When the nation starts discussing ‘balaclava man’ or having heated debates about the identity of ‘H’, you don’t want to be left in the dark.

The return of police corruption drama Line Of Duty — the most eagerly awaited show of the year — hits the ground running on Sunday with a first episode that will leave you gasping for breath.

But you don’t need to have seen the four previous series to enjoy this intricately plotted thriller, although it helps to have some background.

So if you don’t have time to catch up on iPlayer — or you simply can’t remember what’s happened since it started seven years ago — here’s a handy cheat’s guide to make sure you know your Hastings from your Hilton, your AC-12 from your AC-9 and exactly what that noise is at the start of interrogations on the most compelling show on TV.

THE TEAM

Line Of Duty centres around a tight trio who form part of AC-12, a secretive internal police department that investigates corrupt coppers. The team is led by Superintendent Ted Hastings (played by Adrian Dunbar), with undercover officer DI Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) and DS Steve Arnott (Martin Compston).

At the start we learned how Arnott became a member of AC-12 when he turned whistleblower on his anti-terrorism colleagues over the shooting of an innocent man.

AC-12 veteran Fleming is an expert at going undercover in police departments, inveigling her way in so that she’s close to the target. Hastings is the boss and, apparently, the moral core of the show, who occasionally has to put a restraining hand on those beneath him to stop them putting too many noses out of joint.

In each series they investigate a different police officer who appears to be corrupt, but over the course of the previous four series their investigations have led them to realise there’s a huge police-wide conspiracy protecting an organised crime gang. And they soon learn that this corrupt police network will do anything to protect itself and its boss, the mysterious ‘H’.

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