Thursday, April 23, 2009

My Review of Ashes To Ashes 1x04: "Episode 4"

Written by Mark Greig
Directed by Catherine Morshead

Gene (to Alex): “Money, sex and bloody women – hattrick.”

Halfway through the first season of Life On Mars, we’re getting a feeling of there being more to Sam’s 1973 world than what met the eye and with Alex it’s the same thing. Given how considerably short she’s been here, she’s certainly getting to learn a lot more about her family than usual.

This week’s murder sees an odd job man Martin Kennedy suspiciously killed with Gene, Alex and Ray each coming up with their own theories before it was confirmed that he had been killed. Good points for Ray for actually spotting more than his bosses on this one.

Martin’s death is naturally suspicious because for such an ordinary bloke, his body attracted special attention from a higher power than Gene’s. Of course, Alex has her own theories as to what is possibly going on but Gene seems be rather dismissive of them.

Martin’s significance however does go beyond the boundaries of an ordinary man. Working for an elite company such as Edge Hunt, it’s quite interesting that Martin was also attending RWF (Revolutionary Workers Force) meetings in his spare time. This leads to the assumption that Martin was silenced.

Scooping through a lot of things, it was Ray who ended up finding pictures that Martin had of Caroline and Evan sleeping with each other. I guess when Caroline was talking to Alex earlier on about Martin; I should’ve deduced that she knew more than she was letting on.

That being said, not for one second did I think either her or Evan were responsible for his murder. Given how pivotal both characters are to Alex’s world, there would be no way we’d lose either one of them to something as trivial as a blackmailer like Martin. Still the naughty photos did elicit some strong reactions.

Ray was his usual pervy way (further proof this guy isn’t getting much action) and took delight in hanging up the photos in the office until Alex put a stop to it while Gene was naturally convinced that Caroline could possibly be a killer, though to be fair to Gene, it was easy to see he felt that way.

Alex meanwhile took this to heart and naturally no-one likes the idea of their parent cheating. Her outburst towards Caroline was nicely played out but there was still a part of me that thought Alex was behaving like a crazy person. Then again unlike Sam, Alex doesn’t have anyone she can confide in about being from 2008.

As a mother goes, Caroline isn’t the most nurturing of parents but this episode did give Amelia Bullmore more to do than play an ice queen so points there. In fact when Alex was round talking to Evan and Caroline in the latter’s house, we got to see a softer side to Caroline.

The Caroline we saw here was one who missed her daughter and was eager to spend more time with her. This was also a Caroline who when confronted with her own daughter’s diary refused to read it out of respect for her child’s privacy. Even better parents might not be able to resist the temptation to take a sneak peak.

That being said, Caroline still has her flaws. For all her advocating of people being entitled to having their own secrets and constant chatter about integrity, Caroline is still a person who will use others to get what she wants. We saw that in the second episode when she stupidly tried to get Alex to spy on her colleagues.

Here her actions seemed more geared towards sympathising with the RWF, in particular with Sara Templeton. Templeton seemed the ring leader determined to find out for sure that Edge Hunt were using a neutron bomb and following the realisation behind Martin’s death, she feared she was next.

As per usual, we’re supposed to sympathise with groups like the RWF and to an extent I do but watching this show (and obviously Life On Mars) has made me sympathetic to the Neanderthal. I’m now feeling Ray’s frustration when a group member won’t give her name, Chris’ confusion when another one gives out to him about feminism and even Gene’s frustration when talking to Sara.

Also to add to the fun, this episode actually found a use for Viv as well who managed to crack the code that Alex found with Martin’s possessions. It also gave us a ripe opportunity to lock Gene and Alex in a vault together in order to retrieve the Artimus file and increase the sexual tension between them.

I remember reading a column on SFX during the first couple of weeks when this show was airing that noted the heat between Gene and Alex but this episode literally had it radiating with a bit of flesh from Keeley Hawes and to a lesser extent Philip Glenister. I think there are a lot of fans who might not dig a Gene/Alex pairing but I don’t think I would be entirely bothered. Plus what are the odd that if they hadn’t been rescued by Chris, Shaz and ray that they might not have ended up having sex with each other?

The interesting part of their vault scene is Alex wondering whether or not she can actually die. To be honest, I actually do believe she’s genuinely given that it’s less likely to survive being shot in the head compared to be mowed down by a car. Still it provides a surprisingly tender moment between her and Alex.

Then there’s the parents issue. We know they’re significant to what’s going on in 1981 and Alex believes that by saving them she can get home. It’s quite likely that she might be wrong with that theory. Alex thinks she has the story sussed but it’s more likely that for her, different rules are going to apply.

As for the killer, it’s Ray who once again figures things out. Playing bad cop brilliantly with Sara gave Chris an opportunity to do good cop. However it’s Gene who ended up being told by Sara that she was a killer. Although Sara was obviously wrong to kill Martin, the more that is unveiled about this guy, the less sympathetic a victim he becomes.

Also in “Episode 4”

The factory where Martin was found dead looked like the same place where Ryan was going to kill Sonya from the last episode.

Alex (re Martin’s body): “Why did they take it?”
Gene: “How should I know? Coroners act like judges, they don’t breathe human air and they very rarely explain things.”

I’m surprised that Alex’s room was one that had a chimney in it, although as hiding places went, it was a convenient one for a diary.

Caroline: “Girls do have their secrets.”
Alex: “Have you ever?”
Caroline: “No.”

Sara: “Women have a voice that needs to be heard”.
Gene: “Don’t we get enough of that at home? You carry on love, you’re doing great.”

Alex’s sexual prowess is still providing hot gossip as even Luigi kept annoying her about Evan. Gene was blatantly jealous of Evan as well.

Gene: “Blimey that must be a barrel of laughs.”
Sara: “Socialists do have a sense of humour too.”

Caroline: “I don’t appreciate -”
Alex: “And I don’t appreciate your lies. You are a bloody liar.”

The Bowie Clown appeared in one of Alex’s fevered flashbacks this week. Also Evan appeared after the car bomb.

Shaz: “Do you think I’m handicapped?”
Chris: “No, you’re a woman.”

Gene: “Right, let’s be quick about it.”
Alex: “I bet you say that to all the girls.”
Gene: “Don’t give them a choice.”

I noticed in all of Alex’s flashbacks, her father Tim doesn’t actually say anything. He also comes across as being quite a dark character despite the affection he shows Alex.

Ray (to Sara): “It doesn’t take much to break someone’s skull. You hit them just right and it cracks like an egg. It’s a lot easier to hurt somebody.”

Gene: “Oh dear Lord, if this is a test, I fear I may fail. And I thought it would be the booze or the fags but, oh no! I’m gonna die in an underground vault, in the company of a posh, mouthy tart with a head full of brains and the common sense of a grain weevil.”
Alex: “We’re not going to die. I can’t die, can I? Can I?”

Standout music: “To Cut A Long Story Short” by Spandau Ballet and “Love Reaction” by The Human League.

Easily the strongest episode of the season and with the Kudos influence seeping through, the antics here were something that wouldn’t have felt out of place on Keeley Hawes’ other famous series, Spooks. It also helped that Ray improves as a character and that the humour came thick and fast.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

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