Warning: This article contains major spoilers for the most recent series of Line Of Duty.
On Sunday night, the sixth series of the BBC police drama reached its climax, with viewers finally discovering the identity of the “fourth man”, otherwise known as “H”.
Since the episode aired, it has been the subject of much debate online, with many voicing their disappointment at the way things played out, particularly about the undramatic way in which Ian Buckells ended up being rumbled.
However, posting on Twitter on Wednesday, Line Of Duty boss Jed Mercurio cited research that suggested the reaction from viewers was “far less extreme” than many have made out.
“No one disputes the Line of Duty finale divided social media opinion but the audience research so far shows a far less extreme picture,” he explained.
“We knew a ‘down’ ending would rate less favourably with some viewers, however all seven episodes varied by under 10% on average viewer score.
“The research determines the episode ratings based on randomly polling viewers, rather than sites like IMDb where scores can be skewed by users strongly motivated to register their immediate anger/adulation.
He continued: “1000 random viewers submitted scores from 1-10 which have been used to calculate the Appreciation Index (AI) as a score out of 100. The AI for the ‘down’ finale was only 7 points below the next lowest in Season 6 (Ep 1).
“These figures won’t stop the debate, of course, nor should they - that’s still all part of the experience of shared TV viewing,” he added. “Thanks again for watching.”
Responding to one fan who said he felt “cheated” by the finale, Jed wrote back: “We made the choice that showing AC-12 dismantle institutional corruption would be the ‘cheat’.
“As the audience data show, some viewers share your view but many don’t. Thanks for watching.”
When another viewer said she’d have preferred more emphasis on the characters in the season finale, Jed said: “It’s interesting how many of the people most critical of the finale were wanting more thrills and action. This is the problem with attempting to satisfy all viewers’ expectations. It’s just not possible, I’m afraid. Thanks very much for watching.”
Nigel Boyle – who played Buckells in three seasons of Line Of Duty – previously said of the divisive finale: “There’s always going to be some element of disappointment. You can’t have every series with a big shoot out and ‘urgent exit required’. Sometimes a subtler message is more important.”
He added: “If your expectations are somewhere, you’re setting yourself up sometimes for disappointment.
“That’s not to say that all the fans are doing that – [but] everyone’s got their own ideas and theories about how something’s going to pan out, and if everyone does that then someone’s not going to be happy somewhere along the line.”
All six series of Line Of Duty are now available to watch on the BBC iPlayer.