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: