ASHES TO ASHES - Series 2: Episode Six

BBC1 - 25th May 2009 - 9.00pm

“I feel different. I feel better. You haven’t seen the best of me. Before I go I think you’re going to be really surprised because I haven’t felt this good in a long time.”

"He'll strain a muscle doing that"

"How would you know? You've never had a proper girlfriend!"
"I've had plenty - just never done enough to get stuck with one. I'm like Liberace."
"...what, a poofter?"
", no!! ...I'm like the other one... what's it... Valentino, that's it. I'm like Valentino."

"Can't we talk hypothetically?" "Oh, let's"

Hmm. I got the distinct feeling that Series 2 was treading water here. Matt Graham and Ashley Pharaoh are obviously reluctant to give away too much at this stage but by playing their cards a little too close to their chest the series has delivered a couple of episodes now that are little more than exercises in playing for time. After the last two episodes it would appear to me to have been a major mistake to kill off Super Mac so early in the series. I felt that they could have got a little more out of the character and his entanglement in Operation Rose, given us more of the Masons angle and the threat to send Gene to Plymouth. It would have kept the series simmering nicely. Instead, it's gone slightly off the boil before what I presume will be a much needed cliffhanger ending to the series.'s unusual for Ashes To Ashes to bore me with its weekly 'crime plot'

That's not to say Episode Six wasn't enjoyable. It still had its moments but Jack Lothian's script distinctly lacked something. It was slightly humourless in much of the opening half and his sub-plot characters, the suitably twisted threesome of loan-shark Trevor Riley (a wonderfully slimy performance from Sam Spruell), poor old Donna Mitchell (Daisy Haggard) and Stanley (the always excellent Tom Georgeson) were each unsympathetically bound within the somewhat dull story of the death of Donna's husband Colin Mitchell. None of them were particularly appealing people, which I expect is the point considering the machinations of their relationships, and it's unusual for Ashes To Ashes to bore me with its weekly 'crime plot' but it did this week. And not caring about the victims and the perpetrators of crime didn't quite help sell the plot to me which I have to say I found slightly irritating in that it was fairly easy to work out 'whodunnit'.

Last week's at least had the gimmick of Alex's 14 year old husband to propel the story along but this just felt like a routine cop-show plot about loan-sharks and adultery with a few bones thrown to those of us hungry to get to the bottom of Operation Rose. The most dramatic part was indeed the revelation that it wasn't the nasty loan shark or the upwardly mobile wife that killed Colin but his own father, Stanley. Tom Georgeson effectively rescued the episode's main story with Stanley's moving confession and I could see how Lothian was attempting to use the relationships between Colin, Donna and Stanley as a reflection of the more interesting developments for our main characters.'s interesting to see a very vulnerable side of Gene
Suffice it to say, the joy in this episode came from those developing relationships between Alex and Gene, Alex and Ray and the Ray, Chris and Shaz triumvirate. There were several scenes between Alex and Gene that I thought worked very well. The impromptu talk to the Neighbourhood Watch was hilarious with Gene's admonishments to take the law into your own hands ("well, just make sure the bugger's still breathing when you ring 999") nervously being countered by Alex ("well, technically, that's still assault..."). A nicely played double act rounded off by the sombreness of the interview with Stanley. When Gene is set upon by Trevor's thugs (a beating he seems to miraculously bear little physical injuries from), it's interesting to see a very vulnerable side of Gene as he sits in the cell, licking his wounds and contemplating his next move. Later, Gene stapling Riley's tie to a desk, Gene's 'warrant' and the outrageous sequence in the car crushing yard were all very entertaining moments in counterpoint to the somewhat humiliated man being comforted by Alex in a cell.
...great use of Dean and Marshall's ability at physical comedy

There is also further evidence stacking up about Ray's sexuality. Hints have been dropped all the way through the first series and in much of this series too that Ray is overcompensating because he feels internally his masculinity is under threat. Hence, we get that bizarre little conversation on Donna's doorstep where he considers himself similar to, at first, Liberace (obviously gay) and then to Valentino (a far more sexually ambiguous man who was oft rumoured to be gay) and his immediate retort of "it's a poof's car" when Alex asks him to describe what he sees at the crime scene. We've seen a different side to Ray this series and the interplay between him and Alex over the use of psychological profiling was great and showed finally he was willing to open up to Alex as his superior officer and learn something. Ray and Chris had some great scenes too. Their blundering about trying to inform Donna about Colin's death and having to steal the Porsche whilst Alex and Gene break into an office and are interrupted by the arrival of Trevor were very funny and made great use of Dean and Marshall's ability at physical comedy. The arguments between Shaz and Chris about their impending wedding added a different dimension to their relationship but Monserrat Lombard has been so short changed this series with Shaz ending up being little more than a secretary. For heaven's sake give her more to do.

The key turning point for Alex was certainly the moment she witnessed her own operation in 2008. This signaled the conclusion to an arc running through the last five episodes indicating her body's been discovered, she's in a coma and it's touch and go that an operation will bring her round. The success of the operation and her recovery in 1982 is gloriously celebrated by the bump and grind of Donna Summer's I Feel Love on the soundtrack and a quip from Gene, "Just as long as you're not tripping all over the place like Norman bloody Wisdom" and later ironically symbolised by Summers sending her a bunch of wilted roses. This cycle also fits with the other relationships - Chris and Shaz's row being resolved, Alex's leaving letters that she then takes back (loved the comment from Chris "didn't understand a bloody word of mine" and Ray's protest of "I'm not repressed or whatever it bloody said") with the notable respect from Gene who has not opened his letter and admitting he'd miss her if she went. Endings of a sort in preparation for the final two episodes. And when Alex hears from the future that the patient in Room 5 is having a seizure are we to assume that this is the same patient we saw right at the beginning of the series and/or is Martin Summers? Or a future Gene?

So there was a lot to enjoy but Lothian's script was by far the weakest of the season, a sub-standard crime plot bolstered by some nice character moments and humour, with a good supporting cast that managed to keep the episode going and excellent work from our reliable regulars. However, it flagged and it's main failing was to apply little significance to Gene's violent humiliation and Alex's recovery from the operation when it's obvious these are the two major scenes around which everything else in the episode hangs. A strange directorial and editorial choice but perhaps deliberately so.

Series Two Reviews:

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

Series One Reviews:

Episode Eight review
Episode Seven review
Episode Six review
Episode Five review
Episode Four review
Episode Three review
Episode Two review
Episode One review

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2 Responses to “ASHES TO ASHES - Series 2: Episode Six”
  1. S Bates says:

    I have to agree with you. It wasn't a bad episode at all but it was probably the weakest of this series. Mind you, I quite liked Gene's "warrant" (even though it was obvious what this would be) and the mention of the patient in room 5 was intriguing.

    So, Alex is now in a coma after the removal of the bullet (and, I assume, will remain in a coma for the rest of this series and series 3)? Isn't that just a rehash of Sam's plight in LoM?

    Also, when the bullet was removed and Donna Summer's I Feel Love started up, I expected Alex to continue the rest of the episode feeling all euphoric and perhaps flirting outrageously with Gene (due, no doubt, to a release of endorphins after the operation). But, after her brief initial joy, she just seemed to go back to being 'normal'. Disappointing. ;)

  2. I'm a massive fan of both LoM and A2A. We had to wait an entire year here in the states for series one and then BBC America pulled series two from the schedule with no notice. I've been forced to watch series two through "other means" and just watched episode six last night. I thought Gene had some brilliant one liners and I like how they are progressing Alex's discovery/operation, but does anyone else find it weird that the whole Lady Diana bit seems to have dropped? Maybe it will be back next week, but that was a weird set up they haven't followed through on.

    And what's happened to Layton? He escaped after the car bombing, he's certainly around in 2008, but I'm REALLY surprised he hasn't turned up or been mentioned at all in series two.

    While I love season one, season two has been darker and more entertaining. I'm enjoying the hell out of it! Thanks for your reviews.

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