It's been nearly two years since AC-12 were last on our screens. So we'll forgive you, Line of Duty fans, for feeling a little rusty when it comes to your favourite coppers and the giant conspiracy they're tackling.
Sure, you remember Superintendent Ted Hastings, DS Steve Arnott and DS Kate Fleming. But does the name Roz Huntley ring a vague bell? What about Jimmy Lakewell? Assistant Chief Commissioner Hilton? Maybe you're sharp as a whip – but if you're anything like us, you'll need a refresher course before tuning into the return of Line of Duty. After all, writer Jed Mercurio doesn't suffer fools. He expects you to keep up.
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So, gift us five minutes of your time and we'll help you revise before we head back to the heart of the force's pre-eminent anti-corruption unit. Unless you've never watched Line of Duty in which case, be warned, spoilers lie ahead...
Who are the balaclava gang?
Named after their ominous headgear, the balaclava gang have been a presence since the first series of Line of Duty. Back then, they slit the throat of Gina McKee's Jackie Laverty before blackmailing DI Tony Gates (Lennie James) with her frozen body. That's one of their calling cards – freezing corpses and threatening to plant them covered in the fingerprints of top coppers who are then compelled to help facilitate their shady business dealings.
They've cropped up throughout and a slew of criminals have eventually connected back to them. Tommy Hunter (the big bad behind series one, killed off at the start of series two) was involved, as was Matthew "Dot" Cottan, the "Caddy" killed off in series three. But it wasn't until the most recent run of episodes – starring Thandie Newton as Roz Huntley – that we appreciated the full extent of their reach.
The balaclava gang are behind pretty much every crime we've seen in Line of Duty. And they work in conjunction with "H" – a shady figure embedded within the upper echelons of the police force. At the end of series four, "H" was revealed to be ACC Hilton (played by Paul Higgins). He had AC-12 officer Maneet (Maya Sondhi) in his employ and young DC Jamie Desford (Royce Pierreson) who tipped him off when the anti-corruption unit discovered his involvement. Hilton made a run for it but couldn't escape the balaclava gang who silenced their one-time asset in an apparent "suicide".
Who was Roz Huntley?
Roz Huntley was the copper at the heart of series four. A Detective Chief Inspector, she narrowly escaped death in the series' first episode; knocked unconscious in a tussle with Jason Watkins' Forensic Investigator Tim Ifield, she awoke to find him about to dismember her body. A subsequent tussle resulted in his death, and Roz spent most of the series 'investigating' his murder while at the same time attempting to cover up her part in it. She even tried to pin it on her husband Nick (Lee Ingleby) before the net closed in on her (and had part of her arm amputated thanks to an infected wound from the struggle with Tim). She confessed to AC-12, outed her lawyer Jimmy Lakewell's connection to balaclava gang, and is now serving a ten year prison sentence for manslaughter.
Who is Maneet and is she corrupt?
Maneet is an AC-12 desk officer who's been part of the Line of Duty team since series three. Beloved for her smart policing, she shocked viewers when it was revealed she had been leaking details of her team's investigations to Hilton (why, Maneet, WHY?), feeding the ACC Dot Cottan's dying declaration in which he alerted AC-12 to the existence of "H".
Eventually she told Hilton their 'arrangement' was over and took early maternity leave. And – for now – AC-12 remain unaware that she was the source of the leak.
What happened to Steve last series?
You might notice Steve has a bit of a ropey back. Cast your mind back and you'll recall he has good reason. In series four, he doggedly pursued Nick Huntley, believing him to be involved in Tim Ifield's murder. A spooked Nick called his lawyer, Jimmy Lakewell, who in turn recruited a Balaclava Man to attack Steve in Nick's office block and throw him down a stairwell. We thought Steve was dead (Jed Mercurio is merciless, after all) but he survived – although he was confined to a wheelchair for the remainder of the series.
Jump forward to series five and he's back up and running – but the pain and trauma of his ordeal hasn't left him.
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Was Hilton really "H"? Could Ted Hastings be working with the balaclava gang?
In the closing moments of series four, we were led to believe the case wasn't closed after all. Ted is convinced Hilton is "H" – but Kate clearly isn't so sure. And as we revisit the trio in series five, Ted is far from off the hook...
Some important things to note as we weigh up the possibility that our favourite "fella" might not be as upstanding as we thought:
1. Hastings begins with an H. It seems obvious but it's important – at the end of series four, AC-12 assembled a board of possible "H"s. On there were Hilton, Roz Huntley, Lester Hargreaves (who we've got to know as the head of Murder Squad), and – among a few others – Ted Hastings. With Hilton's "suicide" seemingly confirming his guilt, Ted told Kate to "take my name off that board". But if Hilton wasn't the big bad inside the force (just a dodgy bloke with a coincidental surname) then Ted is back in the mix.
2. That look. The one Kate gave Ted at the end of series four, as if she suspected something fishy was going on.
We now know Jed Mercurio came on set specifically to direct that final scene. The possibility of Ted being H "will definitely be explored through this series," actor Adrian Dunbar has promised.
3. Ted's financial woes. We can't comment on Ted's paypacket but whatever he's taking home, it's not enough to cover some poor investment decisions made earlier in the series. In the process of divorcing his wife, Line of Duty's return finds him living in a hotel and struggling to cover his costs. If anyone is in need of a bit of fast cash, it's Ted. It's almost inconceivable, but could the Balaclava Gang have won him over with a hefty sum?
We can hardly bear the thought.
Line of Duty airs on Sundays at 9pm on BBC1, starting on 31st March