Sunday, April 16, 2006

My Review of Life On Mars 1x06: "Episode 6"

Written by Matthew Graham And Ashley Pharaoh
Directed by John Alexander

Gene (re Reg): “I reckon we can take him. I’ll jump on him, you take his gun and Cartwright can jump up and down on his knackers.”
Sam: “That’s a relief. For a moment I thought we were in trouble.”

Early in every episode the main case is nicely set up and here, it’s even more so. Sam thinks he’s a goner by 2pm only for Phyllis to inform him that a madman has held the Manchester Gazette hostage and plans to kill someone by the same time that Sam thinks he might die.

With disgruntled factory workers and football hooligans all harkening universal themes about society, a hostage situation with unclear motives is also something that viewers can both either relate to or get into. With the place crawling with police, Sam wants to do things by the book as per usual.

By now, it’s predictable that Gene is more comfortable to just go in there and either shoot the guy stone dead or take him alive. Sam fortunately doesn’t have to work extra hard in keeping Gene in line this week. Either Gene is slightly evolving or the writers are trying not to be too obvious with the character but either way it works.

It’s even good that while a shooting shows the hostage taker is serious, we don’t have to wait too long for Sam to get some insight on the guy. A woman questions mentions a van and Sam is able to get a name and an address. Snooping through Reg Cole’s place also means that he must be some sort of embittered former soldier.

With all this information Sam tries to use the softly approach when tackling Reg. It doesn’t help that the irritating Litton is back on the scene. As much as I find his and Gene’s rivalry amusing, Litton’s even worse in a bad situation than a hot headed Gene. I’m surprised Sam didn’t belt him at one point.

However failing that, we did learn that Doris, the newspaper’s secretary was getting ill from the heating and Annie volunteered herself as a nurse. Well she did a good job in convincing as a barmaid in the last episode and anything that shows her wits can only be a good thing.

For a little bit, her undercover act worked but Sam and Gene both managed to get themselves captured by Reg. To be fair to Sam, if Gene hadn’t stormed in so quickly he might have defused things a bit earlier with Reg but then this episode would’ve been a lot shorter as a result.

Even when taken hostage and handcuffed to a railing, Gene isn’t one of the most pleasant of people. He continuously tries to goad Reg at any available opportunity and even mocks Reg’s sense of honour and loneliness at one point. It also doesn’t help that Annie slips and reveals that she’s an undercover cop as well.

However for all the intensity of the situation, it’s the stuff between Sam and Reg that really hits the van. To Gene, Reg is little more than a loser in need of a decent shag while Sam does genuinely sympathise with Reg’s nihilistic view on the world. There’s also a poignant exchange where Reg hits home Sam’s own feelings of displacement in 1973.

Reg is a good character and a somewhat more compelling villain that we’ve seen so far on this series. I think a lot of people can relate to going through life being repeatedly ignored by people but most of those people don’t snap and try to contrive themselves onto the front page of a newspaper.

Forcing Jackie into writing his story highlighted how desperate for recognition Reg is. However as much as Gene can be a pain, his instincts did pay off when figuring out that Reg never went to war himself. A part of this should almost undermine Reg’s motives or make him into a more tragic figure. I’m not sure how I feel for him.

I can understand loneliness on that kind of level and I’ve had moments myself where I’ve felt like snapping but I don’t. That’s mainly because I could never live with myself if I ever hurt anyone Reg intends as well as the fact that I would rather try and improve things as well.

Although Sam is sympathetic toward Reg it doesn’t stop him and Gene from trying to escape. It was natural that their plan would fail and I’m glad it did, due to the scenes we got with Sam, Gene and Annie. Having all three of them go into detail about some of the most intimate memories gave each of the characters more development.

Six episodes into this series, it’s become clear that the writers really do care about all the characters outside of Sam. Annie isn’t quite the meek girly girl she first appeared to be and even Gene can be appalled by his own past actions. We learned that last bit when Jackie filled in some of the blanks with a past incident. It also highlighted why Gene didn’t like the papers so much.

As for Reg, we can thank and blame Litton all at once. If Litton hadn’t bulldozed his way, then Sam would be dead but because he did, Gene ended being shot. Thankfully Gene’s penchant for carrying booze in his pocket saved him. I guess it’s nice to know that alcohol doesn’t always kill you in the end.

Aside from celebrations and Gene getting to feel good about being hero, this episode might have lacked a Test Card Girl but it did begin and end with Sam’s life in danger. Throughout the episode Sam was convinced that his mother was going to switch off his life support and by the end, she didn’t. Plus Sam also revealed a lot more about his father that has to factor into things.

Also in “Episode 6”

This episode was the day after Ray’s birthday. Ray deliberately went out of his way not to invite Sam to the office party.

Gene: “I know you Journos.”
Mr Barton: “And I know you Mr Hunt.”

Even though they hated each other in this episode, there was a fair amount of sexual tension between Gene and Jackie. I wouldn’t mind seeing a bit more of her again.

Sam: “Tread carefully.”
Litton: “Relax Sunny Jim, the big boys have arrived.”

Reg: “You disobeyed me.”
Sam: “I’m trying to help you Reg.”

When Sam was relaying his fourth birthday story, there was very possibility that it could’ve been actually happening as he told Gene and Annie.

Gene: “You threw away my gun.”
Sam: “I saved her life.”
Gene: “You threw away my gun.”

Sam: “Do you make friends everywhere you go?”
Gene (re Jackie): “She wants me. Poor bitch.”

One of the quotes in this episode that Reg wrote down was “unhappy the land that has no heroes”. In the end Reg chose to become a villain.

Jackie: “Are you spying on us?”
Reg: “No I work here. Eight years.”

Reg (to George): “If we’re all the same underneath, why do you have a place in life?”

The times in this episode were 8am, 9am, 9.55am, 10.35am, 12pm, 12.30pm and 1.55pm before we got to the 2pm timeslot.

Gene: “I don’t think about my past.”
Sam: “Come on, there must be some juicy bit of Gene Hunt in there.”

Gene: “They’ll come in here and they’ll kill you.”
Reg: “I die famous, you die a copper.”

Standout music: “What A Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong which was played twice in the episode.

This was brilliant. Somewhat more harrowing that we’ve had so far despite the lack of actual deaths. Reg is an excellent cautionary tale of someone desperate to make an impact no matter what. It’s almost strange that I’m getting so close to the end of the first season of the series.

No comments: