Martin McCann as Stevie Neil and Sian Brooke as Grace Ellis in Blue Lights season 2

One Key Difference Makes ‘Blue Lights’ Unique Among Procedural Crime Dramas

Blue Lights is not your typical procedural cop drama. Though the stakes are high, the tension is often unbearable, and none of the characters are ever truly safe, there’s something that sets Blue Lights apart from the rest of the U.K.’s vast pool of crime dramas.

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Where many crime procedurals are focused solely on the crimes and those who committed them, often leaving character development by the wayside in favor of intensity and spectacle, Blue Lights does the opposite. The action in this show—which is, at times, downright nail-biting—is there as a way to help these characters grow, rather than the characters being there as an excuse for the action to take place. Blue Lights season 2 is determined to get under their skin, and the result is a second season that allows its main trio and the supporting cast to soar while the city of Belfast slowly crumbles around them.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in season 2’s spectacular opening scene, in which we see the characters’ reactions in real-time as they dive head-first into a riot scenario. Outside the van, it’s chaos, but within, we see just how much our favorite rookies have grown. They assess, they take a moment to breathe, and while they might still be scared—they do have a genuinely dangerous job, after all—it’s clear they’ve become more self-assured and confident in the year since Gerry Cliff’s (Richard Dormer) tragic death at the end of Blue Lights season 1.

A lot can happen in a year

Yes, Blue Lights season 2 starts a year after Jen Robinson (Hannah McClean) held Gerry in her arms while he bled out on the pavement, and the show is all the better for it. Rather than languishing in the characters’ understandable grief, Blue Lights season 2 pushes them all forward, introducing new patrol duos, new romances, and new power struggles.

As one of Cliff’s closest working partners, Tommy Foster (Nathan Braniff) was especially affected by Cliff’s death. When I spoke to Braniff, as well as his co-stars Siân Brooke and Katherine Devlin as part of Blue Lights season 2’s promotional campaign, Braniff explained that the one-year time jump has had a major impact on his character.

“It was super important to recognize that if he didn’t start, you know, changing his ways and gaining a bit of confidence, he wouldn’t have lasted a year. It was important for me coming into the second series to make sure that Tommy had enough gumption to make it believable that he was able to stick it out for a year.”

In season 1, Gerry was a massive part of Tommy’s training and his increasing self-esteem, and the show has done a great job of honoring Gerry’s legacy through Tommy’s newfound confidence and swagger.

Additionally, Braniff mentioned why the writers’ choice to make such a significant time jump impacted the show’s sophomore season so positively:

“They set it a year on, so we weren’t coming back the week after [Gerry’s death] and just seeing everybody grieving and everything, there was enough time for it to be a fine balance between ‘okay, we get that this has affected everybody in the precinct quite considerably, but we’re a year on, and everybody still has a job to do here.'”

This was spot on. The off-screen mourning period allowed the show to dive into a new conspiracy threatening the streets of Belfast, as drugs poured out onto the streets after the dissolution of the McIntyre crime family in season 1. Gerry’s death has become a part of the characters and their new journeys rather than impeding them.

Tommy’s not the only one who’s grown and changed for the better, though. Grace Ellis (Brooke) and Annie Conlon (Devlin) have not only become stronger, more self-assured police officers, but they’ve become closer friends, too—a relationship that wonderfully balances out the focus on romance this season with a genuine platonic dynamic between two compelling female characters.

Grace and Annie’s relationship is the heart of the show

Katherine Devlin as Annie Conlon in Blue Lights season 2

In season 1, I would have said Grace and Stevie’s (Martin McCann) relationship was the beating heart of the series, but this season, it’s shifted over to Grace and Annie (though Grace and Stevie’s relationship is still just as charming and impactful as ever). Now officially living together—Grace’s son has left home by this point—Grace and Annie have become more than just co-workers. They’ve become genuine friends. One of my favorite comedic scenes in Blue Lights season 2 (of which there are quite a few) is when, after Annie has a fun but slightly wild night out, Grace comes home to find the living room an absolute shambles. It’s a fun, quick, and light-hearted moment that’s so painfully and laughably relatable that you can’t help but root for their friendship and their new living arrangement.

When I asked the cast about their favorite character pairings on the show, both Brooke and Devlin agreed that the relationship between Annie and Grace is really special. Brooke said, “It was really nice to explore their relationship … as women, as female characters, to see that bond, and that they will look out for each other.” Devlin also mentioned how important it was to highlight female friendships between characters with an age difference. “To have a connection like that, it’s so so lovely to see that on screen and to play it as well.”

Grace and Annie, along with Andi Osho’s character Sandra Cliff, Joanne Crawford’s Helen McNally, and Andrea Irvine’s Nicola Robinson exist in a traditionally male-dominated world. Thankfully, Blue Lights season 2 lets them all shine in their own way, giving them a physical and emotional role in the story that holds the same weight as any of the male characters.

Though the criminal conspiracy might not feel as tightly plotted this time around, and one or two storylines perhaps feel a bit too far removed from the main action, it’s hard to care once you’re sucked into these characters’ world. All in all, Blue Lights season 2 is a character-driven triumph and a genuinely thrilling watch. It’s no wonder that it’s already been renewed for a third and fourth season.

Blue Lights season 2 premieres on BritBox June 13, with two episodes dropping weekly on Thursdays.

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El Kuiper
El (she/her) is The Mary Sue's U.K. editor and has been working as a freelance entertainment journalist for over two years, ever since she completed her Ph.D. in Creative Writing. El's primary focus is television and movie coverage for The Mary Sue, including British TV (she's seen every episode of Midsomer Murders ever made) and franchises like Marvel and Pokémon. As much as she enjoys analyzing other people's stories, her biggest dream is to one day publish an original fantasy novel of her own.