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

‘Blue Lights’ Season 2 Is a Perfect Example of How to Handle Grief on Screen

There’s something different about Blue Lights. For a show with plenty of explosive, tense, and stake-raising action sequences, it’s the quiet moments that truly sing. These characters feel real, relatable, and genuine. Season 2 has officially come to an end, and I feel like I know them.

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There is one recurring theme, above all, that truly affects and unites Blue Lights’ ensemble this season: grief. After the tragic and traumatic death of Gerry Cliff (Richard Dormer) at the end of Blue Lights season 1, Belfast’s young, hungry recruits got their first true taste of the dangerous and lethal nature of their new jobs. Naturally, they’d carry that grief with them—Tommy (Nathan Braniff), especially, was very close to Gerry—but these characters’ stories aren’t weighed down by their grief. Instead, they’re propelled forward by it.

Some viewers may have been surprised by the decision to jump forward a year in Blue Lights season 2’s opening episode. So much happened in the final stretch of season 1—why skip over all that pain and anguish, that grief that can build so much character? Mourning is an important part of what it means to be human, and in a show that is so committed to developing its characters, it seemed a strange decision to let that period of time go to waste. And yet, that one-year time skip was undeniably the right decision.

At no point in the season does it feel as though they’ve forgotten about Gerry, his lessons, his charisma, and his humor. If anything, they’re driven to succeed in his honor and to take care of each other as best they can (though sometimes, that protectiveness is too extreme). Tommy realized that he could toughen up without losing his sense of empathy. Grace (Siân Brooke) and Stevie (Martin McCann)’s professional and personal relationship has developed into something more, as they’re afraid of losing each other like they lost Gerry. Annie (Katherine Devlin) has continued the fight to prove herself and cultivated a genuine, heart-warming, and powerful friendship with Grace, and Jen Robinson (Hannah McClean), who held Gerry in her arms as he bled out on the pavement, has changed her career and turned her life around, searching for the truth no matter the cost, sacrificing her social life in the process.

Gerry’s death isn’t glossed over; it’s an intrinsic part of the season without overshadowing the action, the investigation, or the character dynamics. Recently, when I spoke to Adam Patterson and Declan Lawn, Blue Lights’ co-creators and writers, and asked them about the decision to include the time skip, Patterson mentioned that there were two main reasons season 2 jumped forward:

“We really set out to make a show that’s highly authentic, so if we didn’t jump forward a significant amount of time, then really, we would have been completely consumed by the aftermath of the killing of Gerry. While that is important and it’s important to remember him, it really wouldn’t have allowed us the kind of character trajectories we really wanted to achieve in season 2, had we not skipped a significant portion of time. The other reason that I would add is … we wanted to see how the officers were grappling a year into the job, and whether they could retain the idealism that they started with in season 1.”

Similarly, when I asked them about how they chose to show the characters’ grief throughout the season without outright labeling it as such, Lawn mentioned that they wanted to make sure that Gerry still had a presence in their lives.

“The interesting thing about grief is that it lasts for a very long time and it manifests itself in unexpected ways. So it was really important to us that Gerry’s presence was still felt in the station and through all of them and to kind of make that as realistic as possible. In some ways, they’re almost bound together as a team by what happened to him. We’re not a fan of television shows in which a main character dies and then in the next season, everybody acts like they never existed. I just don’t think that’s the way that life works. So we always knew that after Gerry died we wanted him still to be a presence in their lives and in their minds—and that will actually continue as we go forward into seasons 3 and 4. Even then, the ghost of Gerry will still be present.”

In Blue Lights season 2, the characters’ grief feels real. It comes and goes in waves; there are moments of happiness that can turn into moments of melancholy and vice versa. It’s encouraging that Lawn mentioned that Gerry’s presence will continue to be felt throughout Blue Lights seasons 3 and 4 because grief never really stops. It becomes easier to deal with, and over time, we come to look back on our memories of those we love with fondness rather than sadness. These characters aren’t there yet, in season 2, but perhaps they will be soon, as they continue to learn, grow, and change on the job.

Blue Lights isn’t a show about grief. It’s a show about new police officers finding their way in a complex city, trying to stay afloat as they deal with fear, death, danger, friendship, love, and community. It’s about them growing as people as they help other people. Grief is a part of that experience but it doesn’t define it. As I watched season 2, and I saw these characters react to Gerry’s death in ways that seemed so fitting for their personalities—even if they didn’t always make the healthiest decisions—I once again felt that I was watching a show that was more than your typical police procedural. The criminal conspiracy is a part of it, of course, but more importantly, we learn who these characters are and how people grow and change through different circumstances. I can’t wait to watch them grow and change even more in seasons 3 and 4.

Blue Lights seasons 1 and 2 are available to stream on BBC iPlayer in the U.K. and BritBox in the U.S. now.

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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.