A star rating of 4 out of 5.

*Warning - this review contains spoilers for the first episode of Blue Light season 2*


Blue Lights burst out of the gates last year fully formed and ready to prove some people wrong.

Some people like this critic, who thought that we didn't need any more police dramas and that everything there was to be said about the profession had already been said.

Not only was this wrong from a critical standpoint, with the show exceeding all expectations, but it was also wrong in terms of viewer appetite - the series was a huge success, getting a quick season 2 renewal and a further renewal for both seasons 3 and 4.

So, there's a lot more Blue Lights coming our way. And, based on the first few episodes of this season, that is certainly a very good thing.

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Stevie Neil (MARTIN MCCANN) and Grace Ellis (SIÂN BROOKE). They are in police uniform and are looking apprehensive at something.
Stevie and Grace in Blue Lights. BBC/Two Cities Television/Christopher Barr

Blue Lights season 2 kicks off one year after we last saw the PSNI team in Belfast, with Grace (Siân Brooke), Tommy (Nathan Braniff) and Annie (Katherine Devlin) now more established in their roles.

Grace is living with Annie following the security breach she suffered last season, and she and Stevie (Martin McCann) have decided to a put a halt to their potential romance due to the complications they could face in their line of work (although she seems more committed to this course of action than he does).

Meanwhile, the whole team is still mourning the loss of Gerry (Richard Dormer) at the end of last season, including his wife Sandra (Andi Osho), who is considering leaving Belfast altogether.

We're then introduced to Lee Thompson (Seamus O'Hara), a pub owner paying protection to a loyalist gang leader, and the violence which threatens to rear its head between multiple gangs around the city.

Siân Brooke as Grace Ellis and Martin McCann as Stevie Neil in Blue Lights, wearing police uniforms and stood next to a body
Siân Brooke as Grace Ellis and Martin McCann as Stevie Neil in Blue Lights. BBC/Two Cities Television/Christopher Barr

While the season 1 premiere was assured, throwing us into the action and deftly setting up the world, the first episode of season 2 is even more sure-footed, and that's all thanks to some excellent character work.

The opening sequence, in which an apparent attack on a police vehicle turns out to actually be a training sequence, is absolutely breathless, in part because we now care about these characters. We can see the fear in their eyes and the pace at which they're having to think of a way out.

Meanwhile, the interpersonal drama steps up a notch throughout the episode, to the show's definite strength.

There are still plenty of call-outs to tense situations and gangland plot machinations running underneath, but in many ways, the scenes where the team simply chat, either about their personal lives or the toll their work is putting on them, are some of the best.

Tommy and Annie's dynamic continues to be a fun brother-sister-like pairing, while both of them have new scene partners in the form of returning character Murray Canning (Desmond Eastwood) and new recruit Shane Bradley (Frank Blake) respectively.

Each of these pairings prove intriguing in their own right, as there are hints towards Tommy being lured away from ground policing, and towards something personal developing between Annie and Shane.

Nathan Braniff and Katherine Devlin as their characters in police uniform
Tommy Foster (Nathan Braniff) and Annie Conlon (Katherine Devlin). BBC/Two Cities Television/Christopher Barr

Grace and Stevie's strong, entertaining dynamic also continues to be a big selling point, while their will-they-won't-they drama is thankfully kept to a minimum. It's a strong story element to have bubbling under the surface, but it's good to see that writers Adam Patterson and Declan Lawn haven't allowed it to overwhelm the narrative.

Grace continues to be the real heart of the series, even if she has hardened somewhat between seasons, and Siân Brooke continues to excel in the role, proving to be an excellent audience surrogate while also making the character distinct.

The one storyline which so far is yet to bare fruit is Jen's narrative at her new workplace, the law firm. While it's nice to see Hannah McClean back after she did such stellar work with the character last year, she can't help but feel like a bit of a spare part at this point.

Though her scenes are sure to link up with the show's central storylines at some point, her placement outside of the central police team leaves them feeling somewhat superfluous at this point, and leaves you wanting to get back to the action.

Thankfully, the central gang plot for this season, revolving around the characters played by Seamus O'Hara and Seana Kerslake, is more gripping, and proves the show's ability to put a new spin on old tropes, and reinvent itself following the McIntyre family's storyline ending at the culmination of season 1.

Seamus O'Hara as Lee Thompson in Blue Lights in a blue tracksuit
Seamus O'Hara as Lee Thompson in Blue Lights. BBC/Two Cities Television

If you weren't a fan of the first season, then this new outing won't change your mind. It's more of the same, just in the best way, carrying on with what worked so well last time.

It's also not going to change the genre in any tangible fashion, and for some it might continue to feel somewhat safe.

But what it does do is it sure does make compulsive, gripping viewing, with the final dramatic sequence this week, involving Grace finding herself in a face-off with a knife-wielding criminal, proving to be heart-stoppingly tense.

In choosing to focus on more character-led stories this time around, and hints that we'll get to see deeper into the personal lives of the characters, Blue Light season 2 leans into its strengths and is all the more watchable for it.

It's still just a shame that it continues to have one of the most generic titles of any programme on TV right now - but I guess you can't have it all.

Blue Lights season 2 is available to stream in full now on BBC iPlayer.


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