Ashes To Ashes – The third series begins

The third and possibly final series of Ashes To Ashes began tonight on BBC One. The fifth series in total to feature Gene Hunt, including the two Life On Mars series’.

That said, this first episode deftly sets up the themes for seven episodes to follow. A police insider implicitly wants to help Drake, but is intent on bringing Hunt down at the same time. Though, didn’t the same thing happen with Sam Tyler in the second series of Life On Mars? It’s that ambiguous ‘I’m pretending to want to help you, but you’re going to think I’m going to help you out of your coma’.

And in some textbook stating the obvious, we are forewarned that Gene Hunt is ‘at the center of everything’. That’s right, there are anwsers out there, and the foul-mouthed Detective is the key to them. And in keeping with this, we’re given a glimpse of Sam Tyler’s file and the suggestion that Hunt did something three years ago. Was Hunt involved in Sam’s death?

In keeping with the Ashes To Ashes formula, there’s a creepy stranger lurking in the shadows every time Alex Drake is alone. It’s a scary-looking man in a three quarter length coat, who’s distinctive attribute is that half his face is missing. And of course, there’s still a bit of radio interference – messages from the real world?

I enjoyed the little bluff at the start. Initially, we’re led to believe that Drake’s woken from her coma and is back in the present day. However, her fantasy begins to break down quickly and she finds herself looking at herself lying in a hospital bed.

The rest of the episode revolves around Hunt returning to London after hiding out in Spain (he shot Drake at the end of the last episode). The shooting brings Hunt’s department under scrutiny – and brings Jim Keats into their department to investigate them. Keats plays the ‘I’m on your side’ game with the staff in the department, but at the same time revealing his true intentions to Gene Hunt.

All this takes place as the team battle to save a little girl who’s been kidnapped. It was a fairly light plot that suffered from an inconsistent group of kidnappers – who strangely make their ransom demands in a riddle based on Bible verses. Then they switch tactics and get the girl to read out message on video. Yawn.

As I said earlier, for a show that’s in its third/fifth (overall) series, it felt like Ashes To Ashes was treading familiar ground and rehashing old tricks. The plot and pacing were generally top notch, but the feeling is we’ve been there before. As much as we love Hunt, we’re led to believe that there’s something darker in him, some big secret to be revealed. Perhaps the big difference this time is that it’s the last series and the last chance for the truth about this retro hell Drake and Tyler have been transported to be revealed.

I really do hope so. And the score card for Hunt is even at the moment – he saved the young Alex Drake from being killed in a car bomb at the end of series one, but shot her in the stomach at the end of series two. He’s a maverick cop who gets results, but also a non-politically correct brute whose methods are dodgy at best. Will Hunt be the hero or the villain at the end of series three?

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