Friday, 14 September 2012

Review: GHTTB: Ashes To Ashes 3.1

Alex asks herself what is real.
Ashes To Ashes - Series Three, Episode One
Written 13/4/12

The first piece of TV I really talked about on this site was the final ever episode of Ashes To Ashes. For me, it's a little strange to come back to that, but I think it's going to be a lot of fun. After a mind-boggling cliff-hanger that left the nation on the edge of their seats, the first episode of this series had to give us answers. While it didn't manage exactly that, it did set up the unique world of this final series that would lead to a shocking revelation about the Bonanza's world.
     Still living in a comatose 2010, Alex starts to feel disconnected from the present, culminating in a scene in a Tesco-extra where she sees the rest of the gang on TV screens and then wakes up, hair permed, in 1983, after having a hallucination of her 2010 hospital bed and a mutilated young police officer. Gene, having been blamed for her shooting, has just returned from Spain and woke her up to clear his name. Back in CID, and Ray has been promoted to DI in both the Guv and Alex's absence. As the team work on a kidnapping case, Gene is held back by officer Jim Keats (the excellent, excellent Daniel Mays), an independant officer trying to bring Gene down and who has information for Alex about the disappearance of Sam Tyler eight years prior. Despite Keats' warnings, Gene still trys to keep involved in the case when he discovers that the evidence points towards supposedly incapacitated gangster Gary Soaper. After an unsuccessful sting, they continue to investigate and discover that one of Soaper's assosciates has seen him only very recently. Using the girl's stepmother, who used to be Soaper's wife, they track down the girl to an abandoned factory and the team save the day. Back at CID, and Keats calls for celebration before going into Gene's office and going on a seething tirade about how much hatred he has for the entire department.
     Daniel Mays is deliciously devious as Jim Keats, flipping between a quiet, amiable persona and a desperate, seething rage. The character is elusive and interesting, and the first clues of his true nature are already here - he knows every word of the Bible, he's "a superstitious person" and he doesn't like the cold. Mays makes his presence known immediately and it's a captivating performance as we're unsure as to who is the villain - him, or Gene himself. The rest of the characters are fine, but there's a silly thing where Chris and Shaz have seperated in between series. After the buildup that it garnered in Series Two, it's a real waste to see it just brushed aside for little-to-no reason.
Daniel Mays' Jim Keats is a delicious performance.
     The plot itself was tense enough, with the revelation of the old gangster being an interesting reveal. The tragedy of Maggie Soaper added a nice poignancy to the episode, but that didn't stop the victim's dad from coming off as a bit of a knob. Half-way through the story Chris randomly brought in a countdown timer which served entirely to provide tension, which really felt like a cheap-shot to me. Other than that, it was Ashes To Ashes as usual.
     3.1 was an ok start to this final series, and it did all it needed to do in introducing to us the main themes and motifs that this series would have to offer. What it didn't do was satisfyingly answer last series' cliffhanger, and instead seemed only to create more questions than it answered. Overall though, it did leave me excited for the final series and for this series of reviews.


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