ENTERTAINMENT
28/05/2021 12:59 BST

Line Of Duty Creator Jed Mercurio Spills All On 'Misdirection' Of James Nesbitt's Much-Discussed Appearance

Many viewers believed he would be unveiled as "the fourth man".

Warning! This article contains Line Of Duty spoilers of the highest order. 

Line Of Duty creator Jed Mercurio has revealed his attempts to misdirect fans with the appearance of James Nesbitt in the recently-concluded series. 

The Cold Feet actor popped up as a former police officer called Marcus Thurwell in the hit BBC cop drama, but actually only featured in photographs. 

Many fans had expected to meet the character when his name first cropped up as AC-12 investigated connections the murder of journalist Gail Vella had to a case Thurwell led off screen many years prior. 

BBC
James Nestbitt only appeared in photographs as Marcus Thurwell

However, Thurwell was confirmed to be dead in penultimate episode of series six, before James had the chance to play the role. 

Now in an interview with Den Of Geek, Jed admitted he hired James to pose in the images as a way of misleading the audience during the pursuit of “the fourth man”, otherwise known as “H”. 

He said: “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.”

Richard Sellers - PA Images via Getty Images
James was hired to help misdirect the audience

Jed continued: “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.”

“H” was eventually unmasked as DSU Ian Buckells in the series six finale, which proved to be divisive among fans. 

Many had struggled to understand quite how the incompetent officer had it in him, despite repeated explanations from Jed and actor Nigel Boyle.

BBC
Ian Buckells was unmasked as "the fourth man"

There were also a number of clues that were in the series that pointed to Buckells’ real identity all along

Despite the mixed reception to the series six finale, it has become the UK’s most-watched episode of a drama series in the 21st century so far, after official ratings showed it had an audience of 15.24 million.

This is 80,000 higher than the previous record, which was set by an episode of Heartbeat on ITV in February 2000 with an audience of 15.16m.

The entire Line Of Duty boxset is available to stream on BBC iPlayer.