The first episode of season 2 of Ashes to Ashes aired on BBC1 in the UK last night… and boy, does it look like this might be an awesome season for the show! So, enough messing about, let’s get right to the recap!
The episode begins with a shot of a television. On the TV, a newsreader is talking about the disappearance of DI Alex Drake. Because the TV is a widescreen model, we can safely assume that this is taking place in 2008. The camera pulls out, and we see that we are inside a hospital, and two nurses are attending to someone in a bed. Who is it? We don’t know (see the “Other Stuff” section, below).
One of the nurses wonders where Drake is, and we next see Alex walking around in a sewer with Gene Hunt, Ray Carling, and Chris Skelton. Hunt, less than happy to be walking around in a sewer, asks Drake if she’s sure the tunnel they’re in is unused. Drake says that she called the water board and they confirmed that “tunnel 96” hasn’t been used for decades. A nervous Chris looks at the tunnel number on the wall, and sees that it’s tunnel 69. The gang then hear a noise, like a heavy door opening or a large lock turning. They then hear the sound of running water. Chris, in a bit of foreshadowing, screams “Oh shittt!”
We next see Drake in her apartment, cleaning the sewer water off of Gene’s precious cowboy boots. Alex has the TV on, and the news is reporting about the HMS Invincible leaving port to head off to the Falkland Islands. Alex finds a thumbtack in the sole of Gene’s boots, removes it and for some reason zones out on it. When she does, the TV switches over to another program. In it, Alex’s daughter, Molly, is being scolded by the headmistress of her school. Apparently the other kids are harassing her, telling her that her mother has died. Towards the end of the conversation, Molly appears to cheer up slightly, and says that “there’s news” about Alex’s disappearance. Alex, of course, rushes to the TV, begging Molly to tell her what the news is. Before Molly can say anything else, the screen fades to black and the shows’ end credits start to roll. Alex bangs the TV set, hoping to learn more. The TV turns to static, and the opening credits for Ashes to Ashes roll.
After the credits, we see Alex walking in to Luigi’s with Gene’s (now clean) boots. Alex finds Gene, and starts rambling about how there’s news, and how she might be going home soon. She, of course, sounds like a loon to Gene, who says that she’s not going anywhere unless he says so.
We next hear Duran Duran’s “Rio”, and see the Quattro hauling ass through London’s Soho district. Ray and Chris sit in the back, grinning like monkeys and having fun with Gene’s driving; Alex says “the call says the man was dead – it doesn’t matter if we get there five minutes later”. Gene ignores her. He turns the wheel sharply and rounds a corner, only to stop abruptly, as the street is blocked. Gene instantly screams “out of the way, you bastard!”, while Ray tries to tell Gene that the car blocking the street is owned by Princess Margaret. Oh, and a man with a large sign shaped like a penis walks by.
“Gene Hunt does not wait for the sixth in line to the bloody throne.”
As the gang are walking towards the strip club, Alex sees a little old lady. The old lady speaks to Alex… with a man’s voice, telling her that “it’s all right, pretty lady, you’re breathing”. This, of course, freaks Alex out. She asks the old lady what she knows about her, and the old lady says “nothing, miss” in a normal voice.
We finally get inside the strip club to investigate this week’s case: a man, dressed in women’s lingerie, is sitting on the stage of the club. He’s apparently hanged himself. Alex immediately recognizes this as autoerotic asphyxiation, while Ray and Chris snicker like schoolboys. Gene tells them to go talk to the owner; they do, and take some “hush money” from her. Meanwhile, another officer has found a Polaroid of the deceased with a girl. Gene is convinced that the girl assisted the deceased, then freaked out when he died, and accidentally left the photograph on the street in her rush to leave.
Back at the station, Detective Superintendent Mackintosh arrives. Gene tells the gang to smarten up, because the body found at the strip club was actually a police officer – Police Constable Sean Irvine. Mackintosh gives the gang a short speech about how the police force needs to be cleaned up and how the “old days” are over. Chris gives Ray back his share of the money they took from the strip club owner. Meanwhile, Mackintosh asks Gene and Alex to go deliver the bad news to Irvine’s wife.
At Irvine’s house, his wife appears to be in complete denial. She emphatically denies that he would be involved in either corruption or kinky sex play. Gene says that everyone has their peccadilloes; his wife says that he was married to the job. The wife asks where Kevin Hales, Sean’s partner, is. Gene says that he has his “best officers” talking to him now. Unfortunately, his “best officers” are Ray and Chris. Alex shows the wife the Polaroid of Sean and the stripper, and she starts crying and says that she doesn’t recognize the woman. As Alex and Gene are leaving, Alex says that the wife seemed genuinely surprised by the kinky sex talk.
Back at the strip club, the gang is looking for the stripper in the picture with Irvine. She comes out and starts her dance, and Alex asks if anyone’s going to arrest her. Hunt asks if she’s always in such a hurry. Hunt and Drake take her outside, and she says that she set up everything, but that she wasn’t involved in the actual death. It becomes clear that she’s a girl from out of town that came to London to be an actress. Hunt recognizes her accent, and asks her where she’s from. She says “Hyde”. As soon as Hunt finds out that she’s from Manchester too, he becomes the “good cop” and has Chris go and get the girl come tea and biscuits.
Back at the station, Kevin Hales has stormed into Hunt’s office and demands to speak with Gene. Hales is standoffish, even as he defends his partner. He says that Irvine was, in fact, “getting in deep” with the sex trade, although Hales says that he asked Irvine not to give him any details. Hunt storms off, thinking that he’s cracked the case. Meanwhile, Ray and Chris are in the break room, talking about strippers in front of Shaz, who predictably says that stripping demeans women and makes them objects.
We next see Gene and Alex leaving for the day, and a police dog starts talking to Alex! It’s a male voice, and it sounds like police chatter. Apparently, the authorities in 2008 have found someone in dire need to medical attention. Alex, maybe?
Alex sits down at Luigi’s for a special, off-menu dinner created especially for her by Luigi. Unfortunately, Chris comes over and asks for advice with Shaz. A hungry Alex is visibly annoyed, but promises to come up with something for Chris when she’s done. As soon as Chris walks away, Gene comes in and sits down next to Alex. He says that they need to go to the morgue. No veal scallopini for Alex… 🙁
At the morgue, the medical examiner reveals that Irvine was dosed with a “date rape” drug. Moreover, the body has several bruises and scratches, indicating that Irvine struggled against whoever did this to him. The examiner is positive that they’re now looking at a murder.
Hunt, in a rage, goes back to Sally, the pirate stripper. Sally hints that there might be something sinister going on, but before she can say anything else, she’s shot. Alex takes off to find the shooter, but comes up empty handed. Given that no one heard a shot, it’s likely that the shot came from a rifle, and that the shooter is long gone. Sally then dies in Gene’s arms:
Back at the station, Alex and Gene have a drink and wonder why anyone would want to kill a (mostly) innocent girl.
The next morning, Ray and Alex pull up to the Irvine’s house. Why? It seems that Chris and Ray have done some checking, and found out that Ruth Irvine was not where she said she was the night of the murder. And if there’s anything Gene Hunt can’t stand, it’s being lied to. He busts into the house, and takes Ruth back to the station for questioning. Hunt says that he thinks Ruth found out about her husband’s kinky ways and hired someone to kill him, then hired the same person to kill Sally when she threatened to talk. Come to find out, the truth is actually more mundane, yet interesting, than either of them imagined: Ruth Irvine was having an affair with Detective Superintendent Mackintosh!
Mackintosh’s admission puts Gene in a tough place. Part of him thinks it’s an internal police matter, but another part of him is really angry that a superior officer would take advantage of an underling like that. Meanwhile, Ray and Chris have been asking around, and no one apparently has a bad word to say about Sean Irvine. He was apparently an honest cop that never took advantage of the sex workers in Soho. In fact, the only person that’s said anything bad about him is his partner, Kevin Hales. Gene orders the gang to bring Hales in for questioning.
But first, Alex finds a single rose on her desk. The note attached is anonymous, and only says “Congratulations, they found you”. The end of a cigarette burns in the ashtray on her desk. She hears the sound of a helicopter, and looks up. A spotlight shines down on her, then mysteriously fades away. Hunt calls Drake into his office and shows her a picture of what looks like the sewer tunnels from the opening scene, or maybe the underside of a bridge. Scrawled on the picture are the words “Pont de l’Alma”. Since Drake is the only member of the crew that can speak French, Hunt asks Alex if she wrote it, and if the phrase means anything to her. Drake says it sounds familiar, but she can’t place it.
Gene and Alex then question Kevin Hales. Kevin says he was off duty the night of the murder, and that he was at Stamford Bridge. He says that he was in a jail cell the night of Sally’s murder, because he was drunk and got into a fight with a pimp in Soho. Although antagonistic early on, Hales now appears contrite. Gene and Alex aren’t convinced.
They go outside, and are getting in Gene’s car when they’re approached by Ruth Irvine, who says she wants to talk “where the walls don’t have ears”. She says that when she came home from Gene and Alex’s interrogation, she found her entire house ransacked, but that nothing had been taken. She thinks she knows what the robbers were after – her husband’s diary, which he had started hiding in the floorboards a few weeks before his death. She gives the diary to Alex, hoping that they can find something useful in it.
Ray and Chris have been working the phones, and while on the phone with someone, Ray notices something odd about the Polaroid photo of Sean and Sally. He grabs a magnifying glass… and spots Kevin Hales hidden in the background of the picture. But while all this is going on, Alex and Gene are going over Sean’s diary. There are records of “payments” of some type. They assume that the initials “KH” are for Kevin Hales, but they can’t know for sure if Sean was paying off Kevin, or if someone else was paying Kevin and Sean was just keeping a record of it. Gene flips to the last entry in the diary, which mentions “SM”. Alex immediately assumes it’s short for “S&M”. Alex says she’s going back to the club, thinking she might have missed something.
While walking around Soho, Alex once again hears the sound of a helicopter. Before she can suss out the source of the sound, someone sneaks up behind her and gives her the old “chloroform rag over the face” trick. Alex passes out, and wakes up in what appears to be a hospital room. She meekly calls out for a doctor, and asks if her daughter is OK. A doctor walks in… and boy, is Alex in for a surprise!
The mysterious doctor says that he’s disappointed in Alex, as “the great detective” can’t seem to figure out the simplest mystery. He mentions Pont de l’Alma, and asks if it rings any bells. He asks if she liked the flower he brought her. He says that he knows that Alex doesn’t belong here… in 1982. He pulls away one of the cloth partitions to reveal that she’s in some type of a warehouse, not a hospital. He brings Alex’s radio over, and wonders aloud if Alex’s friends will help her if she screams. He then injects something into Alex’s IV drip. He repeats that Alex doesn’t belong in this world. Alex screams into the radio. Chris, Shaz and Gene hear her. As Alex screams for help in, she struggles against the restraints holding her to the bed. As the drug (or whatever the doctor injected to her) kicks in, she sees what appears to be modern day EMT staff working on her and possibly the inside of an ambulance:
Gene, knowing she was going to Soho parks the Quattro and starts looking for Alex. In Alex’s mind, images of the 1982 “doctor” mingle with images of modern EMT staff working to save her life, as the doctor repeats that she doesn’t belong here. Hunt finally tracks down Alex via her screams, and starts beating on the corrugated aluminum gate covering wherever it is Alex is being held. Gene finally manages to life the gate, and the doctor promises Alex that this is not the end. Gene finds her, then undoes the straps holding her down. Later, back at Alex’s flat, Gene mentions that Alex “attracts nutters”. He also says that he checked out Kevin Hale’s alibi, and that he was only locked up for “around 5 minutes” before a fellow officer let him out. Alex says that they should go get him, but Gene says that it’s okay, because Chris and Ray have it under control.
Only they, of course, do not. They call Gene on the radio, because Kevin Hale has apparently obtained a rifle and some liquor and is hanging out on the second-storey landing of his flat, taking shots at the two. To shorten this (incredibly lengthy) recap, Alex manages to talk Kevin into putting down both his rifle and what appears to be a half-empty bottle of Appleton Rum. But while they’re leading him away, Alex has a hunch and makes him blow into a breathalyzer. He’s not drunk. Hales says that he’s a “pebble on the beach” and that “we are everywhere”.
Back at the station, Alex wonders why Hales would both take the blame for everything and appear to be drunk when he was not. She goes back to Irvine’s diary, wondering again what “SM” might mean. Then it dawns on her: Superintendent Mackintosh… Super Mac… SM. Gene doesn’t think this is especially strange, as a Superintendent might meet with a beat officer, especially if he was planning to promote him to detective, as Mackintosh was. Drake agrees that it’s not strange, but counters that it is strange that Mackintosh never mentioned meeting with Irvine the day he was murdered. Hunt, for reasons we have yet to find out, orders Drake to keep Mackintosh out of it. Alex later sneaks off to Mackintosh’s office, where she uses the old “pencil trick” to see that he initially wrote about the meeting on his calendar, but later erased it.
At Luigi’s, Drake tells Hunt about what she found, and Hunt emphatically tells her to back off. Again, we don’t know if Gene is simply trying to protect his boss, save an old friend, or keep a fellow Mason out of trouble. Before we can learn anything else, Chris walks in in a police constable’s outfit and tells Shaz that she’s under arrest… for being the loveliest woman he’s ever met. He then begins stripping, eventually stripping completely naked… in an Italian restaurant! Whatever bug was up Shaz’s ass is now gone, and she giggles as he clumsily dances for her. The phone behind the bar rings, and Luigi says that it’s Mac calling for Gene.
Back at the station, Gene and Alex walk in to Mackintosh’s office. Mac thanks them for “clearing up” the matter, to which Alex says that they’re not sure it is cleared up. Hunt says that they know that he met with Irvine the day of the murder. Mackintosh flatly denies this. Alex says that she knows he’s lying, because not only was it in Irvine’s diary, it was in Mackintosh’s too. Mac asks how she can possibly know what, since his diary is kept under lock and key. Alex, without missing a beat, says that she picked the lock and read it. Mack gets up from his desk and says that it’s time for the men to clear the air… and that he’ll cut Alex’s pretty little fingers off if she ever comes near his personal belongings again.
Back at home, Alex watches Margaret Thatcher being interviewed by the BBC’s John Cole. She isn’t paying very much attention, however. She changes to a different channel, which is showing Prince Charles and Princess Diana outside some event. The phone rings… and it’s the same Creepy Doctor from before! He asks if she likes the flower he left her, which causes Alex to look around the apartment. There is another single red rose on the kitchen counter. He asks if she’s going to be his partner or his enemy. She says that she’s going to hang the phone up, but he quickly mentions Pont de l’Alma again. He says that he was at the funeral, “holding back the grieving hordes”. Alex looks at the TV and realizes that he’s talking about the tunnel in Paris where Diana died. He asks if she remembers where she was the day she crashed. She says that Diana died in 1997, and he agrees that it’s been more than a decade since her death. Alex says that Diana hasn’t died yet, since it’s 1982. Creepy Doctor replies, with typical British wit: “isn’t it just?”
Alex slams the phone down.
– Who is the person in the hospital bed in the opening scene? During the show’s hiatus, many websites reported that a member of the Life On Mars cast would reappear on this season of Ashes. But who? As best I remember, there were only two major characters from Mars that existed in the present day: Sam Tyler and Dr Frank Morgan. The person in bed was definitely white, and given that the nurses referred to him as a “bloke”, we can also assume he’s a male. But we all know from the very first episode of Ashes that Sam Tyler killed himself in 2006, and the hand and arms in this scene looked too young and smooth to belong to Frank Morgan. All this could actually be a red herring, and the person in bed might be Arthur Leyton. Notice that the newsreader mentions that police have released a photo of Leyton, but it’s not actually shown on the screen.
– One of the nurses changes the channel from the news to The Weakest Link. We hear a brief snippet of the show’s music, then see Anne Robinson, who says “it’s time to reveal who you think is the weakest link”. Is this foreshadowing, or just a snippet from a popular show that everyone in the UK would recognize?
– Is there any significance to the sewer scene? I’m thinking no, but if that’s true than that whole scene was simply a waste of time.
– Am I the only one that doesn’t care for the music in the new opening credits? The music was changed only slightly, but I think the original version was better.
– Montserrat Lombard isn’t pretty, but damn if she isn’t as cute as a button!
– The HMS Invincible was, of course, a real ship that did, in fact, serve during the Falkland Islands War. In late February 1982, the Australian government announced that they were buying the ship from the UK, to be renamed HMAS Australia. But when Argentina invaded the Falklands, the ship was sent to the South Atlantic as part of the force tasked with taking the islands back.
– “HMS” stands for “Her Majesty’s Ship”. “HMAS” stands for “Her Majesty’s Australian Ship”.
– The scene with Molly and the headmistress is a throwback to Grange Hill, a popular British soap opera, and one of the longest running shows in BBC history. Interestingly, the headmistress’ dress and haircut look like something out of 1982, although Molly looks like her usual 2008 self.
– In the first scene after the opening credits, Gene says that Alex “isn’t going anywhere” without his permission. Is this another sign that Gene is actually God?
– During the early 80s, London’s Soho district was full of strip clubs and sex shops. It was, effectively, London’s red light district. Although there are still many strip clubs and sex shops there today, their number has been drastically reduced, and there has been some amount of “gentrification” of the neighborhood (note how Alex says “these are all restaurants now” when she walks past a few strip clubs).
– Princess Margaret was the younger sister of Queen Elizabeth II. One of the most controversial of the Windsors, Margaret fell in love with a divorced man named Peter Townsend in the early 1950s. Every aspect of the British government – from the Church of England, to her sister, to the Cabinet, to Prime Minster Winston Churchill vetoed the marriage, and Churchill had Townsend sent to Brussels. Later, Margaret would have to defend herself against charges of wild, drug-fueled sex parties. Margaret’s “wild side” was one of the pivotal plot points of the “quasi-historical” 2008 film The Bank Job.
– Erotic asphyxiation is an almost exclusively male affair. Of the 117 cases reported in Ontario and Alberta from 1974 to 1987, only 1 involved a female.
– In the 1960s, London’s Metropolitan Police tried to clean Soho of its organized crime element. Many of the officers involved became corrupt, and this corruption continued until the early 1980s.
– London’s Soho district is thought to be an abbreviation for “South Holborn” (a nearby neighborhood). New York’s SoHo (note the capitalization) stands for “SOuth of HOuston Street”. Note also that it’s pronounced HOW-STON, not HEW-STON.
– As Alex and Gene are leaving the Irvine’s house, Alex asks about “the former Mrs. Hunt”. Is this the first time that Hunt has expressly admitted to having an ex wife? I seem to remember it being hinted at in Mars, but can’t remember if Gene actually admitted it or not.
– As the Quattro takes off from the Irvine’s house, we see the belt of Gene’s coat, trapped in the closed car door and dragging the ground. Later in the episode, we see Mackintosh’s coat belt also trapped in his car door. Is this a sign of something? In next week’s previews, we see a brief glimpse of what appears to be Gene in some kind of Masonic ritual, and there was a huge scandal in involving the Masons and the Metropolitan Police in the late 1970s. Or am I overthinking here, and this is just some amusing detail the writers thought up?
– The “pirate stripper” is from Hyde, just outside Manchester. Sam Tyler was also from Hyde.
– The “pirate stripper” asks for Garibaldi biscuits. This is the second or third time in the “Life on Ashes” universe that a suspect or witness has asked for Garibaldis.
– Noted American serial killer David Berkowitz claimed that his neighbor’s dog was possessed by a demon, and that “demon dog” talked to him, urging him to kill.
– While interrogating Ruth Irvine, Hunt says that Sean was “found trussed up like Danny LaRue, choked on his own vomit”. Danny LaRue is a British entertainer known for his “drag impersonations” of Elizabeth Taylor, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Marlene Dietrich, and Margaret Thatcher. During the 1960s, he was one of Britain’s highest-paid entertainers.
– Stamford Bridge is the home stadium of London’s Chelsea football club. It opened in 1877, although it has been upgraded several times since.
– POSSIBLE GOOF: When Ray puts the Polaroid of Sean and Sally into a photocopier to enlarge the image of Kevin Hales in the background, Chris says “just like Harrison Ford”, apparently a reference to the 1982 film Blade Runner. However, Blade Runner wasn’t released until June 25, 1982 in the US (and was presumably several weeks or months later in the UK). Earlier in the episode, we saw the HMS Invincible steaming off to the South Atlantic to fight in the Falkland Islands War, which would date the episode to early April 1982. In any case, Argentina surrendered to the British on June 14 1982, so the war ended around two weeks before the movie hit theatres in the US. So how could Chris have known about it?
– Although frequently seen in movies, the old “chloroform on a rag” trick doesn’t work in real life. It’s used as a solvent, and can burn when applied directly to the skin. And while it can be used as an anesthetic, its dosage must be carefully measured. You just can’t dump a bunch on a rag and sniff it.
– The Margaret Thatcher interview Alex watches at the end of the episode was given to the BBC on Monday, April 5, 1982. You can read the full text of it here.
– Pont de l’Alma was, in fact, the tunnel where Lady Diana died in 1997.
– Any significance to the episode ending with Human League’s “Mirror Man”?
MUSIC HEARD IN THIS EPISODE:
Fun Boy Three – “The Lunatics (Have Taken Over The Asylum)”
Duran Duran – “Rio”
Haircut 100 – “Love Plus One”
ABC – “Look of Love”
Adam and the Ants – “Stand and Deliver”
Kraftwerk – “The Model”
Hot Chocolate – “You Sexy Thing”
The Specials – “Working For The Rat Race”
The Human League – “Mirror Man”