Saturday, May 22, 2010

Between Heaven & Hell

Gene Hunt and Alex Drake RIPI 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.


35 comments:

The Sagittarian said...

You're a big tease, you are! I am sooo keen to see this back on our screens. We have recently got the new Dr Who series (the one with the Weeping Angels tomorrow night infact!) and so to come here tonight and read this post...well...let's hear it for great Tv and STEVE for reviewer of the year!

Steve said...

Amanda: I am a tease... I must confess there are some subtle clues in my review but they (hopefully) won't make sense until you have the actual episode. You're in for a treat!

Old Cheeser said...

I have hardly seen any of the current series of A2A (just made that abbreviation up) unlike yourself who I know is an avid viewer. However, as with Life On Mars, I'm dying to know the denouement, so am going to try to watch in on iPlayer. If I miss that, I may end up emailing you for a synopsis, Stevenage my good mate!

Amanda's right, you are a tease, but that whets our appetites rather than giving the whole game away...

Trish @ Mum's Gone to... said...

Our family have only just got hooked this series and now wish we'd watched them all.
I missed last night's episode, but when I got home my husband and son were so excited they had to tell me everything!
Their synopsis sounded just right and the ending is, as you say, fitting!

Steve said...

Trish & OC: I can perform no finer service for you both than to recommend that you both buy the boxed set when it comes out and watch it from start to finish... you won't regret the time you put into it.

Vips do orkut said...

I'd love to but it's getting the time! If I need a synopsis I may need to ask! Pretty please?

Steve said...

Vips do orkut: just say when; it would be my honour.

libby said...

Y'see Steve...I have'nt read your post yet and still I'm commenting..the reason? Well in this house we must be the only people that have'nt watched either show (yet)...but as it seems to be so popular we are going to give it a go...

Steve said...

Libby: I envy you the wonderful journey of discovery you are about to embark upon!

Anonymous said...

I thought the ending was brilliant,sad but brilliant.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Steve, I forgot to sign the last comment.
My account is not letting me in.
Ally

Steve said...

Ally: I'm amazed at how emotional it has left me feeling. Gene Hunt's real story is so sad - but you can see why he prefers to stay where he is and be the copper he always wanted to be.

ArtSparker said...

I wonder if this is on netflix, I'll check. Here we are waiting for the end of Lost, which is not too deep, but highly entertaining.

Steve said...

ArtSparker: Lost has been, alas, lost on me... it was one of those shows that I would have loved to have watched but couldn't quite synchronize my life to its TV schedule...!

Val said...

I saw it and I'm going to miss the programme. I've been wondering about joining a Facebook group (!!!) to have a natter about it, but there are such weirdos there... (what, like more weird than in the programme?)

It was summed up nicely, but I thought the pub was a bit twee and I kept expecting a 'beam me up scottie'!

By the way,for anyone in the UK who missed it, it's probably still on the BBC iplayer or whatever it's called, for a week or so.

Steve said...

Val: the pub thing actually worked for me... as Gene said, it's what coppers do when they've finished a job: go to the pub. And I always suspected the old pub landlord from Life On Mars was some kind of angel...

As for the iPlayer thing: good point. The wife and I are toying with the idea of watching it again.

femminismo said...

This must be the best commentary on any series or book or ... blog. "I wish it could have lasted forever." Now I must see this series! Thanks for giving my life new meaning and territory to explore!

Old Cheeser said...

Doh - "Vips Do Orkut" was actually me Steve, forgetting that I was using Gustavo's sign-in! Doh again! Thanks anyway.

Being Me said...

Yes, I have it on my list of series to watch. My father loves it and the ep's that (my) Steve has seen have impressed him a lot. I knew you'd be a Life on Mars fan!

TimeWarden said...

If I'm honest I enjoy the supporting characters more than the two leads in "Ashes to Ashes" which isn't to say I don't like the actors playing Hunt and Bolly.

Enjoyed the nod to "Dixon of Dock Green", after the closing titles of the final episode, which I'm old enough to have watched, coming on after "Doctor Who" back in the Sixties!

Didn't like episode six, the one in the prison, but was pleased to hear "No More Heroes" given another outing in an earlier episode during the season.

Steve said...

Femminismo: my pleasure; it comes with my highest recommendation.

OC: ha ha! Well, the offer still stands - just say when!

Being Me: it had me totally hooked from spisode one and maintained a super high standard all the way through. Not a single duff episode in my opinion.

TimeWarden: I was pleased to see Ray and Chris given far more weighty issues to contend with in this series - Ray especially impressed me with some genuinely fantastic acting. I really do hope we'll see them both in other things.

Old Cheeser said...

Have emailed you now, good Sir!

Steve said...

OC: in that case I shall have a look-see and respond as soon as I can!

Selina Kingston said...

OK this might be classed as a spoiler so feel free not to publish but you might email me the answer because you're so wise and clever!! Like you I thought it was a brilliant ending and was pleasantly surprised by the spiritual twist which I didnt see coming at all but I'm a bit puzzled about the pub - wasn't it the one where they all drank in "Life On Mars"??

Andrew Glazebrook said...

Didn't see any of Ashes to Ashes at all !!

Steve said...

Selina: it was indeed the same pub - "the best pub in the universe"!

Andrew: you've missed 3 series of absolute joy (5, if you didn't catch any of Life On Mars)!

Selina Kingston said...

Oh no but you see that's what's confusing me. If it is the same pub then how come they used to drink in it and didn't "pass on" ??
And also, who was that bloke who said he was sam tyler?? Do you know what, I'm going to have take some time out and watch the whole 5 series, back to back. wanna join me?

French Fancy said...

Now you make me wish I had seen it. I did watch Life on Mars and semi-enjoyed it - but a lot of it I did find very irritating.

Ever since Mr FF pointed out to me (in a completely different series set in the fifties) that whenever you see old cars in these sorts of retro-programmes they are always spotless because of being owned as a vintage piece. it has kind of spoilt this genre for me. It's true - the cars are in pristine condition, understandably so, yet this one thing means that I no longer watch anything set in an era when the Wolsey or Cortina might be flaunting itself to lend authenticity.

Steve said...

Selina: I guess they don't pass on until they're ready but the barman, even in Life On Mars, seemed to be an angelic character, constantly passing on little pearls of wisdom to Sam Tyler. The guy who said he was Sam Tyler was supposed to be a guy with a personality disorder that Sam had arrested (I think) in the past. As for watching it all again; you supply the milkshake - I'll bring the popcorn!

FF: I know next to nothing about cars I'm glad to say so this type of thing just passes me by and I accept it all without question. I'm quite pleased really - I'd hate to have my enjoyment of a good drama spoilt by vehicle anachronisms!

Crystal Jigsaw said...

Loved it too. Didn't watch Life on Mars but thoroughly enjoyed Ashes to Ashes.

CJ xx

Steve said...

CJ: I can thoroughly recommend you catch up on Life On Mars... you'll see Gene Hunt at his unadulterated best (he'd calmed down a bit for Ashes To Ashes)!

Löst Jimmy said...

I fell out of watching Ashes to Ashes during the first series, for some reason chances for catching up never came around. I understand from work colleagues that AtoA series 2 and 3 were much better.

Steve said...

Löst Jimmy: I really rate series 1 of A2A but will admit it was possibly a bit too bubbly. Series 2 and 3 got progessively darker... which oddly seems to be most people's bag these days!

lunarossa said...

Missed this last series unfortunately but I will get it on dvd. I was a huge fan of Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes seemed to me less interesting. But I will follow your enthusiastic comments and persevere...Grazie. A.

Steve said...

Lunarossa: I can only speak personally but a copy on DVD will be a wise investment... you won't regret it!