Friday, February 23, 2007

My Review of Life On Mars 2x03: "Episode 11"

Written by Julie Rutterford
Directed by Richard Clark

Gene: “How do you think I spend my time here, Tyler?”
Sam: “Building a death star?”
Gene: “You what?”
Sam: “Nothing.”

If there are some things that have been predictable about Life On Mars, it’s that Sam and Gene will spend a good dose of each episode arguing like spoiled brats and that one of them will be proven right. Failing that you might get the occasional episode where they are both right to a degree.

This episode opens up with a bomb scare and sees the two of them at loggerheads from the get go. Gene’s convinced that it’s the IRA but Sam isn’t. Worse still is that Sam’s goading of Ray winds up seeing the sexist copper nearly blown to smithereens before the opening credits.

Eleven episodes into the series, it was about time that something would happen to Ray that would illicit some sympathy for him. Dean Andrews is a good actor but Ray’s been a mostly repugnant character and while Sam does indulge in the Martyr act a little too much, I always end up siding with him when him and Ray go head to head.

I even still side with him in this episode. While it was reckless of Sam to dare Ray to go near the car that blew up, it’s not like Sam knowingly tried to harm him. Even at the police station, Sam’s actions see him largely out of favour with his colleague. Annie even rejects his attempts to donate some cash to Ray’s kitty.

Gene also goes overboard into reminding Sam just how reckless his actions were. However for all the grilling he gives Sam, it’s still the two of them who visit Frank Miller’s yard when trying to see if any of the Irish workers were responsible for the explosion. The fact that dynamite has also been stolen from Miller is more than coincidental as well.

Sam is more or less adamant that the IRA isn’t responsible for the planned attacks. It’s less to do with sympathy and more to do with his own knowledge that no-one else in 1973 possesses. However given that Annie continues to dismiss Sam’s insider knowledge nearly every episode, wouldn’t it be better if he just kept it to himself?

Gene meanwhile is convinced that Patrick O’Brien is the bomber and has more than a good time in trying to prove this. Given that Patrick wasn’t at work the day after the dynamite was taken and seems to be politically active, Gene totally believes that it has to be him. Sam as per usual thinks differently.

However to stick with the tried and tested format, Gene spends his time beating the crap out of Patrick in order to get a confession and even though you could guess that Patrick is innocent, he does himself little favours by being hostile with Gene.

At one point the vitriol both men have for each other descends into even more extreme violence. Gene might not appreciate it, but Sam did him a favour by getting away from Patrick. Gene did come close to actually beating the man to death and that definitely would’ve been a wasted kill.

With more threats being made and Ray out of hospital, the tension does amp up. Sam does his best to be civilised and him and Ray even work together when chasing down a potential suspect. Unfortunately for them the would be suspect is unarmed and Ray inadvertently kills the man.

Usually if Ray does something like this, I would be less sympathetic to the character’s plight but it was different. Both Ray and Sam got separated and Sam wasn’t audible enough for Ray to follow his instructions. Gene also doesn’t make the situation any better either by constantly blaming Sam.

The intriguing part of the episode is having Sam go to a priest and confess all his professional angst. The reason why this is so good because it’s Patrick who he ends up disclosing information to. I think there’s a good chance that Sam was bluffing when he said he knew it was Patrick all along.

On the plus side by snooping around Miller’s yard again he was able to figure that it was Miller who’s been setting up all the bombs. Doubly funny that Annie went from dismissing Sam’s crackpot theories into actually helping Sam figure out where Miller was going to strike next on his list.

The last couple of minutes of the episode are fairly middle of the road though. Ray being held hostage by Miller and his fears of being killed are interesting. Sam did try to warn Gene that Ray was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and this scene proved that Sam was right with that.

However both Sam and Annie using the family card to get Miller to surrender was a bit maudlin. Okay it did work and there was good acting but it did feel a little too easy after the big set up. Then again it does go to further that not all bombers are evil to the core and there’s even a great scene where Patrick lays into Gene about his family woes.

Elsewhere Sam’s still getting cryptic phone calls about his progress. For now he seems to be doing well but is still nowhere near waking up. On top of that he also has to deal with that creepy Test Card Girl. Her first appearance this season and her joy for driving Sam around the bend still doesn’t seem to be sated.

Also in “Episode 11”

Speaking of the Test Card Girl, it looks like there’s a different actress playing the role this season.

Chris (re bomb): “I make it nearly 10.”
Ray: “I make it nearly 11.”
Annie: “I make it 11.03.”

Sam made some offhand comments about Lorraine Kelly and even Dana when Gene went on the Anti-Irish rant.

Gene: “Take your own advice – wake up and smell the cocoa. Let’s search this shithole and nail these Paddy bastards.”
Sam: “It’s coffee.”

Phyllis: “What if I need to go to the ladies, Guv?”
Gene: “Cross your legs.”

Annie got upset at the end of the episode when she thought Sam called her chunky. He was referring to the brand of Kit Kat bars of course.

Sam (re Patrick): “You’re condemning a man for Christ’s sake.”
Gene: “Because I know he’s guilty.”

Sam (re Ray): “Guv. He shouldn’t be here, he’s got PTSD.”
Gene: “The man’s a bloody hero and you’re accusing him of having the clap.”
Sam: “Post traumatic stress disorder. I’ve seen it before. He needs counselling, he needs to talk to someone.”
Gene: “He’s a policeman, not a fairy.”

Sam also mentioned the use of CCTV to Gene and then backtracked by mentioning Hyde. We still don’t know what Sam is supposed to be doing for them.

Sam: “I’m not walking away. I need time to think.”
Gene: “You haven’t got the time to piss about thinking.”

Patrick (to Sam): “If it’s any consolation my instincts about you were never wrong. I knew you were a complete Nutjob when I saw you but at least you might be a Nutjob on my side for once.”

We learned that Patrick’s grandfather came from Connemara. Gene also made some comments about an Indian family moving into the same area.

Annie (re women leaders): “Maybe we'd be better off if a woman did run the country. She couldn't make a worse job of it than the fellas have done.”
Sam: “I have a feeling you might regret saying that one day.”

Standout music: “The Big Spell” by Audience and “When The City Sleeps” by Barclay James Harvest”.

For an episode themed on the IRA, it’s refreshing to discover that it isn’t entirely filled with stereotypes beyond Gene’s less than receptive attitude towards the Irish. It’s not the best episode the show has produced but it’s solid no less.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

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