Ashes To Ashes: Who is Gene Hunt?

This Friday the final episode of [[Ashes To Ashes (TV Series)|Ashes To Ashes]] will air. If the hype is to be believed, the answers to the whole mystery will fall into place, revealing exactly what’s been going on for the last five series.

At the heart of Ashes and Life On Mars has been the super-arrogant, snakeskin boot wearing DCI Gene Hunt played by [[Philip Glenister]]. And unless you’re blind to the many clues that’ve been dropped over the years, Hunt seems to be the key to many of the mysteries posed by the series.

A bit of series history

Let’s look at the series for a moment. We know that the lead characters Sam Tyler and Alex Drake both sustained serious injuries in the line of duty. Tyler is hit by a car and Drake is shot in the head. Both wake up in a different era: Tyler in 1973, Drake in 1981. They’ both find themselves working for the police: Tyler in Manchester, Drake in London. They’ve stayed in their original physical locations, but they’ve travelled backwards in time.

And who is their superior officer? The acerbic Gene Hunt.

Both Sam Tyler and Alex Drake are convinced they’re in a coma, this is plausible to a degree when they frequently hear voices from their ‘real’ life via communication devices – TV’s, radios and telephones. It’s proven when Sam wakes up in the second series of Life On Mars, but he chooses to jump off a building and re-enter the world of 1970’s Manchester.

One crucial difference between Tyler and Drake is that Drake is already aware of Gene Hunt before she enters her coma. She’s a police psychologist who’s read Sam Tyler’s case files. This raises a major question: is the appearance of Gene Hunt (along with Life On Mars regulars Ray Carling and Chris Skelton) a figment of Alex’s imagination? Or is he a real person?

Gene and Alex

A critical twist at the end of the first series of Ashes To Ashes had us all guessing about whether Gene Hunt was a real person. After her parents were killed in a car bomb, a man leads the young Alex Drake away from the explosion. The man turns out to be Gene Hunt.

So, was Alex really rescued by Gene in her childhood, or is she getting confused between her real memories and what she’s experiencing in the coma world? Think back Ashes’ second series though: the corrupt policeman Martin Summers was able to shoot and kill his younger self. So that blurs the line between fact and fiction that Alex might be experiencing.

Police purgatory with Gene as the gatekeeper?

Why do Sam Tyler and Alex Drake end up in 1973 and 1981 respectively, and why is Gene Hunt the guv’nor in both their coma worlds? I used to entertain the notion that the coma had somehow triggered a physical travelling in time, but the Martin Summers incident and the various ‘communications’ from the real world seem to disprove this.

So, is Gene Hunt’s world a kind of purgatorial holding area for nearly-dead detectives? Hunt seems to be fiercely protective of his colleagues, and with the introduction of Jim Keats into the final series, there seems to be a greater battle going on for the hearts and minds of Alex Drake, Shaz, Ray and Chris. The only problem is, we’re not sure who the bad guy really is. Keats has smeared Gene subtly in a thousand different little ways, and Gene’s reactions to Keats are defensive and make it look like he’s got something to hide.

This series, we’ve seen all four of Gene’s crew experience surreal, celestial visions. So where once we thought it was just Alex Drake that was an outsider in this machismo world, the viewers are asking if Ray, Chris and Shaz are too? Certainly those three have become aware of something strange surrounding them, and they’ve all experienced what we’re calling the “Life On Mars moment” where the room around them briefly darkens and they hear David Bowie’s Life On Mars playing in the background.

Does this give weight to the notion that Gene Hunt’s world is a kind of purgatory and that Alex isn’t the only lost soul? It would certainly mean that Gene himself may know the answers.

The reason? Because Gene himself seems to be above questioning the world he’s in. He sees everything in black and white, appears to largely ignore or belittle any references that Tyler or Drake ever make about being sent from the future. He hasn’t experienced any celestial moments, but seems to be in a very knowing battle against Jim Keats. He makes constant reference in this series to it being the “final chapter”. That in itself kind of points to Gene having a unique knowledge of some kind of bigger picture.

Officer 6620

There’s a lot of speculation surrounding the ghostly officer who appears to Alex Drake in Ashes To Ahes’ third series. With half of his face missing, the officer has the number 6620 on his epaulettes. Alex discovers a photograph in Gene’s desk of a young officer with the same number on his uniform.

As we know, at the end of Episode 7, Alex is en route to track down a shallow grave that may hold the answer to this mysterious policeman who’s been haunting her. But the theory is that the ghost is Gene Hunt himself – a young cop who died in the line of duty (just like Alex and Sam?) – who has lived on as the Gene Hunt we all know and love. Somehow, overcoming death, this version of Gene has come to rule over a band of officers who’ve suffered a similar fate over the years.

There are a million lingering questions – this is the beauty of the series in my opinion – and we could give ourselves headaches working out how the finale will play out. And yet, as I write the last paragraph of speculation about who Gene Hunt is, I can hear the man himself barking “pie in the sky nonsense, Bolly”. Could there be a more rational explanation though?

Tagged under:


  1. Rosie-Lee

    He is like a big, beligerent archangel, holding sway over his little band of refugees looking for the light.  If he is an angel, he wouldn’t be the first one who has been portrayed as behaving badly – if you have seen John Travolta in “Michael”, you will know what I am talking about.

    I don’t know how the end will turn out, and my own theories about angels and demons may be completely wild, but I see Keats as demonic and Gene as angelic, fighting for the souls of those trapped in limbo.  We have seen Keats getting more and more possessed and driven.  Whatever is the truth, the ending has to be some kind of showdown between Gene and Keats.

    1. Gerard McGarry

      Can you tell it’s driving me mad, Rosie? I really want to explore the angles before the series ends, but sometimes the more you speculate, the wilder you speculate! I’m really excited for Friday night’s episode.

      Do you think they’ll write the happy ending, where Alex wakes up from her coma, or will they kill her off in the end?

      1. Rosie-Lee

        Yes, it’s got me too, Gerard!  I keep going towards my one main theory, and thinking that I am probably completely wrong.  Also, I might be disappointed if it doesn’t work out the way I hoped it would.  I am sure that Gene Hunt is considered to be a national treasure after all this time, and viewers will be more concerned with his ending than with Alex, but as her life is probably important to the character of Gene, and of course there is her Molly in the mix, I think she will get home free.  I would still like to see Gene somehow enter the real world of Alex and end up with her.   The one burning question is, will we get clarification on what actually did happen to Sam in the end.  We saw him jump off a building (in the future) and end up back in the 70’s. 

        1. Gerard McGarry

          Only three days to go, Rosie! I’ve read on Ian Wylie’s blog that it’s going to be everything we hope for: mysteries finally solved, big emotional farewells to all the characters. Excited!

          1. mustang169

            I too am so excited to see the final eposode – I hope that the writers have tied up all the loose ends but how have they managed to cram it all into a 1 hour episode ?!

            One thing that I can’t work out is the link between the man who has shot Alex in the present day and the others – If you watch the first episode, he can be seen talking to someone whilst on his mobile phone and he says something like “I have a little piece of your past here” – Who is he talking to ?

            Any ideas ?


  2. Rosie-Lee

    Thanks for all the bits of info. from Ian Wylie’s blog, Gerard! Very reassuring.  Oh, and I love the picture you made with Gene and his angel wings.

    Mustang – I had forgotten about the guy on the mobile phone. But Alex being shot by him was possibly a deliberate hit, and he was paid to do it by someone Alex may have upset in the past. No doubt there is probably a more convoluted answer though!

Log In or Sign Up

Skip to toolbar