The hit BBC drama Line of Duty came to a conclusion last night, attracting a record number of viewers and receiving mixed reviews.
Social media was alight as viewers swapped theories and reactions in real-time to the show’s highly anticipated finale - but many were left feeling a little underwhelmed.
Jed Mercurio’s critically acclaimed series kept fans and critics alike guessing right up until the show’s denouement, when the identity of the ‘fourth man’, H, was finally revealed.
What is Line of Duty about?
Line of Duty stars Adrian Dunbar, Martin Compston and Vicky McClure as police officers working in a special department, AC-12, which deals with anti-corruption, or “catching bent coppers”, as Superintendent Ted Hastings might put it.
The show launched in 2012 and has amassed a significant following - as well as critical acclaim - in its six seasons.
Though focussed on the activities of the police, many have drawn parallels between some of the wider themes of the show - power, corruption, institutional rot - and real-world issues.
The show’s creator, Jer Mercurio, has won a number of awards for his work on Line of Duty, while the show itself is widely considered to be among the best BBC dramas of all time.
What have critics said?
Not a moment after the final credits had started to roll the verdicts began to come in on Line of Duty’s final episode.
Writing for the Guardian, Lucy Mangan gave the finale three stars, saying that while it had still delivered much of what made the show popular with fans, a number of issues with the plot and character relationships left it feeling somewhat flat in places.
“It was all fine,” she wrote, “But, oh my, you should have seen it when it was good.”
The episode picked up a four-star review from both the Times and the Telegraph, with the latter crediting Mercurio with “fooling us all”.
Ben Dowell wrote in the Times that while many viewers found the eventual reveal of the mysterious mastermind H to be a little underwhelming, if not unbelievable, it actually spoke to the message of the show.
He wrote: “The point about organised crime, it seems, is that it’s not that organised. It’s vile, self-seeking and opportunistic. And while hugely disappointing on one level, at least this felt plausible.”
Writing for the Scotsman, Aidan Smith praised the show’s finale for sticking to its understated roots, rather than opting for an action-packed last hurrah.
He said: “What a finale. Some of you may have been disappointed; I can sense this. Because Line of Duty has become an Event, because this really could have been the last we will ever see of them, possibly you were expecting a big shootout, a big capture, a big speech. But the show stayed true to itself and held its nerve, leaving the grandstanding and pyrotechnics to others.
“Check the cast: Tom Cruise isn’t there. So Adrian Dunbar wasn’t about to outrun a getaway car, Vicky McClure wasn’t about to swap her polo neck for a catsuit and our own Martin Compston was always going to continue resembling - his description to Jonathan Ross the previous night - “the overdressed wanker in the call-centre”.
What did fans think?
While the record-breaking viewing figures prove that millions of us wanted to see how the story would be resolved, the jury is out on whether people liked what they saw.
The response from fans of the show has been mixed, to say the least. While some praised the realism and clever writing on display throughout Sunday’s episode, many were left feeling a little underwhelmed by the big reveal.
One Twitter user wrote: “WOW!! I am just disappointed! That ending was shocking and so poor! And that’s it forever now? Worst ending to a show EVER!”
While another said he was “so disappointed” with the finale, and questioned whether the writers were “on furlough for [the] last episode or something?”.
Though not everyone was disappointed, with many fans praising the show’s finale as being realistic.
Referencing one of the clues which helped AC-12 eventually uncover the identity of H, one Twitter user wrote: “Just watched the final episode of #LineOfDuty and despite what I had heard I thought the ending was definAtely spot on, the ending pulled all the loose ends together. Don’t understand why people are complaining”
Fan of the show and leading prosecutor Nazir Afzal commended the show’s realism, saying: “I think a lot of people expected a Bond Villain in #LineOfDuty. The thing about corruption is it’s usually banal, run by incompetents & inadequates. Often hidden in plain sight. Usually people promoted beyond their ability & relying upon others to do their dirty work. Sounds familiar.”