The Responder Series 1 Recap: Chris, Casey & Marco, Rachel, Jodie and Deb Barnes

The Responder series 2 is out! Here’s a refresher on what happened to the stolen drugs, Karl Sweeney, Rachel's abusive partner & more. Spoilers.

The Responder Martin Freeman
Photo: BBC

At the start of The Responder’s first series, written by ex-police officer Tony Schumacher, the cracks were already showing in Martin Freeman’s police officer Chris Carson. He was depressed, angry, and having panic attacks.

A former inspector who’d been demoted to response policing when his squad came under suspicion of corruption, Chris had spent the last three years working night patrols in Liverpool city centre. He was unpopular at work and considered a loose cannon best left alone. His shift pattern meant that he barely saw his wife Kate (MyAnna Buring) and their young daughter Tilly. His wages couldn’t cover the fees at the care home for his dementia-suffering mother (Rita Tushingham). He wanted to be a good bobby, but under-funded public services made him at best, a sticking plaster on the desperate needs of his drug-flooded and impoverished community.

For help, Chris had turned to his childhood friend Carl Sweeney (Ian Hart), a small-time local drug dealer. Illegally, Carl paid Chris for police information, and Chris paid his mum’s care home bills. When addict Casey (Emily Fairn) impulsively stole a rucksack of Carl’s cocaine worth mega money and Chris chose to help her instead of delivering her to Carl for punishment, things got messy.

Casey, Carl and the Cocaine

The drugs Casey had stolen from Carl belonged to gangster Greg Gallagher, who was in prison and over his head in debt to even bigger criminals. When Carl failed to retrieve the drugs (which Casey had ‘returned’ but actually swapped for washing powder and kept), Gallagher’s men stabbed him to death – witnessed by Chris. Now Chris had to retrieve the drugs or face the same punishment.

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Initially, Chris planned to hand himself in and confess to his corruption, but wife Kate said that would only punish her and Tilly, and that he had to find another way out. Chris did. He tracked down Casey and her friend Marco (Josh Finan), and saved them from Greg’s henchmen. Chris took the drugs and sent addict Casey and Marco – who’s a small-time crook and absent dad to a young child, but who has a good heart – off to protect them.

Chris told his probationer colleague Rachel (Adelayo Adedayo), who stumbled upon the situation, that he was going to sign the drugs in to the police evidence store anonymously. Instead, Chris stole from work the “yellow pedal” paperwork that accompanied a police seizure, gave it to Greg’s sister Diane (a GP forced to act for her brother while he was inside) so that the gangsters Greg owed would think the drugs had been booked in as police evidence – a regular pitfall of the job – and excuse him their loss. He’d got himself, Casey, Diane and Greg off the hook.

Chris didn’t actually book the drugs in as evidence, but instead gave them to Carl’s widow Jodie Sweeney (Faye McKeever). She and her and Carl’s daughter had been left with nothing after his murder, and she agreed with Chris that he was now square with her.

Chris, Tilly, Kate, and Ray Mullen

In series one, Kate told Chris he had to move out of the family home. He loved her and she loved him and they both loved their daughter Tilly, but their marriage couldn’t survive his rage, her historical affair with his colleague Ray (Warren Brown), or the fact that instead of asking the professionally successful Kate for money when he couldn’t afford his mother’s care home fees, Chris’ macho pride meant he took up drug-dealer Carl Sweeney’s offer instead.

Chris remains a dedicated father and one of the series’ final scenes was of Chris and Tilly reading a book together, but his marriage to Kate may well be over.

Ray Mullen, who had an affair with Kate in the past, certainly wants the marriage to be over and is making a romantic play for Kate. Ray was demoted at the same time as Chris and blames him for his career failure. In an attempt to have Chris fired, Ray lied to Chris’ patrol partner Rachel that he was CID investigating police corruption and that he wanted her to spy on Chris as part of the operation. Ambitious and hoping for promotion, Rachel did so but eventually learned that she’d been lied to and that Ray had no power.

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Ray was married with a young son when he and Kate had their affair, but he left series one alone in a flat filled with empty bottles, still holding a grudge against Chris.

Rachel and Steve

Police probationer Rachel was in a dangerous relationship with her abusive live-in boyfriend Steve, a firefighter who physically hurt, threatened and controlled her. When Rachel stood up to Steve, he threatened to kill her and forced her into a cupboard in her flat. Managing to phone Chris, who got her out, Rachel went to Steve’s place of work and publicly confronted him. In front of his colleagues, Rachel gave Steve his belongings, told him to stay away, and listed his treatment of her, outing him as an abuser to the shock of his workmates. Steve was last seen being ordered into his boss’ office.

In the final moments of series one, Rachel went to see a colleague in the domestic violence section, planning to make an official complaint about Steve. While the officer went to make her a cup of tea though, she ran into her boss Deb Barnes (Amaka Okafor) in the corridor. She lied to Deb that she was there for work reasons and asked for some time off due to the stress of the job. Deb told her to take a couple of days to sleep, and Rachel left without completing her complaint against Steve. That night, with no support for the trauma she’d been through at home, Rachel went back out on patrol with Chris.

Deb Barnes

Chris’ old friend Deb Barnes was now his senior officer, and was watching everything from afar. Deb knew that Chris had been taking bribes from Carl Sweeney, and suspected that he was involved with Dr Diane Gallagher in a drug deal. Ray had told Deb that Chris had been in contact with Dr Gallagher, as discovered during his illegal surveillance of him. Deb also knew that Kate had lied to her to cover for Chris, pretending that Gallagher was his medical doctor to explain Chris’ phone call to her from a burner phone.

The Responder series two is streaming now on BBC iPlayer.