I nearly didn't write about this.
(1) because it's a "minority interest" post - many of my international readers won't have watched Ashes To Ashes (or it's forerunner Life On Mars) and (2) those of you that have will be behind the UK in its scheduling of this show and I really don't want to ruin the ending of the entire series and franchise by peppering this post with spoilers.
Which is going to be damned difficult to do. But I am going to do my best.
To say this has been (for me) the best TV drama on UK television for a long time is an understatement. It has everything: humour black and rich, action, eye candy, ethics, politics and, best of all, a spiritual element that manages to be profound without being crassly in your face or in favour of any one single religion.
My biggest fear about last night's final episode was that the writers might mess it up. They might deliver an ending so horribly contrived and squeezed into as many tick boxes as possible that it would ruin all that had gone before it much in the same way that The Matrix sequels contributed nothing more to the original idea except to leave a pointlessly sour taste in the mouth. I'd heard stories of how the American version of this show had folded after one series and they had tied all the loose ends together under a premise so preposterous it could have been lifted straight out of a Red Dwarf plotline. In fact it probably was - everybody wakes up on a spaceship to find they've been living in some kind of computer generated virtual reality world. How horribly flat and devoid of any kind of spirituality.
The whole point of Life On Mars / Ashes To Ashes, aside from questioning our political and ethical views of what is acceptable, has been to make us question the nature of life, existence and, yes I am going to say it, the human soul.
I wanted an ending that honoured that very fundamental premise. I didn't want a gimmicky "you've all been dreaming and have woken up in the shower" type conclusion. I wanted the answers - Who is Gene Hunt? Who is Jim Keats? What is this world they are in? Why has Alex stopped receiving communications from the "real" world? And what happened to Sam Tyler - did Gene Hunt really kill him? But I didn't want the answers to disappoint. I didn't want them to cheat me of all this show has meant to me or all that it has promised me to be.
A tall order then for the show's writers.
For me personally, they exceeded my expectations. They gave me the answers and the answers were right. They looked right. They felt right. They were right. They worked. Suddenly it all made sense and seemed so obvious. All of it, from Gene Hunt's cowboy posturing to Jim Keats' infernal machinations. And the final denouement? As obvious and inevitable as a copper going down to the pub after a difficult case has finally been laid to rest. Should have seen it coming, mon brave.
So without giving it all away for those of you yet to watch the final episode: have no fears. The ending is everything you could want it to be. The revelations about Gene Hunt's true identity are both tragic, poignant and ultimately triumphant. Evil is defeated. And the good guys - all of them - get to go home.
It is an episode - indeed an entire series - that resonates with a sense of the eternal.
I wish it could have lasted forever.