As H was finally revealed on Sunday night’s long-awaited Line Of Duty finale, many fans realised we had been looking at the enigmatic mastermind the entire time.
As eagle-eyed fans learned that Superintendent Buckells was the famous fourth man, having liased with the OCG to bring down officers who failed to do their bidding, clues from past seasons of the show came to light.
After portraying himself as a hapless fool, it transpired he actually formed a secret operation with ‘bent coppers’ and was in fact the enigmatic villain who appeared to have been hiding in plain sight.
Now that it has been revealed, clues from past seasons have been exposed, including bad spelling, a repeated catchphrase and even a hint from Nigel Boyle – the man behind Buckells – as a warning that he was ‘one to watch’.
As H was finally revealed on Sunday night’s long-awaited Line Of Duty finale, many fans realised we had been looking at the enigmatic mastermind the entire time – yet none were expecting the hapless Buckells to be the man
Mugging them off
A very telling yet subtle clue came back in 2017 when Buckells seemed to first reveal his vendetta against AC-12, when he first used the word mug.
During a grilling in series four, Buckells locked horns with Ted Hastings, played by Adrian Dunbar, and stated: ‘You lot treat everyone like mugs. Who’s the mug now?’
A quote used by Buckells in series four reemerged in Sunday’s finale
Fast forward five years and on Sunday night’s big reveal, at the conclusion of his interrogation, Buckells stated: ‘I’m a blundering fool? I’m only the one who’s made total mugs out of you lot’- harking back to his original quip.
In typical Hastings style, he hit back just as hard, as he simply stated: ‘No-one makes mugs of AC-12’.
The original ‘mug line’ came when Buckells appeared as a replacement for Thandiwe Newton’s character DCI Roz Huntley when she was removed as Operation Trapdoor head.
The Fourth Man-to-be saw Vicky McClure’s DS Kate Fleming on the squad, having encountered her in his first in the first season, where he worked out that she was working undercover for the anti-corruption squad.
When Ted learned he had clocked Kate, he covertly met with the villain to instruct him not to blow her cover – something her agreed to with clear chagrin and even refused to help further their investigation as he was ‘no grass’.
Fans were convinced that the ‘H’ pattern in Steph’s tiles in an earlier episode was a link to the man AC-12 have been hunting for the past six series.
When Kate was uncovered, he remained insistent that he did not blow her cover but also made it very clear he had nothing but dislike for AC-12.
Ted then had a heated exchange with Buckells, who was dismissed – not before sneering his now iconic line: ‘You lot treat everyone like mugs. Who’s the mug now?’
Another mug-based red herring came when fans were convinced earlier this month that home decor – tying in with the mug detail – was the answer to H’s identity.
The theory involved John Corbett’s widow Steph, when fans noticed an intricate ‘clue’ hidden in her kitchen tiles. Fans were convinced that the ‘H’ pattern in Steph’s tiles was a link to the man AC-12 have been hunting for the past six series.
And while some dismissed the speculation as wild, it seems it was in fact a true illustration due to the presence of the poignant ‘mug’ line.
The trio finally found their man – but had he been in plain sight all along?
The mistake that DEFINATELY gave him away
The biggest giveaway for Buckells turned out to be the word ‘definately’, with his repeated spelling gaffe turning fingers his way.
When Ted and his team saw exchanges between the OCG and Jo Davidson featuring the word misspelt on a number of occasions, he demanded the archives were sifted through in the hunt of the mistake again.
The trawl then revealed the same error in 2019, in communications between the OCG and Lisa McQueen, in the same year in Operation Lighthouse and again in the Lawerence Christopher inquiry in 2003.
This quickly left fingers firmly pointed towards Buckells.
A reveal: The biggest giveaway for Buckells turned out to be the word ‘definately’, with his repeated spelling gaffe turning fingers his way
A hole in one
Earlier in the series, viewers saw a set of golf clubs in Hillsgate police station and noted that the clubs have strong significance.
Harking back to villain Matthew ‘Dot’ Cottan and his nickname ‘The Caddy’, fans then recalled his death in series three and once Buckells’ clubs were spotted, began to close in on the villain.
Taking to Twitter, fans workout the possible play on words, writing: ‘Didn’t know Buckles plays golf? H Caddy.’
‘Always called in on ops involving bent coppers. HAS GOLF CLUBS IN HIS OFFICE.’
A third tweeted: ‘Golf clubs in buckles’ office? golf = caddy.’
Oh! One fan noted the presence of the golf caddy – harking back to an earlier villain
A BIG (Mac) clue
Early hints: In series one, Buckells promised Ryan Pilkington (pictured) a Big Mac while grilling the young criminal
In another seeming early nod to his vendetta, fans pointed out that from the very start of the show he showed his dodgy side when he promised Ryan Pilkington a Big Mac while grilling the young criminal.
As we learnt along the way that Ryan was rotten to the core – having started his criminal career as a delivery boy for drugs and burner phones on his bike, and even attempting to cut off Steve Arnott’s fingers, he appeared to have a fleeting affinity with Buckells.
Several fans had also clocked onto his unusual behaviour hinting that he was corrupt from the start.
Back in October, a Reddit user relaid the theory, writing: ‘I was rewatching all the episodes when I noticed something weird in the series one finale. As we know Kate interviewed Ryan about Steve’s torture. Straight after that Buckells Comes in he seems worried.
‘After Buckells sits down with Ryan, Ryan says ‘can I have my Big Mac now?’ I think Buckells may have bribed him with it. I know it sounds stupid but if Ryan was poor and living in a rough area, then a Big Mac would be a massive deal for the kid.’
History: We learnt along the way that Ryan was rotten to the core – having started his criminal career as a delivery boy for drugs and burner phones on his bike – he appeared to have a fleeting affinity with Buckells
A slip of the tongue
Back in 2017, while promoting Series Four of the show, Nigel Boyle – the man behind Buckells – appeared to be throwing crumbs to fans in a big way.
In an interview with Digital Spy, he seemed to allude to what fans had to wait four more years for as he said: ‘There’s definitely more to Buckells than meets the eye!’
Continuing his description of the ultimate villain, he went on: ‘He’s very competent, very good at what he does, he’s the go-to guy, but he’s certainly not a popular guy – he’s petulant, and a bit of a jobsworth I think…
‘I don’t think people give him enough credit, just because of his personality!’
Oops! Back in 2017, while promoting Series Four of the show, Nigel Boyle – the man behind Buckells – appeared to be throwing crumbs to fans in a big way (Nigel, pictured on Monday)
‘There’s definitely more to Buckells than meets the eye!’ Describing the ultimate villain, Nigel said: ‘He’s very competent, very good at what he does, he’s the go-to guy, but he’s certainly not a popular guy’ (pictured on the series)
Man down: Pilkington (pictured) was killed after confessing to multiple murders on the show, yet some eagle-eyed fans realised it was clear Buckells must have been aware of his real identity from the start
Buckells hired ‘baddie’ Ryan Pilkington
Pilkington was killed after confessing to multiple murders on the show and met a sticky end at the hands of Kate Fleming in a fierce shoot-out.
Yet some eagle-eyed fans realised it was clear Buckells must have been aware of his real identity from the start.
When Kate can’t quite place Ryan’s face, he recognises him straight away, almost putting Kate to shame. He also interviewed him in the first series.
He was a little too involved in the Laverty case
Fans of the show noticed that Buckells was appointed to the Laverty case by the bent Superintendent Derek Hilton, which can’t be without coincidence.
Buckells was also responsible for the paperwork mix-up which allowed the OCG to swap Terry Boyle into Carl Banks’ flat at the start of the season.
It later became clear that Buckells had coaxed false testimony out of his partner Deborah Devereux which placed Terry Boyle as a suspect in the murder of Gayle Vella.
A little too involved! Fans of the show noticed that Buckells was appointed to the Laverty case by the bent Superintendent Derek Hilton (pictured), which can’t be without coincidence
The pre-show hints
When quizzed on whether viewers will learn who the illusive ‘H’ is, Martin said: ‘I wouldn’t quite go the Jo Davidson no comment route – but what I will tell you is I think there’s a lot of pay offs coming this Sunday.
‘There’s a lot of big answers and it’s deserved, people have stuck with us for a long time, so there comes a point where the story arch comes to an end.’
Adrian Dunbar’s powerful ‘mug’ delivery was a nod to previous series
Buckells kicked off his career as a young Detective Constable, working on the murder of Lawrence Christopher in 2013 with former Inspector Philip Osborne (Owen Teale) and DCI Marcus Thurwell (Jimmy Nesbitt).
Despite it being a racially motivated attack, the team concluded that it was gang-related, failed to follow up on forensic evidence and carried out the investigation slowly – providing the five suspects with the opportunity to save their heads and minimise identification.
Now-deceased Thurwell obstructed the case on purpose in a bid to help ringleader Darren Hunter – the son of kingpin Tommy Hunter.
Bad circle: Buckells kicked off his stint as a young DC, working on the murder of Lawrence Christopher (pictured) in 2013 with former Inspector Philip Osborne (Owen Teale) and DCI Marcus Thurwell (Jimmy Nesbitt), who led dodgy careers
The questions Line Of Duty’s finale DIDN’T answer: why did H want Jo Davidson dead? How was she able to saunter off into the sunset with her new girlfriend? And will Hastings now face prosecution?
The finale of Line Of Duty served to wrap up the biggest question on viewers’ lips – the identity of the Fourth Man, H – but, for many watching the nail-biting final episode, there were plenty of questions that writer Jed Mercurio’s script simply didn’t answer.
With rumours swirling that last night’s hour-long episode could be the BBC police drama’s last hurrah, millions of viewers were hoping for a crescendo that tied up all the loose ends.
However, many were left scratching their heads over how some of the plot threads played out – including whether Superintendent Hastings would face prosecution over his revelation that John Corbett was an Undercover Officer, and why H tried to kill Jo Davidson after she’d apparently done him a favour by leading AC-12 to Chief Superintendent Patrick Fairbank – taking the heat off him, for a while at least.
The series, which centred Hillside Lane police station’s officers solving the murder of journalist Gail Vella, saw AC-12 weakened but with the divided trio of DI Steve Arnott (Martin Compston) and DI Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) and Superintendent Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar) back together again in the final moments, suggesting Mercurio has another series up his sleeve.
Here, MailOnline looks at some of the mysteries that remain unsolved…and the questions the show did answer:
Over and out! The sixth series of Line Of Duty came to its long-awaited conclusion on Sunday night but writer Jed Mercurio didn’t tie up many of this season’s loose ends – leaving viewers hanging on for a seventh series
Mother of God, it’s Buckells: On Sunday fans – many of whom were left underwhelmed by the finale – learned that Superintendent Buckells was the Fourth Man – aka H – after he’d liased with OCG’s to bring down officers who’d failed to do their bidding
Why did H want Jo Davidson dead after she took the heat off him?
Puzzle: Detective Superintendent Ian Buckells – revealed as the so-called ‘Fourth Man’ – in the season finale appeared to be behind Jo Davidson being whisked out of her prison cell, destined to be killed – but the plot line made little sense because she’d actually helped distract attention away from him
Why did Buckells try orchestrate a grisly demise for Jo Davidson, whisking her to certain death in a white prison van, when she had effectively helped his cause by identifying former Chief Superintendent Patrick Fairbank (pictured) as ‘a bent copper’?
Stitched up: viewers watched as Jo Davidson was summoned for a ‘post charge interview’ and led to a white van – but it wasn’t clear why Buckells would want the locked up former police officer dead
Buckells is led to his cell in the epilogue of last night’s finale …but viewers were still left wondering whether he was actually the final answer to AC-12’s questions, or if there’s more corruption to be found
Ahead of the disturbing revelation in episode five (which prompted some less-than-composed ‘no comments) that gangster Tommy Hunter was both her uncle and father, an under-pressure Jo Davidson first appeared to pin the blame on former Chief Superintendent Patrick Fairbank (George Costigan).
She told AC-12 that her adopted dad – now ravaged by the early stages of dementia – was a ‘bent copper’ – a move that temporarily took Hastings, Arnott and co off the scent of Detective Superintendent Ian Buckells, who dramatically revealed to be H in last night’s show.
DI Steve Arnott and hard-working DS Chloe Bishop (Shalom Brune-Franklin) then decided to speak to Fairbank – a regular face in the early series of the show – upon learning that he was part of the same team involved in the murder of Lawrence, but AC-12 failed to get any answers due to his deteriorating mental state – leaving Ted Hastings fleeing the room in frustration.
By the series’ end, viewers were left still confused as to why Jo Davidson had tried to blame her supposed father – given that she herself was being blackmailed, making her an easy target for the organised crime group after she ended up behind bars.
Why did H try to orchestrate a grisly demise Jo Davidson, whisking her to a certain death in a fake prison van – until Steve Arnott and Kate Fleming dramatically intervened – when she’d almost certainly already taken the heat off him for a while, and could effectively be left to rot in prison? Was it simply because she was now deemed ‘a rat’ and must be picked off?
How did Arnott and Fleming intercept the van carrying Jo Davidson?
The white van used to escort Jo Davidson to Buckells’ lair was driven by this police officer…but minutes later Steve Arnott was in the driving seat
What happened in that underpass? Viewers were none the wiser but the van emerged moments later with a different driver – Steve Arnott. Right: Arnott pulls out a taser gun on the OCG that’s are trying to capture and kill Jo Davidson
And Kate Fleming hadn’t been in the back of the van…but somehow the crime-busting duo had managed to intercept the vehicle without viewers seeing them do it
A moment of action that viewers couldn’t follow. After Jo Davidson was bustled from her prison cell into a fake white prison van – with bent coppers at the wheel, it seemed certain she was destined for an untimely end.
However, when a tracking helicopter watched the van duck under an underpass – there was an apparent off-screen interception.
When the car was, moments later, pincered by a pair of OCG Range Rovers on a side street, it appeared Davidson was the subject of a fake hijacking. However, from the van emerged a taser-carrying Steve Arnott, with Kate Fleming flinging open the doors of the back of the vehicle.
Somewhere along the way, the anti-corruption duo had managed to get inside the vehicle…but there was never any hint as to how – and viewers weren’t privy to the moment.
How was Jo Davidson allowed to start an idyllic new life?
After the bleakest of upbringings and a police career dedicated to helping criminals, Jo Davidson appeared to have the happiest outcome – but many viewers suggested it was unlikely she’d be able to just walk away without any punishment
Jo Davidson is seen at the end of the finale walking off with her new girlfriend and their pet dog, apparently evading any further police questioning
The Witness Protection scheme certainly proved good to Jo Davidson. After AC-12 deemed that she’d spent a lifetime being coerced into helping the OCG, she was considered a bent copper against her will and her prison cell was promptly unlocked.
In episode five, a shocked Davidson learned that her depraved paedophile uncle Tommy Banks, also known as Tommy Hunter, was actually her father – after a DNA match indicated inbreeding in the family – and that he’d forced her into a life of crime.
Last night’s episode saw her image unpinned from the notice board in the AC-12 crime bubble – suggesting her involvement with the investigation is officially over – and her character won’t be back should series seven happen.
Destined for a prison term, or worse, death at the hands of a vengeful OCG, Davidson instead emerged free as a bird, and able to start a new life. However, the final moments of the tense finale saw Jo Davidson’s image removed from a pin board in the AC-12 crime bubble – suggesting her involvement with the investigation was over
The former corrupt cop – who, at one point in the series lured DI Kate Fleming to a deserted car park to face a nerve-jangling shoot out with bent copper Ryan Pilkington (Gregory Piper), who was subsequently killed by Fleming – is seen in the programme’s epilogue apparently living the rural dream.
Dressed in a cosy knit, and with a Golden Retriever by her side, she’s seen walking off from the idyllic rural cottage she shares with her new flame-haired girlfriend.
On social media, one viewer quipped: ‘Still unsure how Jo Davidson got off so lightly and ended up in Kate Winslet’s cottage from The Holiday.’
Some viewers suggested that it was too far-fetched that Davidson – played by 45-year-old actor Kelly Macdonald – would simply be allowed to start a seemingly blissful new life without facing some retribution for her decades spent actively helping criminals.
Will Steve finally get together with Steph, or Kate?
‘You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone’: Kate Fleming may have been referencing her time in AC-12 when she gazed at Steve Arnott in the pub in the closing moments of the show…but fans were left hanging as to whether the line had more romantic connotations
Romance? Throughout the series viewers saw Steve form a close bond with John Corbett’s widow Steph, even spending the night in her bed after continuing to struggle with back pain
Throughout the series viewers saw Steve form a close bond with John Corbett’s widow Steph, even spending the night in her bed after continuing to struggle with back pain and his painkiller addiction.
But by the end of series six though, he was clearly doubting whether to pursue a relationship with her, given how she lied about a vast sum of cash given to her by Hastings.
As series six concluded, it was clear that Steve and Kate had never been closer, as she described him as being ‘the best’ during a meeting with Occupational Health, and hinted she could be ready to return to AC-12.
Fans have long enjoyed the pair’s close friendship but perhaps series seven could lead to something more.
Over a drink and some lingering looks in the pub during last night’s episode, Fleming told her long-time partner in crime fighting: ‘You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone’, suggesting that it wasn’t just working for AC-12 that she was missing.
Still fans were left hanging as to whether the line had more romantic connotations and the professional couple could become lovers.
MOTHER OF GOD! WAS THAT IT? VIEWERS LEFT ‘FUMING’ AFTER MINOR CHARACTER BUCKELLS IS UNVEILED AS THE FOURTH MAN…
Line of Duty fans across the nation were left underwhelmed and disappointed by the identity of mysterious antagonist ‘H’.
Loyal viewers took to social media in their droves to share their frustrations as officers from the police anti-corruption unit AC-12 discovered the identity of the elusive ‘fourth man’.
But the revelation the bent copper colluding with the organised crime groups (OCGs), was actually DSI Ian Buckells infuriated many seasoned Line Of Duty fans.
It saw the words ‘fuming’, ‘disappointing’ and ‘underwhelming’ all trend on social media in the aftermath of the show.
And the disbelief it could be him was compounded by the way he was only caught because of his repeated mis-spelling of the word ‘definitely’ – hardly the blunder of a hardened criminal mastermind.
The detective – widely thought until last night to have been just a bungling stooge – was first introduced to viewers in series one as the SIO in the case of murdered businesswoman Jackie Laverty by then Chief Superintendent Derek Hilton.
He later went on to become Detective Chief Inspector in series four before being promoted once more to Detective Superintendent in this final series.
Sharing their disappointment on the revelation, one disgruntled Line of Duty fan wrote on Twitter: ‘Can’t believe I watched six seasons of line of Duty for Ian Buckells, the most pointless character to be the fourth man. Fuming.’
While another viewer added: ‘Buckells, the most pointless character’.
Who is the REAL leader of the OCG?
Despite the episode revealing that that Detective Superintendent Ian Buckells was actually the so-called ‘Fourth Man,’ some viewers were quick to note that he didn’t wholly confirm whether he was the leader of the Organised Crime Group.
Really? Instead, he pinned the blame on Tommy Hunter, who was killed back in series two, leaving many viewers unconvinced by his claim
Instead, he pinned the blame on Tommy Hunter, who was killed back in series two, meaning Buckells’ claims seemed less and less likely.
So the question still remains of whether another corrupt officer or criminal is still pulling the strings in the OCG, and Buckells’ role as a middle-man means they could still be out to cause trouble for AC-12.
What will happen to AC-12?
Despite finally uncovering the identity of H through a long paper trail of corrupt officers, fans were surprised to learn the organisation’s powers had been significantly weakened.
Fleming hinted she’d be open to taking her job back alongside Arnott and Hastings, who vowed to appeal his forced retirement despite confessing to DCS Patricia Carmichael he’s revealed John Corbett’s identity as an Undercover Officer.
Steve hinted he may take a break from active duty to overcome his addiction to painkillers, despite he and Kate appearing closer than ever as she told Occupational Health that he was ‘the best.’
Despite a final shot of the AC-12 elevator showed the trio reunited as they travelled down the lift together, viewers are less hopeful on whether they’ll get to see them together again, especially as bosses have been tight-lipped on whether the show could return for a seventh series.
So, how exactly was Steph involved?
What did she do? Aside from the mystery £50k, fans are still in the dark about whether Steph could have any further involvement in the OCG, especially given her presence in the sixth series
Who was it? Early in the finale, DC Bishop revealed that the report ordering Davidson’s transfer from her prison cell to Hillside Lane police station has been forged by an OCG, with a mystery member faking the signatures of both Kate and Lomax
Aside from the mystery £50k, fans are still in the dark about whether Steph could have any further involvement in the OCG, especially given her presence in the sixth series.
There were theories that she could have a secret Marcus Thurwell, but given her appearance in this finale stretched to little more than a voicemail, her appearance has left several unanswered questions.
Who forged Fleming’s and DS Chris Lomax’s signature – and is Lomax dodgy?
DS Chris Lomax appeared to be Hillside Lane’s straight man…but the questions left hanging over how his signature was forged…and the look he gave when receiving former crime boss Tommy Hunter’s son Darren into the police station during the epilogue suggests he may not be clean as a whistle after all
Unsolved: Given Buckells was still in prison at the time, it was unclear who was behind the plot to have Davidson killed, as she clearly knew too much about the OCG, and whether it could have been another officer who ordered her death
A little sweat on Lomax’ brow? DS Chris Lomaxt, an officer in the Murder Investigation Team (MIT), appeared clean as a whistle but many viewers got different vibes from him in the finale. Could he be a key character for series seven? Lomax’s story felt unfinished in last night’s final episode
The discrepancies over signatures begs the question – can DS Chris Lomax, an officer in the Murder Investigation Team (MIT), be trusted too?
Early in the finale, DC Bishop revealed that the report ordering Davidson’s transfer from her prison cell to Hillside Lane police station has been forged by an OCG, with a mystery member faking the signatures of both Kate and Lomax to gain access to her cell.
Given Buckells was still in prison at the time, it was unclear who was behind the plot to have Davidson killed, as she clearly knew too much about the OCG, and whether it could have been another officer who ordered her death. Another unanswered question but one that seems to hint that Lomax might have something to hide?
And the fact that he was at Hillside Lane to receive former crime boss Tommy Hunter’s son Darren – brought in again over the murder of Lawrence Christopher – could suggest he’s not quite as spotless as he appears.
Is Chief Constable Osborne bent?
Should we trust him? It’s possible that Chief Constable Osborne could be involved in the OCG have openly dismissed any claims of corruption on the force, even after AC-12 discovered H’s identity
For years CC Phillip Osborne has been a prime suspect in AC-12’s investigations of corruption, and it was revealed this series that he worked on the Lawrence Christopher murder case now-deceased Marcus Thurwell, and ‘H’ Buckells
In a televised conference, Osborne commended the work of his officers in locating Gail Vella’s murder, but once again dismissed any institutional police corruption as ‘an outrageous lie.’
Given he is clearly willing to dispel any credible leads AC-12 may have, it’s possible could be involved in an OCG, and may carry on doing their dirty work for years to come.
Will DCI Patricia Carmichael expose Hastings’ wrongdoing….
What will she do? She’s become one of the show’s most maligned characters, but viewers were left hoping that Carmichael had some glimmer of compassion after Hastings decided to make a confession
In doubt: Despite finally uncovering the identity of H through a long paper trail of corrupt officers, fans were surprised to learn the organisation’s powers had been significantly weakened
She’s become one of the show’s most maligned characters, but viewers were left hoping that Carmichael had some glimmer of compassion after Hastings decided to make a confession.
Clearly still a lawful man despite years working in corruption, Ted admitted that he did reveal to Lee Banks that John Corbett was working undercover in organised crime, indirectly leading to his death.
Carmichael simply asked: ‘What do you want me to do with that information?’ leading to one of Hastings’ best speeches yet, declaring: ‘Whatever you do, you do it because you carry the fire…’
As Hastings made his exit, Carmichael’s stoic expression hinted she is less keen to report him then viewers may think…
…. and will he succeed in appealing his forced retirement?
During his final meeting with Carmichal, Ted also revealed he is planning to appeal against being forced to retire from active duty, despite finally putting one of the team’s longest-serving mysteries to bed.
It was clear from the start that he wasn’t ready to step down, so it remains to be seen whether he’ll succeed in keeping his job, and AC-12, going strong to fight corruption another day.
Will there be a series seven?
It’s the question on every Line Of Duty fan’s lips following the finale, with the concluding episode ending on a somewhat cliffhanger.
BBC bosses are yet to confirm whether the show will be back for another outing, and even the show’s star Martin Compston stating this conclusion will be a ‘perfect ending.’
Fans will have to wait and see whether Line Of Duty will be back for another run, but it seems unlikely BBC will let the show go given its record-breaking viewership.