Thursday, February 15, 2007

My Review of Life On Mars 2x02: "Episode 10"

Written by Chris Chibnall
Directed by S.J. Clarkson

Sam: “I’ve seen it a dozen times. Look, half of CID will be alcoholics by the time Maggie Thatcher becomes Prime Minister.”
Woolf: “If Margaret Thatcher ever becomes Prime Minister, I’ll have been doing something a lot stronger than whisky.”

Corruption within the police is something that every cop shows, some a lot better than other. It only makes sense that the already corrupt policing of 1973 would go one further by shattering some of the beliefs in characters like Sam and Gene about their profession.

Harry Woolf was introduced in the last episode as Gene’s mentor. He’s one of the very few people that someone like Gene would aspire to as a cop and also one of the very few people that Gene would happily break bones in defending as well. So because of that, there must be something very dirty about this Harry. Okay terrible pun but you get the point.

The episode opened with Sam, Chris and Ray collecting Dickie Fingers and before we even got to the opening credits, a few armed men made sure that the three of them were minus a criminal. We could suggest bad luck or a combination of Chris’ crappy driving skills but conspiracy is the more likely option.

Sam himself even thinks that there was nothing coincidental with Dickie’s abduction and soon enough, he’s unsuccessfully trying to get various contacts to squeal on where the petty crook is being stashed. Only Gene is able to come up with some better solutions.

The first is hauling in Arnold Malone, one of the biggest nemeses of Harry but it’s a good call. Aside from the cat and mouse antics between Harry and Malone, the latter does give Sam and Gene heads up on a particular robbery. Sam’s naturally suspicious of Malone’s sudden co-operation and to be honest, how could anyone not be?

Predictably enough the robbery goes off and Gene has everyone prepared in advance. There’s a really fun moment however where he curses himself when both Annie and Phyllis are openly hostile with the robbers in question but it’s not much of a shock to learn that one of the robbers happens to be Dickie as well.

Like many of the petty crooks on this show, while Dickie is probably not the worst human in existence, he’s still downright unlikeable and when he demands alone time with Sam, a part of me assumed he wanted to use Sam’s more empathetic nature for his own benefit.

That feeling only intensified when he told Sam that it was Harry responsible for springing him out of jail and for the series of robberies. I like that Sam didn’t instantly believe Dickie because I actually wanted Dickie to be lying. I like Harry as a character so I didn’t want him to be corrupt.

More importantly is that Sam didn’t keep this to himself. He talked about it with Annie and even she tried to get him to consider that Dickie could be lying. Sam not believing that Dickie was felt typical for him but at least he told Gene about what the petty crook had told him.

Gene’s response was delightful. Okay so it’s looking at this point that Dickie is telling the truth but I still didn’t mind Gene using his own methods to test that theory. Then Sam had to challenge Harry about the accusations made against him. The fact that Harry seemingly supported the idea of Sam taking these accusations into account was a clever move.

It should’ve been enough to make Sam doubt himself and when it didn’t work, Harry sort of used Gene to put Sam in line. Even locking Sam in the boot of a car wasn’t enough of a deterrent for him. Once again Sam knew he was right about Harry and Gene also didn’t want to believe him.

It was when Gene and Sam confronted Malone that the truth really began to sink in. Rarely do we get any scenes where true sympathy can be conveyed for Gene, despite the series succeeding in making him more than a brute. However seeing a part of Gene’s belief system shattered is quite devastating to watch.

Harry was probably one of the few people genuinely left in his profession that wasn’t tarred with some form of scandal or compromise. Annie herself even gave Sam a rundown of the man’s strengths and legacies. Of course it also meant that Sam was right, which makes you wonder is Gene going to just trust Sam on something?

The confrontation between the three of them is beautifully written. Harry’s motivations for trying to frame Malone are plausible. Every day we see less than savoury characters more financially solvent than those who struggle to make ends meat so the desire to get one less scumbag off the street regardless of means is believable.

Another thorny issue in this episode comes in the arrival of black police officer Glen Fletcher. Not much tends to make me uncomfortable but watching morons like Ray making racist remarks is up there. Worse still was witnessing Glen making similarly disparaging comments about himself. I don’t think I’ve ever been more disgusted by anything else than I was with that scene.

Sam spent a good time during this episode trying to get Glen to stand up for himself. I can understand why Glen would prefer to stay in the background and while he did say and do things in this episode that frustrated me as a viewer, I’m glad that Sam’s words did actually make a difference towards the end of the episode.

As for the Hyde material, it seems that Sam is at Gene’ precinct in an undercover capacity. Except that Sam isn’t aware of this and is equally confused when told by Hyde not to call them again. I do like this angle to Sam’s ongoing saga and hopefully there will be a satisfying payoff to everything here.

Also in “Episode 10”

As much Ray’s racist remarks disgusted, I didn’t mind him and Chris teasing Dickie about sheep. Sam even privately laughed about it.

Chris: “I can’t do five years. I’m not that strong.”
Sam: “Chris, you don’t even have a life.”

I think this might have been the first episode in the series without Nelson. I did miss him seeing as him and Sam get great scenes together.

Dillis: “Ain’t talking in front of your pansy.”
Gene (to Sam): “I think she means you.”

Woolf (re Sam): “He knows his onions this lad.”
Gene: “Oh he’s a right little smartarse.”

So two people in this episode actually thought that Sam was gay. Aside from one gangster, we haven’t exactly been awash with gay characters.

Annie: “Thanks for being so sympathetic sir. Just hope you don’t end up in my firing line.”
Gene (to Sam): “Did she just threaten to shoot me?”

Glen: “Why should I fight all the battles?”
Sam: “Because if you don’t, who will?”

We learned in this episode that it was Glen who was Sam’s mentor in the future. Without Sam’s intervention, I wonder what motivated Glen into becoming more proactive.

Gene: “Talk me out of it. Tell me it’s untrue.”
Woolf: “I can’t. I made you too good.”

Woolf: “How many villains have I put away? Does that not earn me something?”
Gene: “No.”

Sam saw an ad about Glen’s death in 2006 presumably.

Woolf: “Don’t remember me like this.”
Gene: “I’ll call you an ambulance, Guv.”

Standout music: “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” by Elton John stood out the most for me.

Another in a series of thematic episodes for the successful and one that continues to get better on repeated watching. Chris Chibnall packs in a great character driven script with brilliant performances from all concerned.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

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