Episode 6 has to be the most intense episode of the final series of Ashes To Ashes…so far. It sees the Fenchurch coppers drafted in to bring a prison riot under control (remember prison riots?).
The tension between Gene Hunt and Jim Keats is really ramping up now. There’s so much overt loathing between the two that you can practically smell the testosterone wafting from the screen. I don’t think Gene Hunt has ever had such a nemesis as Keats. The stronger Keats becomes within the department, the more out of control Hunt seems to get.
And Hunt has barely been less in control than tonight. Of course, this plays to the idea that Hunt is a vile piece of work. But Gene Hunt punching out an escaped convict’s teeth doesn’t gel with the line from a couple of weeks ago that he gets everybody else to do his dirty work.
The prison break scenes were unrelentingly brutal. There was some of the most graphic violence of the entire series packed into Episode 6.
In a nutshell, Gene and just about every Bobby in the station arrive at the prison with full riot gear. Viv looks shifty, but never quite gets a chance to tell Hunt what’s on his mind. It’s not long before the police retreat and Hunt realises that Viv’s been left behind. He’s being held hostage by Sacks, a ruthless cop killer, so things don’t bode well for him.
We have a bit of a romp where Chris and Ray are sent into the prison masquerading as journalists. But when they catch sight of a bloodied and battered Viv, both react and expose themselves. Things get very Machiavellian when Sacks wires the coppers up to Venetian blinds and into the power supply. It’s rigged to fry Chris and Ray when the cavalry eventually arrive.
It must be said that I was expecting one regular cast member to get offed during this episode. Something about it reminded me of when Ianto died in Torchwood – we needed a big surprise to shake us out of our reverie. The only disappointment is that it wasn’t a more important character than Viv. Imagine the shocker if it had been Chris or Ray!
The return of Sam Tyler
Sam Tyler makes a return to the series. Or not. This is by way of a character called Thordy, who claims to be Sam and gives us Sam’s intro speech to Life On Mars. Is this a con, or is it really Tyler? We never really know, even by the end of the episode, because Thordy gives Drake a clue about the answers being in a tin. And of course, there are two tins, one with a more immediate answer than the other.
It would be horribly annoying if this device – Sam, but with a new face – was the series’ way of not bringing back John Simm. If Sam Tyler is to return, we need Simm to play that role.
Hunt and Keats fighting over Viv
Those closing scenes where Viv is dying and Keats discovers him. I thought they were pretty unambiguous tonight. Keats sees Viv choking and saunters up to him whistling “I’m forever blowing bubbles”, and takes Viv’s face in his hands. Viv seems terrified initially, but dies just as Gene’s coming into the room.
It’s too late to save Viv, but Gene and Keats struggle over his body until Hunt has Viv’s head resting in his lap. Is this really a battle for souls? Do Hunt and Keats have a rivaling agenda for the souls of the police in their charge?
That second tin we talked about up above. Officer Half-a-face appears to Drake for the second time at the end of this episode. He silently gestures toward Hunt’s office, where Alex discovers a tin(!!!) inside Gene’s desk – it contains a camera film and a photograph of Officer Half-a-face!
So, the photo links Hunt to Half-a-face? Does this advance the theory that Hunt died as an idealistic young officer and his job now is to police this purgatory as a misogynistic bully?
To sum up: brilliant genuinely tense Ashes episode that bears watching more than once. Let’s watch it one more time and start speculating wildly!
- Is Thordy really Sam Tyler?: “I found the answer Alex, and I was taken out of the game.”
- Thordy: “The hostage is not a hostage. Your man Viv is in on it. He brought the gun in.”
- Ray: “[unintelligible] and Wurzel Gummidge…who’d win in a breakdancing competition?” Chris: “Is Wurzel allowed to put his breakdancing head on?”
- Gene Hunt: “Scum de la scum. You name it, they raped it, robbed it, killed it.”
- Gene: “No time for chat, Skip. It’s play time.”
- Sachs: “My place has been assured. I am a legend. Immortal. Immortal.”