Gene (to Alex): 'Bugger off. I'm grieving'
Alex: 'What are you doing tonight?'
Gene: 'I'm going to a revival of The Caretaker at the Royal Court.'
Alex: 'Are you!'
Gene: 'Right then. We'd better go and split some skulls for Viv.'
Alex: 'Mmm. How touched he'd be.'
Shaz: 'You need to stand up for yourself, Chris.'
Ray: 'Oh, yeah. And police officers will fly.'
Gene: 'Can I please have a bit o' peace and BASTARD quiet!'
Shaz: 'And where you in the bathroom too?'
Two African Women: 'Yes'
Shaz: 'Musta been one a hell of big bathroom'
Shaz: 'Chris must take control of his own destiny. He's in denial.'
Ray: 'De-nile? Int that a river in Egypt?'
Ray: 'I'm not saying I agree with apartheid but just take a look at the rest of Africa. A set of corrupt murderers. I mean, it's like Liverpool but with sunshine and elephants.'
Shaz: 'You're the most intolerant, prejudiced man I've ever met Ray.'
Ray: 'Bet you say that to all the boys!'
Gene: 'Scrub up well, Bols'
Alex: 'You don't look so bad yourself'
Alex: 'Things falls apart, the centre cannot hold, mere anarchy is loosed upon the world'
Gene: 'That Pam Ayres?'
Alex: 'W. B Yeats'
Gene: 'All we are is difference, Bolly'
Alex: 'Just the bill please.'
Gene: 'You're a feminist, you can pay half.'
Alex: (to Gene) 'Get yer coat. You've pulled.'
Gene: 'You dare to disobey me.'
Chris: 'I didn't join the police force, guv, to be a party to state murder.'
Gene: 'You joined the police force to wipe my arse, Skelton.'
Alex: 'I don't believe that Gene Hunt killed Sam Tyler.'
Keats: 'How did you come to that conclusion?'
Alex: 'I asked him.'
Gene: (to Alex) 'I don't care what Jim Keats thinks. I care what you think. If you don't believe me, what's the point.'
Now there's a thing. Notice how the 'Previously' part of the pre-titles ended on the image of the stars as Abide With Me gradually faded up over the soundtrack? Those religious motifs keep coming thick and fast in yet another superb episode of Ashes To Ashes. A moment of sombre reflection then as the mourners sing said hymn at Viv's funeral. Except Viv doesn't quite want to go it seems as the coffin gets stuck and the curtains won't close as it departs. It takes Gene, wonderfully silhouetted against the church window (more of that 'angel of light' imagery again) to sort the mess with the curtains out ('Sorry, Viv') much to the amusement of Chris. There's that little look that Alex has over her shoulder at Jim Keats too as the scene blends mordant humour and an uneasiness about Viv's death.
As the hymn comes to an end, the camera cuts to the portrait of Viv. A burst of flames is superimposed or reflected in the glass of the photograph. More of the fiery imagery, suggestive of the flames of hell and the flames that consume Viv's body and send him on his spiritual journey too. After all, he made mistakes and paid for them with his life and both Gene and Jim are sorting out those deaths between them, aren't they? At the wake, in Luigi's, Gene pointedly remarks, 'I remember when we were evicted from paradise and sent down to this Southern shit hole, Viv came over and shook me hand and said he was sorry, but all Northerners looked the same to him'.
A neat in-joke as reversal to the casual racism that Gene and Ray throw about in their dealings with the ANC members later in the episode, including mispronounciation of African names, the white officers doing impressions of the film Zulu ('pathetic, aren't they' observes Shaz to Alex), and Gene's suggestion to Tobias that British prisons would enjoy a 'bit of African rough'. All this shameful behaviour is then hilariously countered by Alex in her interrogation with Tobias: 'This may sound trite but I argued against apartheid at my school's in house debating society. Very nearly won. Er...it does sound a bit trite', and summing up decades of white liberal colonial guilt in one fell swoop with, 'I know what you're doing. You're creating a conversational vacuum that you think my white liberal guilt will fill with inane chattering and banalities almost completely without punctuation and coherent syntax, thus taking the heat off what we're supposed to be really talking about.'
The eviction from paradise evokes all those connections to Milton again and the fall of Lucifer from heaven. The world of Gene Hunt is changing and Lucifer's philosophy "The mind is its own place, and in itself/ Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven" seems to describe this world and the powers of Keats and Hunt. Is Keats symbolically the gatekeeper to Hell whilst Hunt is Uriel, the regent of the sun, flame of God, archangel of salvation? Or are they interchangeable? When Gene goes off to interrogate Tsitsi, Alex advises him, 'Go easy on her. She's had a hell of life.' Gene counters with 'The very thought,' that perhaps indicates he knows what she's talking about.
Gene is clearly shocked at the loss of Viv and picks away at poor, bumbling Chris throughout the episode. We've never seen him so angry that he physically attacks his officers and he really gives Chris a very hard time, ultimately motivating him to finally stand up for himself, to have an opinion and to disagree with the 'guv'. But this is all part of the series ongoing 'test' of the main characters - with Shaz it was her lack of faith in the force and going undercover to unearth a killer, with Ray it was his inability to live up to his father's ideal and becoming a cop and not a soldier - which are all to do with 'courage of your convictions'.
The politics of the ANC and Chris' growing awareness of the situation and then letting Tobias escape are all part of the episode's test for him. The episode handles the history and background of the then militarised ANC, regarded as a terrorist organisation by the UK, the US and South Africa, rather well and reflects the harsh apartheid regime of white South Africa through the characters reactions to racist oppression (Ray can't quite get his head around the 'racism' of the situation). Tobias is a very mysterious figure throughout and that final conversation with Chris by the river at night, paralleling the similar scene with Alex and Shaz, has a bizarre supernatural element to it too.
Meanwhile as the investigation into the death of an undercover Special Branch officer working to expose the ANC terrorist cell continues, Alex is once again troubled by Keats demands to help him get Gene Hunt. Keats takes away the roll of photographic film that Alex found in the tin box with the photograph of police officer 6620 and claims that he'll develop them at division. But are we sure that the photographs he then delivers to Alex at the end of the episode are the ones that were on that film. Or has he been holding the location of the buried body since the beginning of the show? Remember, he did appear to Alex in her coma claiming to have read all the files. Has he been planting this evidence all along in order to shake Alex's faith in Gene?
Will Alex herself have the courage of her own convictions? 'We're the same, you and me,' mutters Keats as they discuss Gene's alleged guilt of Sam's death. Alex is clearly rattled by this, 'Except I don't want it to be true. So we're not he same, are we?' He reiterates her mission, 'Do what you were put here to do. Get me Gene Hunt.' This encounter results in Alex's dinner date with Gene. It's here she'll ask him the question we've all wanted answering since this series started.
Gene uses Tsitsi as leverage to uncover Tobias' involvement in the ANC cell, 'a sprat to catch a mackerel' which he thinks will be enough of a case to outwit Keats ('this is the final chapter, Bolly and in case you hadn't noticed, we're fighting for our lives' indicates that the ANC plot is so much more than it seems). He even makes up a nifty bit of civil service red tape - form APR13 - to circumvent Keats from handing Tobias over to Special Branch. It does become a little obvious that Tsitsi is actually the killer and that Tobias is covering for her, so when the bomb goes off and she's found to be the perpetrator then it's not entirely a surprise but it all makes for a gritty procedural story.
Alex is asked by Keats, 'Do you think this is a game?' as he starts to question her ability to get the truth about Gene and Sam's murder (that game theme, again). Keats has, over the last two weeks, become ever more threatening and is piling the pressure on Alex. 'Some flirty, silly little game being played out by you, me and Hunt?' He wants her take that final step and ask Gene directly. We then cut to both Alex and Gene preparing for their night out together. Curious that, as Gene washes his face, the action goes into slow motion momentarily and it's further to a visual motif that has been popping up throughout the episodes. Does it have significance?
Love the fact that Gene can't be bothered with his bow tie, is necking the Scotch back (just as Alex is necking her wine too) and polishes his crocodile shoes in preparation. An intimate sequence that gives us pause for thought about these two great characters and that this is indeed the final chapter they'll be in. Ashley Pharoah also builds up the 'Galex', as it's known, to such a breaking point during the meal and then back at Alex's flat, that it's highly amusing that they're both interrupted on the brink of a kiss by Keats delivering the photographs.
And we've got that quote from The Second Coming. Yeats wrote it in 1921, reflecting upon the state of the world after WW1. One interpretation of it describes how we are moving further and further away from God, from authority and law. As the world draws away from from spiritual and moral leadership everything is under strain "Things fall apart" and "Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world". It suggests a tide of evil will flourish and that no one can be considered innocent.
Yeats describes the arrival of an Anti-Christ (Keats perhaps?) and the awakening of the Sphinx (Gene - the Manc lion - perhaps?) as it recognises the time has now come for Christ's return. The 'Spiritus Mundi' in the poem, meaning "the spirit or soul of the universe, with which all individual souls are connected through the 'Great Memory,' which Yeats held to be a universal subconscious in which the human race preserves its past memories" might refer to how Chris, Shaz and Ray all share the same consciousness and see and hear the same symbols e.g. the stars, Nelson in the Railway Arms. Is this quote then symbolic of the final battle between Keats and Hunt?
As this discussion continues, Tobias describes the very 'bloodtide' of which Yeats is referring to Chris. He tells him of the racial violence that he's witnessed against children, a student shot through the head ('through the eye' suggests an image analogous to that of the scarred policeman) and the promise he made to himself not to 'live my life as a dog, shivering in fear at what its master might do. Better a dead lion than a live rat. my friend.' Again, there's that lion/Sphinx imagery and Chris perhaps symbolised as the dog living in fear of his own master, Gene Hunt. It's a powerfully unsettling scene played out by Lucian Msamati as Tobias and the ever wonderful Marshall Lancaster.
And the elephant in the room is finally addressed. To her question about whether he murdered Sam, Gene reveals something quite extraordinary that opens up even more questions. 'Been acting strange for a few weeks. Sam Tyler strange was very bloody strange indeed. I asked him what was wrong. He wouldn't tell me, couldn't tell me. He said he wanted to leave. He asked me to help him fake his own death. That's why we set fire to the car and pushed it into the river. I never saw him again.' Gene allegedly asked Sam why he wanted to fake his death and was told it would be better if he didn't know. He trusted Sam despite this. Pointedly, he says that faith and trust are things that Alex hasn't learned yet. So we're left with the conundrum of why Sam had to fake his own death. Did he need to get out of the game?
We then learn that Tobias is in fact 'Joshua' and he says something very interesting too when Chris asks why he covered for Tsitsi, who murdered the Special Branch officer and dynamited the South African Embassy. 'Because I've had my life, Chris.' Is 'Joshua' a visitor to this time too? Someone placed there to ensure the transition from bombs to ballots. It's significant surely that in their riverside chat that he asks about the future that Alex predicts and that when he vanishes there is that 'soul' vocal on the soundtrack too.
Chris' night duty started out as a confession to Alex, which was conveniently interrupted by Keats - who always seems determined that those who have doubts do not get a sympathetic hearing - and then it becomes a long, dark night of the soul where the challenge is for Chris to make his own choice about Tobias/Joshua and deny the Gospel of Gene Hunt. A bit like Peter in the Garden of Gethsemene. Marshall Lancaster gets another opportunity to shine and show us that Chris is more than the slightly soft, awkward officer and actually does have a sense of what is right and wrong about Tobias/Joshua.
We're back to the courage of your convictions again and a bit of a thrashing from Gene Hunt for disobeying an order. Quite a frightening scene that leaves you feeling that Chris has now burnt all his bridges and there is no way back for him. But 'the rat became the lion' he tells Tobias (a Greek corruption of the Hebrew for 'God is good') and as Tobias vanishes Chris returns to the fold, makes peace with Gene and has his 'Life On Mars' Nelson moment. Fantastic.
We also get the weirdness on top. The scene in the corridor when Ray and Shaz hear Nelson's cackling laughter and comfort each other (only for Chris to misinterpret it and assume Ray and Shaz have something going on and concluding, 'you're both nutters and you deserve each other') suggests that they are both now aware of other realities breaking through into theirs. Keats unwraps a packet of video tapes, huge grin on his face, and marks them up - Ray, Shaz and Chris. In the trailer for Episode Eight, he hands the tapes to each of them. What is that all about? And Chris hearing a police whistle? Is this something we'll understand in the finale?And again, look at those scenes of conflict in the office where the ceiling lights are completely off and the lighting is very low. Darkness is descending. And Luigi is shutting up the bar and going home. And then that breathtaking collective vision of Ray, Shaz and Chris where they are adrift in the stars.
As this excellent episode spirals away from the ANC police procedural it dives straight back into completing the the major arc of the series. Did the lyrics to Spandau Ballet's True ever sound so profound in a given context? 'Be careful, Alex. Be very careful,' warns Keats as she abandons Gene and follows that pesky weather vane due North to a grave in Lancashire. Meanwhile, according to Shaz, 'it's like 1953' in Chris and Ray's heads. Why 1953? Does this tie in with Matthew Graham's final image in black and white of 'POLICE' as mentioned in this week's press coverage? As the camera pans down from a Gothic church archway to frame the three of them in the stars I think we're about to find out.