ASHES TO ASHES - SERIES 1: 'EPISODE SIX'



BBC 1 - 13th March 2008 - 9.00pm

"I'm reaching my sexual peak in about three minutes. Wanna celebrate?"

Another wonderful episode. The series is most certainly on a roll now. Writer Mick Ford manages to weave an interesting heist caper, ramp up the surrealism of Alex's visions and give all the main characters a little bit of time in the sun. Superb ensemble playing from the regulars and particular congratulations to Keeley Hawes who was quite marvellous in this and simply does not deserve the recent brickbats from the media.

Where do you start with such a well made episode as this? The fantastic 'freezing' vision at the opening with Alex in black falling through twisted red sheets. When she disappears through the bed I was reminded off the travelling sequences in Cocteau's 'La Belle Et La Bete' and the erotic seduction of Harker in Coppola's 'Dracula'. A very charged visual that of course then recurs throughout the story and delivers the ultimate resolution to unresolved sexual tension - Gene emerging from Alex's bed. Oh, Lord.

There is very much a focus on male/female binary relationships here - Alex and Gene are getting closer and Gene is clearly seeking Alex's attention - Ray is feeling left out by the Shaz and Chris relationship and there are hints of a repressed homosexuality emerging - Chas Cale and his missus laundering the money in the 'crime of the week' plot...all about couples. The main focus is of course the Gene/Alex axis and this week we got the ultimate in iconic 'guardian angel' imagery as Gene shoots through the restaurant window and in slow motion moves in to rescue Alex from her freezer hell...and all to the strains of 'Vienna'. Fantastic.

The attempts by Alex to confess who she is to her mother are heartbreaking. Caroline Price seems equally unfazed by this mad woman turning up on her doorstep and babbling incoherently at her. Hasn't she wondered what the heck is going on? And Evan pops out of the woodwork again and it might be fair to put two and two together and get the Cale's mysterious hit man? We are also given more tantalising hints of the car bomb flashbacks - looks like Alex got out of the car to rescue her balloon and is then protected by a shadowy figure passing across the screen. And in the freezer as Alex drifts into unconsciousness the clown figure is seen to merge with Gene as he arrives to rescue her.

Further details that make this such a pleasure are the birthday party for Donnie, prefiguring Alex's determination to get to Molly's party, the re-use of 'Same Old Scene' as Gene broods in his office and seemingly glances in the direction of the picture of Sam Tyler on the wall, the references back to Manchester...lovely patterns confidently layered in for the obsessive viewer.

Catherine Morshead directs this as well as ever with some superb camera work and editing, getting great performances from the leads, the guest actors and even the young lad playing Donnie who gave a very natural performance. It is also very funny and has a grand share of Huntisms to offer.

With only two episodes to go, what does it all mean and what will happen to Alex? On the strength of the last three episodes alone the BBC should commission a second series and pronto. Glenister mentioned that there was to be a second series but it hasn't been officially confirmed.

Episode Five review
Episode Four review
Episode Three review
Episode Two review
Episode One review

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