Tuesday, March 13, 2007

My Review of Life On Mars 2x06: "Episode 14"

Written by Guy Jenkin
Directed by Andrew Gunn

Gene: “What the bloody hell are you playing at?”
Sam: “A bit of good cop, bad cop.”
Gene: “No, no, no, no, no, you’re more like absolutely gorgeous cop.”

Oh that while that exchange might be a delightful little bit of HoYay to satisfy the slash bunnies out there, this is another episode where Sam and Gene come into conflict with each other. It’s also one that adds a bit of race issues along with the rise in heroin to boot.

With Maya suddenly preying on Sam’s mind, this is something of a topical episode. Without sounding like a horrible person but I’ve almost forgotten Maya seeing as we’ve experienced Sam’s family issues, the Hyde conspiracy and his growing closeness towards Annie.

This episode somewhat brings Maya back like a thunderbolt. Prior to being stuck in 1973 it did look like working together was having a negative effect on their relationship as a whole. Sam going after Maya was part of the parcel that has his in his current predicament.

Readdressing their relationship is an interesting touch. Sam can hear her wanting to let him go and naturally enough he doesn’t react to such news well. Instead he freaks out during the airing of a Bollywood movie and even startles one of the main characters from her sleep at one point.

Still you could argue that even if Sam hadn’t gone back in time, he and Maya would’ve drifted away. Listening to Maya abandon Sam at his bedside in 2006 makes her come across as cold and while it’s not Sam’s fault for his current predicament, I can’t entirely find fault Maya’s decision to leave him. I’m saying she’s right either but I can understand where she’s coming from to an extent.

The interesting part of this episode is that Sam spends a good part of the episode determined to keep his 2006 girlfriend only to later accept that she needs to move on. In fact he even tries to move on himself by making it explicitly clear to Annie that he’s available. By letting Maya go, it’s becoming apparent that Sam is beginning to lose his desire to go back home as well.

I suppose this was inevitable. He spent so much time protesting and trying to wake himself up to the point where it got tedious. Even though his relationships with everyone else are stormy at best, I can see why the lure of Annie might enough to make him reconsider leaving so quickly. She is after all quite brilliant and has really come into her own over the last couple of episodes as a character.

The best part of the episode is Sam getting to meet Maya’s mother. In 2006 Layla isn’t the most approving of potential mother in laws but in 1973, not only is she a person Sam needs to care for but someone he can be a little more honest. She also brings up the issue of unconditional love following her interracial relationship with suspected drug dealer Deepak.

Layla doesn’t do herself favours by helping Deepak with his books and initially trying to protect his brother Ravi but she is a sympathetically written character and for once, Gene’s intolerant attitudes even made me want to beat the living daylights out of him. Unsurprisingly enough, Gene isn’t particularly receptive to the idea of interracial relationships.

Worse than that is that Gene’s intolerance even usurps the crap we’re used to coming from Ray’s mouth. Sam was a better man than me because I think I would’ve throttled Gene if he had made cracks about anyone I was seeing that he made about Maya. Still the fact that Sam admitted to dating an Asian woman gave him and Layla something bond over.

The part that wasn’t really shocking in all of it was the reveal of Layla being Maya’s mother. It didn’t feel contrived either and I did like that one point she told Sam to lay off the touchy feely stuff. However with the likes of the NF firebombing her house, the big fear Sam had was that she would abort Maya.

Luckily for Sam, Layla chose to keep her unborn daughter and the last scene between the two of them was just lovely. I had to laugh at Sam planning Maya’s future, mainly for the surprised reaction it generated from Layla. Even Sam can get a little carried away with himself from time to time.

As for the drug plot, really wasn’t the most interesting one of the bunch. Gene’s refusal to consider that it could’ve been racially motivated was annoying but hardly a shock. Sam was in the right to push but Layla’s comments about the police not caring were too true.

Toolbox turning out to be responsible wasn’t a big shock either. Both him and his wife Big Bird looked dodgy enough and they certainly know how to brandish their own torture techniques. At one point a bound and gagged Sam nearly got roasted with an iron save for a power cut and even Ravi was about to have a world of pain inflicted.

The usually idiotic Chris was the fella who saved the day by shooting Big Bird. Gene spent a good portion of this episode reminding Sam that Chris was gloriously thick yet it was Chris’ quick shooting that saved Gene from becoming a corpse. I think it’s safe to say there’s hope for Chris yet.

Another interesting aspect of the episode was Gene revealing more about his family. Although he tested my patience with this episode, I felt for him when he was explaining about his junkie brother. Would it take much of a shrink to realise that his less than warm childhood is part of the reason why he’s so inhuman at times. Even Gene realises that the man he used to be is long gone.

Also in “Episode 14”

It’s been a few episodes since we’ve had development on both the Test Card Girl and Hyde, though it looks something on the latter is finally coming up.

Sam: “You know Starsky And Hutch have a lot to answer for.”
Gene: “Who?”

Layla told Sam at one point in the episode that Deepak cherished the brilliance of British music.

Sam: “Whichever strange place you find yourself in make that your home.”
Layla: “Are you really a copper?”

Annie: “Why are you so angry?”
Sam (re Layla): “She lied.”
Annie: “That’s what we do to people, Sam. Haven’t you noticed?”

Ravi had business in places such as Kampala, Istanbul and Turkey.

Sam (re Maya): “We got a bit of that. Worst thing was her Mum. She wanted her to marry a doctor.”
Layla: “Don’t we all want that?”

Sam (to Gene, re Ravi): “Have you got any sense of humanity left because in spite of everything, no-one deserves to have their brother’s death rubbed in their faces?”

We also found out in this episode that Gene’s father was abusive and that his grandmother had a stroke.

Skinhead: “What are you doing? You’re one of us.”
Sam: “What, a dyslexic moron like you?”

Gene (to Sam): “You throw another hammer in my hand and I swear I’ll smash someone’s face and it might be yours, Tyler.”

Who were the people that knocked out Sam and Annie and why did they leave him behind? Wouldn’t it have been easier to stash him somewhere?

Layla: “Are you talking to my baby? Anyone would think she’s yours.”
Sam: “No.”

Standout music: It has to be Elton John’s “Rocket Man” given how brilliantly used it was here.

Definitely one of the series strongest episodes to boot, this polemic tale succeeded in showing that not everything is as it seems. Sam’s time is drawing to a close both for him and for viewers but at least we’re getting memorable moments as we approach it.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

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