Two of the most powerful scenes in the episode saw Ted confront his past actions and wrestle with mistakes he’s made in previous series, proving once and for all that the gaffer really does care about honesty and integrity, even if he has slipped up on a couple of occasions in the past.
The first of those scenes saw the gaffer challenged by his close allies Steve and Kate about the money that had been found in Steph Corbett’s home and his links to the murder of John Corbett. Ted’s emotional response made it clear that he deeply regretted his actions, and also provided more than enough evidence that his mistakes were driven by complex personal motives rather than being tied to any vast OCG conspiracy. An even better scene came towards the very end of the episode, when Ted marched into his old office and confessed his part in Corbett’s killing to his nemesis Carmichael. The relief at getting this information off his chest was clear to see, and you got the sense that only after his confession did he really get peace of mind – no doubt a reference to his Catholic faith.
Of all the characters that have appeared throughout the six series of Line of Duty, Ted has always been a firm fan-favourite. A good part of that is due to his penchant for coining quotable catchphrases, of course, but just as much of his appeal comes down to what he stands for – he has always been the moral centre of the show, a rare high ranking officer fighting for honesty and truth in a force that has largely left those values behind. So while it would certainly have been great shock value to reveal that Ted was in fact the very opposite of what we’d been led to believe, the reality is that it would have undercut a lot of what went before it and cheapened the whole show. By ruling that out, Jed Mercurio has finally allowed fans the same kind of peace of mind that Ted himself was afforded by his confession.
It remains to be seen whether we can expect to see more Line of Duty in the future, but for the sake of the whole country we should all hope that Ted is successful in his attempt to get reinstated following his forced retirement. After all, even if ‘H’ might have been exposed, there are still no shortage of bent coppers left to catch…
Want more analysis of the finale? We have plenty – you can read our Line of Duty ending explainer, check out the Line of Duty unanswered questions left up in the air, or take a look at all of the Line of Duty red herrings that teased and deceived the finale outcome.