Wednesday, February 07, 2007

My Review of Life On Mars 2x01: "Episode 9"

Written by Matthew Graham
Directed by S.J. Clarkson

Tony (to Sam): “It’s over. You’re no longer the hero. You’re powerless. Look at you. You couldn’t save Eve and no-one can save you.”

Season Two of any show is make or break time and with the first episode in, it safely looks like this series wasn’t a flash in the pan. This is a good thing seeing as this episode threw something to confound our expectations on the nature of Sam being in 1973.

The episode opened on a really creepy note with someone back in 2006 trying to kill him. Not that it takes much to freak Sam out but this did genuinely come across as menacing and once again, it was Annie who Sam ended up spilling the beans to about his nightmare.

Of course Sam’s nightmares had to take a backseat with Gene when a bus full of dead people had the journalists in a frenzy. We’ve seen Gene and journalists interact so it’s no surprise that there is still some hostility there. However while Sam might not approve of Gene’s attitude towards the press, he does gain an upper hand.

All through Season One, Sam has been banging on at large about things being done by the book. Meeting up with Gene’s former DC (and now Supt) Harry Woolf meant that Sam was able to see Gene be on his best behaviour. Sam didn’t hold back in his pride of seeing fellow officers doing things professionally either.

That being said, everytime Sam gets a moment to be smug, there’s at least another few that knock him down. When Annie discovers a chip linked to George’s corpse, a certain trip into the Wild card club stirs some pretty bad memories for Sam when the proprietor Tony Crane makes his presence.

Marc Warren is one of those actors who’s virtually been in every show and as a guest villain; Tony is one of the best ones we’ve had. It’s established that in 2006, an older version of Tony is mentally torturing a comatose Sam and in 1973, Sam is determined to stop Tony before he can grow into a criminal mastermind.

It’s funny that for all of Sam’s preaching about doing things by the books that this episode would be able to use that concept against him. Even Gene seems to take a little satisfaction in denying Sam the pleasure to stitch Tony up. Then again as right as Sam is about Tony, he can be a bit annoying about it too.

The constant use of jumping into the future at different moment to emphasise Tony’s terror on Sam is good. Dramatically it works well in Sam’s motivations but isn’t it about time he stopped confiding in Annie about his future insight? I know its part of the writer’s attempts to forge them together but Annie is getting pretty sick of Sam going on about being a time traveller.

Sam seems to be getting on everyone’s wick in this episode. Both Gene and Ray aren’t best pleased with him trying to make things complicated and even when he’s able to get Tony arrested for lying about a chip, he still fails to convince everyone that the man is an evil monster.

Even Tony’s long suffering girlfriend (and abused/murdered wife in 2006) Eve doesn’t want to help Sam out. I suppose I can understand why she thinks he might be a madman. That being said, it’s not like she’s entirely unaware of what Tony’s really like and even when Sam does get his way, Eve still slaps him across the chops for sticking his nose.

As for the cat and mouse between Sam and Tony, definitely the best part of the episode. John Simm and Marc Warren work brilliantly in their many scenes together and although this Tony isn’t as menacing as his future version, he’s still an incredibly effective baddie to have.

That being said, Sam is beginning to seriously play with fire. It’s bad enough that he keeps insisting to Annie that he’s from the future but telling Tony all about it seemed insane. Maybe Sam was hoping that Tony would slip up with this information but there are so many other ways that it could’ve gone.

For instance Tony’s henchmen nearly had Sam and Gene killed. The silly last request for a smoke managed to save Sam and Gene from the henchmen. Annie’s skills with the stinger managed to stop Tony from running Sam down. As per usual that girl is excellent in a crisis and given that Sam was having serious headaches throughout the episode he should be grateful for both Gene and Annie in this episode.

The best scene however was in the police station. Tony came out and told everyone that Sam thought of them as figments and himself as a time traveller. If Annie had backed up Tony, then Sam would’ve been deeply screwed. Instead she said nothing as Sam made out that Tony was imagining it all.

Sam might not have gotten Tony sent down for murder but shoving into a psych ward for the rest of his days ended up changing history. Perhaps Eve fared better off too even if she didn’t appreciate Sam’s interference. Sam needs to tread more carefully though as his own mental state will be looked at.

Also the thing that turned this episode on its head was that Sam seems to be in 1973 for a reason and Hyde are responsible for it. It’s a satisfying throw in and hopefully we’ll get a brilliant answer to it. Either way it does look like that Sam could be getting closer to going home but whether or not he’ll want to when the time comes is the other thing.

As for the other characters, while Ray wasn’t unbearable in this episode I don’t blame Sam for objecting to him getting a promotion. Having Annie taking over Ray’s position as DC is a nice move. I also loved the way Annie was able to combat Ray. She might look sweet but she’s clever and that’s more interesting than her cuteness or affections toward Sam.

Also in “Episode 9”

No Test Card Girl in this episode. Maybe she’s not needed anymore or will just recur from time to time.

Woolf (re Gene): “You’ve got the best here.”
Sam: “I weep with happiness every morning.”

This episode actually showed us Sam back in 2006 in a nightmare sequence. Given that the second season was the last, the end is definitely nigh.

Tony: “Are you feeling okay?”
Sam: “Don’t you touch me.”

Sam: “Up all night.”
Chris: “Oh aye, what was her name?”
Sam: “Migraine.”

It’s nice to see that Chris is still a little clueless as to when Sam is being sarcastic. Ray still hates his guts as well.

Annie: “If it’s so awful then why are you still here?”
Sam: “Believe me I wake up every morning and ask myself that same question.”

Tony (to Sam): “Your life is in my hands and your luck is running out.”

Yasmin Bannerman who played Eve was Jabe in Doctor Who’s “The End Of The World” and Kathy in Torchwood’s “They Keep Killing Suzie”.

Tony: “Come on Tyler, beg for your life.”
Sam: “No.”
Tony (re Eve): “Like she did.”

Gene: “Go on, walk out. Give me a reason to knock the crap out of you.”
Sam: “I’ve wasted enough time already.”

That guy Russell Askey was going on about the world not being real. Does he actually feel the same as Sam? Probably not as he did seem genuinely insane.

Tony: “I’m not a killer.”
Sam: “Oh come off it, Tony. You were a born monster. You just don’t know it yet.”

Tony: “Go on Sam, get it off your chest. You know you want to.”
Gene: “Get what off your chest Sam?”

Standout music: “Spooky” by Dusty Springfield, “Star Man” by David Bowie and of course, “Bring Me Sunshine” by Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise.

Tony: “No doctor will sign that.”
Gene: “They always do what I tell them.”

Chronology: None is specified since the first season finale and this episode. I don’t think it’s too long though.

As openers go, this was a good one. Life On Mars is definitely not a flash in the pan in terms of series. The show is adding more elements to Sam’s ongoing mystery and continues to flesh him out as a character. This is also a brilliant start to what looks to be a good final season for the series.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

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