Take A Beat

Okay, I’m just going to signal this from the off.

If you haven’t watched Episodes One to Four of ‘Blue Lights’, this review contains quite a few spoilers.
It has to by necessity.
So to quote PC Gerry Cliff from tonight’s episode: “Take a beat”.
Park reading this until you’ve watched all four.
After last week’s Ombudsman’s investigation, the officers of Blackthorn PSNI Station were back on the streets of Belfast.
But so were members of the McIntyre gang, with the episode opening with Michael Shea’s Mo McIntyre, Dane Whyte O’Hara’s Gordy Mackle and Gerard Jordan’s Anto Donovan recovering a cache of Libyan weapons that had been hidden during decommissioning.
Last week the trio agreed to trade those arms with the Dublin based Ginley gang who supply their drugs – unaware that Mo’s father, John Lynch’s James had been tipped off by his handler in British intelligence.
As Anto checked the arsenal, Mo was giddy at the prospect of £100,000 coming their way in a deal he had been frozen his father out of.
Back in Blackthorn Station, Jonathan Harden’s shifty Inspector ‘Jonty’ Johnson received a call from Nabil Elouahabi’s chief spook Joseph.
The MI5 officer informed him that a major covert intelligence operation was now in train, with “Charlie One” on the move.
Joseph nearly bust a blood vessel trying to stress this was the day of all days that the list he always sends of out of bounds areas had to be adhered to by Jonty’s officers
“Today, they are sacrosanct. Are we clear? Sacrosanct,” Joseph warned but we all knew his order would be ignored.
Across town, Richard Dormer’s Gerry Cliff and probationer Nathan Braniff’s PC Tommy Foster were attending an inquest into the death of one of the people they gave CPR to in the second episode.
Alarmed that Matthew Forsythe’s solicitor for the McIntyre gang, Aodhan McAllister seemed to be on really chummy terms with the coroner, Gerry coached Tommy to stick to their pre-prepared script or “they will skin you alive”.
Tommy, however, let his emotions get the better of him while giving evidence and was honest to a fault, filling Gerry with a lot of anxiety.
After Joanne Crawford’s PS Helen McNally laid down the law last week to Hannah McClean’s Jen Robinson following the discovery of her affair with Jonty, Jen rang her mum, Andrea Irvine’s Superintendent Nicola Robinson to tell her she wanted to quit without really explaining why.
Jen was cautioned by her mum not to be so foolish, saying it would reflect badly on both of them.
Katherine Devlin’s rookie PC Annie Conlon went home to the Glens of Antrim to see her mum and paid an emotional visit to her teammates at the local camogie club.
Martin McCann’s PC Stevie Nicoll was in civvies too, calling at the home of Sian Brooke’s rookie PC Grace Ellis who had asked for compassionate leave after the arrest of her son in the previous episode amid concerns about racial profiling.
As he encouraged Grace to come back to work, we learnt a little more about Blackthorn’s “mystery man”.
Reporting for duty after her visit home, Annie was informed the complaint of assault against her during last week’s pub melee had been dropped – thanks to the witness statement Jen had given the Ombudsman.
And if the stress of his inquest appearance wasn’t enough, Tommy was informed his marksmanship exam had been brought forward to that day which made Gerry even more jumpy.
Despite concerns about his accuracy, Tommy insisted on going ahead with it anyway.
This meant Gerry was paired with Jen Robinson on patrol and it turned out to be quite a decent pairing.
Gerry ribbed her about the driver’s seat of the squad car not being as comfortable as the ones in the office and he even made her laugh about her choice of a Ronan Keating song to accompany their drive through the city streets.
Spotting Paddy Jenkins’ Happy on the street, Jen impressed Gerry by the warmth with which she greeted his old friend who she offered to give a lift home.
Both officers took up Happy’s offer of a cup of tea in his kitchen but when he dropped in conversation that he had seen some Dublin registered cars heading in the direction of “The Palace,” it set alarm bells ringing in Gerry’s head.
Feeling he had no choice but to ignore the out of bounds order from Jonty, confrontation with the McIntyre and Ginley gangs was inevitable.
But would the “sneaky beakies” intervene before it all got out of hand?
Patterson, Lawn and director Gilles Bannier delivered their tautest episode yet, bringing several storylines to the boil.
They ended the fifth episode with one hell of a jolt and a massive narrative gamble.
But the fact they even did that was a measure of their confidence.
Throughout the run, Patterson, Lawn and their fellow writer Fran Harris have consistently demonstrated how they really understand their patch.
They’ve put in the hard yards of thorough research and of carefully setting up the narrative.
As a result, they were able to execute their plot masterfully in this episode.
Not only did the fifth episode demonstrate ‘Blue Lights’ strength as a drama tackling the complexities of contemporary Northern Ireland policing but it laid bare its ambition to be regarded as a truly great cop drama.
Dormer was once again outstanding as Gerry.
With his cheeky quips and his caring nature, it’s easy to see why Gerry Cliff has quickly become such a fan favourite.
McClean continues to impress, increasingly showing more sides to a character that many viewers might easily have written off.
Braniff, Brooke, McCann, Osho, Crawford, Devlin, Harden and Elouhabi provided solid support.
Lynch, Shea, O’Hara, Jordan, Peter Campion and Abigail McGibbon as James McIntyre’s wily ex, Tina also continued to relish their characters’ walk on the dark side.
With just one episode left, you can see why those watching on the iPlayer have found irresistible the temptation to rush straight to its climax.
Those who prefer the more traditional TV route will have to wait another week.
And what an agonising week that is going to be.
After a truly nerve jangling penultimate episode, surely ‘Blue Lights’ cannot get any better than this?
(While all episodes of ‘Blue Lights’ are available on the BBC iPlayer, Slugger will be posting on each episode after they are broadcast on BBC1. We would, therefore, be grateful if you could refrain from any spoilers for future episodes in the comments below.)

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