BBC’s “Blue Lights,” released on March 27, 2023, is a cop show concerning three rookie officers during their probationary period at Blackthorn Street Police Station situated in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Directed by Gilles Bannier and created by the famous duo Declan Lawn and Adam Patterson, who are renowned for “The Salisbury Poisonings,” this series is gripping, compelling, and different from other cop shows like “Law and Order,” “CSI,” “NYPD Blue,” and “The Wire,” which makes this series ground-breaking for cop shows. Besides the continuity error in the very first episode—the Audi and Skoda switch—the series is very impressive. The BBC TV series brilliantly showcases the perspectives of each individual police officer with precision and accuracy while making sure each character stays distinct. “Blue Lights” does bring something fresh to the table, and it’s a must-watch. Here’s a detailed recap of the first season of “Blue Lights.”
‘Blue Lights’ Season 1: Recap
Season 1 of “Blue Lights” kicks off with suspenseful background music as Cal Ellis (Matt Carver) approaches his mother, Grace Ellis (Sian Brooke), dramatically while holding her firearm. He ends up just giving her a cautionary warning not to leave her weapon in the bathroom. The following scene is of a car chase where officer Stevie Neil (Martin MacCann) and probationary constable Grace Ellis catch Gordy Mackle (Dane Whyte O’Hara) for stealing drug lord James McIntyre’s (John Lynch) car. Then we get a brief introduction to the characters of two probationary constables, Annie (Katherine Devlin) and Tommy Foster (Nathan Braniff) and officer Jen Robinson (Hannah McClean). Grace and Stevie warn Gordy’s mother, Angela MacLeod (Valene Kane), about her son’s wrongdoing and offers to help. However, Angela’s hostile response and the reaction from the angry crowd, which threw bottles and rocks at the police car, suggest that the people of Belfast harbor animosity towards the Blackthorn police department and derogatorily refer to them as “peelers.” Gordy gets released from the police station as James McIntyre gives a statement that the car was not stolen and that he gave Gordy permission to drive the car. Later, it’s revealed that Gordy is actually a friend of James’ son, Mo McIntyre (Michael Shea), who helps his father in his operations in drug dealing and creates fear among the citizens of Belfast. The quick crew meeting conducted by Sergeant Helen McNally (Joanne Crawford) outlines the impact of the McIntyre family in Belfast and establishes the importance of keeping tabs on them as they are of significant interest to the Blackthorn police department and paramilitary crime task force.
Constable Annie and Sergeant McNally go for a roundup on the street, where they encounter Mo McIntyre and Gordy Mackle. Annie steps out of the car to search for Mo McIntyre but receives a lethal punch straight to the face, falls to the ground, and bleeds profusely. Sergeant McNally takes immediate action and arrests Mo McIntyre. However, McIntyre’s release was expedited due to false allegations and technicalities brought up by his lawyer, McAlister (Matthew Forsythe), who argues that Constable Annie had not followed proper protocols. Despite McNally’s efforts, McIntyre gets released. Senior inspector Jonty (Jonathan Harden) then explains to Annie about the missed protocols and tells her there’s nothing that can be done on this particular matter.
A series of drug overdose cases appear as four officers—Gerry (Richard Dormer), Tommy, Grace, and Stevie—investigate and find the victims, each unconscious and one dead. It is later revealed a bad batch of a drug called Pregablin caused the damage. The McIntyre family, which dispatched the drugs, leaves the officers in a difficult situation. Fortunately, with the assistance of Gordy, the McIntyres managed to retrieve as much of the contaminated product as possible from the dealers. Meanwhile, Mo discovers that a young boy known as JP Junior (Isaac Heslip) is responsible for the tainted batch and warns him of impending repercussions.
Officer Jen Robinson’s behavior seems to be a constant source of tension within the department, given her reputation for receiving preferential treatment as the daughter of the Chief Superintendent. During a recent patrol with her colleague Annie, she encountered Mo McIntyre once again. Despite Annie’s insistence, Jen initially refused to leave the safety of their police vehicle and confront Mo. When Jen finally attempted to search Mo’s car, he intimidated her and made her aware that she had failed to activate her body camera, leaving her feeling embarrassed and powerless. When Annie asks Jen about the incident, Jen threatens to blackmail her, warning that if Annie tells a soul about the incident, she will not make it through the probationary period.
The OOB (Out of Bound) places start to bother the probationary officers, and Tommy finally discovers that the OOB places cover the area in which the McIntyre family lives. Inspector Jonty clearly appears to be a corrupt cop who does not want to catch McIntyre as per the order from above, particularly orders given by a mystery man named Joseph (Nabil Elouahabi).
The bad batch of drugs circulated by JP Junior makes Mo McIntyre furious, and he makes sure JP Junior pays for his wrongdoing. Two men go to JP’s house and then shoot him in the leg while his parents helplessly witness the scene with no power in their hands. After the criminals leave their premises, they call for help. But unfortunately, the damage was already done, and it left a permanent mark of “fear,” as the title of episode 3 suggests. Grace, being a former social worker, always has empathy for people; she tries to give justice to the boy and asks detective Murray (Desmond Eastwood) for help. Murray then tells Grace that no one in the last ten years has agreed to give a statement against the punishment of shootings. Grace then interrupts Murray by telling him to refer to the crime as paramilitary-style assault and not a punishment shooting because the 15-year-old kid did not deserve what happened to him.
Grace manages to persuade JP Senior (Packy Lee) that she will ensure the perpetrators who shot their son will be held accountable. JP Senior then instructs Grace to review the CCTV footage from his garage, which ultimately leads to the identification of the culprits. After some convincing from his wife, JP Senior decides to provide a statement. Grace and Murray escalate the matter to senior officer Jonty for further action, but Jonty immediately declines to pursue the case and dismisses the opportunity to capture the criminals. Grace’s frustration mounts up as it seems to her they are chasing shadows, which they can definitely follow, but ultimately, when it gets darker, they seem to disappear.
It’s Always The Best One Who Bites The Dust
Tommy struggles at the shooting range, and Gerry decides to help him with the shooting. On one hand, Gerry starts to become a mentor for Tommy, while on the other hand, the bond between Stevie and Grace grows stronger as Stevie helps Grace’s son Cal in getting released from another police station after being arrested for assaulting a police officer who, without any evidence or suspicion, targeted and forcefully wanted to search Cal on the basis of his brown skin color.
The situation takes an interesting turn as Sergeant McNally discovers the affair between Officer Jonty and Jen Robinson. McNally puts forward the harsh facts to Jonty that Jen is using him to have advantages in the department and warns him to stop it; otherwise, she will let the word out, and the whole department will know about them.
Without informing his father, James, Mo McIntyre strikes a deal with Eoin O’Sullivan to supply AK-47 assault rifles. However, Joseph shares with James that Mo is expanding the business by transporting firearms, a development that could have disastrous consequences for the people of Belfast. Surprisingly, Joseph advises James not to interfere with the deal, as it will be the last one between them and will bring an end to “Farset,” their operation that has been running for years. This operation has been the reason why the police have protected McIntyre over the years, as he used to provide them with critical information.
On the day of the firearms deal, Joseph, the mastermind behind everything happening in Belfast, orchestrates a secret operation. He informs Jonty about the situation, declaring that it is the day they have been waiting for. Jonty, in turn, instructs all officers to stay away from the Palace, an OOB area and allows Joseph’s agents to secretly film the firearms deal. Meanwhile, Constable Gerry and Jen begin a roundup, and Gerry discovers evidence of the firearms deal. Observing corruption and unethical protection of OOB areas by the department, Gerry takes matters into his own hands, despite Jen’s objections. He infiltrates the scene, and Jen ultimately joins him. Unfortunately, the situation turns sour as Gerry confronts the criminals and takes several shots from Eoin O’Sullivan. In retaliation, Jen angrily shoots and kills Eoin O’Sullivan, but the other criminals, including Mo McIntyre and Gordy, escape the scene.
The police department tries to chase the criminals, but instead, they manage to catch Joseph’s agents along with the camera with which they are filming the entire crime scene. After taking the agents to the police station, Jonty orders their release on an immediate basis, which leaves the officers furious and anguished at the same time. Unfortunately, after battling for a long time at the hospital, Gerry took his last breath, and the entire police department got shell-shocked by the incident.
‘Blue Lights’ Ending Explained: Will The McIntyre Family Get Caught Ultimately?
The Blackthorn Police Department is successful in catching Gordy Mackle, but his solicitor, McAlister, manipulates Gordy to make sure he does not give any information regarding the whereabouts of the McIntyre Family. Meanwhile, the McIntyre family relocated to a secluded location to avoid being apprehended by the police. However, clever Grace cheekily extracted the memory card from the camera and showed the footage to everyone, including Sergeant McNally. Jen, on the other hand, suffers from the trauma of witnessing something serious for the first time and tells her mother she never wanted to become a cop. Later, Jen, in her confrontation with Jonty, mentions that she never loved Jonty; she was just using him to have an advantage.
Grace tells Gordy about the tape, and the only way Gordy can survive is by telling them the location of the McIntyres. After refusing several times, Gordy finally decides to help the police department. Finally, after everything, Tommy confronts James and Mo McIntyre along with the police cars surrounding them from both ends of the road, leading to the immediate arrest of both members. James’ estranged wife, Tina, distanced herself from the drama, managed to escape, and visited Joseph.
The expressions on everyone’s faces upon seeing James and Mo being led away in handcuffs were phenomenal. For Annie, it marked a moment of justice finally served after Mo had punched her on one occasion and spat on her face on another.
The BBC TV series manages to establish the characters very cleverly and makes each episode engaging. The three rookie officers get proper character development. Tommy, who, throughout the initial stages, is sensitive, nervous, and underconfident. He takes inspiration from his mentor, Gerry, and after his death, decides to serve as a constable like Gerry to help the people of Belfast by being in the streets and refusing to continue the “fast-track program.” Annie manages to control her emotions and builds a good bond with the officers, while Grace, who always talked about making a change, finally plays a huge role in making the change that leads the Blackthorn Police Department to catch the infamous drug lord.
The first season of “Blue Lights” ends with Stevie and Grace’s conversation. Just as Stevie is about to propose to Grace, the emergency calls from the department interrupt, and both have a chuckle as it definitely seems like they both feel the same for each other. Ultimately, the two get on duty together, turning the “blue lights” of the police vehicle, poetically justifying the title of the TV series.