“One of the things we do with Line Of Duty is to do the unexpected.”
Line Of Duty Series 4 concluded Sunday night (30th April) on BBC One with another gripping finale and some unanswered questions. Ahead of the Series 4 DVD release and 1-4 Box Set from Acorn Media on 8th May, I spoke to writer and creator Jed Mecurio about Series 4, Ted and Maneet’s innocence and what we can expect in the fifth series…
You already knew this time round you’d been commissioned for a fifth series, did that alter the way you wrote series 4?
No, it didn’t. We wanted to see how this series performed and what the reaction to it was before we started work on series 5. That was the main thing really, just to be aware of whether we were heading towards concluding the series or were hoping to go into the future and that’s something we are going to be talking to the BBC about.
My initial reaction at the end was don’t let ‘H’ be Ted. And judging by my twitter feed it the biggest concern viewers have. Is that question being left ambiguous for series 5 or are we safe to say it was Hilton?
Well I think there was a lot of evidence presented in the series that Hilton was ‘H’ but also the fact that it wasn’t a 100% conclusive, so you’ll have to see how that’s explored in future series.
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We need to talk Maneet? She was a firm favourite last series, what made you decide to have her change sides? Will that be explored in series 5?
Yeah, I hope there’s room in the next series to look at that. We’ve only seen that she’s been passing information and it was clear she was doing it reluctantly and she was very upset about what she’d been doing – so the suggestion was that Hilton was putting pressure on her or blackmailing her and that, potentially, is something we can look at in the future.
Line Of Duty is known for its gripping cliff-hangers, where do you get your inspiration for the stories each series and how long does it take to write an episode?
The first thing is really just about thinking about the story on an episode by episode basis; trying to have a story that works towards a thrilling conclusion in each episode, rather than think of the series as a whole. Then it varies, sometimes it can be just a few weeks and other times it can take longer and we can do a lot more drafts depending on if we need to change things because of character or production, like what location we can use, whether can we do a stunt the way we want to do it.
I think it’s a credit to your writing that despite not actually seeing Tim Ilfields murder the story has still gripped everyone. Was that a conscious decision? Did you ever have a conversation about if you should show his death?
That was something we did consider. We considered whether we would start the second episode picking up from that exact point or have flashbacks through Roz, but then we decided it was best left as a complete gap and a mystery where we just get clues and evidence that allow us [the viewer] to understand what must have happened.
You’ve had some amazing strong female characters in Lindsey Denton and now Roz – both have been quite honest about the pressure on female officers was that a conscious decision?
I think we’ve had quite a gender balance run, in terms of the main police officer under investigation. In four series, we’ve two men and two women, so were just trying to reflect what real-life is like, which is that the modern workplace is very gender-balanced.
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All of the series included a through-story spanning right from series one – did that ever concern you in terms of bringing in new viewers?
Well we waited until series 4 to bring in any references to previous series; I took the view that if people watched the first four episodes and got engrossed in the story of Roz, Tim and Michael Farmer, then they were unlikely to stop watching and so the idea was, that the way the material was presented would be understandable to an audience that hadn’t seen previous events – so we were respecting new viewers in the way that we handled it but also we were rewarding viewers who had stuck with the series over the years from its days on BBC Two with something that would have resonance for them.
That kind of brings us onto ‘Balaclava Man’ or as we found out ‘Men’, did you worry the audience may feel cheated by ‘Balaclava Men’ being unknowns?
I felt that it was something that had been established within the whole run of the series over the years, that the characters existed – so I didn’t come completely from nowhere… but I can understand it’s possible that some members of the audience wanted to see – in that Agatha Christie / Broadchurch way – to point the finger and say well ‘it’s this person’. But one of the things we do with Line Of Duty is to do the unexpected and so pretty quickly we decided we didn’t want to do that, we wanted to do something that was different from what other crime series might do in the same position.
Do you consider the series through-line to be more about bent coppers or corruption at the highest levels?
It’s both really. We portray police officers who are individuals acting alone, and are, for whatever reason, in their personal lives or their psychological make-up behaving in a corrupt way. But we also show there is a level of institutionalized corruption where people are working together or in cahoots with criminals, so we endeavour to show both and certainly in real-world police corruption both kinds are known to exist.
The Radio Times has reported that the fifth series will not be airing till 2019, could you clarify this?
Well, we’re planning to shoot the next series in the second half of next year, so it all depends on what our post-production schedule is and our delivery date to the BBC, so the earliest it could possibly go out would be early 2019. But that’s just an estimate at this point as we haven’t finalised what the production schedule is.
(Jed also revealed the script for series 5 is still “yet to be written” but “ideas are being put together.”)
Would you be happy to end at a fifth series or would you like to do more?
No, I wouldn’t be happy to end it at five. I’d love to have the opportunity to get a sixth series.