Thursday, April 23, 2009

My Review of Ashes To Ashes 1x02: "Episode 2"

Written by Ashley Pharaoh
Directed by Jonny Campbell

Alex: “Will you just shut up and listen to me! This is my bloody fantasy and I will be listened to!” Gene (to the Bonds family): “Excuse my colleague. Education of a toff, manners of a sewer rat.”

Week two into Alex’s little world of 1981 and there’s enough to be keeping the woman busy. Yes she might want to get back to her daughter for a birthday party but with a new case and other disasters, Alex won’t be going anywhere in a hurry.

The explosion of a dog (yes even I’m a little surprised to be typing that) coupled with the Royal wedding of Charles and Diana has Gene on red alert. He’s determined to make sure the latter’s wedding goes off without a hitch and to ensure that, he’s in desperate need to track down a disgruntled bomber.

The obvious suspect has to be pub owner David Bonds, an embittered former war fighter whose repulsion for economic progress is out and out transparent. Barricading himself with his family in their pub, Alex tried the softly approach to talk to him. Needless to say it was Gene’s “break the door down” routine that proved more effective.

Now the girl may talk with a plum in her mouth and raise some good arguments as to why David’s fight against the establishment is fruitless but she shouldn’t be all that surprised if her posh talk was enough to have the cantankerous git tell her to piss off. I actually can’t stand David and even I chuckled when he said that to Alex.

Of course Alex doesn’t really take them all that seriously as a threat until she winds up meeting smarmy Thatcherite Danny Moore. Rupert Graves seems to be developing a penchant for playing these kinds of blokes on television given that he’s been doing it more frequently but Danny for all his falseness brings out an adventurous side to the controlled (ish) Alex.

She’s openly flirtatious with him to the point that it would be considered sexual harassment if Danny wasn’t so flattered. Still it’s enough to get on Gene’s goat and give Ray something to gossip about. Actually this flirty side to Alex is a hell of a lot to watch because while Keeley Hawes is a good dramatic actress, her comedy skills are somewhat better.

Alex does kind of admit that she’s not usually drawn to men like Danny and for all the fun she can have with him, it’s a bomb threat in his car that scares her into taking a more assertive role in finding the bomber. Once again though, it seems that whenever Alex might get a hunch, Gene is always going to have his doubts. Oh well, at least she’s getting the same treatment as Sam did, then.

Believing it to be George was plausible. You could see even before Alex went rattling on about psychological profiling that George her worshipped his father. It’s natural to feel that way about a parent but when the parent is an embittered dipshit like David, perhaps hero worship is the last thing you should do, especially when that worship turns you into a bomber.

Alex does her best to play good cop while Gene still revels in being bad cop. It’s another similarity between Alex and Sam, although it does seem like Gene is seemingly less hostile with her. Still George isn’t exactly the most co-operative of suspects and the arrival of Caroline Price doesn’t help matters.

Caroline’s arrival in the station saves Alex an embarrassing moment but the two of them naturally don’t see eye to eye. Now that’s a relief because unlike Sam when he met Ruth for the first time, Caroline is a royal bitch and while a part of that might have been necessary, you do feel for Alex a little.

Caroline might be a successful career woman in a male dominated world but wasn’t she being a massive hypocrite for suggesting that Alex gave a bad name to women in high power? I mean she wanted Alex to betray her colleagues and something tells me if Alex had asked her to do the same, Caroline would’ve equally refused.

As for the bomber storyline, Gene’s powers of detection managed to crack that David was the bomber, only for George to later blow himself to smithereens during a party set up by Danny Moore. It’s a pity that Alex’s words to fight for love had such a negative effect on George but within hindsight, I suppose you could see it coming.

Danny on the other hand, made it out of the episode unscathed. Unfortunately for him, his romping with Fiona meant that Alex wasn’t going to do him. Alex had originally envisioned on shagging him to get back at her mother so the minor disappointment she suffered was hardly devastating. Plus Caroline did call round in the end, so maybe a friendship between the two of them is likely.

Other noteworthy elements of the episode were the recurring theme of Alex being distracted. Maybe it might have something to do with saving her parents or something far darker, but either way it’s intriguing. Alex is certainly getting her fair share of flashbacks to the car bomb explosion as well as teasing from that clown to boot and getting back to Molly might be a lot harder than she imagined.

Unlike Sam, it’s not like Alex is hearing signs of her body trying to fight its way back to life. Her fear of being dead in the first episode could be grounded in truth. As for her dynamic with Gene, the flirty stuff aside, I sort of dig that it’s less aggressive than the one he shared with Sam.

Another strong part of the episode is the other characters. While Viv and Luigi could do with some more development, I do like the building up of Chris’ relationship with Shaz (who just like Annie is every bit as competent and sassy when needs be) and even Ray feels less of a twat than on Life On Mars. There’s also a strong hint that him and Gene are lonely given how late they were working at the station.

Also in “Episode 2”

The show got its opening credits and they’re fine. It makes sense to credit Philip Glenister before Keeley Hawes seeing as we know Gene more than Alex.

Alex (to herself): “Note to psyche, less irony and more Dynasty.”

Gene managed to shoot down one of Alex’s assumptions by not ploughing his Quattro in a bunch of cardboard boxes.

Alex: “Some of my friends don’t think I’ve got a sense of humour. An exploding dog from my psyche.”
Gene: “If you’re quite finished.”

Danny: “Hope we meet again.”
Alex: “It’s unlikely. I’m not gonna be here for long.”
Gene: “I’ll be the judge of that.”

Alex had to get her arse stamped in this episode while Gene and company flashed theirs during the end scene.

Shaz (to Ray): “Did he tell you he was wearing eyeliner?”
Chris: “I’ve got work to do.”

Alex (to Gene): “Will you please just stamp my arse. Mum.”
Caroline: “What did you say?”
Alex: “Bum.”

We saw the Bowie clown in the Blitz nightclub as well as Boy George and Alex even attacked a girl dressed as a clown.

Alex (to Caroline): “And you are a rude bitch. Maybe you will get him off and maybe he’ll thank you by putting a bomb in your letterbox.”
Gene: “I don’t think so.”
Alex: “Will you shut up?”

Caroline (to Alex): “Don’t want to get to know you. Thank God the only thing my daughter shares with you is her name. I’d be ashamed if she turned out to be anything like you.”

Ray’s crying during the Royal Wedding was a hoot, though Shaz got a quirky one liner about Chris’ insensitivity.

Gene: “D.I. Bollyknickers, you appear to be drunk in charge of a handbag and dressed like a tart again.”
Alex: “Oh piss off you lardy fascist.”
Gene: “We’ll make a copper out of you yet.”

Gene: “Ladies, ladies can we deal with the matter in hand before the mud wrestling.”
Alex/Caroline: “Shut up!”

Standout music: Ooh, there’s a great selection here with Flying Lizards’ “Money”, Visage’s “Fade To Grey” and Imagination’s “Body Talk”.

It’s not quite a spectacular second episode and while the George/David had some large predictabilities about it, there’s no doubt that Ashes To Ashes is doing it’s best to cultivate its own identity. Alex’s sassy manner does have its plus points, given her overall attitude to her surroundings.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

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