Line of Duty’s “Disappointing” Ending Tells Us Something About the Soul
Line of Duty. Wow. I don’t remember feeling as captivated by a TV series since West Wing. Under the spell of AC-12’s hunt for bent coppers and organised crime, I joined 13 million other viewers for series 6’s finale—pulse quickened, breath held, ready to find out who the mysterious ‘H’ was and whether Arnott, Fleming and Hastings would still be standing by the end. If you’re outside the UK, Line of Duty has been a British TV phenomenon, grossing the highest drama viewing figures for twenty years.
Waiting for the Moral Ending
As soon as Sunday’s finale aired the hashtag #dissapointed started trending on social media. Really, that incompetent guy was H? Really, after all that work and all those lives lost, the bad guys are going to see another day? Fan pages buzzed. While a few thought the cynical outcome was truer to life, the majority seemed crushed as the credits rolled. As one person put it: “I wanted a proper ending with the bad guys brought to justice. We’re living through too much at present, we need that moral ending.”
For me, this desire for a ‘moral ending’ has been even more interesting than the finale itself. In his classic book A Rumour of Angels, sociologist Peter Berger noted that all humans through time have hungered for hope—we need to believe that tomorrow will be better, that evil and suffering will one day be overcome, otherwise we wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning. In addition, we hunger for justice—we need to believe that those who cause evil and suffering will one day face their just deserts. A world where the bad guys win goes against everything we know the world should be. The desire for a happy ending to Line of Duty was a deeply human one.
Signs in the Soul
The question that fascinates me is why we have this innate hunger for hope and justice in the first place. Berger believed they’re signs that we’re not just material beings but religious ones—made to live in a world without evil or suffering, made to live with a God who is good and just. That could put the viewing public’s overwhelming response to the finale in a new light. Maybe the disappointment felt was a sign we’ve been made for another world.
I would love to see a seventh series of Line of Duty. That would mean such a thrilling story wasn’t over! Until then, when real life bad guys win and my disappointment sets in, I’ll take a line from this famous prayer as my mantra: until God’s will is done ‘on earth as it is heaven’, there is hope—because the story isn’t over.
A short version of this article first aired on BBC Radio 2’s Zoe Ball Breakfast Show
Main image: BBC
Get 70 stories on joy, compassion, wonder, callings and more in Reflect with Sheridan, my new gift book.