'Line of Duty' Season 1 refresher — everything you need to know

Line of Duty season 1.
Line of Duty season 1. (Image credit: BBC/World Productions/Ed Miller)

Here's our Line of Duty season 1 recap if you've forgotten what happened when it was first shown back in 2012! 

This was the first time we were introduced to one of the hottest crime thrillers on TV, and the show has only grown in popularity ever since. 

Line of Duty season 6 has been making some pretty important callbacks to previous seasons, so far. For example, Ryan Pilkington was a young boy who was working in the OCG, and now he’s returned to the show as a bent copper at The Hill!

Since the first season was broadcast so long ago, we thought it best to talk you through all the most important things that happened in Line of Duty season 1. Beware of spoilers if you’re planning to watch the whole show from the beginning!  

How to watch Line of Duty Season 1

Watching Line of Duty Season 1 in the UK couldn't be easier. All five episodes are currently available to watch for free on BBC iPlayer in the UK. 

In the US, Line of Duty season 1 is available to watch on a number of streaming platforms including Britbox, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and Acorn TV

BritBox is probably the best place to get watching if you haven't already, as the streamer has the exclusive US rights to Line of Duty season 6.

Line of Duty season 1 recap: The main storyline 

Line of Duty season 1 started with Steve Arnott (Martin Compston) being transferred to police anti-corruption unit 12 (AC-12). He is personally recruited by Superintendent Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar) after he refused to participate in a police cover-up over a botched counter-terrorism police raid that led to the death of an innocent man.

Steve joins Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) on the investigation into DCI Tony Gates (Lennie James). Gates is a celebrated senior officer who heads up Central Police CID unit TO-20, but AC-12 believe Gates is guilty of boosting his arrest record illegally. They formally begin their operation, placing Kate undercover within TO-20 whilst Steve pursues Jackie Laverty, Tony’s mistress, for suspected money laundering. Jackie, whilst drunk, kills one of her own accountants in a hit-and-run accident, and Tony attempts to cover the incident up for her.

As AC-12 close in on Jackie, Tony demands she turns herself in for her crimes. When he confronts her at her home, members of the Organised Crime Group (the OCG) break in. They murder Jackie and place Tony's fingerprints on the murder weapon to frame him. After Jackie's disappearance, Steve turns up to her house, finding Tony at the scene. He suspects Tony is behind Jackie's disappearance and believes foul play was also involved in two murders on Green Street, which TO-20 were investigating. Believing Tony is the mastermind behind the killings, Steve desperately tries to find evidence that links him to the murders.

Line of Duty season 1

Tony Gates and the rest of TO-20 look unimpressed as Steve publicly searches his car. (Image credit: BBC/World Productions/Ed Miller)

Tony, meanwhile, had already been kidnapped by the OCG and shown Jackie's body in a freezer. One of their members instructed Tony to act as an inside man for them. If he refused, they threatened to leak evidence of Tony’s infidelity to his family and release Jackie's body. A young boy, Ryan Pilkington, gives him a burner phone, and Tony begins being contacted by a mysterious figure called “Tommy”.

Meanwhile, Nigel Morton, one of Tony’s colleagues, catches Kate with two phones and realises she must be the AC-12 mole they’ve been looking for within TO-20. Tommy phones Tony to inform him they want to be rid of Steve Arnott before he closes in on the gang. Tony then leads Steve to an abandoned building where Jackie Laverty’s body was being kept, when three members of the gang trap his hand in a vice and begin torturing him.

What happens in the Line of Duty season 1 finale? 

Line of Duty season 1 concluded in a real thrill-ride! 

In the final episode, Tony has a crisis of conscience and rescues Steve from the OCG. Steve eventually concludes that Tony is innocent of the murder. Steve organises a midnight meeting off the record with Tony through his TO-20 colleague, Nigel Morton.

After their meeting, Steve successfully convinces Ted to let him use Tony to get close to Tommy, the presumed leader of the crime gang. Meanwhile, Kate comes into conflict with Morton after her cover at TO-20 is fully blown. 

Back at AC-12, she interviews Ryan Pilkington, attempting to get more information about the leader of the OCG. Ryan doesn’t give up any information about Tommy but does reveal that Steve was rescued by none other than Tony Gates himself. 

Ted places a tracker on Tommy Hunter’s phone, Steve primes Tony and allows him to spend one last hour with his family before he leads AC-12 right to the man on the other end of the phone, Tommy Hunter.

Tony arrests Tommy Hunter at a golf club. The final episode concludes with Kate and Steve involved in a high-speed car chase as they tail Tony. They catch up with Tony and take Tommy into custody. Tony then tells Steve to pass on that he died in the line of duty before he takes his own life by walking in front of a lorry. 

In the final moments of the show, we learned that Dot Cottan, another of Tony's colleagues, was connected to Tommy Hunter somehow. Dot asks to speak to Tommy in private, and the two exchange words before Tommy calls Dot "the best caddy I ever had."

In the epilogue, we learn that Gates' family received a death-in-service benefit of £107,000 plus a pension for life, and that Tommy Hunter was placed in witness protection in exchange for evidence he gives against the OCG to AC-12.

Line of Duty season 1

Steve Arnott with Nigel Morton, Tony Gates and Dot Cottan from TO-20. (Image credit: BBC/World Productions/Ed Miller)
Martin Shore
Staff Writer at WhatToWatch.com

Martin is a Staff Writer with WhatToWatch.com, where he produces a variety of articles focused on the latest and greatest films and TV shows. 

Some of his favorite shows are What We Do In The Shadows, Bridgerton, Gangs of London, The Witcher, Doctor Who, and Ghosts. When he’s not watching TV or at the movies, Martin’s probably still in front of a screen playing the latest video games, reading, or watching the NFL.