Can it really be the end? After four years of brilliant television, will we finally find out who Gene Hunt really is, what really happened to Sam Tyler, and if or when Alex will ever get home? Will we find out once and for all what the Life On Mars\Ashes to Ashes universe is all about? Let’s put the tissues away and fire up the Quattro for the last time and find out!
The finale of Ashes to Ashes begins with Alex having a dream. She’s on It’s a Knockout, and Molly cheers her on from the sidelines. Alex finds the epaulet numbers, only to have an evil (oversized, rubber) Gene Hunt start to hunt her down. Alex appears to wake up from the dream, but we can still hear Molly telling her to wake up because “he’s coming”. Alex looks over and sees a familiar face knocking on the glass of Gene’s office:
Back in the dream, the oversized Hunt continues to bear down on her when a gunshot rings out. Dead Cop appears and falls to the ground, as does costumed Alex. Molly continues to tell her mother to get up, and Alex removes the suit whilst saying that she must know the truth. Costumed Gene finally catches up to her, and just as Alex turns to him… the lights come on in the office. Alex has been asleep at her desk the entire time. She looks at the photograph of the farm, which has been curled up in her hand. She simply says “Today, Gene”.
We then see Chris standing outside what appears to be a derelict warehouse. Alex walks up, and he says it looks like a gangland hit went down inside. He asks if she knows of the “Hardyman Gang”. When Alex asks if they’re a couple of cousins, Chris says they aren’t anymore. They walk in the warehouse, where two blood-covered bodies lie on the floor. Ray, who is assisting the forensics staff in cutting down a third person, introduces Alex to “Ginger” and “Nobby”, the two people on the floor. Alex asks about the man Ray is cutting down, but Ray says they don’t know who he is yet. Alex asks about the time of death, and Gene says it was “about 30 seconds after their throats were unzipped”. Ray then says that a piece of what looks like quartz has been put in each of their mouths. Alex calls it a “touch of class”.
Gene looks at her and asks if she got a good night’s sleep, then says that there will be no witness statements, because these “underworld gangster bastard types” are great at disappearing. “They’re not the only ones”, he adds, referring to Alex’s disappearing act the night before. Gene and Alex almost start an argument, but Ray cuts them off, saying that he hasn’t even had breakfast yet. Chris, looking at the bodies, says he might not eat breakfast again. Gene notes that the gang was trying to move up in the criminal underworld, and should have stuck to robbing post offices. Just then Ray notices a phone number with a Fenchurch East prefix written on Ginger’s hand. Ginger starts moaning, and the surprised police scramble to get an ambulance for him. Ginger starts mumbling a name: “Vicky P”.
Back at the station, Shaz says that she’s started a search for all people with the name “Victoria P” in the city. Chris wonders aloud why someone would put quartz in the victim’s mouths. Ray says that he doesn’t know, as he’s not a “geographist”. Gene walks in and tells everyone that they’d “better be working like Chinamen on a bloody railway” and he asks Ray about the third victim’s trousers. He notes that they were tweed, and that seems a bit odd for a gangster. Ray says that they don’t have anything yet. Shaz asks Gene if he’d like a cup of tea, and an irritated Gene says no, but he’d like it if his officers knew when a victim was actually dead, and he’d like to know who killed the men. He calls Shaz a “stupid plonk”, and Chris says that there’s no need for name calling. Gene turns to Chris and asks if he thinks he’s Leon Spinks now that he stood up to him. Ray asks Gene what’s getting to him, and Gene says that he’s been too easy on them, and that they belong to him, not Drake and not Keats.
He then demands that someone get Alex into his office “ASA bloody P”. After Gene slams his office door, Shaz says says that Gene and Alex should either get a room or kill each other. Chris says that something’s changed, and that the place is different. He thought that it’s because he changed colognes, but it’s something more. Ray says that it hasn’t been the same since Viv died. Chris agrees, and says that he had a dream where Viv was surrounded by fire. Shaz and Ray stop him before he can continue, and Chris reiterates that something odd is going on. Ray tells him to write to Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World.
In Jim’s office, Alex holds the photograph of the farmhouse, which she has just found out is in Farringfield Green, just outside Bolton. She says that she can be there in four hours. Jim says that he’s ready to deliver his report on Gene. He takes the photo from Alex with the excuse that he should be in control of all information. Alex sighs and says that she’s confused. She asks if it can really be Sam buried there. She says that Sam asked Gene to help him, and that he wanted to escape. Jim condescendingly asks if she thinks Sam’s alive. She says that she knows that Sam is dead, but notes that he clung on to life “here” as long as possible…. except she knows Sam is dead and she knows that she is not. She says that Gene can’t be the enemy. Jim says that Gene has a dark side and even Julie Andrews could see that. Jim then asks about Annie Cartwright, and suggests that Gene might have killed her, too. Alex can’t think of a reason why Gene would kill both of them. Jim puts his hand on her shoulder and says that Alex and Sam are different, that they both challenged the world that Gene Hunt made, and that they’re dangerous to him. Alex realizes that Jim is not with D&C, and she asks who he really is. He ignores the question and says that Alex has done much to help others around her, and now it’s time to help herself… and that means trusting him.
Alex walks back into the office and sees a bunch of pictures on the whiteboard. She asks about it, and Ray says that it’s every gang connected with the East End. He further says that the Hardyman gang messed with the wrong rival gang, and it’s up to them to figure out who. Alex mentions the third man, who had mentioned something about “Vicky P” and drinking before dying. Ray says it would be the first thing on his mind if he lay dying. Gene, who has been watching the exchange, asks Shaz to cross reference the name “Vicky P” with pub licenses.
Chris walks in and says that he has an ID on the third man. His name is Walter Tavish, and his fingerprints were apparently on a “priority list” at Scotland Yard. He also says that the man went under the aliases Wally Travis, William MacTarn and Bill Timmers, to which Gene quips that the man could have his own episode of The Generation Game. Alex notes that Walter Tavish is a fence for stolen antique furniture, and Gene says that the Hardyman gang aren’t exactly Antiques Roadshow material: “They don’t go ’round slicing each other up over a bloody Welsh dresser”. Alex holds up on of the pieces of quartz retrieved from the victim’s mouths and says that it’s a message. Gene, still smarting over her late night disappearance, rudely asks her what she means. She says the stones were placed in their mouths to make an ironic point.
“Well, you’d better get on the blower to the Ironic Crimes Division squad then, hadn’t ya?”
Gene walks into his office, and Alex follows. She asks him to at least acknowledge that she has a lead. When she calls him “Guv”, Gene asks if she back to calling him that. He says that Alex made a fool of him last night. Alex apologizes and says that it was all “too much”. Gene says that when she first came there, she “had it on” with a yuppie twat, and that her panties went south so fast they needed their own railcard. Alex says that she didn’t take this world seriously at first, but she does now. Gene asks if she takes him seriously now, too. She replies that she takes him very seriously. Gene then says that their problem is that they’ve lost sight of who they are.
Out in the lobby, Ray bursts in and proudly displays a confiscated shotgun to Viv’s replacement, who shows no interest in the gun whatsoever. A deflated Ray sheepishly tells the man to call the Firearms division and tell them that they still have it.
Back in the office, Chris hears the sound of a police whistle, but no one else seems to hear it.
In the lobby, Ray walks away from the officer, who had been attending to what appears to be a homeless man with a recorder (flute). The homeless man stands up and begins playing a military march, which seems to have a strange effect on Ray. The lights seem to dim just a bit, an ominous sound is heard, and he rubs his neck. He turns to look back at the homeless man, who salutes him.
Ray returns to the office, complaining about Viv’s replacement. Gene walks up to Chris and asks him about the phone number found on Ginger’s hand. Chris says that the number doesn’t exist, but when Gene asks if he copied it correctly, he swears that he did. The two look at the crime scene photos, where Gene notices that the dried blood has changed a three into an eight. He points at the phone for Chris to call. Shaz, meanwhile, approaches Alex with a map of Lancashire she’d asked for. Gene sees this, and orders Drake to his office. Now.
Shaz, meanwhile, sees a screwdriver that’s been left in her chair.
In his office, Gene asks her what the map is for. Alex lamely says that it’s a part of the world she always wanted to visit. Gene says that her idea of heading north is to go to Brent Cross, and that this is about Sam Tyler again. Alex says that it’s nothing. Gene tells her to just go home. Gene, quoting from an imaginary rule book, says that if a female officer is causing “disconsternation” among her male colleagues, it is the right of the senior officer to transfer her. Alex calls him on his made-up word, and says that he’s upset with her because she didn’t sleep with him last night. She calls Gene the most immature man she’s ever met, to which Gene says “Bet I’m not”. She says that he is, and he says “Bet not” again, like a child in the school playground. Gene says he doesn’t think he can be in the same room with her any more, and Alex asks if it’s because he might “do” something. Gene says that everything she can see is his, that Keats is trying to bring it down around him, and Alex is ripping his guts out. He says he won’t let either of them weaken him any more. Alex says that she wanted to believe that he is good for a long time… but now she doesn’t know what to think. Gene says that he will level with her: he was trying to impress her, but after last night she’s just a hindrance.
Alex storms out of his office. He follows her and tells her to tell him if Keats comes to see her… and if she doesn’t, he will consider it an act of war. Alex asks if Sam committed an act of war. Gene says that the last thing Sam said to him was that he was dying for a pint, and Gene told him to “get one in for me an’ all”. Gene says that there were no threats or shouting – just two friends talking about the pub.
Alex walks to her car with the Lancashire map and drives away.
Back in the office, Ray is on the phone with the phone company, trying to find out more about who owns the number. Chris tells Gene that there were no reports of jewel heists in the city. Gene asks about a couple of gangs, but Chris says that they’re not likely to have done it. He also says that the police have their best “snouts” on the case. Gene says that the heist might be done by foreigners, and so he tells Chris to get with Interpol in “Lion” (Shaz corrects him to Lyon). Gene thanks her for the correction, then says that they need to “get our garlic-munching friends to put their horse burgers down” and get them some leads.
Just then, Ray hangs up the phone and says that the phone number belongs to a woman named Rachel Miller, who lives at 47 Anton Close. Gene tells him to check the place out, and to take Shaz with him. Gene claps his hands and says he loves to see his “machine” working. Shaz then tells him that DCI Keats called, and that he has something for Gene. “Oh joy!” Gene says.
In his office, we see Jim looking at the three videotapes.
Ray says that he’s heading out, and asks Shaz if she’s ready. She says that she is, but as she gets her coat Chris says that a fax has come through from Interpol. They says that there’s only only person who fits their profile: Eric Hoorsten, a gem smuggler from Amsterdam, which Chris pronounces as “Hootey-hee”. At first, Chris thinks he’s Swedish, which Ray corrects as “Hollandaise”, which causes Shaz to correct them both. The Interpol report also says that one of his known associates is Wally Timms, an alias of Tavish.
We then see Gene walking in to Jim’s office. He jokes that the best porn is on VHS, which causes Jim to say that he sticks with Betamax because he is a sucker for quality. Gene then says that he should go to the office and see his team working as a unit. Jim picks up a bunch of files and recalls Gene asking him for “intel” from Scotland Yard about gem smuggling. Hunt calls the word “intel” posh and and tells Jim that he will buy him a fish dinner if he can work the word “reconnoiter” into a sentence. Jim ignores him and opens Tavish’s file. He notes aloud that Tavish once smuggled gems out of Sierra Leone into London, where there were sent out to Europe. Gene surmises that Tavish switched allegiances from the foreign gang to the local Hardyman gang, and that’s what got them all killed. Gene also says that he has a contact, Rachel Miller, and he think she’ll be key. Jim says that Hunt’s hunches are what did in Sam Tyler, and he then puts a briefcase on his desk. Gene asks if that’s his bag lunch, but Jim says that it’s his report. He calls it “fascinating reading” and leaves.
Gene opens the case and finds only the photograph of the farmhouse inside:
He then looks at the TV, which is currently off, but which suddenly comes on and shows the broadcast of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation:
We then see Gene storming into the office. Ray tries to tell him that they have a suspect, that they think the Hardyman gang were killed by a Dutch gang… but Gene isn’t listening. He walks into his office and grabs a gun and his coat before marching out without saying a word. Ray asks if he’s invisible, and Shaz says that Gene’s had yet another tiff with Alex. Ray complains that Gene and Alex’s moods are dictating their jobs. He declares that he, not Gene, is now in charge of the investigation. He starts to walk out of the office, but just then Jim walks in and puts the videotapes on Ray’s desk. He asks everyone to watch them when they get a chance. Chris asks if they’re Health & Safety training videos, and Jim says that they do concern that, but that it’s in all of their best interests to watch them.
We then see Gene getting into the Quattro with the gun.
Next, Ray kicks down the door of Rachel Miller’s house with Shaz in tow. The two search the house, with Ray doing the downstairs and Shaz doing the upstairs… but it doesn’t take Shaz long to find the Rachel’s lifeless body on the bed. Her throat has been cut. We then see Ray looking at trash bags. He says that the killers must have been looking for something in Rachel’s trash cans. Shaz walks back into the room with a flight attendant’s uniform. She says that Rachel worked for “NetherFly Air”, which flies out of the “London East Aerodrome”. Chris, who has found her work schedule, says that she was due to fly out at noon the next day. He also notes that she’s written “48-3B” in the corner of the schedule. Ray tells him to hang on a second, as he noticed the same thing written on her kitchen calendar. He grabs the calendar and points it out, and notices that she’s circled it three times. Ray wonders if it’s a flight number, but Chris, looking at old boarding passes, says that it doesn’t match. Shaz says that it’s horrible that this is all that’s left of the poor girl. She turns to walk out of the room, but the flight attendant uniform she’s holding knocks a vase over… and three giant wads of £50 notes tumble out. Ray realizes that Rachel was the courier, but didn’t have the gemstones. He also guesses that Tavish hid the gems before Hoorsten got to him… which raises the question of where the stones are now. Chris mentions Vicki P, and wonders if she knows where they are.
Meanwhile, Alex has arrived at the farmhouse. We see her get out of the car and walk around. She sees the weather vane she saw in hospital, as well as the hill, which is topped by a lone scarecrow.
She walks to the top of the hill just as Gene pulls up in the Quattro. He gets out of the car and checks the gun to make sure that it’s loaded.
She’s noticed the epaulet numbers – 6620 – on the coat the scarecrow is wearing. She pulls them off the coat to have a closer look. She flashes back on every instance of the 6620 numbers in the recent months… then turns around to find Gene standing next to her. She gasps. She tells Gene that there is a body buried there, that she saw it on the TV in her hospital room. She begs him to tell her that it’s not Sam.
Back at the station, Ray tells a fellow detective that they can’t let this lead go cold, and that he wants him to be on top of all his informants, and that he wants to hear everything he can on Hoorsten. Shaz, who is sorting the mail, holds up a nudie magazine addressed to Chris and says that he’s told him before that she doesn’t want to see pornography in the workplace. Ray, back at his desk, picks up the videotape with his name on it and looks at it thoughtfully.
Shaz puts the magazine down and spies a copy of the A-Z. She has an inspiration and looks up “48-3B” in the index, which gives a location in Hackney: Victoria Park.
At the farm, Alex has found a shovel and has started digging. Gene orders her to stop, but she doesn’t. He pulls his gun on her and repeats the order, but she ignores him. She stops digging and starts brushing dirt away with her hands. She finds a skeleton, and says that “it’s him”. She says that Keats was right about him all this time. Gene’s face indicates that he simply can’t believe what’s happening:
Alex cries. She says that she believed in him. She digs through the dirt and sees the outline of a jacket. She turns it over and the body’s warrant card falls out. Alex opens it… and can’t believe what she sees. She turns back to Gene, who is still staring at the body. She slowly walks towards him and hands him the card. He reads it as tears flow down Alex’s cheeks. Gene stares at the warrant card, then turns around and looks behind him. He puts the card in his pocket, puts in the gun away and starts walking down the hill while Alex stands motionless.
We then see Gene inside the farmhouse, which, although covered in cobwebs and dust, is happily decorated with Union flags. He is staring at the floor. Alex walks in, looks at him, and closes the door behind her. Gene looks down at the warrant card again:
He says that “that guy” was skinny, and needed fattening up. At least that’s what his mentor, PC Morrison said. He says that on Coronation Day, he was walking a beat with Morrison. Someone gave his partner some whiskey, and soon Morrison was partying with the locals, leaving Gene alone. He says that someone broke into the farmhouse, and thinking that they were kids, Hunt went after them. He says that Hunt kicked the door in like John Wayne or Jimmy Stewart. Gene points to his head and says that “in here” Hunt was not a snotty kid in a uniform, he’s Gary Cooper in High No0n. But they weren’t kids. It was a man with a shotgun. He says that Gene didn’t deserve a shallow grave, and he asks Alex if she agrees. Alex says that he didn’t. She then asks why he didn’t tell her. Why was he all “swagger and bullshit” with her. Gene says that he forgot everything, and he wishes he hadn’t remembered it.
Jim suddenly appears in a corner of the room. He calls Gene’s speech “beautiful but corny”. He walks to the center of the room (to ominous sound effects) and calls Gene a “boy in a man’s uniform”. He taunts Gene, saying that it’s all over here. Alex asks where “here” is, and Jim condescendingly asks Gene if he’s figured it out yet. Gene tells Alex that it’s a place where police officers go “to sort out ourselves”. Alex, stammering and crying, says that he’s talking about people who are dead. Jim says that once Alex knows this, it explains a lot about Gene… his ego, his immature relationship with alcohol, his sexual ambiguity. Jim says that others who had “issues” with their deaths gradually started coming to him, and Gene helped to sort out their troubled souls. He further says that Ray, Chris and Shaz have been around for a long time, sorting out their issues. Gene tells Jim that if he touches any of “his” people, he will snap Jim’s neck like a twig. Jim seems to “get off” on Gene’s defiance, and calls it “magic”. Jim says that Gene has had Ray, Chris and Shaz “imprisoned” in his “fantasy” and that Alex has helped them lay their demons to rest. But he also says that they don’t know that they’re… compromised.
Alex, taking all this in, tries to go through Sam’s timeline. She says that he came back “here” after he threw himself off the building in Manchester, but he knew that his time there wouldn’t last. She asks Gene if he helped Sam and Annie on their way. Gene says that all he knows is that Sam had to go. Alex, tears welling up in her eyes, says that he helped Sam go, and asks if she means nothing to him (implying that she wants to know why he hasn’t helped her). She says that she just wanted to get back to Molly. Jim says that Gene doesn’t want her to go home, that he wants her there with him. Alex, crying now, says that she fought so hard to get back home, and Jim, who has walked over to her and gently touches her, agrees with her. He says that she’s been amazing. He says that she has done all she can to get home, and there’s just one thing left that she has to do: explain the truth to Ray, Shaz and Chris. Alex stops crying and looks at Gene. She says that she’s doing it for Molly, because she can’t be without her mother. Jim says that she placed her trust in the wrong person, and that Gene will try to twist her around his finger one last time. He says that Gene will try to trick her one last time, and what that time comes she will know.
Back in London, Chris and Shaz have arrived at a drinking fountain in Victoria Park. Tucked behind a statue, they find a bag of diamonds:
On the way back to London, Jim drives the car. Gene sits in the front seat nursing a flask while Alex sits in the back. Jim cranks up Wham’s “Club Tropicana” on the radio. Almost giddy with delight, Jim says that he loves the Quattro. A somber Alex tells Gene that the others deserve to know the truth. Gene, taking a swig from the flask, asks if it matters now. Alex says of course it matters, because then she will have accomplished what she set out to do. Jim says that they should listen to the song over and over again on the way home, then turns up the radio.
At the office, Chris puts the phone down and says that word is out on the street that Hoorsten thinks the gems are being delivered by what’s left of the Hardyman gang. Shaz says that he must be “brickin’ it”, and Chris says that they’ll turn the gems over to Hoorsten then swing in like Tarzan… “like a lot of Tarzans in cars”. Chris asks Shaz if she’s up for the undercover work, and she assures them that she is, and that if they want to nail the gang, they have to catch them taking possession of the gems. Chris congratulates Ray on a job well done, but Ray is lost in thought, staring at the videocassette Jim left with his name on it. Ray gets up and, taking the videotape, walks out of the room.
We then see him watching the tape, which is of a fat and disheveled Ray drinking alone in a run-down apartment. He is watching Trooping the Colour on TV. “The British Grenadiers” plays loudly in the room. Videotape Ray looks as though he might cry, and then throws his warrant card in a nearby trashcan. Videotape Ray then pulls at his tie and grabs a chair. We see Real Ray close his eyes while Videotape Ray prepares to hang himself. Real Ray opens his eyes just as Videotape Ray says “I’m sorry, Dad” and steps off the chair to kill himself. The TV turns itself off just after that moment, and we see Real Ray’s reflection in the TV screen.
Back in the office, Chris is playing around with Shaz. He has put on sunglasses and is humming the theme to The Professionals. He asks Shaz if she thinks he looks like Lewis Collins, and she jokes that he looks more like Joan Collins. Chris actually enjoys the joke, and tells Shaz that he knew she had a sense of humor somewhere in her. Shaz says that she was going to marry him, so she must have one. Chris asks if she’s holding out for the real Lewis Collins, and she says that she isn’t. She asks who he’s holding out for.
Just then, Ray walks in the office. Chris asks him what resources he’ll need for the raid. Ray picks up the tape marked “Chris” and takes it to him. Deathly serious, he tells Chris that he needs to see his tape.
Chris goes to Jim’s office and puts the tape on. In his tape, he’s involved in a shootout. Chris begs his superior officer for backup, but the officer calls him stupid and tells him to do what he’s told. The officer then pulls out a whistle (exactly the same sound Chris has been hearing for the past few days). Chris, following his orders, turns towards the gunshots… and is shot several times. He falls to the ground, dead:
Chris quietly walks back into the office. He picks up the tape marked “Shaz” and begins to walk away. Ray tells him that Shaz must see the tape, but Chris wants to keep it from her. Shaz walks up and demands the tape from Chris. Chris tells her that she doesn’t want to see it, but she demands it.
So we then see Shaz in Jim’s office. In hers, Videotape Shaz approaches a man trying to break into a car. She goes to tackle him, and the man stabs her with the same screwdriver that’s been haunting her lately:
Real Shaz screams as she watches herself die. Chris rushes into the office to comfort her, and she says that she’s spent so much time feeling angry and frustrated, and that she thought it was the job. Chris moves from the doorway towards her to hug her, but she pushes him away and tells him to leave her alone. She says that she never even had a life.
After she calms down, Shaz walks back into the office, where Ray and Chris are waiting for her. Ray and Chris get up from their chairs and the three of them stand in a circle. Laughter and the dying strains of “Life on Mars” can be heard as the three flashback to their earlier “flashbacks” with the pub sounds and laughter.
Jim, Gene and Alex have arrived back at the station. They walk to the door leading into the office, and Jim says that there’s “just one more thing” before they walk in the office. He headbutts Gene and then lands a savage punch, which causes Gene to fall through the door of the office. Alex screams and Ray and Shaz both stand up behind their desks. Jim screams, asking if everyone is up to date on “Health and Safety”. He then says that he can see they all know the truth that they’ve been denied by Gene. He kicks a prostrate Gene as he says the last word. Jim tells everyone to look at Gene, lying on the floor with blood on him.
Jim then starts screaming at the top of his lungs, laughing maniacally, knocking over desks and throwing chairs. He asks everyone if they want to know the truth. Everyone but Gene looks at him like he’s crazy. Jim picks up a typewriter and hurls it to the floor. When the typewriter makes contact with the floor, the lights go off, and the ceiling changes to a dome of stars. The gang stare, disbelieving, at the ceiling, while Jim jumps on his desk and lets out a scream of joy:
“Isn’t it beautiful?”, Jim screams. He looks around, then gets off the desk and looks at Alex, who is staring at him. Jim, hurt that Alex isn’t as excited as he is, asks her if she thought this was a real police station. He says that real police office don’t work like that, and it’s all part of Gene’s game. At the top of his lungs, Jim screams that Gene lied to them all.
Alex, scared, quietly says that Gene didn’t lie, that he’d just forgotten his past. Just then the lights come back on in the room. Ray says that they all just wanted to make Gene proud. Alex tells Jim not to make Gene into a liar. Chris says that Gene tells them to jump, and they all ask “how high?” Chris says that he did jump once, and he jumped into a bullet. He says that he just can’t think at the moment. Alex says that Jim’s outburst isn’t helping anyone, and that it’s just all sick gloating. Shaz says that all this isn’t fair, that she’s only 26 years old, and she wants to see her mother. She repeats her desire to Chris, who comes over and hugs her; for once, Shaz doesn’t fight him. Jim tells them all that they can still have that life. Alex starts to say that they’re all dead, but Jim cuts her off. He says that they breathe, laugh and love. Jim says to “trust him”, that this is living… it’s all the life they need. Alex says no, but Jim cuts her off again, telling Chris, Shaz and Ray that he’s offering them life on their own terms. “Your dreams. Your way.” He says that he has a whole new department waiting for them, and they can transfer to it right now. He says they will all get what they deserve. Chris asks if he means Scotland Yard, but Shaz tells him that there is no Scotland Yard. Jim says that the important thing is that they are happy and fulfilled. He says that Gene oppresses them, and that he won’t be on their backs.
As Jim continues to sell his vision of the future to Ray, Chris and Shaz, Alex begs Gene to get up. Jim starts giving the full court press to Ray. Alex again calls to Gene, but he barely moves. Jim tells Ray that he knows he wants to forget all the pain of his dad and the “disappointment of a failed son”. Alex tells Ray that he can’t go, but Chris asks why not. Chris takes Shaz by the hand and starts walking towards the door. Alex starts crying, begging them to stay after all they’ve been through. Ray turns to Alex and tells her that he killed himself because after failing out of the Army he “fell in” to becoming a cop, and he took his bottled up rage out on a young man who’d only been urinating on the side of a pub. Ray beat him to death. He also says that his DCI, who was not unlike Gene, covered it all up. Jim gets an evil smile on his face as Ray walks towards the door. Alex says that she’s not leaving Gene, at least not like this. Jim walks towards the door but stops just before it. He tells Alex that Gene is done, then holds the door open for her. She tells him to go to hell, and he cheerfully says that he will, and leaves.
We then see Jim leading Ray, Chris and Shaz through the stairwell of a more modern office building. While Madonna’s “Holiday” plays in the background, two beautiful female cops and a smartly dressed male one walk through the stairwell. Jim introduces them as “DS Cleaves, DCs Janis and Michaels… or Robbie, Kate and Abbie, if you prefer”. Robbie hands Jim a cell phone. Jim says hello to the “person” on the other end of the phone, and tells them that he has three transfers from Fenchurch East. Ray asks him who the blonde is. Jim says that it’s Abbie, and they’ll get to know them at “cocktail nights” in the “clubhouse” where Abbie always gets drunk. Ray laughs, but in the background, Shaz looks scared. Jim goes back to the conversation on his mobile, telling “Dave” that he hopes his new recruits will be there for a while, so he (Dave) needs to push the paperwork through. Jim says he wants them on the Serious Crime squad, and he tells “Dave” that they can handle it. He hangs up with Dave and opens a door. The gang walk through it.
Back in the office – which is a total wreck, by the way – Alex is sitting on the floor across from Gene. She says that she couldn’t begin to tell anyone how scared she was when she first got “here”. She says that she spent half her life studying psychosis, “and there I was… thought I was as mad as a bag of bees”. Gene said that she looked good though. Alex reminds him that she was dressed like a prostitute, which Gene says was “his point”. Alex remembers Gene’s car, and his boots… and Gene. She flashes back to images of each as she talks about them. Gene says that his real name is Nigel Perkins… then he says he’s joking and that his real name is Gene Hunt. Alex says that he’s the most difficult, stubborn, obnoxious, misogynistic and reckless human being she’s ever met, yet he somehow makes them all feel safe. Gene says that it’s all over, and it’s no use trying to cheer him up. Alex asks him one last time what happened to Sam. She says the the last thing he and Sam ever did was go to the pub, and she asks why.
“You don’t need to put the word ‘why’ after the word ‘pub’.”
She asks why again, and he says that’s what you do after a job. She says you stop a crime then go to the pub, then asks if that’s really the way it’s meant to be. Gene doesn’t answer, and so Alex gets up and walks over to Ray’s desk, which is still intact. She notes that Ray has planned a raid at the London East aerodrome to try and snag Eric Hoorsten. She goes through the plan and calls it “very ambitious”. Gene asks her why she cares. Alex says it’s because they’re cops, and that’s what cops do. She asks if he has any better ideas, and he says that he does:
“It involves 18 pints, a dozen whisky chasers and a barmaid with honkers like a pair of Wehrmacht Zeppelins.”
Alex, exasperated, calls out “Guv!” and he tells her not to call him that. She says that the flight’s at 12. High noon. She grabs a marker and walks over to the whiteboard. She starts drawing out a plan for the raid. She says to put Terry on the perimeter fence, which causes Gene to call out. Terry’s eyesight is apparently horrible, Gene says, and the other call him Mr. Magoo behind his back. Alex moves Bammo to Terry’s place, while Gene suggests that they draw them all in to the cargo hanger. He then starts running through the entire operation, and Alex purposely acts confused. Gene gets up for the first time since getting punched by Jim, and takes charge. He runs through the operation, but then stops and asks why they’re doing this, as he’s lost his team. Alex says they’ll come. She notes that Chris took a radio, and so she picks another up and calls Chris.
Jim, Ray, Chris and Shaz are in an office building. Jim enters a code into a lock, then opens a door which leads into a lobby which is painted red and full of elevators. All of the elevators are marked as “out of order” except one. Chris hears Alex on the radio, and replies that “it might not be appropriate” for them to talk. Jim tells him to throw the radio away, and Ray agrees. Alex tells him to stand by, and then tries to hand the radio to Gene so that he can talk to the gang. Gene says that he can’t. Alex says that he can.
Jim, meanwhile, says that “this” is their new life now, and they need to embrace it. He presses the button to call the elevator.
Gene is then heard on Chris’ radio. He says that he’s looked into their investigation and finds it impressive. He says, however, that there is one thing missing: him. He then says that he’s promoting Shaz to DC, effective immediately. He says that they need the jewel switch, otherwise the Dutch gang will easily be able to get out of any charges. Jim paces ever more nervously as Gene continues talking. Gene then starts taking to Chris and Ray. He asks what good a sheriff is without his best deputies. He answers his own question (“Nothing.”) and says that he doesn’t like being nothing. He tells Ray and Chris that he needs them. Jim orders Chris to throw the radio away. Gene says that when it’s all over they’ll all go to the pub. Chris turns to Ray. Jim calls him by his full name to try and get his attention, but Ray is listening to Shaz, who says that Gene will be exposed without their help.
Just then the elevator arrives and the door opens. Screams can be heard from below, and Shaz asks what they are. Jim, screaming, orders them into the elevator. Gene, on the radio, says he knows that they won’t let him down. Jim tells Chris that Gene doesn’t care about him, and that as soon as he goes back Gene will return to treating him like shit. He begs Chris to look at what he’s offering them. Chris asks Ray what he’s thinking. More screams can be heard from below, and it starts getting to Shaz. She anxiously tells Chris that she’s not sure about this. Chris protectively takes a couple of steps towards Shaz. Jim, who has calmed down, tells them to be smart and go with him. Chris and Shaz look at him as if they don’t know what to do:
Back in Gene’s office, Alex tries to reassure Gene by telling him that he’s their guv and they’ll come back. Alex says that that’s what she’s here for, if nothing else. He thanks her.
Just then, Shaz walks into the office in the flight attendant’s uniform. She tells the room that the gang will be expecting a courier. Gene asks her about Ray and Chris, and she says that she’s sorry. Alex asks if she’s all right, and Shaz asks if she means okay with wearing a dead woman’s clothes. Shaz says it seems appropriate. Gene loudly says “Morning!” to the few cops who have assembled in the office. He says that the gang is from Holland, they’re nasty, and for the gang to apprehend them with “rampant prejudice”. He asks if they’ve seen the map on the whiteboard, and they reply “yes, Guv”. He asks if they know their positions, and they reply “yes, Guv”. He asks if they’re armed bastards, and they reply “yes, Guv”. He tells the gang to saddle up.
We then see the Quattro, flanked by several police cars, hauling ass across an airport tarmac.
A few minutes pass, and everyone is in position. A Mercedes pulls up, and Gene grabs a radio and tells everyone that Hoorsten’s arrived and for everyone to sit tight. Gene says it’s nearly twelve, and they could really use Ray and Chris. Alex says that they’ll show, but Gene says they won’t, and they lost them to Jim. Hoorsten and two henchmen get out of their car and walk towards a hangar. Alex grabs a radio and tells everyone to stand by.
Shaz, who has been stationed in an office inside the hangar, grabs a suitcase and starts walking towards Hoorsten and his gang. She wishes the men good day as she approaches, and Hoorsten calls her an angel in return. He asks if she has something for him, and she hands him the case. He opens it and sees the diamonds inside. “Heel mooi”, he says (“Very nice”). Hoorsten says he’d heard that his friends in London would return these to him, and he mentions the Hardyman Boys. Shaz, smiling, asks the gentlemen if they’d care to depart. Hoorsten says they will, after her, of course. Shaz turns to get her flight bag, and Hoorsten grabs her and asks who the hell she is. Just then, Gene and Alex pull up in the Quattro. Gene gets out of the car, points his gun at Hoorsten and says:
“Right. Droppen ze shooters. Ich bin bloody nicked!”
Shaz, surprisingly, has Hoorsten on the ground and his hands behind his back, He’s dropped his gun, and Shaz picks it up and points at the back of his head. Hoorsten’s henchmen decide that they’re going to run, and so they open fire on the Quattro. In one of the best moments in the entire fucking history of television, they unload on the Quattro while the opening strains of Vangelis’ theme to Chariots of Fire is heard. They have Gene and Alex pinned down well, so they hop in their Mercedes to escape. Gene and Alex fire at their car, but just then the Mercedes is rammed by a car driven by Ray and Chris. They get out of their car and pull guns on the gang. With the situation under control, Gene takes a look at his beloved car:
He can’t believe it.
“He’s killed the Quattro. He’s bloody killed my Quattro. Oi! I’m arresting you for murdering my car you dyke-digging toss-pot!”
Hoorsten turns towards Gene and starts to pull his gun, but Gene pulls his faster and shoots him. Alex and Gene walk towards Ray and Chris. Alex compliments them on a job well done, and Ray asks what’s next. Gene says “pub”, and one by one, the rest of the gang say “pub”, too.
We then see the gang walking up a street. And what pub should they see?
The Railway Arms, the gang’s beloved pub from back in Manchester! Ray stops in his tracks, confused. Chris looks over at him and smiles. The door to the pub opens, and who should walk out but an old friend:
Gene asks Nelson if the beer’s still the same, and Nelson says that it is. Ray, still confused, says it can’t be the same pub. Gene orders him to stop acting like a “drippy Alice” and to go inside and order a round for everybody. Shaz walks up to Gene and kisses him on the cheek. Gene tells Detective Constable Granger to keep Chris out of trouble. Chris walks towards the pub, and asks Gene if he’s coming in. Gene says “not now”, and Chris tries to tempt him with beer, wine, whisky, potato chips and pork rinds. Shaz walks up to Chris and kisses him:
She tells Chris that she loves him and not Lewis Collins. She tells him that she’ll love him forever and a day. Chris can only say it’s “fab” and the two hug.
Gene turns to Ray, and Chris asks if he’s coming. Ray slowly nods his head, but before walking away he turns to Gene and says “you are and always will be… the guv”. Gene says that he’s in danger of “getting poofy”. Ray apologizes, and Gene sticks out his hand. The two have a manly handshake. Chris calls back to Gene and Alex and says that they’ll see them in a minute. Nelson calls them inside the pub, tempting them with thoughts of a fresh barrel of beer. “Life on Mars” can be heard coming out of the pub’s jukebox. Chris, Ray and Shaz get into a mild argument at the door about who’s buying the second round, thus almost returning everything to normal. Alex cries as she watches them walk into the pub. Nelson looks at her and nods his head at the pub, indicating that she should follow. She doesn’t move, so he turns and walks back into the pub alone.
Alex and Gene are alone on the street. She says “that’s it”, and says that she helped them into the pub, so now its over and she can go home. Gene looks at her seriously, and Alex, sensing that something’s wrong, calls his name. Alex flashes back to an image of herself lying in a hospital bed, and she tells Gene that she knows that she’s in a hospital bed back in 2008. Gene tells her to come here, and he steps towards her to give her a hug.
Suddenly, Jim’s voice is heard. He says that it’s not true, and that Gene wants her to give up on her life. He says that he told her Gene would try to trick her. Jim pulls a scarf off his neck and offers it to Alex. She recognizes it as Molly’s. She smells it, and knows that it’s hers. Jim says that Molly is waiting for her, and that he can take her to Molly.
It’s quiet for several moments as Alex stares at Jim. Suddenly, her expression changes. She tilts her head to the side and asks Jim what time it is. She walks towards Jim demanding to see his watch, but he tries to push her away and says that it’s broken. Alex sees the time in the watch: it’s 9:06 pm. She realizes that it’s always 9:06 pm, that that was the time in her hospital room. Jim lamely tries talking to her, but Gene walks over and steps between them: “Hello, Jimbo”. Gene hauls off and give Jim a massive right hook. “Goodbye, Jimbo”. Jim moans in pain on the ground, his sounds not quite human and not quite demonic, either.
Alex, in tears, shows Gene the scarf and says only “my baby”. Gene says that he knows, and that it’s just the way of the world. He says that she’ll be fine. Alex takes a breath and says “all right”, then she tries convincing Gene that she can stay here with him. She tells Gene that he can’t do this on his own, that he needs her, and that she can’t go into the pub. Gene insists that she can, that they have a saloon bar. Gene says that he can’t have her putting him off his stride, and that if she stayed around he would wonder if he was right half the time, and they simply can’t have that. He says that they “weren’t bad” together, were they? She gives Gene his epaulet numbers. Gene tells her that he’ll see her around, and she kisses him and tells him goodbye.
Gene watches her walk into the pub. She enters in slow motion, and a white light bursts inside the pub as she enters.
Keats starts his crazy cackling. He walks towards Gene and says that Hunt is now all alone. Between crazy laughs and animal growls, Gene picks him up by the collar and pushes him away. Jim starts singing “We’ll Meet Again” and slowly starts walking away from Gene, but not before reminding him that he’s all alone. And Gene is alone, all alone, in the street.
He goes back to the office, where he stops at Alex’s desk and stares at the “6620″ carved into her desk. He walks to his office, where a bottle of whisky and a brochure for a Mercedes 190D await him. An image of his younger self looks at the older Gene (see pic, below) and older Gene can sense it. But when he turns, the reflection is gone. He pours himself a drink and wearily sits down in his chair. He begins flipping through the Mercedes brochure… when suddenly there’s a ruckus out in the office. A man’s voice can be heard asking where his office is, and then demanding that “those jokers” give him back his iPhone. The man becomes panicked, repeatedly asking where his office is. Gene gets up from his desk and opens his office door.
“A word in your shell-like, pal.”
The screen fades to black, and David Bowie’s “Heroes” starts playing.
- It’s a Knockout was a British game show in which contestants had to perform various tasks whilst dressed in large rubber suits. Think of a smaller scale Wipeout but with costumes and much more varied contests. The show was based on a French show called Intervilles, which was later renamed Jeux Sans Frontières (“Games Without Frontiers”) after it expanded to include teams from all across Europe. Both shows influenced Peter Gabriel to write the song of the same name. In fact, the lyrics repeated throughout the song that some misinterpret as “She’s so popular” or “She’s so funky now” are actually “Jeux sans frontieres”.
- Incidentally, the theme song for It’s a Knockout was “Bean Bag” by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, Gene Hunt’s favorite band.
- Lastly, the narrator for the scene is Stuart Hall, the original host of It’s a Knockout.
- Ray also complained about not having breakfast in the finale of season 2.
- Leon Spinks was an American boxer. His professional career started on January 15, 1977 in Las Vegas, and exactly thirteen months later, on February 15, 1978, Spinks defeated Muhammad Ali to become world heavyweight champ. It was just Spinks’ eighth professional fight, making it the fastest rise to heavyweight champion in history. Unfortunately, the bout against Ali would be his best. He was soon stripped of his title for refusing to fight challenger Ken Norton. Instead, he chose a rematch with Ali, who, despite being older and on the tail end of his career, handily defeated him in New Orleans on September 15, 1978. In 1994, the washed-up Spinks was defeated by John Carlo in Carlo’s professional debut; Spinks thus became the first former heavyweight boxing champ to lose to a first-timer. Due to a large “entourage” (which included Mr T as a bodyguard), a declining career, and several bad financial decisions, Spinks eventually ended up homeless. As of 2005, Spinks was working at McDonalds in Columbus, Nebraska.
- Like most colognes and perfumes mentioned in Ashes to Ashes, “Denim for Men” was popular high-end cologne made by Faberge in the early 80s which is now sold in grocery stores and drugstores (if at all: I could only find “Denim Black for Men” at UK online stores).
- Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World was a thirteen-part miniseries in which the famous sci-fi author examined various “unexplained” phenomena, such as sea monsters, Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, UFOs and Stonehenge. The show has appeared on various cable networks in the US.
- “Farringfield Green” doesn’t exist. However, in an amusing twist, the main road from Manchester to Bolton is the A666, often called the Devil’s Highway.
- Julie Andrews is an English actress known for her roles in family-friendly films like The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins. Her squeaky-clean image was such that people were shocked when Andrews appeared topless in the 1981 film S.O.B., directed by her husband, American director Blake Edwards.
- The Generation Game was a British game show which ran from 1971 to 1982, and again from 1990 to 2002. The show, based on a Dutch game show called Een van de acht (“One of the Eight”) featured four teams of two people each who were related, but of different generations. In the first round, a professional of some type (say a painter or musician) would create or perform something, and the four teams would have to recreate it. The professional would judge the entries, and the last place team would be eliminated. The next round was usually a quiz round, and the last place team was again eliminated. The final two teams would then face off in a long set piece (a musical, drama or comedy number) and the winning team would go on to the “conveyor belt” round, in which prizes were placed on a conveyor belt and passed before one (or later, both) team members, and the team won each prize it remembered passing by on the belt. The show was well known for its catchphrases and the stuffed animal often seen on the conveyor belt (which was almost always chosen, much like the “ceramic cheetah” from the early days of Wheel of Fortune when contestants were allowed to choose their own prizes). The show was seen in the film Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and is referenced in the Saint Etienne song “You’re in a Bad Way”, in which a man skips work to stay home and watch reruns of the show.
- Antiques Roadshow is a BBC series that has been on the air since 1979. The show, which is almost identical to the PBS version created in the United States, features average people who bring in antique items to be appraised. Many PBS stations run the original BBC series under the name Antiques Roadshow UK.
- The military march the homeless man plays is called “The British Grenadiers”. The tune dates back to the 1600s, but first became associated with the Grenadier Guards in 1706 as “The Granadeer’s March”. The song is also used in the annual Trooping the Colour ceremony at Buckingham Palace, as seen in this YouTube clip.
- When Shaz hands Alex the “OS map” she’d asked for, the “OS” stands for Ordnance Survey, an executive agency of the British government responsible for mapping the nation. Founded in 1747 by Lieutenant-Colonel David Watson in the wake of the Jacobite Rising of 1745, the agency mostly makes leisure and travel maps today. The agency has an interesting history, and it’s worth a side trip to Wikipedia to read up on it.
- Brent Cross is an area in north London. It is famous for being the home of Britain’s first American-style shopping mall, which opened in 1976. Although many other larger malls have opened in the UK since then, Brent Cross is still one of the most profitable per square foot of retail space.
- GOOF?: Gene tells Chris to get on the phone to Interpol in Lyon. But Interpol didn’t move to Lyon until 1989. Prior to that, they were headquartered in Saint-Cloud, a suburb of Paris. It’s possible that the office was located in Paris and the switchboard was in Lyon prior to 1989, but it seems unlikely. I think the writers chose Lyon just so Gene could mispronounce it.
- Alan Whicker is a British journalist specializing in international reporting. He is perhaps best known for Whicker’s World, a documentary series in which he traveled the globe interviewing interesting people or covering breaking news topics. The series ran from 1959 to 1988. Gene calls Shaz “Mrs. Alan Whicker” ironically, as the man never married: he had a relationship with Olga Deterding from 1966-1969 and has been with his current girlfriend, Valerie Kleeman, since 1969.
- A quick Google search tells me that there is no “Anton Close” in London. In fact, it seems that the only such road in the UK is in Worcestershire, in the middle of England, well out of Fenchurch East’s jurisdiction.
- The “London East Aerodrome” doesn’t exist. The show is probably referencing London City Airport, which was first proposed back in 1981 but did not open until 1987 due to a couple of lawsuits and drawn out “planning committees”. The only other option for the “Aerodrome” is Croydon Airport, but it closed back in 1959.
- The London A-Z is the main street atlas for the city of London. Map companies publish thousands of maps of London every year, but none can top the popularity of the A-Z, which was first published in 1936 by Phyllis Pearsall. You can find copies of the A-Z stacked high in bookstores, tourist offices and chemists (drugstores) everywhere in London in all sorts of editions: paperback size, legal size, spiral bound, etc. As it’s a British publication, its pronounced “ay to zed”, not “ay to zee”. Interestingly (for geeks), A-Z is one of the few map companies who have readily admitted to placing copyright traps in their maps.
- There are two “Victoria Parks” in London, one in Finchley, and the other bordering Bethnal Green, Hackney, and Bow in East London. It is this park that is being referenced in the show. In fact, locals even call it “Vicky Park”.
- Gene Hunt died on Coronation Day, June 2, 1953.
- “Hokey Cokey” is the British name of the dance called the “Hokey Pokey” in the US. Legend has it that the song was written in London in 1940 at the behest of a Canadian military officer who approached bandleader Al Tabor to write a “party song”. Tabor named the song “The Hokey Pokey” in memory of an ice cream vendor he remembered from his childhood who used to call out “Hokey pokey penny a lump. Have a lick make you jump!” At the officer’s request, it was renamed “Hokey Cokey”, because that was then-current Canadian slang for “crazy”. There is some disagreement about the song’s history in the United States. Some think that it was first performed at a ski resort in Idaho, while others point to a band based out of Scranton, Pennsylvania who recorded a similar song before the Idaho band. In any case, the song’s Wikipedia page actually makes for some interesting reading.
- Gene Hunt loved old Western films, something frequently mentioned in Life on Mars (especially with the movie posters in his office), but not emphasized so much in Ashes to Ashes.
- The drinking fountain hiding the diamonds is real. It was built by Baroness Angela Burdett-Coutts in 1862. Here’s a pic of it from Wikipedia.
- CONFUSING: On the way back to London, Jim drives the Quattro while Gene sits in the front seat and Alex sits in the back seat. So… what happened to Alex’s car? And how did Jim get there? Did they leave two cars at the farm?
- The Professionals was a British cop show which ran on ITV from from 1977 to 1983. The show, which was created by The Avengers creator Brian Clemens, focused on a fictional division called CI5 (a portmanteau of the real CID and MI-5). They were tasked with solving any crime which was too much for a police force, but not enough for military action. The Home Secretary gave CI5 permission to use any means necessary to complete their tasks. The show was something of a cross between The Sweeney (the main inspiration for Life on Mars) and America’s Starsky and Hutch.
- The song playing when Shaz is killed is “Wonderwall” by Oasis. I’m not sure what the song is about (as it so often happens in pop music, opinions differ), but the words sure seem to fit in with Shaz:
And all the roads we have to walk are winding
And all the lights that lead us there are blinding
There are many things that I would
Like to say to you but
I don’t know how
You’re gonna be the one that saves me
And after all
You’re my wonderwall
Today was gonna be the day
But they’ll never throw it back to you
By now you should’ve somehow
Realized what you’re not to do
I don’t believe that anybody
Feels the way I do
About you now
- By the way, it’s interesting that Shaz appears to have died so much later than anyone else. Ray was wearing 70s clothes, and Chris’ superior relied on a police whistle and not a radio or mobile phone to call for help, but “Wonderwall”, included on the album (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, came out in 1995.
- In the UK, laws are passed by Parliament (and\or the Scottish Parliament and\or the Welsh Assembly) and in many cases, the laws are actually carried out by local councils, which are more or less equivalent to American county commissions (in rural areas) or city councils (in urban areas). This includes regulations passed by the Health and Safety Executive, which was created in 1974. Although originally created for workplace safety (like America’s OSHA), other safety-related agencies have since been combined with it, so that “Health and Safety” covers almost any public place. And lately, they’ve gotten a bad rap in the British press for being overzealous. You might know that there has been a “cheese race” near the town of Gloucester for at least 200 years; it was canceled this year by the local Health & Safety folks. There is also a tradition of several towns holding “pancake races” on Shrove Tuesday, a tradition that dates back to 1444. It was canceled in one city this year and in another “racers” were forced to walk, not run, by local Health and Safety wonks. There have even been a few cases were local police have been prevented from saving someone’s life by Health and Safety regulations. It’s gotten so bad the the Daily Mail refers to them and “‘elf n’ Safety” officers.
- Quincy Magoo was a cartoon character created in 1949 and voiced by Jim Backus (better known to many as Mr Howell from Gilligan’s Island). Magoo was a wealthy retiree who was perfectly normal in almost every way… except that he was extremely nearsighted and not only refused to get glasses, he refused to acknowledge the problem at all. His awful vision was the source of all his (mis)adventures. I included this entry for younger readers, as aside from Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol (a retelling of the classic Dickens story usually run at least once during the holiday season), Mr Magoo cartoons are rarely shown on television these days.
- One member of Hoorsten’s gang says “Maak ze af die smerissen!” which translates to “Run! It’s the cops!”
- Was it just me, or did Hoorsten not have a spot of blood on him when Gene shot him?
- After the takedown, Ray asks what’s next , and everyone says “pub” one by one. The same exchange happened at the end of Life on Mars.
- Scratchings are the British word for pork rinds.
- Ringos are snack food, and are similar to America’s Funyuns. The company who makes them, Golden Wonder, went bankrupt in 2006. Confusingly, the company was bought by Tayto of Northern Ireland, which is a completely different company than Tayto of the Republic of Ireland, that country’s largest chip maker (the Northern Ireland company was formed in 1956, two years after the Irish company, and it licensed the Tayto name for the Northern Ireland market. Other than that, the two companies are not related). Golden Wonder also developed Pot Noodle, Britain’s most popular brand of ramen noodle.
- I’m almost certain I’ve mentioned this before, but many pubs have (or had) separate rooms back in the day. One type of room was the saloon bar, in which patrons paid a cover charge (or bought higher priced drinks) in exchange for a show of some kind, usually comedy or a musical. Table service was standard in saloon bars. Saloons were the preferred hangout for wealthier types, while blue collar folks hung out in the public bar area. Many pubs also had a “snug” or “smoke room”, which was enclosed in smoked glass, so that you couldn’t see who was inside. This was the preferred drinking spot for not just the wealthy, but also the parish priest, unescorted women, or lovers.
- I remember those Mercedes brochures! My dad bought his first Mercedes around this same time, and I remember him bring home very similar brochures.
- Lovely image of younger Gene watching his older self:
- Shell-like is British slang for “ear”.
- At the very end of the episode, there’s a “stinger’ of a cop from an old black and white TV show wishing us good night. The clip is from Dixon of Dock Green, one of the very first British police shows. It’s a special touch, because the officer, George Dixon, was killed in a made-for-TV movie which preceded the show. Like Gene Hunt, George Dixon was brought back from the dead for the series, which ran from 1955 to 1976.
My girlfriend and I went to London the day after Christmas 2005. We were there for a week, and I remember repeatedly seeing a commercial for an upcoming BBC series. It was about a cop in Manchester who gets hit by a car and wakes up in 1973. He doesn’t know if he’s dead, in a coma, has traveled back in time, or is just plain crazy. I remember being fascinated by the commercial, which seemed to run all the time during the little TV we actually watched (while the BBC doesn’t have “commercials”, it does promote the hell out of itself between shows). Every time one came on, I’d have to stop what I was doing and watch it.
The missus and I came home, and I kept my eyes and ears open for the show on the Internet. And when the first episode finally aired… I instantly fell in love.
And there was a lot to love about Life On Mars: on the one hand, it was just an average cop show, with the added twist of one of the cops being from the future. It was as if a cop from Law & Order somehow traveled back in time and ended up on the set of Kojak. There was plenty of “wink-wink” humor about how cops of the day thought there’d never be female detectives, much less a woman prime minister… but at the same time, the sheer brutality and racism, sexism and homophobia of the 1973 cops showed us just how far we as a society have come. It’s no longer acceptable for cops to just beat up suspects, or round up black folks for no reason, or raid gay bars for fun. And good for that.
But yet, there was something comfortable about that time and place, and nothing personified that more than DCI Gene Hunt. Hunt wasn’t a complicated man – far from it, actually. Whereas Sam Tyler saw the world in a million shades of grey, Gene Hunt saw only black and white and right and wrong. In our modern world of political correctness and social confusion, Gene Hunt rode in like the Lone Ranger, making everything simple. Sure, by today’s standards Gene Hunt is an overweight, alcoholic, chain-smoking racist, sexist, homophobe who would rather put a gun to his head than talk about his feelings… but that was OK. Gene Hunt was a cop, but in many ways he was like the sheriff of an Old West town who knew every crook on his beat. Someone so “simple” was actually refreshing in a lot of ways. Gene Hunt became something of a sex symbol in the UK. Women wanted him, and men wanted to be him.
But as much as I liked Life On Mars, I was even more excited when I heard about its sequel, Ashes to Ashes. This is mainly because this series would be set in 1981 in London, which was the time and place for my favorite music. Just as a lot of kids born slightly too late to go to Woodstock often dreamed of being there, I dreamed of being in London back when New Romantics were the fashion of the day, and Duran Duran were the up and coming new band. Ashes grabbed my full attention almost instantly, especially when the first episode ended with Roxy Music’s “Same Old Scene”, a song I’ve probably listened to a million times.
But it was the second episode of the show that made me fall in love. Alex meets a yuppie who is receiving death threats for wanting to redevelop the London Dockyards. She decides to go out on a date with him, partly because he needs police protection, but also because she’s intrigued with him. The two end up at Blitz, a real (but short-lived and very popular) nightclub in early 80s London. The club was the hangout for Steve Strange (of Visage), Boy George, Marilyn, Martin Degville (of Sigue Sigue Sputnik), all the guys in Spandau Ballet, Perri Lister (an actress and one of the girls in Duran Duran’s “The Chauffeur” video), and dozens of other luminaries of the New Romantic era. Alex and her date walk in to the club and stop at the coat check, where she recognizes Boy George (who worked at the club in that capacity) and tells him hello. Alex gets a goofy smile on her face as she walks through the club, where Steve Strange himself is recreating his early days by lip-synching “Fade to Grey”. It was, for this New Wave baby, an awesome moment, and as I said, it made me fall deeply in love with the series:
If you’d asked me, though, which was the better series, back then I would have said Mars. After all, John Simm is certainly a better actor than Keeley Hawes, right? And Mars was the first series, so anything Ashes did would be a pale imitation of it, right? So, as great as the early 80s soundtrack and setting was, Mars was the better series.
I actually still thought that way until this season generally, and the series finale in particular. Now I think both shows can stand firmly on their own. Hawes, despite grumblings in the British newspapers and a lot of blogs about her acting early on in the series, developed the Alex Drake character quite well, and in the end I think I enjoyed the sexual tension between Drake and Hunt better than I did the macho bravado of Simm vs. Hunt. I think all of us have probably had, at one time or another, some kind of relationship with a member of the opposite sex where we moved back and forth between admiring them and wanting to slap them, and Gene and Alex represented this so well. And Alex, like Sam, eventually saw the deeper wisdom of Gene Hunt, and that was important to me.
Now, to get to the finale, let me begin by explaining events as I saw them: everyone in the Ashes universe is dead. We specifically saw the deaths of Ray, Chris and Shaz, and Gene told us how he died. Thus, the Ashes world is a kind of purgatory where police officers go to carry out enough “good deeds” in the form of fighting crime until they can “cross over” and go to heaven. And what made Alex and Sam special in this world is that they were the only ones who knew that this world wasn’t “real”.
But here’s what I don’t understand: what happened with Gene Hunt back in 1953? Did he wake up the day after getting shot and just go on to work, not knowing that he’d been killed? I guess I also want to expand the question to everyone else. How did the “cross over” thing happen? Because purgatory seems to be 27 years behind the “real” world. You’d think that, to keep “freak outs” to a minimum, those who cross over would simply go back to their own time… but we know that didn’t happen. Alex Drake was killed in 2008, and woke up knowing that she’d traveled back in time. Judging from the music, dress and environment, Shaz was killed sometime in the mid 1990s, but had forgotten her own death until she saw it on the video tape… so why didn’t she freak out when she woke up back in 1981?
This leads to the greater question of Gene’s freakout with Alex. If he didn’t remember dying in 1953, why did he follow her to the farm and pull a gun on her as she dug? But if he did remember it, why freak out when he saw his own warrant card?
In season one, episode four of Life On Mars, Gene says that he was mentored by a crooked cop, and he took his own first bribe a month later. But in Ashes, he says he was killed in his first week on the force. Is this a continuity error, or is Gene saying that he took a bribe in the purgatory world?
All this leads to the biggest question of all: what actually happened to Alex and Sam?
Let’s say that Alex died in 2008 and went to purgatory back in 1981. She’s there for a couple of years and gets shot by Gene and wakes up back in 2008 with Molly. But she sees Gene’s face everywhere in this “faux 2008″, so perhaps Alex really was shot by Gene in 1982 and went back to 2008 in her 1982 coma (you following all this?). That makes everything fall neatly into place for her… but it makes things confusing for Sam.
If Sam died in 2006 and went back to 1973, how could he have jumped off the police headquarters in Manchester in 2006… a fact that was known in the 2008 world before Alex died. In the first moments of the first episode of Ashes, we see Sam’s police personnel file, and the cause of death is listed as “suicide”… but if we use the same logic that we used with Alex, we know that Sam’s real cause of death was being hit by a car in 2006. We could explain his death and return to 2006 from the point-of-view of the “Ashes purgatory” by saying that he attempted suicide by flinging himself off the Manchester Police headquarters in 2006. But perhaps he didn’t die immediately. Maybe he was in a coma for some time and either dreamed or imagined that his life continued on like normal. After a time, he died (in 2006) and only “imagined” that he was hit by a car as he went back to 1973. Not knowing that he was dead, he spent his time trying to get back to the “real world” of 2006. Thus, Frank Morgan (the surgeon) and Frank Morgan (the police officer) could be two different (albeit the same) people in his mind. Once Mr Morgan brought Sam back to the “imaginary” world of 2006, Sam decided that he liked his other life better, so he (unknowingly) recreated his own (real) death in his imaginary 2006 world and came back to 1973.
Here’s one thing I really didn’t understand about the “crime of the week” in the finale: how did the gang suddenly assume that jewel thieves were involved? I’ve watched the finale twice now, and as best I recall, Gene was talking about Tavish’s fancy tweed pants and it was mentioned that he was a fence for stolen antique furniture. A few minutes later, Alex is driving to the farm and Chris tells Gene (just back from talking to Alex) that there were no reports of jewel heists in the city. Did I miss something? Was there a scene where they determined that Tavish was a jewel fence, too? There is a scene shortly thereafter that connects Tavish to Hoorsten (Chris getting the fax from Interpol), but the gang mysteriously already knew that they were looking for a jewel thief. Perhaps there’s a deleted scene that can explain all this… or maybe I just missed something really stupid.
I was one of those folks who did not like the Jim Keats character at the beginning of this season, and I think I now owe an apology to Daniel Mays. Keats was great, and his “freak outs” in the finale were incredibly well acted. Had Ashes been shot in Hollywood, they would have used CGI to make horns come out of his head and fire surround him. Instead, given the BBC’s low budget, they had to reply on May’s acting ability alone, along with a few audio tricks to make him the Devil (or at least one of his minions). And the effect was amazing. To me, Jim Keats was almost as scary as Bob from Twin Peaks!
So yes, Gene was a kind of archangel who watched over and protected the people in his world… which explains why he took it so personally when Viv died. But I loved how, in the end, Gene was finally able to turn into the kind of Wild West cowboy he so admired. I also loved how the episode ended, with another new soul for him to protect, and the start of a new series we will, sadly, never get to see. Infinity really does go on forever, doesn’t it?
Also, I just wanted to mention that I always knew that Nelson was special… so there!
Lastly, I’d like to close with some thanks. Thanks to Matthew Graham and Ashley Pharoah for creating such a wonderful show. And thanks to the writers for keeping it real, making me laugh, cry and jump out of my seat in joy for the past several years, and also for having a plan for the end-game (take note, Lost writers!). Thanks also to whoever selected the music for the series, which took me back to my teenage years every episode. Thanks to Philip Glenister for making Gene Hunt both incredibly funny and incredibly badass. To paraphrase Ray, he is, and always shall be, my favorite TV cop of all time. Thanks to John Simm and Keeley Hawes for making Sam Tyler and Alex Drake come to life, and thanks to Dean Andrews, Marshall Lancaster and Montserrat Lombard for being the perfect cast of supporting characters. And thanks to Daniel Mays for, well, being the Devil. Thanks to the rest of the crew, especially the set designers and costumers, for making both shows such a visual delight. Thanks to the BBC for believing in the series, and thanks too to everyone out there who makes it possible to see such incredible programming far from Britain’s shores. Thanks to The Railway Arms, the Life of Wylie blog and all the dozens of fan sites and forums that entertained me, gave credence to (or trashed) my theories about the Ashes universe, and explained London slang or obscure cultural references.
And lastly, thanks to all of you who stopped by this blog to read these recaps. They’ve been a lot of fun to do, although I’m kind of glad that they’re over. Mad Men is returning soon, and I honestly just don’t think I have it in me to write thirteen recaps as in-depth as these. We’ll see though.
MUSIC HEARD IN THIS EPISODE
Soft Cell – “Tainted Love”
Phil Collins – “In the Air Tonight”
Wham! – “Club Tropicana”
Oasis – “Wonderwall”
Madonna – “Holiday”
Michael Jackson – “Beat It”
Vangelis – “Chariots of Fire” main theme
David Bowie – “Life on Mars”
David Bowie – “Heroes”