Was it a let down or did it do its Duty?

After the series six finale of Line of Duty left fans feeling flat, Georgina Littlejohn asks why we get so upset when an ending doesn’t live up to our expectations

*contains Line of Duty series six spoilers*

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and hearing – after seven weeks of gripping, edge-of-the-seat TV drama, that was the big reveal? Really?

And I wasn’t the only Line of Duty fan that felt a bit diddled when seemingly drippy and blundering Detective Superintendent Ian Buckells was exposed as ‘H’. 

Along with millions of others, I posted my anger and disappointment on social media and found, bar a few, that most friends and followers agreed with me.

Of course, it shouldn’t have come as any great shock. It’s been hinted at all along that he was a wrong’un and in a way it was obvious – the over-promoted but under-achieving officer who no one really takes seriously is the perfect OCG stooge. No one would suspect him – and a lot of us didn’t.

And while neither the BBC or creator Jed Mercurio have confirmed there will be a seventh series, Buckell’s smirk as he was locked up suggested AC-12 hadn’t even scratched the surface of the internal corruption.

But I wanted the shock, I wanted it to be someone that no one had suspected, I wanted the “Mother of God!” gasp and the leap from my armchair as the curtain was drawn back and the man (or woman) pulling the strings was revealed.

So why do we get angry and upset when a drama series doesn’t end the way we want or expect it to?

It’s because we invest a lot of time into them so when the finale lets us down, it elicits a wave of emotions.

There is an excitement about a final chapter, the palpable build-up to our questions being answered or something happening to a major character, but we are also sad because the show that had us gripped, that made us revolve our evening plans around it each week is coming to an end. 

But that excitement and sadness turns to anger because we feel cheated of a fitting ending, that the time we invested in the show has been wasted and that the writers whose praises we have sung from the rooftops have massively let us down.

Social media also has a big part to play as it fuels the hype and excitement even more, and particularly so during lockdown. Bereft of a cosy pub to discuss theories with friends over a pint or two, we virtually turn to our mates and invite the thoughts of strangers into the conversation. 

And even though we all know it’s fictitious, these characters become like family, we feel we know them, we care for them, they stick in our subconscious.

But while I felt deflated after the Line of Duty finale, some friends said it was a great double bluff, Buckells was the perfect fall guy and they loved how it highlighted real-life corruption among the powers that be and how society works.

So how we deal with the ending of a show is very subjective. 

Take the supernatural, science fictional Lost for example. I am one of the very few people who was satisfied with the ending, completely understood it and felt it had ended as it should. But many felt let down and slammed it as “disappointing” and “corny” and “one of the worst series finales ever”.

Game of Thrones too. I thought it bowed out brilliantly but that too was criticised by die-hard fans who felt it was rushed and didn’t befit the previous seven series.

But then there’s serial killer thriller Dexter. I watched every single series and absolutely loved it but what in Mary, Jesus and Joseph and the wee donkey was that ending all about? 

Television has been of much comfort to us since we were locked down last year. While many turned to DIY, gardening, baking or learning a new language, with cinemas and theatres closed, the National Grid surged as TVs became a constant source of visual entertainment.

And thanks to streaming services, bingeing on box sets became a good way to pass the time, and spark conversation among fellow inmates as recommendations about what to watch flew back and forth between Zoom calls, Facebook and Twitter posts and text messages.

But as the country starts its post-pandemic recovery and we are able to dine out, gather in pubs and bars and go to the cinema and theatre again, I wonder if TV ratings will plummet now that we have our freedom back and we are no longer relying on indoor entertainment.

Then again, we are always lured by the promise of a gripping new drama and if Line of Duty does return for a seventh series, you can bet your life we will once again be discussing the possible outcomes, who the real villains are and all the conspiracy theories until the cows come home – or at least until last orders have been called.

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Georgina Littlejohn

Georgina Littlejohn is a journalist with more than 25 years of experience specialising in general and London news, entertainment and music. She cut her teeth in TV writing for news, sport and showbiz programmes before moving into print, starting at Associated Newspapers where she worked across the board from the Metro to the Standard to the London Lite before ending at MailOnline, where she was one of the senior showbiz reporters. After going freelance and working stints at the Mirror, the Sun, Music Week and Closer magazine, she took a career break in 2014 to work for theatre impresario Bill Kenwright as his Head of Communications. After a year as Senior Homepage Editor for MSN, she is now back freelancing and currently working for the i newspaper and its award-winning website. Georgina also volunteers as a kennel assistant for the Mayhew and as a befriender for Age UK.

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