Ashes To Ashes – Series 3, Episode 7 – review

With heads still spinning from a bombastic episode of Ashes To Ashes, it’s time to pick apart the pieces of information we’ve just been given. There’s plenty to talk about, isn’t there? Keats getting far more aggressive, Gene Hunt getting amorous, and vanishing ANC activists!

In any given episode, there’s a delicate balance between the “investigation of the week” and the narrative arc that deals with Alex Drake’s purgatorial work placement in a 1983 cop shop. Increasingly, the weekly investigation is taking a back seat to the sensational wrapping-up of the series’ many mysteries.

In a nutshell…

After attending Viv’s funeral, the CID crew return to work, although the atmosphere is highly charged. Hunt lashes out at Chris Skelton.

The case under investigation this week is a murder at an ANC drinking den. The leader – Tobias – admits to the killing, despite the suspicions resting on a girl who was in the bar at the same time.

This storyline leads to two things: Hunt upping the ante to score a big arrest in order to insulate himself against Keats’ report, and Chris Skelton going against procedure to release the main suspect.

Keats This Week

After weeks of trying to manipulate Hunt’s staff, Keats has me confused. The thing with Ashes is that I’m not sure if that’s inconsistent writing or if it’s intentional. We’ll know after the finale.

It’s clear that Keats’ hostility toward Hunt goes beyond your average vendetta. He’s courted Alex Drake for weeks with the intention of getting proof that Gene killed Sam Tyler. In episode 7, he starts issuing ultimatums, questioning Drake’s courage to do the right thing: “Be the solution to the problem or be part of the problem itself.”

We also know that he’s lined up several VHS tapes for Chris, Shaz and Ray. The assumption is that they contain damning evidence about Hunt that will destroy his relationship with each of them. Thing is, if he’s got so much dirt on Hunt, why is he desperate for Hunt to be Tyler’s killer?

Regardless, whatever Keats’ problem with Gene Hunt, it always feel that Keats is working against him, regardless of whether he gets results. As Drake says to Keats about their suspicions, : “I don’t want it to be true.”

Gene and Alex: New Romantics?

Throwing a bone to the fans who want Gene and Alex to get together, we got a blissful amount of sexual tension between the pair tonight. I chuckled through the scene where Gene asked Alex whether her bra opened in the front or in the back. Always the direct approach, Mr Hunt.

Whatever, Hunt finally comes clean about Sam Tyler’s disappearance over a romantic dinner in Luigi’s. He tells Alex that he helped Sam disappear, hence the secrecy. The big question that Alex doesn’t raise is: do we believe Hunt? There seems to have been far too much angst surrounding Tyler for this to just be the end of the matter.

And if Sam Tyler’s still alive, where is he? Is he still in the past?

Chris’s moment of redemption

After seeing Ray and Shaz getting their transcendent moment in two successive episodes weeks ago, I love how we were teased over Chris getting the same treatment. When it didn’t happen immediately, I initially thought it was because Chris defected on CID in a previous series. Maybe it was his punishment?

Tonight, he becomes sympathetic toward Tobias, the ANC leader who’s prime suspect in a murder. Tobias himself seems to be a bit of an enigmatic character – his speech to Chris about being “Like a dog, shivering in fear of what its master might do.” clearly resonates with Chris in his relationship with Hunt. I think it’s the catalyst to Chris releasing Tobias for his own safety – Chris later reasons that he wouldn’t have received a fair trial if he’d been deported, if he received a trial at all.

Of course, that doesn’t help him when Hunt turns his vitriol toward him. This would be the second time that Skelton had betrayed Hunt, so I can understand him thinking with his fists first.

However, Chris meets with Tobias and the two talk on the Thames Embankment. Tobias mentions Drake’s future knowledge of Nelson Mandela becoming an elected president, before mysteriously vanishing. Chris returns to Luigi’s and stands up to Hunt, finishing with a macho “Buy me a drink and we’ll say no more about it.” Brilliant moment, especially when Hunt makes peace with him.

And then…finally…Chris gets his Life On Mars moment. And finally, he, Shaz and Ray can share in the strangeness that’s surrounding them. They talk in hushed tones about hearing the music, but Chris identifies one of the voices as Nelson from The Railway Arms (the bar the cops frequented in Life On Mars).

Later on, all three experience the swirling stars simultaneously. This is amazing stuff, but what does it all mean?


Of course, despite being fed clues galore during this episode, we’re no closer to answers. I liked Chris’s identifying The Railway Arms, another link to Sam Tyler and Life On Mars. Is there still hope for an eleventh hour appearance from John Simm? I dearly hope so.

All this aside, the questions of whether Hunt is good or evil looks set to resurface next week as Keat’s launches his VHS campaign against Gene. Check out the trailer for the series finale:

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  1. Rosie-Lee

    I was on the edge of my chair with this episode.   I thought that Keats was becoming very wild-eyed, very driven, as he sat pounding his typewriter.  Like a man possessed.  

    The attack on Chris by Gene, I felt, was Gene getting his fists in first before Keats had a chance to sanction Chris in some way, because Keats was making a lot of noise about what Chris had done.  But Chris had done the right thing by letting Tobias go, and perhaps that was his moment of redemption.

    I just knew that Gene and Alex were not going to wrap lips.  I was waiting for the phone to ring or something, and sure enough, right on cue, Keats is at the door.  But their little smooch was really sweet.

    The celestial moments that Shaz, Ray and now Chris, are getting, makes me wonder if they are either already dead or close to death, and are just in the corridor of the netherworld, waiting to go in whichever direction Fate has chosen for them.

    I always had this thing about Nelson the Jamaican barman in the last series; well he used a Jamaican accent to start with and then he revealed he was a Londoner!  He was a real philosopher, and this was the first time I wondered if there was an angel in the series – Nelson himself.  I don’t know why, but I just thought he was.

    And now we have the clues about the body in the shallow grave, which presumably Alex is going to think is Sam.  But is this going to be the half-faced police officer?  

    The only niggle I have with the programme is that Alex has barely mentioned her daughter over the past few episodes, and going on past form, she would have been “talking” to her more.

    I am sure we all have our thoughts about how we would like the story to end.  I would like to see Alex get back to the future, and that somehow Gene would be there, perhaps as a new colleague who is “following in his dad’s footsteps as a copper”, or something like that.  And if Shaz, Ray and Chris are passing over, that we see them going towards the light.  Heck, even Luigi said he was “going home” at last!

    I don’t think John Simm is going to appear in it, because I read about an interview with Philip Glenister and he told how he had recounted the secret of the ending to John Simm, and that he felt John was happy with what was going to happen. 

  2. tatonkascot

    …I REALLY…hope it ‘does’ matter.

    SO…..’what’ is going on?

    We have to pause…take a deep breath…and realise…despite all our collective enthusiasm……that the ‘Gentlemen’ who first wiped out John Simm next to his Jeep Cherokee in January 2006…did not envisage…..THIS… all.

    MAYBE…coining in a second series will..despite its ‘moments of clarity’ leave the purists ultimately disappointed.

    It has spawned..into a monster, born out of its own success.  Life on Mars stuck to the principles of its own creators brilliantly concise storyline and in its Manchester incarnation, only ran for two totally relevant series.

    By ending with dignity and sense…it set itself apart from EVERYTHING else on the tube.  The much lauded American Series ‘Lost’, fell on it’s own sword by not realising likewise, that ‘less is more’.

    So…here we are…it is now one week before our ‘Life in Ashes’ ends..we all have to acknowledge that it has been four years of supreme mental stimulation.  I really hope ‘they’ (the creators of the Beast)  do not…in the end… sell ‘us’ short.

    So…digest this;

    Ashes to Ashes Series 1……. ‘ Ray’ (to Alex) “You knew Tyler didn’t you?” …..”Tyler died during a Jewellery blag last year, I told him to wait for the Guv, but he wasn’t having it, gave chase, put his car in the river..twonk….never even found his body…

    Alex…”My god…he was here for SEVEN years, he lived a life here and in reality he was seconds away from death….then my theory is right….in REAL life ‘I’ may have only been shot a second ago…….?


    (SCOTTISH LADY)….And once he (Sam Tyler) ..settled down…and stopped fighting whatever it was he was fighting…yes…he was happy….”

    We have all had dreams more lucid than the lives we lead. That is what made the end of ‘Life on Mars’ so utterly and yet devastatingly satisfying.

    I stand here and beg the writers to not ‘cop’ out…and yet I cannot see how the ultimate ending can satisfy the ‘faithful’ and still retain its credibility.

    Please prove me wrong…..


  3. whatsamoran

    thanks gerard for setting up this review page.


    gene said it’s the last chapter, so i think even he knows that things might be ending soon.  i think that’s why he’s been riding chris more so in order to hurry up the process of chris’ much-delayed redemption. when chris did go against gene previously, it was for selfish purposes and done in a cowardly manner (for money, & it helped the crooked cops).  it wasnt for anything noble, brave, and selfless – qualities that earned shaz & ray their LOM moments.

    idk if gene knowingly set up tobias to make a fake admission in order to stir up chris, but tobias really did get into chris’ head and hurry things on for him to get his LOM moment.  in regards to the motto about being a dead lion rather than go on living like a mouse, good for chris to learn that to achieve what his soul finally needed.

    i’m wondering if keats’ hurrying of tobias’ transfer to that devil-looking, lip-licking, south african official before chris could act out his soul-transforming behavior might be a sign that keats is a bad guy trying to keep people from getting their redemption in gene’s world.

    why is keats so insistent about alex finding out about sam when he might already have videos for ray/chris/shaz that could destroy their teamship anyways?  if keats is a good guy, then it could be keats’ way of warning alex not to follow sam’s example of chosing to die in the real world just to play in this fantasy world.  or it could be that keats is trying to use alex to destroy gene’s world so that no other soul can get redemption.  i wonder what gene meant when he scolded alex for not trusting nor having faith in him and that without these things, it’s all worthless/been for nothing?

    did that look like blood on gene’s chest when he’s felled to the ground?  was he shot?  idk. 

    i hope in the end, gene comes out looking admirable, even with all his faults.  i’m guessing the writers are going to portray gene as someone whose desperate need for his own self-redemption ended up creating this huge fantasy world that other people get sucked into.

    btw, good for gene to have had enough gumption to get up and try to close the curtains around viv’s casket.  i hate when ppl are too scared to do even the littlest but necessary things for fear that others might criticize them (bad on ray/chris for laughing).  what i found interesting about gene’s reaction to viv’s death was when gene said he failed viv as he (gene) is supposed to be the team’s guardian.  that could be a major hint. 

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