Ashes To Ashes – Series 3, Episode 4.


“I am not drunk!” states DCI Gene Hunt.

“But you have been drinking,” DI Alex Drake retorts.

“It’s nearly dinner time, of course I’ve had a bloody drink!” Hunt explains.

Now this was a particularly good start, from the Quattro roaring in to the excellent script, and I feel this is a place where the writers never fall down – there is always a good beginning to an episode of Ashes to Ashes.

However, when it gets to Alex’s little speech after the intro to explain the situation, it is basically only that that reminds you she IS in a foreign place and really she shouldn’t be there. Apparently she has a daughter, but she hasn’t mentioned her for bloody ages, and whatever happened to the godfather character, Evan, who featured so prominently in the first series? Everything about her previous life appears to be shrinking further and further away, so does this mean the script writers aren’t going to bring her back to present day at the end of the series?

This episode seems to be majorly about double-crossing and pulling the wool over peoples eyes, and the Crime Of The Week centres around an undercover policewoman (Louise Gardener) and her being planted amongst a criminal gang (when did gangs ever engage in legal and above-board activities?) who have been deemed a “bunch of bastards” by Gene Hunt. The gang, the Staffords, have begun to deal in heroin, and, in a bid to become the main dealers on the street, have started killing off other dealers by over-dosing them on their own commodity. Cruel but effective. In detection work, Alex and Hunt go to visit a heroin addict, which is somewhat depressing as most addictions are, but it leads to an intriguing episode of the addict saying:

“You look like you’re visiting but you’re not are you? You’re staying.”

(Which means what?! Is she staying or going?!), and there is plenty of graffiti written on the wall stating “For a good time, call 6602” and “Molly was here” etc. Unlike Sam Tyler, there have been little or no flashbacks, and no one in 2009 trying to make contact with Alex Drake – she seems more cut-off than ever, and flinging her back to present day at the end of Ashes to Ashes seems, currently, like it wouldn’t work. It would be too blunt and incongruous.

Anyway, the undercover agent, Louise, is visited at her placement by Drake and Hunt, and then she turns up at CID somewhat bloodied and bruised, allegedly attacked by Daniel Stafford. This attack leaves DCI Keats a tad angry (brilliant!), and he oozes his usual negativity into every single scene. The team pick up Daniel Stafford very early the next morning, and “nick” him for having heroin in the glove compartment of his car. Or “motor”, as Ray says. After talking to Louise, Chris discovers that Daniel raped her, which sends him into a fit of rage and he promptly invades the cells and “beats Daniel Stafford into an inch of his life”. Which then leads to hospitalisation and Chris potentially losing his job, but Hunt remains ever loyal to his team and would not let such things happen.

The final scene is pretty epic – after finding out where the Staffords have Louise and discovering her kissing Terry Stafford (Daniel’s dad) – so she has initially double crossed him by being undercover, then double crossed the police by being ‘undercover’ whilst sleeping with who she is supposed to be spying on. She pulls a gun on the team, but Hunt shoots it out of her hand. Then Daniel Stafford, after fighting with Chris and Ray, drives his van into Louise, and, as she is drawing her last breaths, Drake smashes his door into him. Awesome stuff. What’s not so awesome is when Keats thinks it’s ok for him to first move Louise’s body (could cause further injury you idiot!), and then spend her last moments holding her. He is possibly the least sensitive character in this scene. There is an excellent camera shot on each of the team, showing how the death has affected them here.

A particularly good contextual reference in this week’s episode was the inclusion of the 1983 vadalisation of the Blue Peter garden. This actually occurred in November 1983, and it was comical with adding in the real footage for an appeal to raise funds to repair the damage. Hunt’s reaction was “It’s only a bloody garden!” Very good referencing, but it would have worked better if it hadn’t been light at 5:30am when Chris and Ray were picking up Daniel Stafford – it is never light at 5:30am in November.

So. Team relations. How are they going? Well, there was a lovely ‘eyes moment’ between Hunt and Drake, and another moment where they nearly kiss when Alex is passed out in her flat (again). But still nothing. Shaz rejects Chris’ affections (again!), but is quite clearly jealous when he starts talking to Louise. Ray continues to be a blunt machine, and Keats continues to be as disgusting as ever, although I think I may be getting used to this now. However, his main purpose appears to be to comment on the scene, saying unnecessary rubbish that no one wants to hear. He is a little too exacerbated for my liking – too stereotyped to take seriously, and it feels like the script writers have gone too far with this character. Still, can’t wait until his potential death – surely this has to occur at some point?

Next week looks pretty exciting – a character and policeman from Manchester makes a reappearance, and, at episode 5, we should be getting at least some strings tied up. Shouldn’t we?! Get the fuck on with it. Sometimes it does feel a little like surplus, and they could have ended it at series 2, but it still makes for good watching, and there aren’t many programmes around this well written at the moment. Also, I love Gene Hunt.

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Ashes to Ashes – Series 3, Episode 2.


Like last time, if you’re planning on watching this, don’t read – I am prone to give endings away.

Also, this should have been written on Saturday but I had no computer and good company – so, yeah. No writings until now!

This week’s episode I wasn’t as gripped by as last week’s, but I did have to watch it in parts and various things didn’t happen that I wanted to. Like DCI Keats didn’t die in a big ball of fire. Shaz and Chris didn’t get back together… Etc etc. It was good though, it’s still Ashes to Ashes ie. more awesome than regular television viewing.

Generally speaking there seemed to be about three storylines snaking through the episode, with the main crime they were solving this week, Shaz dithering about whether she should stay in the force, and Alex Drake musing about what REALLY happened to Sam Tyler. Tacky boy Keats made regular appearances again, although less frequent than last time, and, wonderfully, less alluringly to Drake. She appears to be swaying more to Hunt’s side of things once again, than being sucked into the smarmy world of Keats. Good stuff.

The crime solving was good stuff – it gave Shaz an actual chance to do what she really could, and she did it very well. In essence, Fenchurch East get sent a hand (of a murder victim, obviously) in the post, and that unveils a series of murders of women, all happening after they’ve been divorced and feel at their most “vulnerable”. Using a dating agency, the murderer selects his victims by meeting them, then telling him what he really though of all women. In this instance, Shaz is used as ‘bait’ to get the murderer to confess, and puts her life in serious risk, thus meaning her work will promote her to “CID by Christmas”.

This last bit is technically the most important, as Shaz is questioning throughout the entire episode whether she should leave the police force. It was all portrayed in a very unbelievable manner, I found though, as she was getting annoyed and stressed at the smallest, most pointless and odd things, and there was no explanation for it except that she didn’t feel that happy where she was. But if that was so, why did she stay in the force when Hunt says he’ll promote her? It didn’t make much sense to me, especially when she disband a mob of hooligans on her own when leaving the pub early. The script also didn’t catch me much this week, as there were minimal good one liners and slightly tenuous statements which I felt didn’t fit properly with the already well-established characters. However, the story telling was still pretty good, and I am glad Shaz is staying. It would seem a little pointless to write her out given it’s only two episodes in and the only character that’s really been written out so far was main protagonist from Life On Mars Sam Tyler.

Which leads me onto the next story line: for some reason Alex Drake has suddenly become much more interested in Mr Tyler. Why now? And why should she forget all about her daughter and her life back in 2008? She appears to have forgotten everything, and that would be fine but now why is she investigating Sam Tyler for any other reason than for a way to get back home? Gene Hunt discovers her investigations at the end of the episode, and is not best pleased, telling “Bolly” that they do things as a team, and don’t go behind each other’s backs. A fair point, but he, annoyingly, is slightly acting like he’s covering something up. Not good considering DCI Jim Keats thinks he’s “onto him” and wants to clearly expose Hunt for the death of Sam Tyler. Odd. Very odd. It also seems odd that the writers keep stretching out the story line that Keats is there to interview the members of the team – a plausible reason for his existence, but why must it continue so long? In the ‘Next Week’s Episode’ montage at the end, it appears he is just continuing his investigations further – shouldn’t he have found something by now?

There were good parts to this week’s episode however – Philip Glenister’s real-life wife plays a character that Gene Hunt initially despises (the bird running the dating agency), and ends up kissing at the end (excellent irony), Shaz had her ‘moment’, and Drake’s invention of Speed Dating amused me. But I need things to happen and move on! Nothing much seemed to happen in this episode. Keats hasn’t found anything, Shaz was going to leave then didn’t, Hunt and Bolly haven’t done anything and Shaz and Chris are not back together. They did solve crimes – kind of essential given it’s a cop show – but not much moved on as far as discovering what the world of DCI Gene Hunt is really all about.

Television Times – Ashes to Ashes (an introduction).


Or, why I love Gene Hunt.

So. The great debate. Should this spin-off from Life On Mars ever have been allowed to occur – does it taint its marvellous predecessor – or, does it overshadow and outrun Life On Mars, and viewers are very happy that there are many more hours of Gene Hunt to be enjoyed?

As much as I liked Life On Mars, I think I have to hand it to Ashes. This is a hugely controversial point, but I find Keeley Hawes (DI Alex Drake) gives a much more convincing performance than the lead in Life On Mars, John Simm, who plays Sam Tyler. This may be slightly down to the characters themselves, as Alex Drake knows where she is, she has already read about the characters, and she seems, therefore, less insane than Sam Tyler. The viewer is able to relax more in this series, and enjoy the plot lines, the acting, the script – everything really – as, in Life On Mars, you’re not constantly thinking “Oh GOD he’s GOING TO DIE” or “Just shut up and enjoy the 70s maybe?”, and you’re not living in fear that Alex Drake is going to cease to exist because of everything that has happened before. So it is a more relaxing and enjoyable series as a whole, I prefer the performance and character of Alex Drake, and aside from all of that, you still get all the goodness that was first created in Life On Mars, but in the 80s with (potentially) better music. What’s not to like?!

Criticisms have ranged from Keeley Hawes not delivering a believable enough performance (despite being nominated for various awards), to the idea that the writers were just doing what they did with Life On Mars, but more of it, and with a woman. Now I’m not a feminist, but Keeley Hawes does make a decent police officer, and even if you don’t like that, surely the hilarious tension between Alex Drake and Gene Hunt makes for very entertaining viewing? Much more so than the love-hate relationship between Gene Hunt and Sam Tyler anyway.

Now despite the character of Gene Hunt having reformed slightly, he stills retains what makes him him:

“I am just trying to get this man arrested for murder, if that makes me a fascist, then Heil bloody Hitler!”

And despite having written this with only two out of the three original writers, I feel the script is still just as good, if not better than Life On Mars. Ashes also includes one of my favourites ‘romances’ (what a hideous word in this context), between DC Chris Skelton and WPC Sharon Granger (‘Shaz’), which is SO ADORABLE YOU JUST WANT THEM TO RUN OFF INTO A SUNSET. That paralleled with the somewhat explosive relationship between Alex Drake and Gene Hunt is particularly well done.

Basically, Ashes is just as good, if not miles better than, Life On Mars, and since I have now caught up with all available series (within about 2 weeks), I shall be reviewing each new episode of series 3, shown on Fridays, BBC 1, at 9pm. Watch it bitches. Or bastards.

(And I’d like to point out I chose the series 2 trailer due to the awesome driving and genius music, not for the violence)