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Blue Lights recap: series two, episode one – a blistering comeback
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Blue Lights recap: series two, episode one – a blistering comeback

Blue Lights, big city. Here’s your blow-by-blow breakdown of the Belfast police drama’s blistering comeback episode, titled This Too Shall Pass …

The story so far

Ex-journalists Declan Lawn and Adam Patterson’s pacy, pulsating series followed three probationary recruits at the fictional Blackthorn Station in Belfast. Our rookie response officers were Grace Ellis (Siân Brooke), a 41-year-old single mother who’d moved from social work into policing; hard-partying Catholic constable Annie Conlon (Katherine Devlin); and fresh-faced, fast-tracked Tommy Foster (Nathan Braniff). All three struggled with the stresses of the job but mentored by more hardened colleagues, grew into proficient “peelers”.

Annie Conlon (Katherine Devlin).View image in fullscreen

They clashed with undercover MI5 agents (AKA “sneaky beakies”) and the organised crime group run by ex-republican paramilitary James McIntyre (Eric Cantona lookalike John Lynch). His son Mo (Michael Shea) went rogue and fatally gunned down Tommy’s much-loved mentor Gerry Cliff (Richard Dormer) after he interrupted a drugs-for-arms deal. McIntyre Sr turned out to be an MI5 informant, so demanded him and Mo were “extracted” and given new identities. In a late twist, the team outmanoeuvred the spooks and arrested the pair instead, leaving a gangland power vacuum. We rejoin the action 12 months later. Time to clock on for a second shift.

‘How are things in Belfast? A bit mad?’

Overprotective? … Grace (Siân Brooke) and Stevie (Martin McCann).View image in fullscreen

A tense pre-titles sequence saw our heroes seemingly in mortal danger as rioters petrol-bombed their armoured van. Hands up if you guessed it was a training exercise? “One of the worst public order training performances I’ve ever seen,” was the official verdict. As Sgt Sandra Cliff (Andi Osho) said: “Oops.”

Back on the beat, Grace and patrol partner Stevie Neil (Martin McCann) were called to the discovery of a dead body. Military veteran Ian “Soupy” Campbell had overdosed, just the latest tragedy in a drug-fuelled crime wave. Their inquiries led to a loyalist pub where Soupy had been staying with ex-army comrade Lee Thompson (Seamus O’Hara), who’d served with him in Afghanistan. Whereas series one was mainly based in nationalist West Belfast, we’ve already shifted focus to the city’s loyalist Eastside estates.

Meanwhile, Annie and Tommy attended a disturbance at a pharmacy. Annie let a teenage methadone addict off with a warning – a decision that would come back to haunt her. She teased uptight Tommy that he “needed a ride”, suggesting he rekindle his flirtation with Derry officer Aisling Byrne (Dearbháile McKinney) who he’d met during weapons training. “Texting is weak, calling is strong,” Annie advised him. Tommy duly bagged a date. Good old voice calls.

Fewer cops, more crime

Too good to be true? … Shane (Frank Blake) with Annie (Katherine Devlin).View image in fullscreen

Back at Blackthorn, newly promoted team leader Inspector Helen McNally (Joanne Crawford) was told that DS Murray Canning (Desmond Eastwood), who’d been transferred from CID to the Paramilitary Crime Taskforce (PCTF), would be working with them to cut off the rising tide of drugs in the city centre. The understaffed squad also got a new recruit in PC Shane Bradley (Frank Blake, AKA Marianne’s bullying brother from Normal People), hand-picked by Canning. Introduced via a gratuitous shirt-off shot, the slick arrival not only talked down a mentally troubled man by offering “sympathy fags” but later came to Grace’s rescue. Is six-packed Shane too good to be true?

Cocky Canning (“If he was a chocolate bar, he’d eat himself” said Stevie) briefed the section on organised crime. Three months after the McIntyre drug gang was closed down, someone took over supply and flooded the market. Rival loyalist gang leaders Jim Dixon and Davy Hamill were prime suspects. Despite Tommy dropping out of the fast-track scheme, Canning recruited him to intelligence policing. He and Shane (“not your average grunts”) would become the PCTF’s eyes and ears in a bid to contain gangland activity. A dangerous game for a naive young officer.

Cowardly copper came into her own

Across town, we were reintroduced to Jen Robinson (Hannah McClean) – series one’s reluctant constable who quit the force in the wake of Gerry’s death. She’d found her niche as a trainee solicitor and spent her lunch break visiting a soup kitchen where Happy Kelly (Paddy Jenkins) – the lonely childhood friend of Gerry’s who’d beg to be arrested so he wouldn’t have to spend another day alone – now volunteered.

The pair were bonded by regret. Happy’s trauma stemmed from the deaths of his father and brother in the 1978 bombing of a chip shop. The case remained unsolved and Jen was soon rooting through archive files. I fear no good can come of this.


When response teams were sent back to the pharmacy, Grace and Stevie were first to arrive. All was ominously quiet. Stevie soon got trapped by the shop shutters coming down. Grace found the pharmacist stabbed and the methadone addict waving a screwdriver. Grace pulled her gun but was saved from firing it by the Shane-shaped cavalry arriving. Phew.

The show’s will-they-or-won’t-they couple now clashed. Grace said their feelings were getting in the way of the job and Stevie had become over-protective. She was also missing her son Cal since he’d moved away to university. Luckily, Grace’s nest wasn’t entirely empty. Annie had moved in, after being forced out of her home by threats in series one. Blue Lights roomies. I approve.

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Look away, Dixie man

‘Move or die’ … Lee (Seamus O’Hara).View image in fullscreen

When Jim “Dixie” Dixon (Chris Corrigan) met his drug contact, it was a familiar face. Tina McIntyre (Abigail McGibbon) had stepped into her jailed husband’s shoes. Corrigan wasn’t just crossing sectarian lines for his supply but wanted a double consignment from “the Dubliners”. The formidable Tina warned him to “keep the fucking noise down”.

Dixie’s designated driver was publican Lee Thompson, who had sidelines in taxi-driving and weed-dealing. He simmered with fury as the loyalist godfather leered at his “wee sister” Mags (Seána Kerslake) and demanded a percentage of his weed earnings, as well as protection money. Gloating about Soupy’s death was the final straw. Lee paid fellow veteran Craig (Craig McGinlay) for a hit on Dixie, handing him his house keys, left on the back seat of his cab. “If we do this, there’s no going back,” warned Craig. “I’ve had enough,” said Lee. “Move or die.” There’s a new player in town.

Blue Lights lingo decoded

Police jargon included “PAPA check” (an ID check under the Police Affairs & Powers Act) and “frequent flyer” (a punter well-known to police).

Squad car soundtrack

Fast-tracked … Tommy Foster.View image in fullscreen

Music is always high in the Blue Lights mix. Highlights were Johnny Cash’s cover of Just The Other Side of Nowhere by Kris Kristofferson and Derry dream-popper Soak’s haunting version of I Can’t Make You Love Me by Bonnie Raitt.

Line of the week

“That’s the thing about this place. Even after all these years, people think the truth is dangerous. Maybe they’re right” – Happy on post-Troubles paranoia.

In our police notebooks

Grace made Fifteens for Stevie, a Northern Irish fridge cake so-called because its ingredients include 15 digestives, 15 marshmallows and 15 glacé cherries.

Tommy was in Aisling’s phone under the name “Tommy Kill House”. Police romance, eh?

Good to get a glimpse of the famed Cathedral Quarter neon sign: “There’s only seven types of rain in Belfast. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday …”

Rejoin us here next Monday for another Blackthorn debrief. In the meantime, sneaky beakies, please share your spoiler-free thoughts and theories below …

Source: theguardian.com