Monday, April 03, 2006

My Review of Life On Mars 1x03: "Episode 3"

Written by Matthew Graham
Directed by John McKay

Ted (to Sam): “You’re right. It is a war but at least I know what I’m fighting for.”

Fighting, we all do that and ever since Sam has landed in 1973, he’s also been doing his fair share of fighting too. It’s understandable given that he wants to return to his own time where the policing isn’t so Neanderthal.

This week’s escapades sees the murder of Jimmy Saunders in a local factory. Typically no-one is particularly distraught about Jimmy’s death which means that there could be a long list of suspects that killed him but Gene decides to use his own powers of deduction and pin it on one person in particular.

The person he believes guilty for Jimmy’s death is Ted Bannister. It’s easy to see why Gene would go there really. Ted openly had a violent working relationship with the deceased and prior to Jimmy’s death; the two of them were also engaged in a violent altercation. Overall this should be an open and shut case.

However in TV land, it rarely is and although you know that Gene must be wrong, it’s interesting that we have to go through a lot to get to that point. Sam continues his ongoing bid to show Gene up by trying to do things strictly by the book. Instead of knocking the wind out of Sam with a swift punch, Gene has a better way with dealing with Sam’s need to do the right thing.

Bets are always placed in workplace environment but not usually not whether or not someone is a killer. Gene is so sure that Ted killed Jimmy that he puts a ten pound note on it. Sam’s appalled by this but when the rest of his colleagues wind him big time, even he gets suckered into going along with the bet.

It’s moments like this in the series that do show Gene’s despicable side but for some reason you almost want him to be right over Sam. Gene’s main mantra seems to be all about gut instinct. His refusal to allow forensics to determine whether or not Ted is really a killer is both good and bad in this episode.

However the biggest hint that Ted didn’t kill Jimmy comes as soon as he’s interrogated. Gene using his belligerent methods gets the man (though not deliberately) into admitting that he was a murderer. You don’t have to be a genius to spot that he made this confession under duress.

Sam immediately spotted holes in his confession and even tried to get Ted to admit that he wasn’t a killer by using the family card. Unfortunately it had the opposite effect as Ted thought that by confessing to doing something like murder would protect his family. I’m not exactly sure how he came to that conclusion but maybe it’s a way of showing the audience he was stupidly noble to his family.

Then again with Sam, he knew that Ted was innocent. He tried explaining that to Gene but the latter refused to listen and when forensics matched blood on his shirt to Jimmy it was going to be harder for Sam to get Ted freed. That being said, Sam did at least have a few decent aces up his sleeve.

One was rounding in Derek, Ted’s son and having the lad and Ted face each other. In the cells when they’re arguing I did expect Derek to maybe confess that he was the one who killed Jimmy. Hell even when Annie was interviewing his ditzy girlfriend, I thought she might have let slip. Well technically she did but that was for something different.

As for the murder itself, apart from the bad feeling that “enemy in the ranks” Jimmy generated amongst his co-workers, it did later turn out that the belt on one of the looms caused his demise rather than a knife happy Ted. So what Ted’s constant insistence that he did it?

To be honest that irritated the heck out of me. Ted wanted to take the rap for something he didn’t do because he didn’t want the factory to shut down and his mates to be out of work. While there’s something noble in that, it’s also a rather stupid thing considering that he wouldn’t be able to provide for his family in jail.

However Ted did return to the scene of the crime and replaced the belt to avoid the factory facing closing. More importantly Tina blurted out the fact that Derek and a few mates were planning on robbing the place, leaving to a great moment where Gene ends up saving Sam’s bacon once again.

The last couple of things in the episode that also hit a nerve was Litton. Gene might have a very good rival in there and Sam became part of the team when he lead Gene and company into scrapping with Litton’s crew. For something quite laddish, it was surprisingly amusing to a degree.

Annie and Chris weren’t quite as vocalised in this episode compared to the previous two but I do still enjoy the dynamic both of them seem to have with Sam. Ray is still underdeveloped as a character and generally comes across irritating but Nelson raises some excellent question on what battles Sam should be engaging with.

The Test Card Girl on the other hand still manages to retain her creepy presence. She’s more than happy to tell Sam to give up his fight to survive. That scene isn’t quite as chilling as their first encounter but still has the desired effect and only adds to the general mystery of whether or not Sam has travelled in time genuinely or really is in a coma and slowly going mad.

Also in “Episode 3”

It’s funny that while Sam is appalled with Gene’s attitudes he doesn’t mind mimicking him with a certain line of dialogue from the first episode.

Sam (to Chris): “I want you to record the shape of this blood on the floor, eh? “Blood Patterns Analysis” by D.H. Crombie?”
Gene: “I’ll wait for the film thanks.”
Sam: “Oh you’d like the book it’s got pictures.”

Sam noted that the factory where Jimmy was killed would be the same place he lived in thirty years later. I guess we’re gonna learn more about his past.

Sam: “Do you do much running?”
Ted: “What do you think?”

Chris: “Why do you do it? Why do you deliberately get his goat?”
Sam: “I need to fight Chris.”

Tina was played by Rebecca Atkinson, aka Karen Maguire from Shameless. Warren Donnelly who plays Dodds is also in that series.

Sam: “You make it sound like it’s a war.”
Ted: “What if it is.”
Sam: “Worth fighting for?”
Ted: “Worth dying for.”
Gene: “Worth killing for?”

Sam: “Can we focus on what’s really important.”
Gene: “The bet?”

Gene did seem a little threatened when Annie got to show her smarts at a crime scene. Compared to Ray though, Gene never seems misogynistic though.

Sam: “What do you want?”
Test Card Girl: “I told you I’m your only friend.”

Sam: “I’ve got a feeling.”
Gene: “Oh it’s alright for you to have feeling, Gladys?”

Standout music: “Ballroom Blitz” by Sweet and “Gypsy” by Uriah Heep stood out the most for me.

Ray: “Can you hit anything?”
Sam: “You should see my Playstation score.”

Chronology: March 16th 1973 on a Wednesday at one point during the episode according to Sam.

Not my favourite episode of the series but fun no less. You feel for the factory plight but it’s not quite as compelling yet and I would prefer some darker, more sinister cases to emerge sooner rather than later. Overall though this remains to be an enjoyable show no less.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

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