Blue Lights Series 1 Recap: Tina McIntyre, Happy, Jen, Grace, Stevie

Blue Lights series 2 is out now! Here’s a refresher on what happened last time. Spoilers.

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Photo: BBC

Warning: contains spoilers for the Blue Lights series one finale.

When Blue Lights arrived in 2023, it felt like counter-programming to the news headlines. Real life was filled with reports of police corruption, brutality and deadly crimes committed under cover of the uniform, and here was this drama, offering an alternative.

Grace, Tommy and Annie (Siân Brooke, Nathan Braniff and Katherine Devlin) were that alternative. New recruits to the Police Service of Northern Ireland, they weren’t in uniform to abuse power or take greasy backhanders, they were there to help, and they had the courage of their convictions.

That isn’t to say their courage and convictions weren’t sorely tested by the reality of the job. As they discovered, policing a community riven by historical conflict is tough enough without MI5 doing deals with local kingpins that keep the drugs and crime flowing. Not to mention anonymous death threats and the violent loss of beloved colleagues. Seasoned response officer Stevie (Martin McCann)’s “shit bucket” analogy from series one, in which he saw his job as to bale out just enough crap every day to stop the whole thing overflowing, seems to be a justified if cynical summary.

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Series two finds the response officers one year on from the murder of beloved colleague Gerry Cliff (Richard Dormer). Former fast-tracker Jen Robinson (Hannah McClean) has resigned from the force and is forging her own path as a trainee solicitor, but Grace, Annie and Tommy are still in uniform, and drug boss Tina McIntyre (Abigail McGibbon) is still running the show while acting as an informant. Here’s a refresher to get you up to speed for the return.

Gerry and Sandra

As if anybody could forget the moment their heart was ripped from their chest! In series one episode five, life-time response officer Gerry Cliff waded into a double O-B (out-of-bounds) area on a tip-off from his childhood pal Happy (see below), who’d noticed cars with Dublin number plates hanging around McIntyre gang headquarters ‘The Palace’.

Gerry had unwittingly walked into an arms deal between McIntyre Jr and a Dublin gang, which was under surveillance by MI5. When the Dublin gangster shot Gerry dead, MI5 packed up and attempted to leave, but our heroes arrested them and Grace took their camera memory card, which proved they’d tried to flee after witnessing an officer’s murder, and used it to leverage a deal. The result was that James and Mo McIntyre (at whose arms deal Gerry had been murdered) were arrested instead of getting new lives through Witness Protection, and young Gordy Mackle and his mother Angela were given fresh identities and a clean start instead.

The McIntyres’ arrest and the Mackles’ escape was the happiest ending that could be reached considering the tragic loss of Gerry, who’d devoted his life to first-response policing, and who left behind his widow Sandra (Andi Osho), the station custody sergeant.

Tina McIntyre and MI5

Years before series one started, drug gang leader and former paramilitary man James McIntyre (John Lynch) had struck a deal with MI5 to inform on criminal activities in exchange for protection from prosecution. That’s why, as canny Tommy noticed, Double O-B zones were set around McIntyre operations in series one – they’d been ordered from on high. James’ son Mo (Michael Shea) didn’t know about the deal and arrogantly thought the gang’s untouchability was simply down to their cleverness.

James’ wife Tina did know about the deal, and a great deal more. She’d maintained a public distance from James and Mo’s criminal activities for pragmatic reasons, but was hinted to have been a key player in the McIntyre drugs operation all along. In the series one finale after James and Mo were arrested and charged, we saw Tina take over James’ meetings with MI5. In series two, she’s running the McIntyre gang while presumably also enjoying the protection of the intelligence services by informing on the criminal activities of other gangs.

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Grace, Cal and Stevie

Grace’s dual heritage son Cal (Matt Carver) grew up isolated in Belfast, where he was targeted and racially profiled for not being white Northern Irish, culminating in his arrest under spurious charges. Stevie helped Grace to get the whole thing dropped, and Grace and Cal had a heart-to-heart about his experience of racism, which she blamed herself for not noticing while she worked in her previous career as a social worker. In series two, Cal’s at university in Manchester and is no longer living with his mum.

Grace and Stevie grew closer over series one, and Grace learned that “mystery man” Stevie was a widower whose wife of 10 years had died from cancer. Since Sarah’s death, Stevie has lived alone with his dog, spending his time cooking gourmet dishes (his hobby) and visiting his parents and siblings. Series one was left with Grace and Stevie on a will-they-won’t-they relationship standing.

Tommy and Annie

Tommy is a Criminology graduate from a family of academics and was originally on the fast-track programme which would have taken him away from response policing. His admiration for and friendship with his patrol partner Gerry, who’d chosen to spend his entire career in response policing, caused him to resign from the fast-track scheme and follow in Gerry’s footsteps after he was shot dead in the line of duty.

New recruit Annie is still living with Grace in series two after she moved out of home when she received an anonymous death threat that put her and her mum in danger.

Jen Robinson and Happy

Jen Robinson was a minor antagonist at the start of series one who’d redeemed herself by the finale. The daughter of Chief Superintendent Nicola Robinson (Andrea Irvine), Jen was only in the job because of pressure from her mother, and didn’t want to be there. Like Tommy, Jen was on the fast-track programming and nearing the end of her time in frontline policing – a part of the job she hated and did everything to avoid. She started an affair with married-with-kids Inspector ‘Jonty’ Johnson (Jonathan Harden), and used their relationship to get special treatment so she could stay at the station and away from the dangers of the patrol cars.

Eventually though, Jen came good. After Sergeant Helen McNally (Joanne Crawford) heard her and Jonty having sex at the station, Jen came clean to him about having used him. Despite her mother not having let her resign from the police when she wanted to, Jen did resign after she was the one who shot dead Gerry’s Dublin drug gang killer while on patrol. Jonty left the section after the MI5 operation he was working with resulted in Gerry’s murder.

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In series one, Jen met Alan ‘Happy’ Kelly (Paddy Jenkins) when he was trying to get arrested on the anniversary of the 1970s chip shop paramilitary bombing in which his father and brother died. Happy was a lost and lonely soul who’d been a childhood friend of Gerry, who’d been with him outside the shop when the explosion happened. After Jen used Happy to spend an entire shift off the streets and in hospital with him, Jen and Happy struck up a kind of friendship.

Blue Lights series two starts at 9 p.m. on Monday April 15 on BBC One. All episodes are streaming now on BBC iPlayer.