Line of Duty, season 6 episode 2 recap: here comes every criminal’s nemesis – the true crime podcast

There’s a lot to unpack – so let’s dive straight in.

Gail Vella died because of a podcast – a truly 2021 death

At the centre of series six is the execution-style murder of investigative journalist Gail Vella (played by Andi Osho), a crime with strong and deliberate overtones of the death of Jill Dando (right down to the police deciding whether she was killed by an obsessive fan or a gangland hit).

DS Steve Arnott (Martin Compston) and his fresh-faced Kate Fleming stand-in, DC Chloe Bishop (Shalom Brune-Franklin), dug out newsreels of Vella insinuating police corruption in the cases of Karim Ali (the Jean Charles de Menezes-esque killing in series one), the paedophile ring run by senior officer George Fairbank (series three) and Operation Pear Tree, which concluded with Police and Crime Commissioner Rohan Sindwhani (Ace Bhatti) saying there was no institutional corruption in the police force (yeah right, mate).

Her producer (nice to see Prasanna Puwanarajah) explained that Vella would not let it go and began researching her own true-crime podcast. Clearly she ruffled a few feathers. We also know that her recordings, notes and computers were stolen – so, the truth is out there. And, surely, it call comes back to “H”.

Ace Bhatti as PCC Rohan Sindwhani


Ace Bhatti as PCC Rohan Sindwhani


Credit: BBC

Burst the Banks, don’t lance the Boyle

Joanne Davidson (Kelly Macdonald) may still be following the evidence, no matter how obviously it’s been planted, but it’s clear that Vella was killed by hardened career criminal Carl Banks, not the unfortunate Terry Boyle. We learnt that Banks homophobically abused the famous CHIS, Alastair Oldroyd, in a pub, and bragged of his involvement in Vella’s murder. Oldroyd must have tipped off the police about “Ross Turner”, as Banks was calling himself, and a corrupt copper must have tipped off Organised Crime.

So, Banks had to be silenced, but, OC knew – thanks to Davidson? – that MIT were on their way to arrest him. Hence, the armed robbery stunt (again, Davidson must have been involved), which gave OC time to grab Banks and install poor old Boyle in his place. Then, to tie up loose ends – they kill Banks, then kill Oldroyd (the only man who could identify Banks as “Ross Turner”) and frame the CHIS for Banks’s death. Simple!

“No more beating about the bush – we raid Operation Lighthouse”

With Banks dead, AC-12 had to act. I really enjoyed the two raids of the MIT offices – and the first face-off between Davidson and Arnott (surely not the last). In swaggered Steve, in his best waistcoat, reading his fellow officers their rights, as his team randomly riffled through files and poked computers, and DCI Ian Buckells (Nigel Boyle) flapped about like a paper clown.

Shalom Brune-Franklin, Kelly Macdonald, Nigel Boyle and Martin Compston


Shalom Brune-Franklin, Kelly Macdonald, Nigel Boyle and Martin Compston


Credit: BBC

But why was Davidson looking so smug? Because, tipped off by Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure), she had already gone to the DCC to gain a moratorium on sharing Operation Lighthouse info, ostensibly to stop leaking. Hastings soon got that moratorium squashed, but the damage was done – any bent coppers in MIT had a full day to hide anything incriminating. And, see below, there are bent coppers in MIT.

“I trusted you, mate”

Poor Kate. Having escaped AC-12 for an easy life investigating brutal gangland killings, her old pal Steve turns her into de facto undercover again, snooping on her own gaffer. It was rather lovely to see them meeting up in a dingy, graffiti-caked tunnel for some hush-hush chitchat, “just like old times”. Steve nearly burst out of his waistcoat when he twigged Kate had done the dirty on him. “I’m damned if I do, damned if I don’t,” said Kate, not unreasonably. She’s certainly damned in Hastings’s eyes, who announced that her “goose was cooked”.

But we viewers know better, don’t we? Kate is surely going deep cover, currying favour with Davidson to ensure that she can really get the dirt on her. Hence, the tip off about AC-12, and all the not so subtle flirting in wine bars. We know Kate is single and lonely, but she’s a wily operator – Steve will find out in time that Kate has been acting for AC-12 all along. Hasn’t she…?

Vicky McClure and Martin Compston 


Vicky McClure and Martin Compston 


Credit: BBC

“He died in the line of duty”

Drink! Line of Duty is the one cop drama where you can reliably hear the programme title at least once a series (never happened, say, in A Touch of Frost). In this instance, Arnott was talking about John Corbett (Stephen Graham), the undercover copper killed in series five. Having spotted Hastings having a clandestine meeting with Corbett’s widow, Steph (Amy De Bhrún), Arnott decided to find out what his occasionally iffy gaffer was up to. What he doesn’t know is that Hastings gave £50,000 of dodgy money to Steph, to assuage his guilt for the death of Corbett’s mother many moons ago.

Paying a trip to Merseyside, Arnott snooped around Steph’s house (“Oh, managed to keep the house did you? Wow, that’s a big telly. Sky Sports, is it? Hello, Big Spender!”). Corbett, of course, did not officially die in the line of duty, so Steph has not received his pension, and Arnott will surely not buy her wiffle about life insurance. It’s not clear at this stage if Arnott is motivated by his suspicions of Hastings or his attraction to Mrs Corbett. Knowing Arnott, never a man who worries unduly about mixing business with pleasure, it’s both. One to watch.

“Evidence? We’ll give you evidence.”

Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep. Yes, Davidson had been served a red hot Reg-15 and that meant a nice long chat with AC-12 in the interrogation room. I actually felt a bit sorry for Davidson, having to peddle that clearly nonsensical line about spotting an armed robbery the same way an eagle spots a field mouse from two miles away. But she played her trump card – agreeing with Ted that there must be police corruption in Operation Lighthouse. And then, the final flourish, listing all the officers they would need to investigate – the CHIS handler, PS Jatri, DS Lomax, herself and DS Buckells. Search their houses, she said. And, would you believe it, in PS Jatri’s house – which ex-girlfriend Davidson still had the keys to, remember – the police found a stash of burner phones. Davidson was duly released, Jatri put in the slammer.

Vicki McClure and Kelly Macdonald


Vicki McClure and Kelly Macdonald


Credit: BBC

“She lied and lied, that’s the kind of person she is,” said Jatri. But what do we make of Davidson? Her interactions with Fleming show that she is clearly vulnerable. But we know she’s corrupt – the episode ended with her picking up a burner phone from a dodgy-looking fella. But we also know she’s not very happy about it – screaming and thrashing her car. The question is: what has Organised Crime got on Joanne Davidson? And what can she do about it?

“Have we worked together before?”

Well, we knew the little scamp was going to turn up somewhere, and there he was, PC Ryan Pilkington, in MIT as PS Jatri’s replacement, a fresh-faced keen bean, eager to please and make everyone cuppas. Ryan, of course, was the teenage BMX rider working for Tommy Hunter in series one and the man who slit Corbett’s throat in series five. And now, like The Caddy, he’s embedded in the police, working alongside Kate Fleming, who definitely remembers him from somewhere, if only she could put her finger on it. Speaking of fingers, I enjoyed Ryan’s panicked look when Arnott arrived – Arnott will surely recognise the little blighter who tried to lop his digits off with some bolt cutters in series one. Who knows what damage PC Pilkington could do in the meantime, however.

Tedism of the week

What else? “Officers of your rank normally appreciate politics as much as policing,” said Sandwani. A red rag to a bull. Hastings’s eyes narrowed, he looked away briefly, he set his jaw. “Yes. I’m interested in one thing and one thing only,” he said. Little lick of the lips. “And that’s bent coppers.” Adrian Dunbar didn’t quite wink down the camera at us, but Jed Mercurio certainly did. Drink!

Adrian Dunbar as Ted Hastings


Adrian Dunbar as Ted Hastings


Credit: BBC

Idle thoughts 

  • Did you notice the framed picture of a golfer in DCI Buckells’s office? Tommy Hunter used to play golf, “Dot” Cottan, aka The Caddy, was his caddy. Is Buckells more than a mere buffoon?
  • Did Ryan not think of changing his name before joining the police force? Talk about hiding in plain sight.
  • Is it cruel of me to smirk at the several mentions of “the poor wee girl, with her whole life ahead of her” in relation to Gail Vella? Andi Osho is 48.
  • Nice call-back to series five – “That’s what happens to rats,” said Davidson, about Jatri. And who was she saying that to? Young Ryan Pilkington, who cut Corbett’s throat as Lisa McQueen told him: “You’re a rat, John.”

So, what have I missed? Am I barking up the wrong CHIS? What’s the deal with Davidson? And can we trust Kate Fleming? Oh, and whither “H”? Let me know below.

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