Monday, April 10, 2006

My Review of Life On Mars 1x05: "Episode 5"

Written by Tony Jordan
Directed by S.J. Clarkson

Pete: “You know how long I’ve waited for this?”
Sam: “I’m not interested.”

Okay if I didn’t think this show wasn’t laddish enough anyway, then this episode definitely goes out of its way just to really emphasise that point. I’m one of the very few blokes out that doesn’t give a monkeys about football so my enthusiasm for this episode wasn’t particularly high.

However just because I’m not keen on something, it doesn’t mean I can’t give it the benefit of the doubt. As episodes go, I actually quite enjoyed this. The murder of Colin looks like a good case of football hooliganism gone utterly wrong. This is what Gene believes and ultimately this is what Sam is out to disprove as well.

In lieu of bets, who is actually going to turn out to be right? I’m on Team Gene with this one even though if Sam was right it would be more interesting that a group of stupid louts getting too violent with an innocent victim. Throughout the episode it’s repeatedly mentioned that Colin was a lovely bloke that everyone liked.

This death brings back a few memories of Sam’s own football experiences. Up until now, Sam hasn’t mentioned a lot about his father and given that we met his mother in the previous episode, it made sense to touch on the topic and this episode does that in a very neat way.

Colin’s son Ryan is having a hard time dealing with his father’s death. Unlike his mother, Ryan can’t shed a tear but there are a good few moments where him and Sam have a heart to heart. It’s nice to see this element of Sam, even if it plays on the obvious good guy side to the character.

Sam makes some very perceptive comments to Ryan about keeping his father’s memories alive. He also went out of his way to stop Ryan from beating up City supporter Wayne as well. The comments definitely related to Sam’s own experiences with his father, something of which I’m sure we’ll learn more about in due course.

However catching the murderer was interesting. For the first time, the series decided to use the undercover method with both Sam and Gene running the same pub that Colin was last drinking in before his death. Any situation to get Sam and Gene out of the office was good and Gene certainly was in his element as pub manager.

Keeping a potential snitch knocked out meant that Gene could play up to the manager role quite expertly. He had fun trying to ridicule Sam about his methods of running the kitchen side of things and he was able to interact with the more belligerent members of the pub equally as well.

In particular, there was Malcolm Cox who really did come across as a Grade A dickhead of the highest order. Sam’s nice guy routine generated a fair amount of hostility and suspicion but Gene getting hammered with Cox and his mates seemed to work far more effectively. It’s quite funny that in this episode, it was Gene who much better at the undercover stuff than Sam was.

Of course, people like Cox are easily riled and even Gene aroused some suspicions as well. When it looked like things were going to go pear shaped, it took Gene’s violent side to get Cox to trust him. Also Philip Glenister is brilliant on the comedy front especially when Gene is faking drunk and then later turns out to be actually drunk.

More importantly is that it’s obvious that Cox is responsible for Colin’s death. Given how much he was itching for a scrapping with the City supporters, it just took Sam to listen to Ryan about his father’s United scarf to get a major clue. The neat twist is that Cox wasn’t the only one responsible.

Nope, there was also Pete Bond, the only person in that pub during Sam and Gene’s undercover stint that seemed like a pretty well together person. Now maybe it was my wild imagination playing havoc but there was a weirdly flirty vibe between Pete and Sam. Okay so it mostly seemed to coming from Pete’s side but I can’t be imagining it, right?

Anthony Flanagan, who’s been in the likes of Shameless and Instinct offers a very disturbed glimpse of the mind of a football thug like Pete. Pete’s not the blatant motor mouth giving it large in pubs. He’s more the subtle manipulator and he did try his hand at manipulating Sam into joining his gang of thugs.

The one thing I fail to get with people like Pete, Cox and the rest of the idiots who were participating in that pre-match scrap is why they do it. They come up with crap about being united for a common cause but at the end of the day, it’s glorified savagery that gives football a bad name.

Pete himself tried to make it sound like he was doing a good deed with Colin’s death but Sam rightly laid into him about his actions. For a moment Sam did look betrayed. Sam and Pete seemed to have forged a connection in the sense that Pete put up the masquerade about being a rational thinking man. Too bad for Sam it turned out to be the absolute opposite.

As for the mystery angle of the episode, it’s funny that now when Sam tells Annie that he’s beginning to leave all the time travel stuff behind, more creepy keeps happening to him in the process. Then again, in terms of TV plotting this is also the best time to up the mystery so to speak.

First off all you’ve got creepy Test Card Girl playing on Sam’s own insecurities about his father and the last scene of the episode sees Sam briefly encountering himself as a boy and his father. It makes for an absolute surreal moment and it’s definitely one of the best ways to end an episode so far.

Also in “Episode 5”

The opening scene started off the football theme very well with Gene’s driving skills disrupting a match. It would take Chris to get caught in the net though.

Annie: “Someone smells nice. New aftershave?”
Sam: “Long time, no see.”
Annie: “That’s because I’ve been avoiding you.”

Sam made a joke about Doctor Who sorting him out. It’s a little ironic given that John Simm would then play The Master to David Tennant as The Doctor in 2007.

Sam: “I think I’ve got something.”
Gene: “Number for the special clinic is on the board.”

Sam: “I really don’t think.”
Gene: “Good keep it that way.”

So we learned that Annie was a barmaid before she became a copper. This episode gave her a few moments to be sassy with both Sam and Gene.

Annie (to Sam): “I was a barmaid for six months before I got signed up. That and my nice tits apparently.”

Test Card Girl (re Ryan): “Why did you promise him, Sam? Daddies always let you down, don’t they?”

Ray attempted to pull a sick day to go see the match. He also managed to be less hostile to Sam in this episode.

Gene: “What’s wrong? We’re just having a friendly little talk.”
Malcolm: “Who said you were my friend?”

Pete (re Gene): “Your mate’s got some balls.”
Sam: “If they were any bigger, he’d need a wheelbarrow.”

This episode was written by EastEnders scribe Tony Jordan. It’s at least the second one not to be written by Matthew Graham at this point.

Sam: “I don’t wear aftershave.”
Annie: “But you talk gibberish.”

Malcolm: “You’re quiet.”
Gene (re Sam): “I’m just waiting for the boy wonder to get bored so I can bounce you around the walls.”

Sam actually lost his temper during the interview of Malcolm. Shows that Gene and 1973 are influencing him whether he likes it or not.

Sam: “You just will not be proved wrong, will you? You know that’s very childish.”
Gene: “Not it’s not.”
Sam: “Yes it is.”
Gene: “Is not.”

Standout music: “Mother Of Pearl” by Roxy Music and “I Wish I Knew How To Be Free” by Nina Simone.

Given the subject matter, I wasn’t expecting this to be as good as it was, but I will admit I was wrong. Seeing as there can be an unjustified act of violence around sports, especially football it’s only fair for the series to tackle it and while it might have been relevant in 1973, it’s just as meaningful today.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

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