Don’t get me wrong, the previous episodes of Ashes To Ashes have all been brilliant but something about last night’s felt like they’d upped the ante to a new level. The dialogue was cracking and included some fantastic jokes (Gene Hunt: how many birds does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: two. One to run around screaming “What do I do? What do I do?” and the other one to shag the electrician.) The storyline was dark, dense and dynamically directed. The acting, as ever I have to say, was superb.
Definitely the best episode so far.
The relationship between Hunt and Drake is developing nicely and I like the fact the writer’s are not merely confining it to a simple will-they-won’t-they sexual stand off. Certainly the work based spats and the confrontational dialogue all hint at underlying sexual tension – and Hunt was certainly put to the test last night when, trapped in a sealed room, DI Drake stripped down to her red basque as the internal temperature soared. Standard police issue I assure you (the basque that is, not Hunt’s reaction). But in terms of physical expression Hunt’s feelings towards Drake appear to have an undeniably paternal edge. This is also backed up by Drake’s responses – teasing, simpering, pouting but ultimately deferential and seeking comfort. The naughty girl playing on her father’s affections. Knowledge that her parents are about to be killed by a car bomb – hence she grew up without a mother and a father – could also be feeding into Drake’s emotional responses towards Hunt of course but, whatever the reason, Hunt is unwittingly assuming a parental role in their stead.
The parent issue is, of course, one we’ve seen in the show’s previous incarnation – Life On Mars. There Sam Tyler returned to the 1970’s, a few weeks before his father mysteriously disappeared never to be seen again. Naturally the loss of a parent would impinge upon a child’s psyche hugely and maybe this provides the answer to why Tyler and Drake end up in their respective time periods. Who knows? But it does lend the psychology of the show a pleasing symmetry and consistency.
What is different about the two shows however is the ethos that drives the respective heroes. Unlike Sam Tyler DI Drake is very much “sexed up”. She’s flirty, knows how to use her looks and her physicality and is more than happy to do so – she’s already bedded a “Thatcherite wanker” in a previous episode – and seems unable to stop herself playing the breathy, slightly giggly Marilyn Monroe character around the boys in the office. Tyler on the other hand spent the whole two series’ of Life On Mars not getting into WPC Cartright’s knickers when it was clearly plain that he dearly wanted to. The poor boy lived like a monk. Drake on the other hand is living like a party girl and is up for absolutely everything.
And why the hell not? Drake after all represents the freedom and liberation of the modern woman which, while not being all that it should be in 2008, is still a lot better than it was in the 1980s. She’s intelligent, impulsive, intuitive, professional and sexual all at the same time. The same as her male colleagues in fact – so equality as near as damn it – though given the escapades of DS Ray Carling and DC Chris Skelton we could possibly scrub intelligence from the male version of the list. Though to be fair, Carling and Skelton are in the show essentially to provide light relief.
The sexism of the boys aside it was interesting to see Drake’s 2008 behaviour juxtaposed with the women’s libbers of the 1980s. In comparison to Drake they were almost in denial of their own sexuality yet at the same time prepared to use it as a clumsy weapon to get what they wanted from men – one of them used sex to get someone to spy for them. Of course it ended badly – the guy wanted more and became aggressive; he attempted rape and was killed in the ensuing struggle. The question is though: is Drake’s behaviour actually any more sophisticated or worthy of celebration?
The easy answer is yes. She’s not using sex as a bartering device but as pleasure for herself in its own right. But the issue is nevertheless complicated. The lines are blurred. Is Drake fighting the cause for all women or is she merely colluding with the male dominated world she now finds herself immersed in to get what she wants – to survive, to get back home to her daughter? Is she merely fighting for herself rather than for any cause at all? Ultimately though all of this is meant to be inside Drake’s head and merely reflects her own internal conflicts. But as we all know, microcosms can often be useful mirrors to the bigger and badder macrocosms that contain them...
The easy answer therefore is that there is no easy answer. And that’s fine by me.
I look forward to seeing the next stage of Drake’s journey unfold next week.