Tonight’s explosive Line Of Duty finale appears to have closed the book on the criminal conspiracy inside the police force, with ACC Derek Hilton’s ‘suicide’ all the admission one would need as to his being the elusive and powerful “H”, right? Wrong. If this conspiracy was a biography of the Big Bad H then the man himself has just been given the pen and told to crack on. It’s a nice, neat place to pause for the team at AC-12; we know now that Balaclava Man isn’t one man but many. They are thugs deployed as and when by the shadowy cabal of crooked cops and gusty gangsters, a conspiracy responsible for an establishment paedophile ring, probable sex trafficking, drug dealing, evidence tampering and a whole host of other dastardly deeds.
Was Hilton really “H”? Well, let’s take a look at the little we know about him (or her? I’ll proceed with “him” for now…): He has tied with career criminal Tommy Hunter (who would later refer to a “two-faced bastard” who reneged on an immunity deal, whom we should assume is this same man), he was responsible for the promotion of Matthew “Dot” Cottan – ‘The Caddy’ – into a position of increased influence (namely a spot on the force’s No1 AC unit) and he’s also of a high enough rank that he’s able to manipulate and steer the careers and corruptions of DCs and DCIs past and present. On balance, since he
On balance, since he was indeed the one who made an immunity deal with Hunter (see series one epilogue montage) then it’s fair to assume Hilton was Hunter’s “two-faced bastard”. He was also the one who recommended Dot for promotion and is an Assistant Chief Constable with a finger in the pies of at least two of the main series focuses of AC-12 (though not always in the way he wished, if you’ll excuse the vulgar pun). You’d be forgiven for placing the blame on Hilton. And he was, obviously, up to his neck in it. He probably was “H”. But this is a man who used the same phone reserved for illicit criminal activity to try to shag a subordinate. He’s the kind of man who flaunts the (ill-gotten?) gains of his profession in swanky restaurants and posh bars. He’s simply not clever enough to be the man behind the curtain, in my opinion.
I’ve said from as far back as series two that the real dodgy copper here is none other than DSI Ted Hastings, a man who projects a whiter-than-white image when he’s really financially vulnerable to manipulation, unable to control his own home life and far too bloody smug to be the real deal. He also happens to be the one man who is right in the middle of everything that happens regarding the wider conspiracy without ever being suspected in any way whatsoever. Oh, until Hilton pointed the finger at him in an apparent attempt to deflect blame from himself. Of course, those accusations didn’t stick; the Reg-15 notice was rescinded and he was left alone. He even went as far as telling Kate to remove his photograph from the wall of officers whose name began with an H. He may not be the “H” they were looking for but I believe the villain has just taken control of the investigation into himself, indeed as been in the driver’s seat from day one.
A number of things over the years have made me suspect Ted of being the mole we’re all overlooking. I’ll have to revisit the previous three series (which I will be doing again soon) to nail every single line, but I’ll lay out those I found suspicious in the latest series here. In the very first episode (I think) Hastings says to Steve that he believes himself to be the only honest copper among the top brass. All that’s missing is a wink to the audience to hammer home this ballsy display of over-confidence. Then there’s his line tonight about the whole conspiracy case feeling like “a life’s work”. It is his life’s work – just not in the way we are meant to think. He’s been at this for years, ideally positioned – as head of AC-12 – to scoop up the cases pertinent to the conspiracy, while also being able to sideline, discredit and ultimately dismiss any police officer who gets close to revealing the truth, honest or corrupt.
Ted Hastings holds himself up as a shining beacon of honesty, truth and justice in a police force riddled with corruption, dishonesty and dangerous ambition. If that were the case he would have died tonight, by Jamie’s hand, during the confrontation in the AC-12 offices. It would have been the perfect end for a character who broke through suspicion to redeem himself, proving his decency by dying on the side of Right. Instead, he diverted the search for Hilton, redirected it to the offices of AC-12 where he promptly took his name off the list of suspects, retaining his hold over the most influential AC unit. Jamie was working for Hilton and had no idea of Hastings’ involvement – neither does anyone else in the conspiracy, except those so high-up in the criminal side that they are untouchable. Is there still a Masonic connection, I wonder? Ted being a Mason has been raised at least twice now without ever amounting to anything. Whatever the case, he’s a powerful man, able to interfere legitimately with any investigation he wants. Is it more than just a coincidence that every major case to land on his desk, every bent copper he probes, are in some way connected to the conspiracy or one of its minions?
With series five to come I predict the following: As the investigation into the conspiracy steps up a level, suspicion will fall on Hastings in some way. He’ll use his usual Irish charm to diffuse the situation, but justice will catch up with him in the end. He’ll be revealed as a long-standing mole for the conspiracy, which will have Masonic roots, and we’ll find out that he’s been manipulating everything from the very beginning. Tony Gates’ blackmail, Denton’s attack, Danny’s reveal of the child sex ring, right up to the suicide of ACC Derek Hilton and beyond. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to discover that Kate has been working undercover at AC-12 since the start, keeping a close eye on Hastings all this time. It’s Steve and Kate’s show. They are the ones who (occasional lapses of judgement aside) are whiter than white, while Hastings is as dark as the night.
Mark my words: Ted Hastings it up to his beady eyeballs in this conspiracy. A copper of sufficient rank and influence to manipulate and steer the investigation into the conspiracy that runs deep into the establishment. I predict a political angle to series five, with even bigger players revealed as part of a network of criminal intent. Hastings is our Big Bad, hiding in plain sight for all these years. A conduit between criminal and copper, weeding out the weak links in the crooked chain. A villain with balls the size of space-hoppers and a poker face like no other. Ted Hastings is the one they want, but they won’t get him easily because the man now in charge of the chase is Ted Hastings himself.