Ashes To Ashes – Series 3, Episode 6 – review

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.

Prison break

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!

Quotes time:

  • 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.”

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  1. Rosie-Lee

    Phew, it was a real roller coaster ride in this episode.  I was intrigued by Gene Hunt leading the first charge into the prison, right at the front without any protection, but seeming impervious to any damage as if he had some sort of immunity from danger, rather like Achilles would have been (before he got shot in the heel).

    The big question mark is now over the young half-face policeman who is haunting Alex.  With the finding of that young cop’s photo in Gene’s drawer, I began to wonder if it was Gene himself, in reality; or a colleague of his he is trying to get revenge for, or even his son or brother.  There is also a roll of film there, which I guess Alex will get processed.

    I thought Jim Keats behaviour with the dying Viv was quite demonic.  Unlike the way Gene behaved with a dying person, Keats was positively bug-eyed and sneering.  What was that all about?  And Viv was terrified of his attentions.

    I can’t believe that the Thordy guy is Sam, surely not.  Maybe he has borrowed Sam’s memories somehow to escape the consequences of his actions and is trying to con a ticket to Paradise, as it were.   Is there something so evil about Thordy that Gene couldn’t help duffing him up?

    I watched the trailer for the next two finale episodes, and it seems Gene and Alex are going to kiss at last.   Could it be that somehow Alex and Gene will meet up in her time, if he is released from whatever role he is currently having to play out?  This last series has excelled itself.  I hope it doesn’t go out with a whimper.

    1. Gerard McGarry

      Good question though – has Gene Hunt ever been seriously injured throughout the entire series? I don’t think so.

      In the debate about Hunt versus Keats, Keats was very gleeful and evil in his treatment of Viv. Whereas on the other hand, Hunt concocted a story about how Viv had died defending the D wing of the prison to preserve the disgraced cops honour. Now, although that means that he lied to his own team, his instinct was to preserve Viv’s legacy despite the serious lapse in judgement that led to the prison riot.

      As for Thory/Sam. Argghhhhh! I just can’t call it. How does he know so much detail about Sam: all that “woke up in 1973, is this real or am I in a coma” is straight from his case file, so Drake would have recognised that. On the other hand, he had a disturbing lack of knowledge about future Christmas #1s. It’s very confusing.

      Saying that, did Gene try to suffocate Thordy with the plastic bag, or was it a suicide attempt?

      1. Rosie-Lee

        That’s true about Gene’s seeming invincibility in the series, but the charge into the prison stood out, as all the officers behind Gene were wearing riot gear and had bricks and stuff bouncing off them, whereas Gene just waded in and seemed to be in a circle of protection, it really did look strange. I half expected him to get a bang on the head from a brick, but nothing of the sort.

  2. tatonkascot

    Yep, it’s all getting a tad scary now.

    I concur that PC half face is Gene and still hold with the notion that he and Keats are scrapping for souls.  My only problem with this is…where was Keats and the whole ‘scrapping for souls’ storyline in Life on Mars?  After all, the mystical stuff in that series related to Sam’s coma and his psycho Dad.

    I still stick by the general plot assertions I made after episode 5. Like Gerard, I will also be EXTREMELY ‘disappointed’ (for want of a better word) if the ‘new’ Sam Tyler is just a BBC cheap shot.  If John Simm insisted on staying away, fair enough, what can you do? However, that would be really …REALLY… lame of him given his professional commitment to what at the end of the day is arguably his most popular piece of work. If on the other hand ‘Auntie’ is bleating ‘credit crunch’ with our licence money then I sadly anticipate an inanimate object having an argument with my plasma TV as the final credits roll.

    Basically, for me at least, he HAS to come back if this is to be put to bed with any satisfying credibility.

    The drum roll has begun……

  3. Retail Guru

    Having just watched the most recent episode of Ashes to Ashes I came up with a theory and had to check out if anyone else had the same idea – thank goodness I am not completely off the wall!  I totally agree with the theory of good vs bad re Hunt vs Keats and the fight for souls.  My theory also is half a face PC is Hunt, Keats is demonic and attempting to use Alex to bring down Hunt.  We now know the relevance of the numbers 6620 but what about the time on the clock when Alex was brought back? Whatever the outcome this has been by far the most gripping and intriguing series of all and I will not know what to do on a Friday night in a few weeks time!

  4. whatsamoran

    imo… martin summers is the key, because not only did he know the truth, but he was able to manipulate this other world to his own advantage. he knew this wasnt time-travelling like alex thinks it is. when she told him that he was changing history, martin knew that was hogwash.  that’s why he knew he could kill his younger self & still exist; stop his younger self from participating in the gold heist; and sabotage it, even though it was successful in the ‘real’ world. that’s why the older martin knew he would still be in the ‘real’ world dying a slow death in the hospital.  because of his knowledge, he was able to act like one of the ghosts by going in & out of alex’s apt/station & giving flowers/notes to her without other ppl seeing him.

    this ‘fake’ world is an alternative plane of existance that has NOTHING to do w/ the ‘real’ world.  it’s a fantasy world of cops & robbers/ heroes vs bad guys.  i think it very telling about the references to the wizard of oz back in LOM (gene’s phone call to the wizard/elton john’s song).  i think this is gene’s oz where souls can get redemption from whatever ached them when they were living in the real world.

    but though there are benefits to this exciting, adventerous world of gene’s, there’s also an unfairness about it.  one cant keep living in this world of limbo between life & death forever thinking that they are doing a real service to a real society in a real world, when in fact they’re actually not affecting anything real at all.  

    i think sam/thordy figured out what happened and got upset that, thinking he’d go back in time to a ‘real’ world to have real’ adventures catching ‘real’ criminals, he killed himself just to end up in a fake world.  so when he, most likely, confronted gene about this truth, gene, in his desperation to hold onto his dream world brutally abused sam/thordy, locked him up, & even tried to kill him. as thordy says, once one has the truth, the world can start to shatter, which is something gene will not allow to happen.  and yes, i think it’s a good chance that thordy might have been telling the truth about himself & the extent gene would go to to keep the secret and the game in play.  as to why thordy/sam cant manipulate this world like martin did, i dont have an answer to that.

    remember that it was gene who fatally shot martin, the man who knew FOR SURE it was a fake world AND knew how to play the game to his advantage AND told alex to be careful of gene. martin was just another person to get rid of for his knowledge which could destroy gene’s world.  maybe that same desperation was why gene sent bevan into a hellishly frightened state in order to keep him from giving info to alex.

    i dont know if keats is genuinely upset about sam’s ‘death,’ but he did say to alex that he doesnt want history to repeat itself.  sam chose to commit suicide just so he could be in gene’s world.  a similar thing is now happening w/ alex, who is so caught up in playing in this other world, that she’s not as adament as before in trying to get back to her ‘real’ life to the point that she never thinks about her daughter molly anymore.  also, when keats told alex that he thinks she’s one of the best (cops, i’m assuming), he might even have been thinking that it’s a shame she’s wasting her talents catching fake criminals rather than real ones.  but then again, i dont think keats is necessarily acting out of any altruistic purpose.  his unsympathetic interaction w/ viv while viv was dying was chilling.  all keats wants is gene’s world to be gone, as it seems to conflict with his own goals, whatever that may be (angel of death? devil? i dont know).

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