Tuesday, April 18, 2006

My Review of Life On Mars 1x07: "Episode 7"

Written by Chris Chibnall
Directed by S.J. Clarkson

Annie (to Sam): “When are you gonna stop? We’re people. We have lives. We’re not here for your amusement.”

As the first season begins to draw to a closer, the episodes are taking an understandably darker turn and this might be one of the darkest episodes yet. We’ve known that Sam has hated the way things are run in 1973 but now we finally have an episode where it transcends his holier than thou attitude.

When Chris and Annie give chase to a flasher called Billy Kemble, it soon becomes apparent that on top of his inappropriate behaviour, he also peddles drugs to college students. Sam’s quick to point out that there is a recreational use to drugs but Gene is more focused on the supplier angle.

Billy doesn’t make a great effort to co-operate with Gene and as a punishment; he gets thrown in a cell with a psychotic guy called Albert Collins. Although Sam is against the idea, he doesn’t exactly do much to deter Gene and leaving Ray and Chris to essentially hold the fort is a big mistake on Gene’s part.

For as soon as Gene and Sam return from their own little meal together, it turns out that Billy has died. The first assumption is that Albert did the deed and when he’s brazenly denying his involvement, Gene is still determined to nail a confession out of him. However while Albert might have beaten the living daylights out of Billy, it wasn’t him who caused the death.

Instead Billy turned out to have a weak heart and that added with some cocaine in his system ended up killing him. As far as Gene’s concerned the only thing that needs to be done is to tell Billy’s sister about the flasher’s death. As minor characters go, Andrea’s a fun little spitfire.

Sam even raised a smile when she threatened to hit Gene but the case got turned on it’s head when Andrea insisted that Billy wasn’t into drugs. Okay so it’s likely that anyone that close to Billy would say the same thing but it was enough for Sam to deduce that perhaps Billy’s death wasn’t so straightforward after all.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve had Gene constantly complain about Sam trying to undermine him at every turn and this time, Sam did up his game. His anger over Billy’s death under the watch of Ray, Chris, Annie and Phyllis stood out because for once, everyone was a suspect.

Sam had no problem in grilling all four of them and even when Gene did try to undermine him, Sam refused to back down. There’s even a great moment in the episode where Gene calls Sam out for staying here when he keeps insisting that he loathes the place. Although I side with Sam all the way, Gene does have a point in a roundabout way.

Sam might not be able to take himself back in 2006 but if things were so appalling, he could transfer to another station. He might not want to admit it but there’s a part of Sam that is connecting with this world. Whether it’s his relationship with Annie or Gene or some kind of fate but either way, there’s some part of Sam that isn’t removing himself from his current surroundings.

The only problem is that while his determination to do the right thing is a good thing, he’s increasingly raising hostility as well. Even Annie was at the end of her tether with him this week. To be fair, Sam wasn’t trying to be nasty when he asked for more detail about Billy’s death but you could see why Annie would be affronted with the way he was handling things.

He even grilled both Phyllis and Chris quite aggressively as well. However when he found out that there was something afoot with the rota, Gene stuck his oar and took Sam off the case. Given how determined Sam became about this, I knew he’d find another way of getting answers.

Playing on Chris’ conscience was a nice trick. Chris seems to be divided between doing things old school and adapting to Sam’s less brutal methods. The fact that a tape would be in Annie’s locker was convenient. Then again the fact that Ray would also play a part in this was something anyone could’ve predicted.

No disrespect to Dean Andrews but if I didn’t hate Ray before then thanks to this episode, I absolutely despise him as a character. I was really glad to see Sam give him the beating of a lifetime. Gene might have his faults but he at least knows when to tow the line. Ray doesn’t seem to possess that particular skill.

Ray’s stupidity even extended to drugging Billy to get a confession and causing his death. Although Annie was desperate not to lose her job, Sam had every right to take that tape to Frank. It’s just a pity that Frank destroyed the tape and made Sam look like a fool. Even more interestingly was that Gene had set up Sam in order to expose Ray as the guilty party.

Ray’s comeuppance is not nearly satisfying enough but I guess the writers are invested in the character too much to let him go. As for Sam, he thought exposing the truth would set him free but in all fairness, it did nothing of the sort. The fact that Annie is also becoming more annoyed with Sam’s time travel theories should serve him to change the record a bit.

Once again we got more stuff on the outside world. The last few episodes have thrown in the possibility of Sam dying. This week he’s still not responding to tests and seeing as Sam can’t even communicate with his doctors, you do have to wonder where else this is going to go. We keep see that forest but as of yet we don’t know how relevant it’s supposed to be.

Also in “Episode 7”

We learned that Gene doesn’t get on with DI Robinson due to the latter making a pass at Gene’s wife. I can’t blame Gene for that.

Billy: “Oh bollocks.”
Gene: “My thoughts exactly.”

This episode was scripted by Chris Chibnall, the same guy who’s given some excellent Torchwood episodes as well as a Doctor Who one.

Gene: “Serves you right for staying up rodding all night with that new fella of yours. Did you let his guide dog watch?”
Phyllis: “His guide dog’s giving your Mam one from behind.”

Albert: “I get out of here, the first thing I’m gonna do is knife your missus.”
Gene: “Oh shut up and share nicely.”

Just like Nelson, Phyllis is turning out to be one of the best characters on this show. I love the banter between her and Gene.

Oswald: “I’m clearly not up to date as I think.”
Sam: “I’m well ahead of you in my reading.”

Sam: “If we can’t police ourselves, how can the public trust us?”
Gene: “The public doesn’t give a damn about what we do, just as long as we get results.”

Sam heard bits of Britney Spears and Pulp when he was eating with Gene. His mind must be playing tricks with him.

Sam: “I’ve asked you nicely.”
Ray: “Go shove your head up your own arse.”

Sam: “That’s what I have to do – destroy his world and get back to my own.”
Nelson: “I wasn’t talking about destruction. I was talking about truth.”
Sam: “What if they’re the same thing?”

Gene admitted that he asked Sam out to dinner because he didn’t want to dine alone. Sam is beginning to have an unintentional impact on him emotionally.

Ray: “Are you gonna give me the tape or am I gonna have to take it?”
Sam: “You really believe we’re gonna have a punch up over this tape?”

Sam: “The only one expendable.”
Gene: “Isn’t that how you always fancied yourself? A moral compass in a corrupt department.”

At the end of the episode it did seem like Annie was trying to get Sam to ask her out in a roundabout way. Ray even referred to them as lovers earlier on in the episode.

Gene: “You can’t change this world, Sam. Only learn how to survive in it.”
Sam: “I don’t give up that easily.”
Gene: “Good.”

Standout music: Excluding the modern contributions, I’ll go with “Sinnerman” by Nina Simone. It would’ve made an appropriate episode title.

The more I get into this series, the more I understand the hype surrounding it. As a penultimate episode, this was incredibly dark and while it didn’t set up too much for the finale, it continues to develop this world that Sam is so desperate to leave behind. I don’t think I want him to go home anymore than Annie or Gene does.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

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