Line Of Duty finale draws record ratings as H’s identity is revealed

The actor who played the mysterious figure said he had no idea.

Line Of Duty's cast
Line Of Duty's cast

The actor unveiled as Line Of Duty’s mysterious H has said he never suspected he was playing the corrupt police officer at the top of a criminal conspiracy, as the controversial final episode of the crime drama drew record ratings.

During Sunday night’s finale of the BBC One series created by Cannock writer Jed Mercurio, DSU Ian Buckells, played by Nigel Boyle, was unmasked as the mysterious figure.

The much-anticipated episode was watched by an average of 12.8 million people, with a 56.2% share in overnight viewing figures, making it the most watched episode of a drama in 20 years, the BBC has said.

The episode had a peak viewing figure of 13.1 million, according to the corporation.

Boyle, who grew up in Birmingham, said he was “buzzing with excitement” when he found out his character was the shadowy H.

He added: “I never suspected it because I know how Jed (Mercurio) leads people down the garden path with really good red herrings, so I didn’t really pay too much attention to things like Buckells’ golf clubs etc, but clearly I should have done!

“I’d fully bought into the idea that Buckells was low on competence levels, but looking back it all makes sense!”

The finale of the sixth series also left the future of anti-corruption unit AC-12 hanging in the balance after a series which saw Halesowen actor Gregory Piper play a key role as corrupt officer Ryan Pilkington.

Line Of Duty’s DSU Ian Buckells (Steffan Hill/World Productions)

Speaking about finding out his character was “the fourth man” – an individual commanding a network of corrupt officers behind the murder of journalist Gail Vella – Boyle said the show’s creator Mercurio had revealed the news in a phone call.

He explained: “We’d had the first four scripts and started filming some of series six when we had to stop due to the first lockdown. When we were about to resume filming, Jed sent me a text saying: ‘Are you free for a chat at some point today? Don’t worry it’s not that call...’

“Which I took to mean that I wasn’t going to end up dead! But I was still quite nervous and not sure what he wanted to talk to me about.

“He called me and said: ‘The scripts for the next episodes are going to be sent out imminently and so it’s time to tell you the secret that I’ve been keeping, you’re going to be revealed as someone rather significant...”

Adrian Dunbar
Adrian Dunbar as Superintendent Ted Hastings (Steffan Hill/BBC)

Boyle has been in Line Of Duty since the first series of the police drama which aired in 2012.

The actor, who also starred in Peaky Blinders, said the only person he told about being H was his wife, Lainy.

He said: “I’ve been sitting on it for a long time! The only person I told was my wife, nobody else, I know how much is at stake.

“Even if you tell someone you trust with your life, they might tell someone they trust with their life and then suddenly more and more people know. When friends have asked me who H is I’ve just said there isn’t an H.”

Asked on BBC Breakfast if there would be another series of Line Of Duty, Boyle said: “No comment. I honestly don’t know. I hope there is, personally, but I just don’t know.”

Fans of the series were divided over the finale reveal, with Irish author Marian Keyes tweeting: “Like, NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I’ve NEVER felt so LET DOWN!!!!!! #LineOfDuty.”

Broadcaster and author Piers Morgan used a reference to a previous clue with a spelling error in it, as he tweeted: “Definately a tad underwhelming. #LineofDutyFinale.”

Some critics were impressed, with The Times’ Ben Dowell giving it four stars out of five, writing: “Perhaps Mercurio has more surprises in store. It’s the sort of thing he does. Roll on series seven I say.”

Charlotte Moore, the BBC’s chief content officer, said: “Addictive event television, Line Of Duty has kept the nation guessing for the last seven weeks, so it’s no surprise that last night’s jaw-dropping finale set a ratings record.

“Jed Mercurio is a master of his craft, and I would like to congratulate him and the entire cast and crew for delivering such an incredible drama series. I’m looking forward to having a conversation with the team about where we go next and what the future of the series might be.”

Line Of Duty has pulled in millions of viewers as people speculated on the identity of the mystery character.

The penultimate episode earned an average of 11 million viewers and 51.7% of the audience share, according to the BBC.

The sixth series featured returning favourites Martin Compston (Steve Arnott), Adrian Dunbar (Ted Hastings) and Vicky McClure (Kate Fleming), with Kelly Macdonald appearing as DCI Joanne Davidson.

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