After a relatively different first half of the series, we take a sojurn back to the style of Life On Mars, albeit wth a touch of this new, more politically focussed angle. While it had a few of the issues that Ashes To Ashes always has in its attempt to blend the Coma World with the Real World, the focus on the Operation Rose line made the episode that much more powerful, as well as some great character work for Ray.
While Gene is trying to get the papers off of the corruption case, Alex is there to witness the deafening of her future father-in-law, Brian Drake, in a mugging. After being a complete and total psychopath towards her currently-14 future husband Peter Drake, she exercises her interest with the family by trying to find the mugger. Gene is disinterested, and Ray intends to join the Army, but their interest is peaked when the DNA comes back as George Stains - a criminal who's supposedly been dead for two years. Gene is put under pressure to make an arrest (with the appropriate Bowie/Queen soundtrack). Their only lead, Metal Mickey, is refusing to talk, so Alex goes to Ray, who explains to her that the outing of Mac as a bent copper has shaken his belief in policing. Ray makes Mickey talk.
Following the fact that Stains went to Spain, they interrogate the Drakes' neighbour Gayna, who had a Spanish boyfriend. A man calling himself "Boris Johnson" leaves Alex a note to meet in Luigi's. That night he stands her up, leaving a note. Instead, Martin Summers (Adrian Dunbar) arrives late at night in CID. Summers reveals that he too is from 2008, and implies that Alex's only way out of this world is to part of the corrupt Operation Rose. George's mother inadvertantly reveals Gayna's part in the preceedings. She helps to organise a meeting with George, but she's been found to have been assaulted. After a visit to the house, Alex uncovers that it was Pete who stole the money. When they visit Gayna Mason in hospital, they find, to their surprise, that she is George Stains, who had a sex-change to escape the law. She explains that it was Pete who assaulted her that night, taking back the things she had stolen. In the end, Gene doesn't get his big headline, because he doesn't have the heart to tell George's mother.
|Gayna... née George.|
With the powerhouse of the Police Corruption storyline slowing down after Mac's death, 2.5 took a slight breather, but it never let up on the mystery and this is one of my favourite individual cases in this series, if only because of its sheer surprise value at the end. 2.5 wasn't as good as the past few weeks have been, but it was still some brilliantly and lovingly crafted entertainment that improved our characters.