Ashes to Ashes: Season 1, Episode 8

Wow. At first, I was a bit disappointed. I wanted some kind of cliffhanger, some kind of thing that would keep me on the edge of my seat until next season. But then I thought about it a bit. I remembered the end of series 1 of Life On Mars, and how the writers tricked us then, too. So then I took a deep breath… and was like “Wow… that was heavy. What just happened would suck on so many different levels”.

The final episode of Series 1 was, for Alex, the ultimate “good news\bad news” situation: knowing an ultimate love in your present day from someone in your past… and also finding out a terrible secret about your family… the worst kind of secret… and in the worst possible way.

“Ashes to Ashes” title card

The episode beings with Alex detailing the events of the day… 10 October 1981… the day her parents died. We then see her at the prison interrogating Arthur Layton – the person who shot her in 2008, and the “drugs kingpin” she arrested and sent to prison in episode 1. He promises Alex that he’ll never tell her any of his secrets.

Back at the station, it’s almost like like one of those old Western films with all the cops asleep at the station. The Manc Lion is throwing darts, while Chris and Ray nap. Alex walks in and quietly picks up a phone, which she puts it down on the desk and stealthy dials the phone on her desk. She pretends that it’s an informant calling in with a tip about a car bomb. Unfortunately, Ray and Chris don’t seem to take the matter too seriously… especially when Viv walks in and announces that Lord Scarman is coming for an inspection. Gene then gathers the troops and gives them the stereotypical “let’s go gang” speech. It’s one of those moments I both love and hate about Ashes to Ashes: the show pays homage to 80s cop shows (just as Life On Mars did with 70s cop shows like The Sweeney). And 80s cop shows had a lot of these cheesy moments… but it’s just awkward to watch in 2008.

Anyway, the entire station begins feverishly cleaning up the station and most everyone forgets about Alex’s bomber. Alex, seeing as she can get no help at the moment, goes to watch her father practice law in a London courtroom. She has flashbacks about being a child and playing in the courtroom while wearing dad’s fancy wig. She approaches him after the courtroom is cleared and introduces herself. She pleads with him about the bomb threat. Her father won’t kow-tow to anyone, and he’ll tells Alex that he will live his life as he pleases. He then calls Alex eccentric and tells her to take care. Alex decides that if her father won’t protect the family, she’ll have to.

Back at the station, Chris brings Alex a list of blue Ford Escorts. She has no idea whose car the family will take, but she sees a name on the list that immediately sticks out: Angus Ashton. He’s a gay rights activist and friend of the Price family. He will be at a gay rights rally that day in London. Alex begs Gene for Ray, and the two of them go off to investigate the parade… but not before Gene has a fit about the trophy case. I don’t know what was in the trophy case before – probably booze – but it was made presentable to Lord Scarman by emptying it… completely. So Gene tells a detective to go to a nearby pawn shop and buy some sports trophies. He hands the him some cash and tells the detective that if the pawnshop owner haggles over the price “tell him that his wife will get a video”. He then asks Viv who’s in the cells at the moment. When Viv names four or five harmless regulars, Gene tells Viv to let them go. This makes Chris to make a wise crack about “empty cells: during Lord Scarman’s visit. Gene then orders Chris to the cells on the charge of “exposing himself on a bus”. Hunt tells Chris to tell Lord Scarman what a “lovely nick” it is, and he’ll get him out soon.

At the gay rights rally, Alex and Ray hang out in the Quattro and scan the crowd with binoculars. Alex quickly finds “Uncle Angus” and his car. Ray asks for the glasses and spies the 1981 version of Tom Robinson in the crowd… which causes him to go on a hilarious rant about gays that’s so horrifyingly outdated that it’ll make you cringe. Alex considers impounding Angus’s car, but instead comes up with a “better plan”: earlier she spied a bright pink tank used as a float in the parade. Rather than simply seizing the car, Alex commandeers the tank and runs over Uncle Angus’ poor Ford Escort!

Ashes to Ashes (s01e07_01

WTF?!?! Indeed.

Several uniformed officers notice that’s it’s DI Drake, and Robinson overhears them talking about her, which causes him to shout a warning to the crowd (which then scatters, fearing a police riot). Alex and Ray fire up the Quattro; Alex tells Ray to put his seat belt on, and he refuses (missing a golden opportunity to echo Hunt’s “you’re a police officer, not a bloody vicar!” line from an earlier episode). Alex takes off in the car, but has to slam on the brakes, smashing Ray’s face against the dash:

Ashes to Ashes s01e07_02

Back at the station, Gene has the station all spic and span just as Lord Scarman arrives. Everything is completely normal at the station… for a few minutes anyway. Scarman takes a gander at the trophy case and notices a trophy for “Esher 1923 Girls Under 14 Netball”. Ooooops! He then spies the whiteboard Alex has been using to brainstorm about the car bombing, and Drake explains it all to him like a certifiable loon. This causes Gene to have Viv escort Scarman around the station while he “talks” to Drake in private. And by “talk”, I mean, “scream at the top of his lungs”. Alex agrees with his demand to get “onside” with the team.

Gene then follows Viv and Scarman as they tour the cells. The only “prisoner” is Chris (allegedly in for public exposure, remember?) and Hunt gleefully describes Chris’s “crime” in vivid detail to Scarman. Scarman then chews Chris out for being a pervert… although the best of the cell visit goes well.

Back upstairs, Ray comes up to Alex in the station room. She apologizes for his nose; he seems not to mind so much. He has a list of the Price’s clients… one of whom sticks out: Arthur Layton. It seems that Layton also has experience with explosives. She goes into Gene’s office and begs him to go with her to interview Layton in prison… and thus “Gene Genie” was back: the two haul ass to the prison, where Alex questions Layton while Gene broods in the background. Layton describes the car bomb perfectly, but refuses to admit any knowledge of such a bomb. Layton offers information in exchange for… Alex. For Alex to marry him after he gets out of prison. Gene can’t be bothered to stay any longer, and leaves the cell. Layton quietly sings his line from “Ashes to Ashes”: “I’m happy, hope you’re happy too”. Alex tells him that she knows his future, and that his life is far from its low point. She asks him point blank if he knows why her parents die. He has her lean forward, and screams in her ear instead. He won’t tell. Ever.

Outside, Gene spies Evan White walking into the prison. Drake walks up and tells Hunt that they’re doing dinner that evening.

Back at the station, the cells are filling up with the gay rights activists from earlier. An old drag queen is put in the cell with Chris, and the two just talk as normal guys do. It’s pretty funny. Alex then sweet talks Ray into swiping some cocaine from the evidence room. The two go to the Price’s house, where Alex takes the key from under the rock (remember?). Alex successfully plants the cocaine and arrests the two of them. And just as Lord Scarman is leaving the station, here come Alex and Ray with the Prices. Lord Scarman, who personally knows the Price family, is shocked. He says he’s going to stay on for a few hours. Hunt is thrilled.

The cells are, of course, full from the “gay riot” (and Chris). There are people just standing around that don’t even have room for a cell at all. Ray is, of course, a homophobic brute with them, but Alex “apologizes” to Tom Robinson in her own way:

Ashes to Ashes s01e07_03

“I know you… You end up on Radio 6, fall in love with a woman, and have two kids!”

Back in Gene’s office, the Guv starts chewing Alex out… and a familiar pattern starts to emerge. Life On Mars fans might remember that when things really started to “go right” for Sam, they went downhill for Gene. And it’s happening again. Lord Scarman was just leaving, and how he’s in for the long haul after the Prices were brought in. And just when Gene thinks it can’t get any worse, Viv walks in to tell him that Scarman has, voluntarily, put himself in one of the cells. Oh, and that gay rights protesters that have started to form outside the station. Gene’s head almost explodes.

In an interrogation room, Caroline and Alex have a talk. And boy, is it ever a girly talk! They talk about their daughters. Caroline says that she’s planning to take a two year sabbatical to “[do] all the silly things I should have done years before with her”. Because she “loves her so much… and I’m not absolutely sure that she knows that”. Caroline says that she’s taking her daughter on a trip as soon as she’s out of jail. Alex cries. Her mother did love her after all.

Alex goes to the hospital to see Shaz “before she goes home”. Alex tells the comatose (sedated?) Shaz all about her mother, and how happy she is. She also tells Shaz that she’ll miss her as she was her favorite “construct”.

Next, we see Alex and Gene on their date. The scene is touching and sweet, even if Gene and Alex have zero chemistry together. Alex just goes upstairs and goes to sleep… where she has a dream where she’s back in 2008 with Molly. She dreams about the (1981) day and the Angel of Death then does his best to send Alex some kind of “clue” that points to Evan White as the evil one.

Chris is finally let out of the cell sometime Saturday morning. Alex walks in and Ray tells her that the billboard she remembers from that day has not been placed anywhere near the “crime scene”. Alex thinks that this is good news. Lord Scarman walks in, having given in to the cells too. Scarman gives Hunt an earful and even threatens him… to which Gene gives the speech of a lifetime… complete with Hollywood-style music, a catch phrase, and a round of applause from all at the end. It’s so unbelievably cheesy. But don’t worry, grasshopper… the fun in this episode is officially over.

Viv comes in to tell the Guv that the cells are all empty. Hunt, apparently, has let the Prices go. Alex only finds out about it just then… and there are less than 15 minutes before 10:00. Alex wants to hit the road immediately, but Ray says that she’s got a call from her “informant”. She slowly walks to ward Ray… she slowly puts the phone to her ear:

“I’m happy… hope you’re happy too…”

The next thing you know, Hunt and Alex are in the Quattro, where Ray confirms via radio that Layton was released this morning. Alex goes to the Price’s office, only to see Evan White walking out. He says that he’s resigned from the firm that morning. He also confirms Alex’s worst fear: that the Prices are on their way to the train station. In a car. Alex thinks that this is impossible… until Evan White says that its his blue Ford Escort that they borrowed.

I shall stop right there. That’s because the final 15 minutes of the episode are very intense, and there’s simply no way that I just could do them justice. Plus, the final 15 of this show is nothing but adrenaline; reading it instead of watching it (with the awesome soundtrack blaring) is boring. I will say that, by the end of the show, Alex will learns something very sweet… and a wrinkle in time happens.

I’ll do a write up in the next few days with my thoughts about this season… and thoughts about the “Life on Ashes Universe” in general. Stuff like… “is Gene Hunt really God, as perceived by English police officers in purgatory?”


Tom Robinson – “2-4-6-8 Motorway”
David Bowie – “Ashes To Ashes”
Supertramp – “Take The Long Way Home”

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