Ashes to Ashes: Season 1, Episode 6

Oh… my.. God! After last week’s disappointment, I was afraid that Ashes to Ashes was going downhill… that I’d one day say that “Ashes was just OK, but it couldn’t hold a candle to Life On Mars“. But then there was this week’s episode, which was simply outstanding in every possible way. Almost every complaint I lodged in last week’s recap was addressed in this episode… and in the most awesome way! Episode 6 is, so far, the best episode of the series. So strap yourself in and let’s get to it:

The episode begins with Alex having a dream. To the strains of Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love”, we see her toss and turn in the sheets. She abruptly wakes up and finds her bedroom transformed into a cinema for one. On the wall opposite, a home movie is playing that shows a young Alex playing with a Rubik’s Cube. In the film, she’s sitting on the sofa in her childhood home; she becomes frustrated with the toy and throws it to the floor. This causes her mother (who has been sitting next to her on the sofa) to get up, pick up the cube, and encourage young Alex not to give up so easily. Caroline asks young Alex about the “seven steps to solving the puzzle”, to which Alex replies that the first step is to align the corners of the cube. In the film, Caroline then asks young Alex where she got the Rubik’s Cube. Adult Alex, who has remembered everything about the film from her childhood suddenly panics: she can’t remember where she got the Rubik’s Cube. As she desperately tries to remember where it came from, her bed is slowly covered with a thick layer of frost. She flashes back to the bullet heading towards her head in 2008, then has the sensation of falling… into a bed with red satin sheets. And someone else is in bed with her. Just as that person starts to roll over and reveal themselves, Adult Alex is woken up by Gene’s fist hitting her desk. She has, apparently, been asleep at her desk the entire time.

Gene is rounding up the crew to because he’s received a tip about the impending robbery of a post office on Northington Road. While en route, Viv radios them to tell them that the robbery has, in fact, already happened, and that two suspects were seen taking off on a motorcycle. As luck would have it, almost as soon as Viv is finished describing the men, they appear on the street in front of Hunt and Co. A high-speed chase ensues, with Hunt pushing his lovely red Quattro to the limit. They eventually lose the suspects when the the bandits take their bike down a narrow pedestrian walkway.

Having lost the robbers, Hunt and crew go to the post office to interview witnesses. The clerk, who is Indian (Asian, for you Brits out there) describes the robbery in detail, including such details as how he (the clerk) makes a tiny rip in each pound note and how the crooks even took his statute of Krishna. As he’s describing the Krishna statue, Gene interrupts to ask how, if the robbers were wearing masks, he knew that one of them was old and one of them was young. The clerk replies that he could tell their ages by their body movements and the timbre of their voices (OT: kudos to the actor for pronouncing it correctly: “tamber”). When Alex asks if any of them had an accent, the clerk says that they “weren’t Welsh”, because “Welsh people sound like they’re from Calcutta”. The clerk knows that one of the robbers was American, and he knows it for a fact because his wife is addicted to Hill Street Blues. He further states that the younger one, the American, kept “asking if I was talking to him”. The clerk is oblivious that the robber was quoting Travis Bickle, Robert De Niro’s character in Taxi Driver. Chris begins doing the routine, and the clerk is astonished that Chris could mimic the robber so.

Having gotten all the useful information they could from the clerk, the crew go outside to discuss the case. Hunt asks Alex what she would do. While Hunt and Drake are talking, Ray and Chris start making fun of the clerk’s accent. They mimic the clerk talking about how the older robber fired his shotguns, specifically, how the robber fired the guns, then crossed them against his chest. Hunt glares at them, causing them to stop. He asks them to do it again with the hand gestures, which makes him think of Chas Cale, a criminal from Hunt’s days in Manchester. Cale’s signature move was crossing his guns across his chest like a Mexican revolutionary. The gang go back to the car, where Hunt radios the station and asks Shaz to have Viv look in to Cale’s current whereabouts. When he’s done, everyone decides to light up – Chris and Ray light up cigarettes, while Gene fires up one of his trademark cigarillos. Drake tells them that second-hand smoke kills, and as soon as she says the work “kill”, she feels a deathly chill.

Offscreen, Hunt and Co. are apparently told that Cale is now a chef in a London restaurant, because the Quattro then pulls up in front of one. Hunt tells Alex, Ray and Chris how he busted Cale for an armed robbery back in Manchester, but somehow Cale got off on a technicality. The boys get out of the car to enter the restaurant, but Alex stays behind. She feels her body temperature dropping, and her (1981) mind is losing the ability to make connections. She stares at her hands, wondering how to increase the temperature of her (2008) body. Things go into soft focus. She looks up and sees The Clown peering at her through the windshield. The Clown stares at her, then slowly breathes on the glass, causing frost to instantly form:

Ashes to Ashes (Ep 6, 1)

Her daydream\hallucination is interrupted by Hunt, who asks Alex if she’s planning to join the rest of them.

Inside the restaurant, the team sit at a table and ask for Cale. While Cale’s being fetched, Chris has a looks at the menu, then calls the place “high class” because they have a T-bone steak on the menu “for £3.20… without the chips!” I don’t know if this is supposed to be a wry comment about the condition of British cuisine of the 70s and 80s, or if it’s a wink and a nod towards today’s “celebrity chef culture”, but it was amusing nonetheless. Anyway, Chas denies any involvement with the robbery. He’s the chef of a restaurant, you see, and how could he be robbing a post office if he was there doing the lunch service? Hunt nevertheless brings Cale and his wife Jane into the station for questioning. There, Jane says that Chas has developed epilepsy with an extreme case of arrhythmia. Chas pulls off his “Medic Alert” type necklace, and shows Hunt the “I am an epileptic” card he carries in his wallet. Jane gives Gene the hard sell, talking about how Chas can’t handle any stress, how such stress could kill him, and how she took him away from “that life” eight years ago. Hunt, angry because he has no evidence that Cale is involved (and possibly angry that he won’t be able to “hang one” on the criminal he pursued so long ago), lets the man go. Hunt and Drake then get into another shouting match: Gene is convinced that Chas is too old and sick to pull off the robbery; Alex is convinced that Chas is lying. Gene storms off to the pub, but not before insulting Alex by telling her “at least Chas knew when to hang it up”. Chris asks Shaz to go out to a nice restaurant with him, which leads Ray to call him a “poof”. Shaz, initially wanting to go but sensing the tension between the two, says that she might be busy that evening. Ray then says “yeah, that’s what I thought” while Shaz looks at her desk and Ray looks away. Tension, anyone?

Back at home, Alex continues to feel her temperature drop. She has more flashes – of the Rubik’s Cube, of her parents… of the death of her parents – and she decides that she won’t die without saying goodbye to her mother. She goes to Caroline’s house, where she comes “this close” to telling Caroline that she (Caroline) is Alex’s mother. She comes soooo close, but ends up in tears:

Ashes to Ashes (Ep 6, 2)

She goes back to the station. Gene is in an awful mood, because he has no ideas about the case now that Chas has been eliminated. After another shouting match between Alex and Gene, Alex sends Chris and Ray on a pub crawl near the pedestrian walkway (she’s convinced the robbers were local to the area, since they knew about the walkway). Gene storms out of his office to find out where Alex is sending Ray and Chris and, finding out that it’s a pub crawl, goes to get his car keys. Shaz helpfully holds up Hunt’s keys, but Alex snatches them away from her. Shaz tells Gene that they must be on his desk. Alex sneaks out and takes the Quattro!

She takes Gene’s car to the restaurant, where she takes all the trash bags. She pulls up to the station just as Gene is outside telling Viv where his car was parked. He becomes enraged when he sees Alex pull up in his pride and joy, and becomes even more angry when she opens the trunk, revealing piles of garbage in Gene’s prized car. He’s so angry, in fact, that he throws Alex off his team:

Ashes to Ashes (Ep 6, 3)

Alex stashes the trash bags in the evidence room… where The Clown visits her yet again. He’s interrupted by Shaz, who walks in to ask if Alex is OK. Alex says that she’s OK, but asks Shaz to keep an eye on the trash bags, as they’re evidence.

At the pub, Ray and Chris are busying checking out the “amazing graphics” on a brand new video game the pub has just installed: Space Invaders. At the same time, Gene is busy having a drink at Luigi’s. Luigi asks Gene where the rest of the crew and the “lovely senorina” is. Gene says that they crew are busy and he doesn’t care what happens to the “lovely senorina”. Luigi is convinced that Gene has a “thing” for Alex, although Gene vehemently denies it.

Meanwhile, Alex is in her room above Luigi’s. She continues to feel worse and worse. Since she’s seen (and talked to) her daughter on occasion in 1981, she calls out for Molly. She wants to tell her goodbye and apologize for not getting back to her in 2008. She soon falls asleep, where she’s visited by The Clown once again. Although she was ready to let go just a few minutes earlier, she now decides that it’s too soon to die. She shakes uncontrollably as she says this. She’s weak. She lies down again, where The Clown visits her again, and she has the same dream of falling into a bed.

She’s pulled back into reality by Gene. He’s been downstairs in the bar, and Luigi has finally talked him in to coming upstairs to talk to Alex. Gene sees that Alex looks awful, so he takes her downstairs for a drink. Alex is still cold, but she’s much more.. alive now that she has Gene to argue with. Her color is better and she’s stopped shaking. She tells Gene how awful he is, and how he’s going to lose Chris and Ray because he doesn’t give them any responsibility. Just at that moment, the phone rings. It’s Chris calling for Gene: while playing Space Invaders, they’ve overheard an American voice doing the “you talkin’ to me?” routine that the post office clerk mentioned. They’ve nailed one of the guys from the motorcycle, and they have him back at the station.

They hope. As Gene and Alex enter the station (followed by Chris, who won’t stop talking about his “collar”), they turn the corner to see a young boy. Chris asks Ray where the suspect is, and Ray replies that he “left him with you” while he went to get some things for the young boy. It appears that the guys have lost the suspect. So much for “giving them more responsibility”! As it turns out, the suspect has only gone to the bathroom. The young man says that he doesn’t know anything about any robbery, and Hunt takes him away to the interrogation room for further questioning. Alex initially stays behind with the boy – the suspect’s nephew – who starts talking, but is interrupted by Evan White, who has just come to check on Alex. Alex says that she’s much better, but their meeting is cut short by Gene, who calls her into the interrogation room.

The young man, Billy, says that he was at the hospital all day. His sister was giving birth, you see, and she had requested that Billy be there. Gene and Alex can’t understand why the sister would want her brother at the birth – especially since she’s on good terms with the husband, who was there at the hospital – and Billy says that that’s because the baby was interracial. His sister was having an affair with a black man because her husband occasionally beat her up. In fact, the police were called for a domestic disturbance at the sister’s house. Everything with Billy has a paper trail, it seems. They let him go, too.

Alex decides that it’s time to go through the trash bags she’d gathered from the Cales. The team has apparently never heard of going through trash as an investigative tool, because it seems all new to them – and Alex has to tell them to keep every scrap of paper they find. Aside from piles and piles of meat, the crew find all kinds of paper to help them. Alex explains how trash sorting works and how it’s used as a tool. Chris, as usual, is all excited to learn new things, while Ray quickly has his fill of going through the garbage. They all stop, however, when Gene hangs up the phone and kicks a file cabinet.

Billy is apparently dead. Shot in the face. Murdered. Donny (Billy’s nephew, the young boy mentioned earlier) witnessed the murder. Alex goes to talk with him, and Donny tells her that after the police dropped them off at Billy’s house, Billy got a phone call. He put Donny in the car and the two of them drove to the murder site. Billy then took some money out of a backpack and handed it to the man, who shot him in the back of the head. He hands Alex the backpack, which contains the clerk’s Krishna and lots of bills – each one ripped as the clerk described. Billy, it seems was involved in the robbery. Donny says Billy met a “tall man” at the scene, and Billy gave the man money. As Billy turned to walk back to the car, the man shot Billy in the back of the head. Gene tries pressing Donny for more information, while Alex shoos him off.

Since today was Donny’s birthday, Alex and Gene take him back to Luigi’s for an impromptu birthday party. Gene again presses Billy for more information, and Alex again tells him to lay off. While they’re discussing it, Donny plays with a cassette player in the background. He admits that he and Billy weren’t at the hospital, and that Billy had dropped him off in a park. He says that Billy met a man on a motorcycle – with the same helmet Viv described earlier. He also says that the man Billy met in the park was not the same man that killed him. Hunt, having all he needs for the moment, leaves Donny in Alex’s care. Alex protests, saying she’s not in good health. Hunt doesn’t care. As soon as Gene leaves, Donny tells Alex to have a drink of Coke with him. He wants to “raise and glass and say ‘chas’ with her. When Alex corrects him that it’s “cheers”, Donny says that he’s just saying it the say Billy did when he “high-fived” the man on the motorcycle. Alex knows that Chas is the other suspect.

She goes to her mother’s house to beg her to look after Donny while she goes to bust Chas. While standing there begging her mom to take Donny, Alex realizes that she doesn’t remember a boy coming to stay with them when she was a little girl. She takes this as another sign that she’s dying, since she can’t remember it. Caroline says that Alex isn’t there at the moment. Alex, relieved that this is the reason she doesn’t remember it, smiles and takes off to take down to Chas.

She rings the bell, and eventually Jane Cale comes to unlock the door. Chas reiterates that he couldn’t have pulled off the robbery. Alex begins getting a bit too close to home with her facts, and Chas looks uneasy. She then mentions that Billy has been murdered, which genuinely shocks him. As Alex is continuing, Jane comes up from behind and knocks her unconscious with some object. The two drag her to the kitchen, where Jane gets some rags to tie up Alex. It seems that Jane is the brains of the operation, and she furious at Chas for pulling off a robbery and getting police attention “after everything I’ve put together here”. They tie up Alex, who is now awake but really out of it, and drag her to walk-in freezer. Alex screams at the top of her lungs and the adrenaline starts pumping as she realizes her situation.

Meanwhile, Gene is back at the station. He’s looking at the Cale’s garbage and wondering why someone would throw away all that meat, especially since a lot of it was still before its “sell-by date”. Shaz says “it’s like they were never gonna use it”. Just then, Ray and Chris walk up. They’ve been going through the trash at Billy’s house, and have found an old pay slip from Chas Cale’s restaurant. Billy, it seems, used to work there. Gene immediately turns around and walks out of the station.

Back in the freezer, The Clown again visits Alex. I guess it’s a bit obvious to everyone now, but it’s never explicitly been stated on the show: “The Clown” is actually the Angel of Death. And he’s coming for Alex. She’s all alone, wounded, trapped and hog-tied in a walk-in freezer. Gene arrives at the restaurant and rings the bell. When no one answers, he rings it again for a long time. Chas begins having a seizure, and Jane stays with him. Gene begins walking around the restaurant, looking for a way in. The Angel of Death gets closer and closer to Alex. She looks at him in complete fear:

Ashes to Ashes (Ep 6, 4)

The music gets faster and faster as Hunt keeps looking for a way in, the Cales continue with their medical emergency, and the Angel of Death gets ever closer to Alex. Scenes from Alex’s childhood fly through her mind. The music gets faster. Hunt screams to open the bloody door. Gene then sees Alex’s police ID on the floor. The frantic music stops. Gene takes a few steps back, pulls out his revolver, and fires at the door, just as Ultravox’s “Vienna” begins playing:

Ashes to Ashes (Ep 6, 5)

It’s a bit cliché I suppose, but honestly, it was one of the most memorable moments in my personal history of television. The glass falls to the ground in slow motion as the song continues:

Walked in the cold air
Freezing breath on the window plane
Lying and waiting
A man in the dark in a picture frame
So mystic and soulful
A voice reaching out in a piercing cry
It stays with you…

The Angel of Death still approaches Alex. But as he fades in and out of focus, his face is swapped for Gene’s. Alex is dying. She gives up and closes her eyes.

The next thing you know, Gene is carrying her out of the freezer, just as the music kicks in:

The feeling has gone only you and I
It means nothing to me
This means nothing to me
Oh, Vienna

He throws Alex on a sofa and rips her shirt open to begin CPR. He keeps trying, but Alex doesn’t respond. “Don’t you dare!” Gene orders her. He goes to begin CPR… when Alex suddenly wakes up. Gene has saved her.

Back at the station, Ray and Chris are all smiles since they were able to give the clerk his Krishna back. Shaz tends to Alex’s head, and Ray and Gene being to explain the whole scam to the rest of the crew. Jane and Chas bought the restaurant with dirty money and operated it as a loss in order to sell it (and make “clean money”). Gene tells Alex that he’s taking her home. In the hallway, Gene asks Alex is she wants to go have a drink. She spies Donny (the little boy), who begs her to go to the hospital to see his little brother. And who should be supervising the boy but Evan White, who points to the Rubik’s Cube that Gene and Alex gave him at his “birthday party” and mentions that he’d recently gotten one for Caroline’s daughter. Alex now remembers where the Rubik’s Cube came from. Alex goes with Evan and the boy, thus standing Gene up. As she walks through the doors of the station, however, she has the daydream of falling into the bed again. And the person in bed with her? Gene Hunt. And the very best thing about the scene? Japan’s “Ghosts” is playing in the background!

Honestly, if you are at all a fan of British New Wave bands, you must watch this show.

My thoughts on this episode: “oh yeah, that’s why I bought a goddamn TV!

And next week’s episode looks even darker.

Thank you, Kudos Productions. I’m sorry to have doubted you.

MUSIC HEARD IN THIS EPISODE:

Soft Cell – “Tainted Love”
The Skids – “Into The Valley”
Roxy Music – “Same Old Scene”
The Beat – “Mirror In The Bathroom”
Spandau Ballet – “Chant No. 1”
Kim Wilde – “Kids In America”
Ultravox – “Vienna”
The Stranglers – “Golden Brown”
Japan – “Ghosts”

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