Bloodlands season 1 — everything you need to know about the James Nesbitt thriller

Bloodlands stars James Nesbitt.
Bloodlands stars James Nesbitt. (Image credit: Getty Images)

Bloodlands season 1 was a crime thriller that became one of the best BBC dramas of 2021. The four-part series threw in plenty of twists and turns, and Bloodlands season 2 is now airing, so you can look forward to seeing more from Tom Brannick.

Written by first-time TV writer Chris Brandon and executive produced by Line of Duty creator Jed Mercurio, it was the first drama from the production company HTM Television, which is co-owned by Mercurio and Hat Trick Productions.

Set in Northern Ireland, the first season featured an impressive cast, with Cold Feet actor James Nesbitt playing the leading role of police detective Tom Brannick.

Jed Mercurio said: “HTM Television is honored such a prestigious cast will bring to life Chris Brandon's thrilling, thought-provoking series Bloodlands.”

Here's everything you need to know about the first series.

Bloodlands season 1 release date

Bloodlands season 1 first aired on BBC1 in February 2021 at 9 pm. All episodes are available to stream on BBC iPlayer.

What is Bloodlands about?

Bloodlands with Charlene McKenna as Detective Sergeant Niamh McGovern.

Charlene McKenna stars as Detective Sergeant Niamh McGovern. (Image credit: BBC)

The programming synopsis for Bloodlands reads:
"When a car containing a possible suicide note is pulled out of Strangford Lough, Northern Irish police detective Tom Brannick (James Nesbitt) quickly connects it to an infamous cold case with enormous personal significance.

"Bloodlands follows his hunt for the legendary assassin known as 'Goliath', an explosive cat-and-mouse game where the stakes have never been higher."

Bloodlands season 1 episode recaps *spoilers*

Bloodlands season 1 episode 1 recap

James Nesbitt in Bloodlands

Can Tom find Goliath? (Image credit: BBC / HTM Televison /Steffan Hill)

DCI Tom Brannick is called to a crime scene that resembles the work of a mysterious assassin called Goliath. Tom believes Goliath is the one responsible for his wife’s murder and launches a reinvestigation into the case that’s been unsolved for over 20 years. Along the way, he discovers quite quickly that his newest case threatens to bring all-out war back to the streets, and it becomes a race against time to find Pat Keenan before its too late.

Bloodlands season 1 episode 2 recap

Jackie Twomey (LORCAN CRANITCH) in Bloodlands

Jackie Twomey is causing trouble. (Image credit: BBC / HTM Televison /Steffan Hill)

Amid growing interference from former colleague DCS Jackie Twomey, Tom continues the investigation into Goliath whilst he waits to find out whether one of the bodies found is his missing wife. His investigation leads him to believe Adam Corry, the brother of one of the victims, is hiding something from the police. Meanwhile, Pat Keenan’s boys begin to show they won’t tolerate Tom poking his nose into their business by targeting his daughter.

Bloodlands season 1 episode 3 recap

Tom has to work hard to cover his tracks as the Goliath case is blown wide open by news of Adam Corry’s disappearance. We find out what connects Tori Matthews to the Goliath case and the DNA match for the woman in Pat Keenan’s car has finally been found.

Meanwhile, Tom, Birdy, Jackie and Niamh start to compile evidence that suggests Goliath must be serving on the very same force as they are. Tom allies himself with Tori, and they start working together to point the finger at another officer.

Bloodlands season 1 episode 4 recap

Here's how the finale played out in full.

Tori and Tom appear initially to have framed Jackie Twomey as the Goliath killer. His interrogation makes it look like the evidence is piling up against him, but it is eventually discounted and Jackie is released; the department then launches a search for whoever was trying to frame Jackie Twomey. 

Tori spots the necklace that Tom gave to his daughter and recognizes it as identical to the one she was sent by Adam. She accuses Tom of withholding this evidence from the police and, in response, takes Izzy hostage up in the mountains.

Meanwhile, Niamh—who has grown suspicious that something's not right— learns that Tom went on medical leave the day after Emma Brannick actually went missing. She and Jackie begin tracking Tom's phone as he goes to meet Tori. There, Tom confesses to Tori that in 1998 his wife was kidnapped by David Corry and that he was instructed to kill Simon Quinlan and Joe Harkin if he ever wanted to see her again. 

Tom also reveals he killed David and told his wife to disappear after he saw them behaving "like a couple", and confesses he also murdered Adam because he'd figured out that Tom was Goliath. 

Tori asks for absolute proof that he's Goliath, so he sends her to where he hid the gun used to kill his victims. There, Pat Keenan emerges and shoots her; as Pat tries to drag her body into a boat, Tom kills him, just as the police arrive. 

At the police station, Tom is asked about the call placed to an unregistered number, which was Tori's phone. He revealed that Tori was Simon's daughter and that her DNA matched that of the woman who kidnapped Pat Keenan. When asked whether he was convinced that Keenan was Goliath, Tom lies and says he believes he was.

Who stars in Bloodlands season 1?

James Nesbitt Tom Brannick Bloodlands

James Nesbitt leads the cast of Bloodlands as DCI Tom Brannick. (Image credit: BBC1)

There's an all-star cast attached to Bloodlands, with plenty of great names starring opposite James Nesbitt. Speaking about the opportunity before it got underway, Nesbitt said: “It’s great to be back making a drama in and about Northern Ireland, which now has a film and television industry as good as any in the world.

"We have compelling scripts — from a brilliant young writer who was raised in County Down — which are very exciting and psychologically complex. I can’t wait to start.”

Here's the rest of the cast:

  • James Nesbitt (The Missing, Cold Feet)
  • Lisa Dwan (Top Boy, Trust)
  • Lorcan Cranitch (Fortitude, The Dig)
  • Charlene McKenna (Ripper Street, Vienna Blood)
  • Ian McElhinney (Derry Girls, Game Of Thrones) 
  • Lola Petticrew (My Left Nut, Come Home
  • Chris Walley (The Young Offenders, 1917
  • Michael Smiley (Luther, Death and Nightingales
  • Kathy Kiera Clarke (Derry Girls, The Pale Horse)
  • Susan Lynch (Happy Valley, Save Me).

Is there a Bloodlands season 1 trailer?

Yes, and it's tense!