Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Ashes to Ashes Episode 8 review

I don't normally review Ashes to Ashes but the final episode of Series 2 was such a kaleidscope of emotion, action and twists that I had to put my fingers to the keyboard.

The writers easily equalled the stunning Life On Mars finale (the end of LOM Series 2).

So how did we get to this point, episode 8?

Well, Alex Drake (played alluringly, sexily and vulnerably by the fantastic Keeley Hawes) is still stuck in a 1980s mental fabrication whilst her physical body lies in 2008, and working with Gene Hunt (portrayed by Philip Glenister, with playful glee). Over the course of the previous 7 episodes, Alex has learned to "live" within this reality whilst looking for the trigger that will allow her to return to her understanding of normality and reunite her with her daughter. The series introduced a story thread involving the Masons, bent coppers, another visitor "from the future" and the mysterious "Operation Rose".

Episode 7 was the strongest episode yet with a number of huge reveals that have changed the course of the series, including Summers killing his younger self and putting Drake into a situation where she was partly culpable, and that Chris (compellingly played by Marshall Lancaster) had been on the take. Alex has also been recording her thoughts on her stay in the 1980s which will end up causing her problems. The bullet has been removed from Alex but it only signals more trouble for her.

Summers has been very persuasive in trying to get Alex Drake to join operation Rose and become a corrupt officer in order to get home.

With another wonderfully inspired vision, this time in the form of a Jackanory episode told by Gene Hunt, Drake's latest predicament is revealed; an infection is spreading and only a "kill or cure" 50cc of drug can save her. it suggests that if she doesn't solve what is going on with Operation Rose she will be stuck where she is.

Following last week's events, Chris is still treated as a Pariah. Even his jokes (however good) are being ignored by the team. Shaz (played with red eyed conviction by Montserrat Lombard ) just looks on, unable to sort out her feelings for him. Chris, like Alex is looking to change his lot.
He's given the chance as Gene, Alex and Ray discover that a bullion heist is on the cards, one that Alex remembers hearing about. They find out through the femme fatale Jenette and her meathead brother, "Tiny Tim". TT is scared of Operation Rose despite being renowned for being a heavy. The conspiracy surrounding this heist goes right to the top and has been insidously behind events all through this second series.

As the episode continues, it becomes obvious that all Operation Rose is, is a group of corrupt policeman looking to make a substantial amount of money. On paper this might look like a let down, in the plot of episode 8, but it is merely the plot device to move things inexorably to the end.

Chris has been given an opportunity to redeem himself by accompanying the robbers to the location of the heist. Shaz, instead of treating him like a leper, confesses that she was proud of him for the way he handled the mess he'd got himself into and agrees that the wedding is still on.
The shoot-out echoes the train robbery in S2 of Life On Mars. Shaz gets a great scene where she saves Chris, dressed in a wedding dress.

It transpires that Summers was not the bad guy after all. This is surprising because he had become almost demonic in his hounding of Alex. Summers had been testing Drake's corruptibility to lead her to this point and the opportunity for him to get redemption for what happened when he was a young man. He got paid to turn a blind eye to the robbery and the guilt had eaten away at him.

It looked there was a clear route back to 2008, solve this crime and go back. The countdown to 50cc of "cure" is shown explicitly through signs, in posters, alarm clocks and crisp packets. Her, Gene and Summers meet in a face off but Drake doesn't go home. Not surprisingly we get to see Jenette's true colours as she threatens to kill Drake. Hunt fires but gets Drake instead.

Drake wakes up in 2008 to find herself with Molly Outside Alex's room, Summers body is wheeled out from the room next door. Alex is relieved and happy but finds that Gene Hunt is on the monitors telling her that he is being blamed for the shooting. Drake, gets up out of bed asking for help only to find that every monitor has Gene asking for help.

So, is she in a coma in 1982, dreaming of 2008. Is she in 2008 hallucinating about Gene still? Is it a kind of purgatory that she's in?

The third series is supposed to clear all this up.

The last time that I remember a BBC drama having as compelling a series finale is this is Blake's 7. Bearing in mind the writers were unsure that a Series 3 would be greenlit, it could have been the actual end.

I'm looking forward to next year and to see if they can top this second series. Will John Simm return? Who knows....

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