Jed Mercurio has confirmed that he had planned for the identity of corrupt copper 'H' to become the central mystery of Line of Duty from the very beginning.
Speaking at the BFI and Radio Times Television Festival 2019, the show's creator and writer said that he intentionally gave several characters names beginning with 'H', and made it so that others could theoretically take on the moniker given to the officer allegedly at the heart of police corruption.
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"There aren't 28 - there are about six, aren't there?" Mercurio said, after host Mark Lawson had jokingly suggested the number of characters who could potentially be H was in the twenties.
Did he plan this H-eadache?
"Yeah, yeah," he said. "And, sometimes there were characters whose name could be corrupted or nicknamed into being an 'H' if I wanted to, so some of the characters were given names where they could have been revealed as having an 'H' connection if it was required."
Though Mercurio said he has known the whole time who 'H' is, the writer also admitted that he would have no qualms about doing a u-turn if a better idea came to him.
"I suppose if I had an idea later on that was even better then, yeah, of course I would change it – because you want it to be as good as possible and surprising and so forth."
There have been several hints in the series that beloved bent copper-catcher Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar) could in fact be the corrupt officer in question, ever since he suspiciously ordered Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) and Steve Arnott (Martin Compston) to take his picture off the suspects board at the end of series four.
Fans have been hoping that they will discover the antagonist's identity in series five, but according to the show's creator, we may not get the answers we are looking for quite so soon.
"I think there are different degrees of resolution," he said, "and when you have a returning series, what you're aiming to do is to resolve certain things but create an interesting direction that comes out of that new information. Irrespective of whether something gets resolved or not, what you're trying to achieve is that it gives you forward momentum into finding out something different, or re-examining the assumptions that have gone into something."
He continued: "And that's something that we've done all the way through. It's only really when we knew we were completely finishing that we would try and achieve a greater deal of resolution than that."
Line of Duty series five continues on BBC1 on Sundays at 9pm