Ashes To Ashes – Series 3, Episode 5 – Review

This week’s episode of Ashes To Ashes sees two former colleagues of Gene’s follow him down to London to chase down a suspect who’d fled Manchester.

The Manchester cops have traveled to London to hunt down a comedian called Frank Hardwick. They claim that Hardwick has stolen from a police widows pension fund, but Hunt and the others suspect that a stitch up is in progress. And they want to find out why.

Introducing Litton and Bevan at this stage was a fantastic plot device: their very presence seems to put Gene Hunt on red alert. Drake notes the parallels between Hunt and his ex-colleagues: “they make you look positively homo erectus.”

It was interesting to watch the little touches that showed the similarities between Hunt’s crew and the Manc coppers. When Litton viciously kicks a suspect when he’s down, Hunt mirrors it with a kick of his own. And sitting in the CID room, Ray Carling and Jeff Bevan chew gum in exactly the same rhythm.

Prostitutes and stand-up comedians

A quick shout-out to Camille Coduri, who looked pretty tasty as a glammed-up hooker, all crimped hair and cleavage. Lady, if you’re reading this, you are a joy to watch. I can’t believe I have a secret crush on Rose Tyler’s mum…

Roy Hudd did a brilliant job as comedian Frank Hardwick, channeling all the politically incorrect stand-ups of the eighties. All that Bernard Manning/Mike Reid type vulgarity was just excellent. Lee Ross was fantastic as an almost mirror-image of Hunt, all stitch-ups and violence behind that ridiculous mustache.

Seeing stars and conspiracy theories

We’re getting dragged into a whole new world of theories about how the series will conclude. Ray and Shaz are both sharing some surreal experiences: those spotlight moments when Life On Mars plays in the background. We witness Ray seeing the strange stars that Drake and Shaz have also seen, and Chris Skelton makes a very funny remark about calling mission control.

Let’s drag in a flyaway comment Hunt made (also in the quotes section below): “Of all the forces in all the world, they end up in mine.”

Is Hunt referring to Sam Tyler and Alex Drake, or does the conspiracy stretch right through Hunt’s department? Are they all comatose refugees from different eras? And why are more of them starting to experience trippy things like the stars – in the past it’s only been the central character of Alex or Sam. Are we moving towards a theme of awakening with all of the Ashes To Ashes characters?

An interesting comment from Bevan to Gene Hunt when they’re in the middle of a stand-off: “When did you grow wings and a halo?” It reminded me of something Rosie-Lee said on our Theories on how Ashes To Ashes will end thread. She thought there might be some good versus evil motif running through the series, but we need to work out whether Gene Hunt is on the side of the angels or the demons. Hence the halo and wings quote?

Jim Keats corner

Keats was a little bit back to front this week. Despite being out to get Hunt for his renegade methods, he initially backs DCI Litton. Yes, he offers the full support of the department when Litton shows up in London.

However, Keats changes his tune when Litton works with Hunt to bring down Bevan. He uses police procedure against Litton in order to get him suspended from the force. Sour grapes? I think so. Keats hasn’t been terribly successful in turning people against Hunt so far.

And I don’t think Drake had much of a reason to leave with Keats, unless she’s especially sore about Hunt destroying the Sam Tyler evidence.

Hunt’s cover-ups

On the subject of Hunt covering things up…what’s that all about? And are we talking about Sam Tyler’s disappearance or his death? The two phrases seem to be used interchangably, don’t they? Could it be that Sam is still out there, minus his trademark leather jacket?

And we largely ignore it, but when Drake talks to Hunt about her world, he tends to pointedly ignore her. Sometimes this hints at an awareness that she’s out of place, that he understands her should-be-nonsensical babbling. Tonight, more than ever, he seemed to be acknowledging that there is something she doesn’t know. But for some reason, he still doesn’t want to tell her.

Which is why his burning of the Tyler file and shooting of Jeff Bevan are all the more suspicious. He’s going to extraordinary lengths to keep Bolly in the dark about something.

Oh, and a stray observation: Officer Half-a-face didn’t appear in tonight’s episode. He’s a very unreliable phantom copper. And yet again, no references to Drake’s daughter.

Quotes from this episode

  • Gene Hunt: You serve eight years in the same manor, you know someone. Trust me, Litton’s a lying little bastard weasel boy.
  • Litton: “Last week, Frank Hardwick became scumbag number one.” Hunt: “Why, what did he do? Throw up all over your next for men’s loafers?”
  • Bevan: “London’ll turn you soft as a plimsole full of shite.” Shaz: “How many sugars for the troglodytes?”Bevan: “Troglodytes? What’s that mean?” Shaz: “It means big, strong, from the north.”
  • Gloria asks the eternal Ashes To Ashes question: “Good cop, bad cop. I wonder which is which.”
  • Alex Drake cuts a Ben Elton lookalike down to size: “Wanna know what’s really funny? In twenty years’ time, you’ll be fat, bald and writing soft rock musicals.”
  • Litton: “If I were talking to the old Gene Hunt, I might have a little quake in me boots right now. But I come down ‘ere and you’re surrounded by halfwits and girl guides who don’t take orders.”
  • Hardwick: “How do you brainwash a policeman? Put him on a bidet.”
  • Bevan: “The thing about Gene Hunt…it’s not what he did. It’s what he got other people to do.”
  • Hunt: “Look at us, like Sapphire and Steel. I’m him and you are her. Teamwork. Cop solidarity.”
  • Hunt: Of all the forces in all the world, they end up in mine. (Who ends up in his force? A possible side-reference to Sam Tyler and Alex Drake?)

Hello, Railway Arms

I just wanted to finish off this review with a quick hello to the folks over at the Railway Arms, a forum dedicated to discussing Life On Mars and Ashes To Ashes. They’ve been kind enough to link to my reviews for the last few weeks, so thank you guys, and hello. Do feel free to log on here and leave a few comments!

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  1. Rosie-Lee

    I am still thinking Gene could be some angelic force, whether he is a guardian angel or the angel of death.  He behaves exactly as expected of him in Alex’s fantasy world.  I wonder if he allowed Sam to slip back to his own time (which he did), but wasn’t supposed to have done.  Keats twists and turns, tempts and encourages, like some dark persona who is difficult to resist.  I remember in the film The Devil’s Advocate, the Devil called himself John Milton, the poet of Paradise Lost.  Does “Keats” give that some kind of nod?   I am beginning to think too, that the people around Alex may well be caught in a similar situation, until they recover, or die and then go wherever they are destined to be.  Whatever Gene told Bevan, it must have been a terrible revelation – was he being taken to Purgatory?   And if Alex had been a doctor, would she be experiencing all the dramas of a hospital, rather than a police station?   I am sure it will be none of the above, but it is good fun to speculate on such a great programme.

  2. tatonkascot

    As much as I may be wrong, I am now totally convinced that this is going to be a tale of Purgatory with Gene Hunt being the gate keeper. I mean lets face it, the series title is a bit of a give away. He is surrounded by all these lost souls trying to get their own personal closure before crossing over to either heaven or hell. I think that is what terrified DI Bevan so much when Gene whispered in his ear. Possibly something along the lines of ‘This is purgatory mate, you got away with stuff in life, here you have not and now you are going to hell’.  Lets face it, Bevan was cast as a purposefully hard nosed and arrogant character and Hunt had him bleating like a baby with a couple of choice sentences

    Likewise, Sam ‘disappeared’ because on his second visit after actually killing himself, he had to resolve issues before going to the light (stars). Gene knows what really happened of course but cannot divulge this because of his duty to his real job, escorting all his charges through purgatory until they reach personal resolution.  All his charges have to have an ‘exit story’ for this world to be complete. Gene is uncomfortable with his supposed ‘blame’ in the exit story of Sam Tyler.  Sam, like Alex, had recollection of his previous ‘real’ life because initially he was in a coma. Sam is pertinent to Gene because in essence, his spell in purgatory and then his return to the real world having remembered what happened and craving to return was a mistake. Part of Keats remit is no doubt investigating how this glitch in the ‘system’ of purgatory could have happened.  Sam killing himself to get back to purgatory is Genes real burden and why he has fallen foul of Keats. Hunt is concious of this in his dealings with Drake and this is why he is so evasive.

    Ray & Shaz have resolved their issues (when the LOM music kicked in) and now are being called over by the stars, they are just not fully ready to go yet as they possibly have relevant interaction with the journeys of others. The melancholy tone of their duet and the words involved also resonated the feeling of saying goodbye. Jim Keats is simply fulfilling his role of policing Hunt.  He does not like his methods, their are rules that should be followed and he is going through Hunts ‘files’ to garner evidence to get him removed from his ‘post’.  All of this is true, but only in terms of a parallel context.

    Just my thoughts.

    1. Rosie-Lee

      Tatonkascot – I think your ideas about the mystery of Ashes to Ashes are absolutely brilliant.  I had pins and needles at the thought of what you said.  My thoughts could not match the sharpness and clarity of your premise, but I have similar feelings about Gene’s role.  I still have this niggle about Keats and whether he is the “dark side” or even Lucifer, when you consider that one of Lucifer’s remits is to continually tempt the freewill of mankind, and would have access to the portal between life and the hereafter, as a last ditch attempt to gain recruits.  I quite like the idea that he is some kind of celestial auditor though!  Would he try and help Alex back though?  Or is he trying to tempt her into something to cause chaos in the system?



  3. tatonkascot

    …thanks for the kind words Rosie Lee.

    I was also having a total tangent (well another tangent) thought that maybe if you apply parallel thinking,we are missing what is entirely obvious.  By that I mean, that the twist in the tale will be that it is …in the end…all about Gene.  Could it be that he is the one in a coma?  He after all is the fulcrum of both series.  Maybe the Gene Hunt he fantasises about in his dreams is the opposite of himself in the real world.  Maybe all the characters scrambled up in his dream are his colleagues in the modern world where he is a ‘by the book’ DCI.  It could be that Alex Drake and Sam Tyler both died because he was so ‘by the book’ and he has attempted suicide due to his regret and is now playing out (like we all do in our subconscious) scenarios to give himself redemption?  Or maybe not……

    Anyway, getting back to theory A, if that proves right then I do think Alex will ‘get back’ with Keats assistance.  I think he will ensure that the ‘Sam Tyler’ factor does not happen again and she will have no recollection of where she has been.  Lets not forget the recurring ‘I shouldn’t be here’ line.  This is true, neither she nor Sam should be there and Gene & Keats know it.  Maybe the twist will be that there is some reference to Gene Hunt when she gets back and she simply has a deja vu moment but cannot place how she knows the name. ( a bit like the Butterfly effect).  If Gene is permanently in purgatory…then it can only be his own personal penance for something he did in life….because being unable to ‘cross over’ is the worst place of all to be.  He has to be ‘the gatekeeper’ to pay for what he did, maybe the final twist will be that by sending Alex back he himself can move on?  He failed Sam, but as he is finally able to goes to the light, Alex does get to go ‘home’….hankies at the ready kids.

    So long as it is not a space ship hyper sleep scenario, I will be happy.

    1. Rosie-Lee

      I do agree with you about the space ship hyper sleep scenario, which is only Bobby Ewing in the shower really.  After all this time, the programme does deserve more of a mystical ending.

      As you have conjectured, it would seem understandable if Gene was some kind of Sentinel, made to stand on gate duty for always, unless he can “kiss the Sleeping Beauty” and change things.  I hope they don’t make him Judas Iscariot, Pontius Pilate or something like that though.

      If Alex does get back, is she going to be sat at her desk when her new “guv” walks in, and it is Gene?   She wouldn’t remember him of course.

      Such mixed feelings:  I want to see the ending, but I don’t want the show to end.



  4. Gerard McGarry

    I’ve often wondered during the course of this series exactly what Gene Hunt represents. If you take the notion that the BBC is markedly liberal, etc, then Gene is quite the anti-hero. He’s a brute: violent, obnoxious, sexist and anti-authoritarian. But as you constantly see in this series, he’s motivated to do the right thing, it’s usually his methods that are sometimes on shaky ground.

    If the BBC really have this liberal agenda that we hear so much about, could Gene Hunt ever be the final hero of the series? Is there a moral in the tale in this direction? I’m hypothesizing.

    Loving some of the ideas you two are coming up with, by the way.

  5. tatonkascot

    …unlike the thoughts in Linkin Parks tune, there is obviously a lot riding on getting the end right here.  They nailed it so brilliantly at the end of Life on Mars and I have to confess that I was initially appalled by Ashes to Ashes.  I switched off after 2 episodes of Series 1 and only came back at the start of Series 3.  I just found Keely Hawes utterly irritating, unsympathetic and unconvincing.  The whole thing had descended into parody and frankly I was a tad embarrassed.

    But I have (obviously) been converted.  They have clearly toned down Ms Drake and whilst the weekly stories are still a bit ‘painting by numbers’, the darkness of the overall plot has returned from Life on Mars.  I also have to applaud the more subtle but effective 1980’s ‘in jokes’.  For those of us of a certain age, having Gene Hunt being inadvertently responsible for the (still unsolved) trashing of the Blue Peter garden was absolute genius.

    I agree with Rosie Lee in that I think/hope there will be some cross over for Alex in the end, where she encounters Gene but does not know him.  Lets face it, he is in love with her, but may have to forgo his own desires in order to give Alex her life back.  All together now…aaaahhhh.  Likewise, as with Life on Mars, you crave the conclusion whilst not wanting it to end.  In this case it will be a ‘final’ goodbye to characters who have become part of the furniture.

    So that brings me to Gene.  Yes Gerard, I agree with you too.  For me, he is more Army Sergeant than DCI.  Like Lee Marvin in ‘The Big Red One’ his methods are questionable but his heart is undeniably in the right place.  He hates any authority other than that which he administers himself, but those who manage him see the value of his results so just about tolerate him and those who follow him idolise him for being the definition of black and white.  There are no grey areas with Gene Hunt.

    This character has tapped into the British Psyche more so because of the timing of his introduction to our Society.  Lets face it, he is after all just Chief Inspector Regan with a few more wise cracks.  John Thaw made that character so empathetic because likewise we all knew that at his core he really cared.  I really hope they do not strip Gene of this quality in going all out for a shock ending.

    Gene resonates today because we are woefully lacking in leaders at all levels who can crack a whip for the good of the majority and who fundamentally really do give a damn about those they are charged with caring for.  It is such a cynical time, we are a lost generation, seemingly possessing so much in material terms and yet so fearful of both the growing nasty, chav underbelly of society as well as the repercussions from the ludicrous PC State if we stand up to them.  Either way we suffer. Lower your head to anti-social behaviour because you are terrified of getting stabbed for nothing and they win. Actually get stabbed and die for nothing, the perpetrator gets a joke sentence and…they win. If you should ‘Do a Gene’…. batter the little runt who is swearing into his mobile phone on a bus full of Pensioners and kids and you will…… end up doing a 5 stretch.  Again, they win.

    Gene releases us from all that pent up frustration by want of his deeds and his rapid fire acid wit.  We all want to have his balls, but even if we did, there is sadly no place in ‘GB 2010’ for Gene Hunt….other than as a fictional character on a time travelling cop show.  Where we have gone wrong in society is forgetting the simple fact that there are, unfortunately, a lot of very bad people on this planet.  We may not like the Gene Hunts of this world, we may keep our daughters far away from his like and never consider them as a dinner party guest…. but by god do we need them.

    Again, only my thoughts, here’s hoping to a satisfying conclusion….in the virtual world at least.

    Its been emotional…cheers.

    1. Rosie-Lee

      Your comparison of the Regan character with Gene Hunt is very perceptive, and I too agree that the Gene Genie is a hero for our times, the Equaliser in the Quattro.

      Digressing a tad: It is interesting that a similar hero has recently been spawned in “Justified”. The marshall who will shoot only if a felon draws is gun, because it is justified. I can’t wait to see that series! (stars Timothy Olyphant of Hitman fame).

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