Wednesday, March 28, 2007

My Review of Life On Mars 2x08: "Episode 16"

Written by Matthew Graham
Directed by S.J. Clarkson

Annie: “Tell me what’s hurting you?”
Sam: “I can’t.”
Annie: “You’re gonna leave us, aren’t you?”
Sam: “I was always gonna leave you.”

And here it is the final episode in Sam’s two year (TV wise, not actual chronology) tenure in 1973. Frank Morgan set everything in motion last week and with Sam hearing voices that he could be coming outside of his coma very soon, he’s only too eager to do his part to get out of there.

There was no misunderstanding in Morgan’s need to nail Gene. Sam learns pretty quickly that Morgan wants Gene out of the police force and used as an example to usher in modern policing. Not only that but Sam is also a little too happy to help along which later adds some validity to Ray’s Judas comparison.

From the moment they clapped eyes on each other, Sam and Gene have tired of the other’s policing methods. With Sam it’s now gotten to the point where he can no longer tolerate it and Gene’s latest act of rash behaviour only has him too willing to spy on his colleagues for Morgan.

In some ways Gene did have this coming. Despite being repeatedly warned by Sam that his methods (in spite of their results) are too extreme, Gene has no qualms in using some torture along with Ray in order to get Sykes to spill a name on a planned train robbery. This is of course, after Gene’s previous act of recklessness caused the death of another informant.

Sam tries reasoning with Gene only for Gene to ignore him for the umpteenth time and with the likes of Ray always complaining about Sam, it does feel like Sam doesn’t have anyone to point out that he’s right. Chris never stands up to back Sam and even Annie doesn’t try and warn Gene off his plan to nail cop killer Leslie Johns.

Frank on the other hand seemingly represents everything Sam aspires in the police force. Sam wants to be a world where the police aren’t treated with contempt by the public and do genuinely help uphold the law instead of abusing it. It’s also not a shock that in 2006, the name Frank Morgan also means a surgeon who can operate on Sam’s tumour and bring him home.

In 1973 the Frank there is also promising to bring Sam home there as well and that’s enough to make Sam turn traitor. Watching the scenes where he’s uncovering information on Gene’s recklessness still cause a divide. By right, people like Gene shouldn’t be in the police force but at the same time, even I have to admit that Gene does want to do the right and get results regardless of the brutal approach he takes to accomplishing it.

Another thing on Sam’s mind is Annie. He’s been lusting for her for quite some time and they share enough intimate scenes to get tongues wagging. Annie’s clearly so in love with Sam that her refusal to spend one night with him must be her way of dealing with the idea that she could lose him forever.

Annie even begs Sam at different points in this episode not to leave. At first Sam is insistent that he can’t stay but the more the episode progresses, you can see that he’s wavering. He did tell her repeatedly that she was one of the few things about 1973 that he didn’t hate after all.

However the sting in the tail comes when Sam is confronted with some grim information from Morgan. With Sam’s work not being so complete, it’s then a shock to the system when Morgan tells Sam that his real name is Williams and that Ruth and Vic were never his parents.

John Simm was always gonna up his game in the last episode of the series but the series where Sam begins to realise that he really might in 1973 sees him pull in a tremendous performance. Sam’s total despair of thinking that he might have amnesia instead of being in a coma is riveting.

There’s even a wonderful scene where Nelson tells him the difference between knowing and feeling when a person is alive. Sam has acted like he’s been stuck in a dream world but it’s also one where he’s felt very alive in as well in spite of his protestations.

Of course knowing that he’s been betraying everyone all along makes for an awkward confrontation. Although it’s typical of Ray, who’s never accepted Sam anyway to lose his temper, both Chris and Annie had more powerful reactions. Both of them looked up to Sam in different ways and it’s easy to sympathise with them.

As for the train robbery itself, it’s amazing how quickly things can turn life threatening. Sam had a vision (thanks to the Test Card Girl) that Gene, Ray, Chris and Annie were going to be casualties and when it became apparent that Morgan had every intention to let them, Sam finally realised that he had been played big time.

The funny thing is that it was this moment when Sam finally woke up from his coma. Frank had just about managed to save him and Sam talked openly about what he was dreaming all that time. The scene with his mum was the most powerful. As soon as she told him that he always kept his promises, I knew exactly what Sam was going to do next.

Maybe it’s depression, post traumatic or even clarity but whatever the case may be, Sam thought that 1973 was a better time period to live in than 2006. As his colleagues droned on about improving the police force, Sam went to a roof and threw himself off and saved Chris, Annie, Gene and Ray from being murdered.

Would I have done the same thing if I had experienced what Sam did in that period of time? I don’t know if I can answer that question but I get the allure to a degree. By coming back, Sam redeemed himself in everyone eye’s (even Ray) and better still, after sixteen episodes of relentless teasing, Sam also finally got Annie.

Also in “Episode 16”

The Hyde that was alluded to so much in the series was the ward in which Sam was at while in hospital.

Frank (re Gene): “He’s out of control. He’s like a cancer. The sooner we cut him out.”
Sam: “The sooner I can go home.”

Gene’s comment about Sam wanting to read an article in Jugs reminded me of the fact that there are actually articles in straight men’s magazines.

Frank (to Ruth): “Let’s hope he’s strong enough.”
Sam: “I’m strong enough, Mr Morgan. You cut that cancer out.”

Sam: “It has to be done.”
Test Card Girl: “But it’s a very messy job, Sam. Are you strong enough?”

The actress Judi Jones who played the older Ruth Tyler has a very similar sounding voice to Joanne Froggatt who played the younger Ruth in Season One.

Ray: “Doddle, Guv. It’s not Hamlet.”
Sam: “It’s a good job because Hamlet is a tragedy.”
Ray: “Trust you to know that, poof.”

Frank: “You have amnesia, Sam.”
Sam: “I’m in a coma, Frank.”

M.A.R.S. in this episode stood for Metropolitan Accountability And Reconciliation Strategy.

Sam: “I need more time. I can’t think.”
Frank: “You can’t uphold the law by breaking it. It’s what you always said.”

Nelson: “I can see a darkness in you, Sam.”
Sam: “Oh you can see into me, Nelson? Well, go on then. Tell me, am I mad? Is this real, cause I want to know the truth?”

The Ruth and Vic that Sam saw gravestones died in 1862 and 1870 respectively whereas the “Sam Tyler” died in 1881.

Sam: “I’m trying to save your lives here. I am not your bloody enemy.”
Ray: “Cut the crap. You’ve been our enemy since day one.”

Annie (to Sam, after slapping him): “It hurts, doesn’t it? That’s because it’s real.”

There was a nice bit of continuity here with the roof. In Season One Sam threatened to jump to return home and now he actually jumped to return here.

Sam: “You can call me a traitor all you want, Guv but I’m the only one who can get us out of the shit you created. Morgan!”
Gene: “Looks like lover boy isn’t coming.”

Frank (to Sam in 2006): “It’s amazing I got you back at all. Quite an achievement.”

Okay to further prove that I watch way too much Doctor Who but I did keep thinking of John Simm as The Master when Sam was all suited up. Then again, he did take on that role not long after this episode actually aired.

Sam (to Ruth): “I went to some place, Mum and I woke up everyday in that place and I told myself I was alive and I was, in some ways more than I’ve ever been.”

Standout music: Well there was the repeated use of David Bowie’s “Life On Mars” and “Changes” but I also think “Decision/Indecision” by Atomic Rooster, “I Hope I Don’t Fall In Love With You” by Tom Waits and the score music were also noteworthy.

Sam: “Tell me.”
Annie: “Tell you what, Sam?”
Sam: “Tell me what I should do, Annie.”
Annie: “Stay. Here. Forever.”

Sam: “If you injured somebody in this car, it’s technically a criminal offence.”
Gene: “Oh shut up, you noncey arsed fairy boy.”

Chronology: It’s about August 1973/2006. Sam’s been in a coma for at least five to six months give or take.

As a series finale go, I was undecided about this episode. A lot of people voiced disappointment and I allowed that to cloud my judgement when I originally watched the episode but when I sat down reviewing this series, I found myself enjoying it more than when I originally watched the episodes. It was the same for this but as last ever episodes go, I found it satisfying. Also now that I’ve completed Life On Mars, that means I can get round to reviewing Ashes To Ashes now.

Rating: 10 out of 10.