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Blue Lights recap: series two finale – terrific, beautiful and a wee bit soapy
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Blue Lights recap: series two finale – terrific, beautiful and a wee bit soapy

A propulsive finale took us from riots to romance. Here’s your debriefing on The Loyal …

Grace and Stevie dodged a bullet

After that gunshot cliffhanger, we returned to find 12-year old Henry in shock, ears ringing. There was an agonising pause before Stevie (Martin McCann) and Grace (Siân Brooke) emerged unscathed. Terrifyingly, the bullet had hit Grace’s headrest. As Grace coaxed Henry into handing over the weapon, it was unbearably tense. Who else feared he might accidentally shoot his mother, Mags (Seána Kerslake)?

Neighbour Stacey (Kelsea Knox) filmed the incident and sent it to Henry’s uncle, Lee Thompson (Seamus O’Hara). With the peelers closing in and tensions high, Lee spotted the opportunity to stir up unrest. He clipped the footage, added the inflammatory caption “Armed police threaten kid” and had it circulated it on social media, claiming the gun was a toy. Local news picked up the story. Mount Eden estate soon had a public order problem.

At Blackthorn police station, Henry was keeping shtum. Grace realised he had been indoctrinated by Lee – shades of Ryan in Line of Duty, as a commenter noted last week. Only great-uncle Rab (Dan Gordon) could get through to him. In a poignant speech, he confessed that he’d served time for killing a Catholic taxi driver and dreaded Henry heading that way. The boy came to his senses. He had found the gun belonging to Craig McQuarrie (Craig McGinlay), assumed it was fake and was merely playing army games. A fine performance from Alfie Lawless.

This too shall pass. Again

Riot scene from behind police linesView image in fullscreen

Where did this leave Lee and Craig? Off the hook, it seemed. Lee denied culpability (“Not my house, not my safe, not my gun”). Ex-soldier Craig had a licence for a personal protection weapon and claimed the £133k in the safe was his life savings. At an impasse, it was suddenly a race against time to find forensic evidence at Craig’s house before riots put the estate out of bounds. As petrol bombs and fireworks flew, the situation was spiralling.

The break in the case came, as predicted, thanks to the doorbell cam footage from the night that the loyalist gang leader Jim “Dixie” Dixon was assassinated. Despite covering his face with a scarf, Craig was recognisable. It matched the Arab desert shemagh worn by army veteran Ian “Soupy” Campbell when they found him dead from an overdose. Craig was likely to have kept his own war souvenir. A search turned up the scarf, and blood spatter on it matched Dixie’s DNA. Cornered Craig confessed to murder but refused to implicate Lee, insisting that he had acted alone in a vigilante attack. Was the real gangland player set to slip through their fingers?

Happy’s ending

Trainee solicitor Jen (Hannah McClean) was dismayed when her investigation of the 1978 chip shop bombing resulted in a payoff rather than justice. The Crown offered £80,000 to Happy Kelly (Paddy Jenkins), buying his silence and closing the case. Happy, an excellent minor character, donated it all to the soup kitchen where he volunteered. He wanted some good to come of the “blood money” and to prevent Jen getting hurt.

In a potent scene, she introduced him to retired RUC Special Branch officer Robin Graham (Derek Thompson). Robin admitted that he could have stopped Happy’s father and brother getting blown up, instead choosing to protect his informant. That source went on to save dozens of lives but it still wasn’t worth it. Robin wished he had never been forced to make such life-or-death decisions. Gaining closure, Happy forgave him with a handshake. Speaking their truth helped both with their post-Troubles trauma.

Comeuppance for toxic twosome

Back at the Loyal Pub, Lee met a frosty reception. Mags coldly informed him that his “wee private army” had left and that he must follow. She had told locals that he was behind arson and murder, had made a deal with police and was selling drugs from down south. Poor Rab had been caught in the crossfire and, it was heavily hinted, killed in Lee’s orchestrated riot. He had promised change but the senseless death and street chaos were the same. Now the community wanted to try cleaning up Mount Eden on its own. The crooked sheriff was run out of town.

Just time for slippery intelligence officer DS Murray Canning (Desmond Eastwood) to get his just deserts. Mags told Grace about his clandestine deal with Lee. Professional standards were soon investigating him for meeting a gang leader off the books. Consider the smug smirk wiped off his face.

Copping off

Katherine Devlin as Annie Conlon looking wistfulView image in fullscreen

Well, the post-work pub was called Orpheus Ballroom of Romance, in tribute to a much-missed Belfast venue. Tommy (Nathan Braniff) and Aisling (Dearbháile McKinney) giggled like lovestruck kids and danced together. Aisling increasingly looks part of the team, so might not return to Derry. Annie (Katherine Devlin) forgave Shane (Frank Blake) and they also hit the dancefloor, despite her insistence “We’re never gonna ride again”. Except for Canning and Lee, there were happy endings all round. Assistant chief constable Nicola Robinson (Andrea Irvine) finally told daughter Jen she was proud of her. Jonty was welcomed back into the fold – even by Sgt Sandra Cliff (Andi Osho), who withdrew her resignation and stayed. Hooray.

Andi Osho as Sandra Cliff inside a police vehicleView image in fullscreen

Sweetest of all were Stevie and Grace, who shared a brief locker-room kiss. Cue a comic moment when Sandra interrupted and they thought she was asking about the snog, not the shooting (“It just happened out of the blue”). As Grace watched the riot unfold, she was worried for Stevie’s safety and witnessed his heroics trying to save Rab. Gently prodded by Annie, she ran after him and hopped in his taxi home, her head on his shoulder. All together now: aww.

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Second-series syndrome but a strong finish

This was a terrific finale, beautifully plotted and paced. Teamwork cracked the case. Everyone’s story was satisfyingly wrapped up. There have been grumbles in the comments that this series lacked the tension of the debut run, badly missed Gerry and was too soapy. OK, the Charlie-from-Casualty storyline felt underpowered and Canning was a one-dimensional villain. It didn’t quite hit the heights but stuck the landing and, in my book, those Blue Lights still shine bright.

Blue Lights lingo decoded

Mostly crowd control terminology this week (“Hold the line!”). “Prepare for bounce” meant pushing protesters back with riot shields. We also heard “PPS” (Public Prosecution Service, equivalent to the mainland’s CPS).

Squad car soundtrack

Music had to wait until the bar scene, where Belfast country-rock duo Dea Matrona covered Dolly Parton’s Light of a Clear Blue Morning.

Line of the week

Stevie Neil and Siân Brooke as Grace Ellis, Grace is beckoning to someone out of shotView image in fullscreen

“Did I forget something?” “I think so, yeah.” Romcom stuff from Stevie and Grace but bet you had a soppy smile on your face.

In our police notebooks

  • A treat to finally meet dispatch controller Barney Nugent (Frankie McCafferty) – although true to form, he was still talking radio-speak. We were also reacquainted with jobsworth Sgt McCloskey (Neil Keery) from the firearms training course where Aisling and Tommy met – and also the public order exercise that kicked off this series, bringing us neatly full circle.

  • No sign of the Dublin drug traffickers or local contact Tina McIntyre, who live to deal another day.

  • With two more series commissioned, expect to be back on the beat next spring. Siân Brooke promises the next one’s “a corker”.

Thanks for your company these past six weeks, easy peelers. For the last time this series, please share your thoughts, theories and overall verdicts below …

Source: theguardian.com