Ashes To Ashes – Series 3, Episode 4 – review

Episode 4. The series midpoint for [[Ashes To Ashes (TV Series)|Ashes To Ashes]]. After the events of the last couple of weeks that focused on Shaz and Ray, I half expected this episode to be all about Chris Skelton. And Chris didn’t get his golden moment (looking to camera as the background fades to black and Life On Mars plays for a second).

Tonight’s episode centers around an undercover policewoman who’s been sent to infiltrate a criminal family, the Staffords. After discovering the Staffords operating on his patch, Hunt and Drake pay a visit to the officer’s station and talk to DCI Wilson.

The episode does a good job of setting up the Stafford family as a particularly viscious bunch of gangsters. The only problem is, Ashes has slipped into a kind of predictable formula of giving us a prime suspect, only for the real perpetrator to be revealed toward the end of the episode. So, for regular viewers, you spend much of each episode second guessing the narrative, identifying who you think dunnit, and building the motive.

Dan Owen regularly says that the crime stories need more work on Ashes To Ashes because they make up the bulk of each episode. In this instance, I totally agree.

Jim Keats

Strangely, the hero of the day may have been Jim Keats. Slimy Jim. Not only does he show uncharacteristic compassion toward Louise (he had nothing to gain or lose from someone who’s unconnected to Hunts team). Then at the end, he comforts her as she dies in his arms.

Finally, he initiates a little cover-up of his own – offering to say that Skelton’s attack on Daniel Stafford was in self-defence. Hunt remarks on the brightness of the sun shining out of his arsehole.

Where does that leave us with Keats? Is he succumbing to Hunt’s renegade attitude, or is he happy to turn a blind eye in certain circumstances? One thing’s for sure, it’s harder to see Keats as the vile toad he seemed to be a couple of episodes ago.

Ruining the Blue Peter garden

Highlight of the episode had to be Gene Hunt demolishing the Blue Peter garden. The series always manages to tie in contemporary 1983 events, but this was a masterstroke. Chasing Daniel Stafford through London’s alleyways, Hunt follows him over a wall, and Skelton throws a petrol cannister over, hoping to hit him Crocodile Dundee style.

Back at the station, the team watch the Blue Peter news report about the vandalism of the garden and the ensuing fundraising campaign to repair the damage. Possibly one of the funniest and cleverest little references to 1983 that the series has had.

Quotes from this episode

  • Gene describes a crime: He slashed his rival across both cheeks, then gave him a gentle shove out of a window…15 stories high. Bounced higher than Dolly Parton’s funbags.
  • Wilson: Nice tits, by the way. Drake: Did he just say…? Hunt: Man’s a cripple Dolly, have a heart.
  • Hunt: You want to see his bathroom, I can tell you. Mr Muscle would have a heart attack.
  • Hunt: There she is…Miss Undercover 1983.
  • Hunt: We could be here ’til the sun goes down, and the shirt-lifters come out.
  • Drake: Look, I know how hard it is to come from one world straight into another.
  • Keats talks about Hunt: He’s driven, I’ll give him that. I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night wondering if I’ve misjudged him. 
  • Hunt to Keats: Sorry to interrupt your little coffee morning James, some of us have real work to do. It’s the early bird that catches the bastard.
  • Hunt shoots a gun out of Louise’s hand. Drake: Good shot. Hunt: I was aiming for her leg.
  • Hunt: Any chance of getting a drink that looks like it hasn’t minced its way over from Mayfair?

Lingering questions

  1. The episode opens on a kid playing with a toy car that looks a lot like the Quattro. Is that a hint that something larger is ‘playing’ with the characters?
  2. Does Drake ever sleep in a bed? You mostly catch her kipping on the sofa.
  3. Was the traffic around London in 1983 so light? Barely a car on the road whenever the Quatro is roaring around the streets, and rarely a person on the street either.
  4. Did you think it was symbolic that Keats nursed Louise to her death in the end? Earlier in the episode, he spoke to her in the same way that enigmatic characters normally speak to Alex Drake.
  5. Not a question, but I loved the Sleeping Beauty analogy of Drake in a windowed coffin, getting buried alive. Harking back to her coma?

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  1. Rosie-Lee

    One of the things I like about this series is that it makes you think very hard.  I have thought and wondered about the characters since Life On Mars.  After this week’s episode of Ashes To Ashes, I started weighing up some of my ideas:

    Gene is beginning to look like some big old guardian angel, and Jim is beginning to look and sound like the Angel of Death.


    Gene is the Angel of Death, ready to guide people to their final destination in a benign way in the event of their demise (Bolly), and Jim is Lucifer, tempting people to come over on “his team”.

    Just my musings, but it does seem like a good vs. evil struggle, orchestrated by a Supreme Being.

    I recall an old boss of mine who fell into a coma after suffering a bout of acute pancreatitis.  When he thankfully recovered, he told me that during his days of coma he was dreaming an eventful life as a spy!  Basically he said he was having a whale of a time, whilst family sat at his bedside and worried.  He told me how real it all seemed, and that he remembered it vividly.  I wonder if Gene Hunt was in there somewhere!?

    1. Gerard McGarry

      I felt somewhat better about Jim Keats this week. After a few series’ worth of outsiders seeming like they’re a link to the outside world, Keats may be that guy – the one who can help Drake back to the present day. My reason: he spoke to Louise about “having to see this through”, the sort of vague dialogue that people normally reserve for Drake.

      And yes, I’m curious about the sudden celestial element with the stars. Can’t remember it being a factor in earlier series’.

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