Blue Lights Season 2 Review & Recap: Uncovering Belfast’s Gritty Police Drama

Blue Lights Season 2 Review & Recap: The gritty, critically acclaimed BBC drama Blue Lights has made a triumphant return for its second season, plunging viewers back into the gritty underbelly of Belfast’s police force. From the minds of former Panorama journalists Adam Patterson and Declan Lawn, this riveting series continues to captivate audiences with its raw, authentic portrayal of life on the front lines.

The first season of the gritty police procedural “Blue Lights” generated such a positive word-of-mouth buzz that it guaranteed not only a second season – which arrives on BBC One this week – but also a third and fourth season. The BBC’s faith in the Northern Ireland drama’s creators, Adam Patterson and Declan Lawn, former Panorama journalists turned writer-directors, speaks volumes.

The series returns with six new episodes, immediately thrusting viewers back into the Belfast cop cars a year after the previous season’s events. The team is still reeling from Gerry’s (Richard Dormer) death, and reluctant constable Jen (Hannah McClean) has inevitably left the force and retrained as a solicitor.

Weathered Rookies Facing a Wave of Crime

Our class of rookie response officers, which gave the show its fresh take on the well-worn genre, is now weathered and more experienced than when we last saw them. Each episode is an exercise in these officers being beaten down by the Belfast streets, which are awash with a wave of crime.

The problem, as we’re told, is “fewer cops, more crime,” which is easy to comprehend when a meeting at the precinct has as many empty office chairs as full ones.

New Cast Additions and Bending the Rules

This season also introduces new cast additions, including a much-needed officer transfer in the form of the braggadocious Shane (Frank Blake). While he yells silly things like “Showtime!” when they get a call, he also comes to embody a bend-the-rules approach to policing to get the job done, filling the gap left by Gerry.

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Hyper-Specificity That Translates En Masse

In a TV landscape where shows often strip away idiosyncrasies for global appeal, “Blue Lights” remains proof that hyper-specificity can translate en masse. The complex political and historical situation of Belfast looms large, like its own character in the show.

The season two premiere takes a beat to get going, largely keeping viewers in the dreary office instead of out on the streets, where the show’s trademark tension takes place. When the action picks up, “Blue Lights” returns to the careful balancing act of office gallows humour, the legacy of sectarian violence, and punishing police work – as well as the newer component this season of the rampant drug trade.

Unbearable Moments of Suspense

While the glut of police procedurals on TV is vast, “Blue Lights” is worth your time, as long as you can stick out what are occasionally unbearable moments of suspense. After Gerry’s demise, “Blue Lights” has teeth. Moments like a screwdriver being wielded at Grace’s (Siân Brooke) face are additionally fraught because there is the very real possibility that Patterson and Lawn may kill her off.

Shifting Nature of the Job

The nature of the job has slightly shifted, as our trio of rookies have rubbed off much of the green behind their ears. The naivety of Tommy (Nathan Braniff) and Annie (Katherine Devlin) has gone, replaced by something closer to grizzled goner Gerry.

Even Grace has dimmed her doe-eyed season-one hopes of joining law enforcement to change things. “What in the name of god are you doing all day?” a civilian barks at her. “We’re doing the best we can,” she replies with a look of desperation.

Shared DNA with “The Responder”

“Blue Lights” shares much of its DNA with “The Responder,” which is also returning with a second season this spring. There’s less emphasis on the case-of-the-week template, although there are already ominous rumblings of another organized crime gang told through the Loyal pub in Mount Eden, and more focus on the grinding uphill battle of Belfast policing.

The hammered police resources overshadow most of the officers’ interactions with the public. In the first episode alone, after Grace has been berated by a bystander for the police’s failings, Annie and Shane respond to an incident involving someone who has been waiting over seven months for a mental health assessment.

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“Is everything just f***ed?” a despairing Annie asks. As the six episodes unfold, the answer time and time again is yes – but it’s still impossible to look away from this gripping portrayal of Belfast’s gritty policing landscape.

Blue Lights Season 2 Recap

Belfast’s gripping police drama, Blue Lights, has made a heart-stopping comeback, immersing viewers in a world of petrol bombs, pharmacy stick-ups, and good old-fashioned romance. Get ready to dive deep into the adrenaline-fueled lives of the city’s finest as they navigate the treacherous streets of Belfast.

The Story So Far

Blue Lights follows the intense journey of three probationary recruits at the fictional Blackthorn Station in Belfast. Grace Ellis, a 41-year-old single mother, transitioned from social work into policing, bringing her wealth of experience to the force.

Joining her are the hard-partying Catholic constable Annie Conlon and the fresh-faced, fast-tracked Tommy Foster. Together, they faced the stresses of the job, were mentored by more hardened colleagues, and grew into proficient “peelers” (a colloquial term for police officers).

Their paths crossed with undercover MI5 agents and the organized crime group run by the formidable ex-republican paramilitary, James McIntyre. His son, Mo, went rogue and fatally gunned down Tommy’s beloved mentor, Gerry Cliff after he interrupted a drugs-for-arms deal.

In a shocking twist, McIntyre Sr. was revealed to be an MI5 informant, leading to a demand for him and Mo to be given new identities through an “extraction” process. However, the team outmaneuvered the spooks and arrested the pair instead, leaving a gangland power vacuum in their wake. Now, 12 months later, the action resumes, and our heroes are back on the clock for a second shift.

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Riots, Rogue Officers, and Rekindled Flames

The episode opens with a tense pre-titles sequence, where our heroes seemingly face mortal danger as rioters hurl petrol bombs at 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, delivered by Sgt. Sandra Cliff.

Back on the beat, Grace and her patrol partner, Stevie Neil, respond to the discovery of a dead body – military veteran Ian “Soupy” Campbell, who overdosed in the latest tragedy of a drug-fueled crime wave. Their investigation leads them to a loyalist pub where Soupy had been staying with his ex-army comrade, Lee Thompson, who served with him in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, Annie and Tommy attend a disturbance at a pharmacy. Annie lets a teenage methadone addict off with a warning – a decision that will come back to haunt her. She teases the uptight Tommy, suggesting he rekindle his flirtation with Derry officer Aisling Byrne, whom he met during weapons training. “Texting is weak, calling is strong,” Annie advises him, prompting Tommy to bag a date with Aisling.

Rising Tides of Crime and Suspicious Allies

Back at Blackthorn, newly promoted team leader Inspector Helen McNally is informed that DS Murray Canning, who has been transferred from CID to the Paramilitary Crime Taskforce (PCTF), will be working with them to cut off the rising tide of drugs in the city centre.

The understaffed squad also gains a new recruit in PC Shane Bradley, hand-picked by Canning. Introduced with a gratuitous shirt-off shot, the slick Shane not only talks down a mentally troubled man by offering “sympathy fags” but later comes to Grace’s rescue. Is six-packed Shane too good to be true?

Cocky Canning briefs the section on organized crime, revealing that three months after the McIntyre drug gang was closed down, someone took over the supply and flooded the market. Rival loyalist gang leaders Jim Dixon and Davy Hamill are prime suspects.

Despite Tommy dropping out of the fast-track scheme, Canning recruits him to intelligence policing. Tommy and Shane become the PCTF’s eyes and ears in a bid to contain gangland activity, thrusting the naive young officer into a dangerous game.

Regrets, Redemption, and Romantic Tensions

Across town, we are reintroduced to Jen Robinson, the reluctant constable from Blue Lights Season 1 who quit the force after Gerry’s death. She has found her niche as a trainee solicitor and spends her lunch breaks visiting a soup kitchen where Happy Kelly – the lonely childhood friend of Gerry’s who used to beg to be arrested to avoid solitude – now volunteers.

Bonded by regret, Jen and Happy’s trauma stems from the unsolved 1978 bombing of a chip shop that claimed the lives of Happy’s father and brother. Jen begins rooting through archive files, foreshadowing potential trouble brewing.

The show’s will-they-or-won’t-they couple, Grace and Stevie, clash when response teams are sent back to the pharmacy. Grace tells Stevie that their feelings are getting in the way of the job, and Stevie has become overprotective.

Grace is also missing her son Cal, who has moved away to university. Fortunately, Grace’s nest isn’t empty, as Annie has moved in with her after being forced out of her home by threats in series one, creating a Blue Lights roommate dynamic.

Gangland Power Struggles and Deadly Alliances

In a seedy underworld meeting, Jim “Dixie” Dixon encounters a familiar face – Tina McIntyre, who has stepped into her jailed husband’s shoes. Corrigan isn’t just crossing sectarian lines for his drug supply but wants a double consignment from “the Dubliners.” The formidable Tina warns him to “keep the fucking noise down.”

Dixie’s designated driver is publican Lee Thompson, who has sidelines in taxi driving and weed-dealing. Simmering with fury as the loyalist godfather leers at his “wee sister” Mags and demands a percentage of his weed earnings, as well as protection money, Lee reaches his breaking point when Dixie gloats about Soupy’s death.

In a shocking move, Lee hires fellow veteran Craig to carry out 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,” warns Craig. “I’ve had enough,” says Lee. “Move or die.” A new player has emerged in Belfast’s criminal underworld.

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Lingo Decoded and Squad Car Soundtrack

Police jargon permeates the episode, with terms like “PAPA check” (an ID check under the Police Affairs & Powers Act) and “frequent flyer” (a punter well-known to police) adding authenticity to the dialogue.

Music remains a crucial element of Blue Lights, with highlights including Johnny Cash’s cover of “Just The Other Side of Nowhere” by Kris Kristofferson and the haunting rendition of “I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Bonnie Raitt, performed by Derry dream-popper Soak.

Buckle up, Belfast, because the adrenaline-fueled ride has only just begun. Blue Lights promises to take viewers on a heart-stopping journey through the gritty streets of the city, where loyalty, betrayal, and the power struggle collide explosively.

Blue Lights Season 2 is streaming on BBC.

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