JAN MOIR reviews the climax of Line of Duty as identity of H is finally ...

At last, a resolution of sorts. The Fourth Man, formerly the con artist known as H, was finally revealed to a nation who have gorged on red herrings and deep fried dead ends since the wee donkey was just a wee foal.

Yet when the great reveal came, it was still a bit of a shock to everyone, including AC-12.

‘He’s been under our noses since the beginning,’ cried DI Steve Arnott (Martin Compston). ‘What does this make us look like?’ wailed DI Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure).

What indeed? Anyone who mentions the Keystone Kops will be arrested on sight.

Thank goodness Superintendent Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar) was there to point out that they could have done nothing without fresh evidence, most of it supplied by DC Chloe Bishop (Shalom Brune-Franklin), the smartest and hardest working cop on the Central Police force.

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It was Chloe who traced the misspelling of ‘definately’ all the way back to Detective Superintendent Buckells (Nigel Boyle), thus sealing his fate.

The identity of con artist known as 'H' has been revealed in the season finale of the sixth series of BBC's Line Of Duty. Pictured L-R: DI Kate Fleming (VICKY MCCLURE), DS Chris Lomax (PERRY FITZPATRICK), DCI Ian Buckells (NIGEL BOYLE), DCI Joanne Davidson (KELLY MACDONALD)

The identity of con artist known as 'H' has been revealed in the season finale of the sixth series of BBC's Line Of Duty. Pictured L-R: DI Kate Fleming (VICKY MCCLURE), DS Chris Lomax (PERRY FITZPATRICK), DCI Ian Buckells (NIGEL BOYLE), DCI Joanne Davidson (KELLY MACDONALD)

Buckells! Buckells the Brummie dolt. Buckells the incompetent officer who makes Inspector Clouseau look like Sherlock Holmes.

It was cocky Buckells, hiding in plain sight all along, rising to the upper echelons of the Organised Crime Group because everyone else had been bumped off. He was the last man standing, the grunt of the litter, the last rotten coconut in the shy of shysters.

In LoD pre-history, Buckells was a constable involved in the investigation into the murder of Lawrence Christopher. In series one he was a Detective Inspector investigating Jackie Laverty’s disappearance. By series four he was a Detective Chief Inspector who blew Kate’s undercover identity, accidentally on purpose.

Finally, he was the Detective Superintendent in charge of a murder team, but in reality he was the secret and malign puppetmaster controlling DCI Jo Davidson (Kelly Macdonald) via misspelled text messages.

It was DC Chloe Bishop who traced the misspelling of ‘definately’ all the way back to Detective Superintendent Buckells (Nigel Boyle) (left, talking to Superintendent Ted Hastings), thus sealing his fate

It was DC Chloe Bishop who traced the misspelling of ‘definately’ all the way back to Detective Superintendent Buckells (Nigel Boyle) (left, talking to Superintendent Ted Hastings), thus sealing his fate

‘How some people can fail upwards, it beggars belief,’ said Hastings, shaking his great, craggy head at how the network of corrupt officers had facilitated the miscreant’s undeserved promotions. Buckells was duly handcuffed and guarded by a thousand armed policemen as he journeyed to his final destiny in Interview Room RO7/9.

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The quiet joy of what happened next was that he wasn’t exposed as a criminal mastermind masquerading as the village idiot – far too clichéd.

Instead, he really was an idiot, a simpleton motivated by simple greed, a man whose crooked imagination could rise no higher than a secret £3million property empire, including a predictably dreary villa on the Costa del Crime.

Fleming sneered at his ‘crap suits and dad car’, his eternal reluctance to buy a round of drinks. Hastings derided his lack of remorse, and how his corruption had been mistaken for incompetence.

‘I am only the one who has made total mugs out of you lot!’ Buckells shouted in his own defence, before declaring he wanted to enter a witness protection programme. (‘It’s me you’re going to need protection from,’ growled Ted.) In a dazzling piece of procedural manoeuvring, the team then boxed him in like a pepperoni pizza. There was to be no escape for Buckells, despite his sauce.

‘No one makes mugs of AC-12,’ said Hastings afterwards and honestly, I felt like cheering. For even devoted fans must agree that, despite the record viewing figures, this has not been a vintage series of LoD.

Nigel Boyle, who plays DS Ian Buckells, is still on the loose as he pops out for a pain au chocolate and croissants from his local shop

Nigel Boyle, who plays DS Ian Buckells, is still on the loose as he pops out for a pain au chocolate and croissants from his local shop 

Perhaps that is simply because in many long-running dramas, viewers can fall into exhausted confusion. Tommy who? Thingy what? Is poor Jackie Laverty still in the freezer? What did Patrick Fairbanks actually do?

One of LoD’s great strengths lies in its claustrophobia and bleakness; that chilling lack of narrative threads that can distract – or provide relief – from the core business of catching bent coppers. Outside AC-12, nobody has much of a life. Ted has a wife who left him, then was tortured with an electric drill. Kate has a seldom-seen child, Steve has a waistcoat.

There were moments in this series when the relentless grimness of their task became overwhelming. However, I would rather see characters suffer in the line of duty than the ghastly alternative momentarily offered here.

PS: You’ll see Steve back in sub drama 

DON’T worry about missing Martin Compston (right). He stars in new BBC thriller Vigil with Suranne Jones (left) about a death on a Navy submarine later this year. 

Martin Compston (centre) will star in a new BBC thriller

Martin Compston (centre) will star in a new BBC thriller

Suranne Jones (left) will also star in the show about a death on a Navy submarine later this year

Suranne Jones (left) will also star in

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