Ashes To Ashes – Series 3, Episode 3 – review

Tonight’s episode of Ashes To Ashes sees Gene Hunt and company investigating a series of arson attacks on the eve of Margaret Thatcher’s re-election.

Keats continues to undermine Hunt, except this week he whispers poison to Ray instead of Shaz. He taunts Ray at the site of one of the arsons, which prompts Ray to blunder into the burning building regardless.

Using a combination of Hunt’s gut instincts and Alex Drake’s modern psychological skills, they begin to suspect a fireman who has a military history. Sure enough, the fella’s suffering from survivor guilt, but he’s not the arsonist. Having saved Ray from the earlier fire, he’s earned the copper’s undying loyalty. After some further investigation, Drake discovers a picture that implies the fireman’s brother is having an affair with his wife. The audience, however, had worked that out about ten minutes earlier when we saw the brother-in-law helping her outside her house.

Or maybe we’re just cynical, distrustful buggers.

Of course, where last week’s episode was all about Shaz, tonight was Ray Carling’s time to shine. It’s a good thing when the supporting actors get a story arc of their own. They’re often ever so slightly one-dimensional, so Ray’s story tonight was a fantastic plot development. Long time Ashes To Ashes fans will remember Ray almost quitting to join the army in a past series, so his own history with the army comes to the fore tonight.

The climax of the episode was fantastic – the team trace the fireman (Andy) back to his house where he’s romantically doused his wife and himself in petrol after discovering the affair. Joe Absolom is brilliant as the traumatised ex-squaddie, and you’re in no doubt that he’d happily light the room up at any given moment. However, Carling intervenes and mines his own relationship with the military – how he didn’t go to the interview because he was afraid of being shot – and tricks Andy into handing over his lighter.

The moments after where he’s briefly quite tender with Alex Drake, giving her a half-hearted threat to put itching powder in her knickers if she ever tells anyone what happened.

Intriguingly, we get a repeat of the scene in Luigi’s that Shaz had last week: after being praised by Hunt, the background fades to black and Bowie’s Life On Mars plays briefly. This plays to the theory that the supporting cast are also time travelers from other eras, perhaps not completely aware of their situation. Does that mean that Chris Skelton is up next week?

Also noteworthy from tonight’s episode is Jim Keats – he’s becoming more of a present day threat to Hunt rather than being the enigmatic “voice from the future” that we’d come to expect. Daniel Mays didn’t instil a lot of confidence from me at first – I mean, last seen in Nanny McPhee as a bumbling chaufeur. But he’s turning out to be quite an obnoxious git and I find myself wishing he’d bog off too. Keats hasn’t been too successful so far – both Shaz and Ray remain with the force, despite his meddling.

Quotes from this episode:

  • Chris: “Shall I give you mouth to mouth? (Ray gives Chris two fingers) That’s a no, then.”
  • Hunt to Keats: “You shove your nose any further up Newman’s arse, it’ll end up browner than Ghandi in a heatwave.”
  • Hunt: “Right, no tea and no fags until you start talking, shitstick.” Suspect is a schoolkid. “Maggie Thatcher, Milk Snatcher.”
  • Chris: “Cilla Black? Why would she get involved in a blag? Mind you, she’s a scouser.”
  • Hunt: “Firemen starting fires – what next, doctors killing patients?” Drake: “Believe it or not…”
  • Hunt: “Turning them all against me, how exciting.” Keats: “Oh, I don’t have to mate. The scales are falling from their eyes.”

Finally…

Shaz confides in Drake that she had a halucination where she was seeing stars. That’s a direct parellel with the scene last week where Drake followed Shaz down an alleyway and was baffled to find a starry black sky at the end of the path. What does it all mean?

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