Ashes To Ashes – Series 3, Episode 6.

Wow. I think this was possibly the most intense episode of the series, minus maybe the first episode. Although this one was much more tension-themed than the first – the first just revealed a lot. Not a huge amount more than we already know was shown in this, which leads me to the question – how are they going to answer everything in the two hours left of ‘Ashes To Ashes’?

This week it was all about Viv. Which is unusual – he is something of a secondary character, as it were, but all episodes so far in this series have focussed on a different character (Shaz, Ray, Chris etc., although not a huge amount on Chris so far…), and I assume they had run out of them so chose Viv for this week. Crime Of The Week is all about a riot that has broken out in D-Wing of Fenchurch East prison – these are no ordinary criminals (“These are M and S criminals!”), in Gene Hunt’s words, they’ve “raped it, robbed it, killed it”. Them in riot form is pretty scary, and there were some epic scenes here: as Hunt and the first riot squad arrive at the prison, bricks and bombs are falling all around them to the sound of ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ by U2 (despite being U2, it is a cracking tune, and so, so fitting for the scene). Even though the riot squad have shields (plastic ones, this is no mediaeval seige) and headgear, Gene Hunt leads them, unprotected, into the prison, like an army walking up to battle (seige may be the word). Then we get a horrific scenes of policeman (including Viv, I should point out) being attacked by the rioting prisoners, and these particular prisoners seem very angry. Bloodied and bruised, the squad regroup outside, but Hunt realises Viv is left inside. He makes to go back in, but is stopped (as he probably would get killed), and  returns to the police station.

There is a general West Ham theme echoing throughout, from Keats whistling ‘I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles’, to Drake taking Viv’s West Ham football to the prison, and Hunt saying “Now I hate West Ham, but tonight we’re all Hammers fans, ok?” A little creepy, but I suppose represents a good deal of British society.

Before the first wave of policemen at the prison, Viv tries to tell Gene Hunt something, but can’t quite get the words out. Just as he is about to, Keats interrupts, literally saying “Sorry Viv, you’ve missed your chance”. Which to me, from the tone of his voice as well, sounds like Keats knew something about the whole thing – the something that Viv wanted to tell Hunt. As the team observe Viv, through the CCTV, being held hostage by the prisoners, and more specifically the ringleader Jason Sachs,  Alex manages to fuck things up again with her psychological talks (“This goes at your own pace, in your own time,” Of course it bloody does, he’s the one with the gun!), and Viv’s life hangs in the balance.

While all of this is going on, there has been an escaped prisoner on the loose since the riot began. His name is Paul Thordy. He thinks he is Sam Tyler. Even though he doesn’t look or sound like him. Paul Thordy is a con-artist, and not one of Gene Hunt’s favourite people. As soon as Chris and Ray find him, Hunt exposes him to what Drake calls “torture”. Really, it’s just Hunt doing what he likes to do. As Drake interviews Paul Thordy, she becomes more and more sucked into what he is saying about Hunt and the truth behind the whole situation. On the surface, he appears to know his stuff: he informs Alex that the riot is a cover-up, and that Viv agreed to bring a gun in for Sachs as long as Sachs made one of his men own up to a crime that his cousin was accused of. However, later it is revealed that Sachs and Thordy used to share a cell, so it’s not wonder that Thordy also has plans of the whole building being electrified, and that if anyone walks in, people die.

While THIS has been occurring (told you it was intense), Chris and Ray have been sent into the prison as “press”, to see if they can get Viv out. But as soon as Ray catches a glimpse of the beaten Viv, he reveals himself and Chris to be who they really are. The three of them are strung up to the electrics, and they can only wait for people to come and save them – or kill them as they will if they enter the prison.There is an exceptionally touching scene between Ray and Chris as they think they are going to die: Chris tells Ray to tell Shaz that, if he doesn’t get out of there, he loves her. Lots of sentiment, and the tension builds as the next wave of crime-fighters are about to break into the prison, and Hunt and Drake are running to try to stop them…

Gene Hunt throws a rock at the electrics box to make the whole building down (YES Hunt!), and Chris and Ray are saved. But Viv is taken by Sachs, and by the time Keats arrives there (why does he turn up now? Good work. Twat), he is dying. Like Episode 4, Keats is the one holding the dying character… How odd. The theme of ‘I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles’ returns, and the team are left to comfort each other, surrounding Viv’s body.

DEPRESSING. But, team relations, I believe, were on the up. Keats is becoming more and more of a spare part, as he is only hindering the team and not helping (and why the hell does he always leave his mouth open after every insult he gives? He acts like a school boy instead of what he should be) (ARGH!). Ray and Chris are solid, as ever, and Hunt’s loyalty to the team is outstanding. The only annoying character (aside from Keats) this week was Alex, as she is more concerned with ‘finding the answers’ instead of helping towards what really matters. Why should getting back home matter now? It hasn’t mattered for a few years now. This new character of Paul Thordy was an interesting one – was he really Sam Tyler? (probably not). And who really is Keats and why is he there? (Angel of Death, as he always seems to be around when someone’s dying?). What’s going to happen in the last two episodes, and what the hell is going to be revealed about Hunt? Questions, questions! Although I’m not sure if I really want to know the truth about Gene Hunt and his world – I quite like it the way it is.

Next week looks out-bloody-standing – Keats leans more on Alex to find out stuff about Hunt (do your bloody job Keats), and relations between Drake and Hunt appear to be growing (I think?). Chris is not a popular character next week, and I want to know what happens!  Good it’s only tomorrow really 🙂


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 – ‘Life On Mars’

Although I may be somewhat “late to the game” on this count, this doesn’t make the programme any less amazing.

Me and an associate began watching (she insisted) the first series on Sunday evening. It is now Thursday and we have four episodes left to go of the second series. I LOVE THIS PROGRAMME. Despite not being accustomed to cop shows, and even less cop shows from the 70s, this is one of the best things I’ve seen in ages. I won’t bother with a long description as I’m sure the majority of people know the basic idea behind it, but cop in 2006 (or thereabouts) gets hit by car, falls into a coma, wakes up in 1973. “If I can work out the reason [as to why it’s now 1973], maybe I can get back [to 2006]”, so he tells us repeatedly. He is confused and frustrated, his sanity is frequently doubted and no one really likes him, apart from a female officer called Annie. Sounds odd and possibly very bad, but everything goes back in time, and it’s brilliant.

That’s not to say it is without its demerits. I am not a fan of John Simm (the main actor), and his character (Sam Tyler) is more than a little irritating at times. But maybe this is because GENE HUNT RULES EVERY SCENE HE IS IN.

But why would anyone ever love Gene Hunt? The DCI is racist, sexist, homophobic, violent, bordering alcoholic, not one to think it’s bad to bring a hooker he has just “nicked” to a swinging party, a semi-bent copper who is more interested in results than the right way to get them… It looks bad for him really. However, he is one of the coolest characters ever to be invented. He does, somehow, have a very caring underlying trait to his personality, and you would never feel unprotected if he was heading your team. Indeed, to stand up to him as much as he does, I’m rather surprised Sam Tyler has not been snapped in two a great many times.

The genius behind this programme I feel lies in a lot of qualities that you don’t find in many others. Or if you do, they are very few and far between, and usually only quality is possessed, not as many as ‘Life On Mars’ has. First of all, the script is incredible.

“I’m Gene Hunt. Your DCI. It’s 1973. Nearly dinner time. I’m ‘aving hoops!”

It’s a brilliantly quotable script – a charm only found in things like ‘Black Books’ or ‘Family Guy’. Secondly, the writers have the advantage of writing retrospectively, and the added bonus of hindsight can prove hilarious. Like Sam Tyler introducing himself as “Tony Blair” at a party, and Gene Hunt as “Gordon Brown”, and being able to turn a regular pub into a sports pub for the Grand National (and Sam Tyler tipping that Red Rum would win).  Thirdly, the music is amazing, and it must be a lovely job choosing which of your favourite 70s songs to go on the soundtrack. Fourthly, the unbelievably well-researched costuming and props (etc) make for an exceptionally believable programme, from the fashions of 1973, to the authentic Party Seven can and the cuisine at the time (black forest gateaux and treacle tart etc). In fact I think the only weak thing about it IS John Simm, but he is still perfectly acceptable and probably would be quite good if he wasn’t upstaged by Philip Glenister all the time. A strong supporting cast is a charm, but an overpowering one can be bad. It’s all fine here though, due to Gene Hunt being awesome. I feel the fact there’s only 16 episodes in existence is definitely a bonus – not too many to spoil it, not too few to be frustrating, and just the right number to include the staple cop drama events (ie. bombings, murders, hostage-taking etc)

I am also very happy about the inclusion of historical and political events that occurred at the time – this can also prove to be comical, but also a good reflection on what happened. It is also likely that most of the writers lived through some of the events, so can write a believable portrayal of it based on what they experienced, not on hearing about it many years later.

Although there’s only four episodes of the second series to go, there is still three series of Ashes To Ashes, although I am dubious about this as reviews have stated it is not quite the same or as good as Life On Mars. But it can’t hurt to look, and there’s still the tying up of ends for this series too. It should be watched by everyone. And considering how little I actually like things (and recommend them), you would be missing out not to get involved.