Friday, February 29, 2008

The Great Hunt

Gen Hunt and DI Alex DrakeDon’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.


Anonymous said...

oh gosh I am so tired and I came here to make some trivial comment about Keeley's cleavage. But you want me to say something sensible? I'll come back tomorrow for that - my head hurts too much.

But anyway I thought she looked fantastic and I would have liked to have swapped places with Gene in the sealed vault. I am quite good at maternal!

Steve said...

Gina, I assure you that no comment about Keeley's cleavage could ever be considered in any way trivial and will always be welcome on this blog. When Gene Hunt turned to her at the end of last night's episode and asked her whether she was a C or a D cup I turned to Karen and without any hesitation at all said "Definitely D". I'm very good at weighing up these types of things with my eyes... (but would prefer to use my hands)... ;-)

Anonymous said...

haha yeah I said the same - not that there was anyone there to listen. I often talk to myself.

But G is a D and T was a C (haha that looks like alge-bra) so I have some experience of these things too.
Keeley was very sexy anyway.

Have a lovely weekend. I have to work for most of it but we are all ski-ing a night slalom tomorrow so that should be fun!

Steve said...

Working for the entire weekend? Poor you... though an evening skiing does restore the balance a bit I suppose. Anywhere glamorous? I have to say I've never tried skiing myself and don't really have any compulsion to though I'd love to visit the French alps or wherever it is that these big skiing events are usually held.

Old Cheeser said...

I kind of half-watched this episode. I have to say I wasn't that impressed with it overall, seemed quite formulaic to me (sorry) but the family dynamics are getting interesting i.e. Alex encountering her mum sh*gging her godfather back in the 80s and her subsequent anger about all of this.

Next week's looks promising though with Drake and Hunt venturing onto the early 80s gay scene! One I have to see. Will Gene end up succumbing to the advances of a Jimmy Somerville look-a-like? Doubt it!

Anyway, your analysis of Alex and the whole feminism issue is excellent, Steve. You should turn it into a thesis! I agree by placing a strong, independent yet sexually alluring female character back in the early 1980s it creates lots of interesting issues. The only thing that is bugging me about Alex is that she is constantly wearing the SAME off-the-shoulder top and white leather jacket! And while on duty too - would this REALLY be acceptable, standard police wear? Mmmm. Admittedly she looks good though...Enough to send me on the turn. Gene Hunt certainly doesn't do it for me.

Incidentally I don't know if you saw it, but Keeley Hawes was on Jonathan Ross' chatshow last night. Looking very attractive too although she's now gone blonde (I think I prefer her as a brunette though) and wearing a rather odd red dress. She was very bubbly and smiley but seemed rather hyper I thought and wasn't as lucid or expansive as I might have hoped (but then Jonathan R does have a habit of butting in on people with his saucy comments and "witticisms"). She also refused to divulge what happened later in "Ashes to Ashes" but did hint that there might be another series...mmmm!!

The Sagittarian said...

Crikey, the last time I went skiing the next day I found I ached in places I didn't know I had!!

Steve said...

I must admit OC, I took my eye off Keeley's mesmerizing bosom enough to twig that she'd worn that same jacket and top combo for at least 2 weeks running... but then my eyes went back to the cleavage and my fashion outrage seemed to just evaporate! Annoyingly Karen and I missed Johnny Wossy but were relying on it being on Virgin's catch-up TV channel (as it has been for the last couple of weeks). Typically it wasn't there this time so unless the Beeb show a repeat it looks like Karen and I have missed it - which is really annoying as we would have liked to see it. We saw last week's with Philip Glenister and thought he came over as a really nice guy... though he was totally outniced by Forest Whittaker. Anyway, if Keeley can almost make you turn that's one helluva compliment to her! ;-) The thought of Gene Hunt getting off with Jimmy Somerville is hilarious! Personally I'd like to see him hook up with Holly Johnson...!

Amanda, you have now put me off all thought of learning to ski. The aches I've already got are more than enough without discovering anymore...

Anonymous said...

haha re the ski-ing - it would be good for you, don't listen to Amanda! It's great fun. I didn't do too well but my son won a gold medal so he was happy. And none of us broke anything so that has got to be a result.

But I missed Keeley on Wossie??? Oh no! Mind you, it is probably just as well, Geraldine is rather tired of me bleating on about her. The other day she rang me up and said she had been out and bought an off-the-shoulder dress because I go on about Keeley's top so much!

Steve said...

Hi Gina, glad to hear the skiing went well - congrats to your son! Maybe when Tom's a little older and we're back to getting a good night's sleep again I'll have the energy for such pursuits... at the moment just getting out of bed and down the stairs is enough of a slalom!

Sorry to hear you missed Wossie too - I'm still annoyed over it but hey ho... As you can see from my blog, I tend to go on and on about Keeley's "top" rather a lot too...! ;-)

The Poet Laura-eate said...

If it weren't for all the cleavage references, this could easily be 'The Tao of Hunt' :-)

A sublime character, I agree. Just hope they are not turning him into a caricature of himself. Over-exposure often spoils the very thing we love most about these television nuggets!

Steve said...

'The Tao of Hunt' - hmm. You know Laura, you could be onto an interesting follow up series there... ;-)