Line of Duty: Jed Mercurio ‘We Know There Are People Who Don’t Like the Show’

So. Jimmy Nesbitt’s got a good sense of humour then!

[Laughs] Yeah! It was great. The first conversation I had with Jimmy is ‘The whole point of this is you have to lie through your teeth and misdirect’. We thought if that picture is just someone who’s a random guy in Belfast, then the audience isn’t going to get as invested as they would be if it’s a big star. They’ll think, well of course that means that he’s H and he’s going to arrive all guns blazing. Again, it was another misdirect, built around the fact that the intention with season six was that it would be about mystery more than about the jeopardy. The audience’s investment was in the H enigma and not knowing who it was, rather like a closed circle mystery, a country house detective story, revealing who the person is in a way that was most surprising and I would argue most unexpected and subversive.

Job done. You totally got me with Buckells. All the way through I’d been telling everybody he was just a stupid pawn. I remember writing that Buckells only had half of what it takes to be a useful idiot. He wasn’t even on our list of Bent Coppers… When did you know he was the one typing those ‘Definately’ messages in series five?

That was part of our thinking all the way through. You only ever really push the button when you actually come to make sure the actor’s available and you’re going to be shooting. Steps were taken to keep that as alive as possible through season five, because we wanted to be able to point the finger credibly at other people. Going into season six, we made the decision that we were going to reveal H, and then it was a case of how do we make that the most surprising reveal? 

There were obviously two ways to go. We could have just created lots of confirmatory information so that by the time we got to it, it was inevitable that it was going to be a certain person, and then the drama would work in a different way. It wouldn’t be so much about who it is, it would be ‘Are they going to catch them?’, which was kind of what we did over two to three seasons with The Caddy. My main thinking was, it was important that we didn’t go the same way that we did with The Caddy and just do a repeat, which is, we make it pretty clear who the bad guy is, and then it’s all about the tension and jeopardy around whether they’re going to get caught or not. 

It felt that we’d succeeded so well in maintaining the H mystery that people honestly didn’t know who it was – they had lots of great theories, but nobody was ever able to produce absolutely convincing evidence for one candidate or another. So we went into six feeling that it would function more in terms of the H mystery than the jeopardy around knowing who it was.

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