Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Review: GHTTB: Ashes To Ashes 3.3

Ray faces down his idol.
Ashes To Ashes - Series Three, Episode Three
Written 23/6/12
"Show me that you've got the balls to go and arrest Andrew Smith"

Increasing the comparisons with Lost, this episode took another centric look, this time at Ray. Due to that character's relative longevity it was a much stronger effort, as well as a dark look at the politics and concequences of the Falklands War and of the 1983 election. It did a lot more with the mythos and the characters were a lot more well developed, and it also made the viewer question themself for the first time in a while.
     It's nearing Election Day, and the CID are alerted to a series of arsons targeting politically important locations. At the site of one of the fires, Ray goes into the flames to rescue someone trapped inside. Coming to his rescue is Andy Smith, a fireman who's just returned from the Falklands and is suffering from shell-shock. Under pressure from Special Branch to catch the arsonist before the Election, the team are forced to confront Ray's history when Andy becomes the main suspect in the investigation. Tracking him down after several false starts, Ray give an impassioned monologue that convinces Smith to give himself up and that allows Ray to feel confident in his father's pride, as well as getting a magicky Life-On-Mars-Music Moment.
      Ray on his own is a much more confident character, albeit a much more schizophrenic one. In his early incarnation in the first series of Life On Mars, he was the blind servant of Gene, taking his traits and emphasising them. He got a bit of development half-way-through Series Two, but his road to development didn't start until Ashes To Ashes, and even then it was very much depending on the writer; in some places we saw a more desperate, sensitive side, and elsewhere we saw an army-obsessed supporter of the old ways. This episode does what last week should have done and combined all of those loose character threads to give us one consistant characterisation - one that, for the first time, I really liked.
This centric episode was better than the last for the sole
reason that Ray is a better character overall.
     The anti-villain of the piece is memorable for two reasons. Andrew Smith happens to be my name, and so the quoted exclamation gave me a right chuckle. The other, of course, is the fact that this is the most interesting enemy we've had in the entire bonanza. He's a man with a Hero complex - he's angry at the Government, still shell-shocked after what happened in the war - conflicting between his desperation to seek justice and his desire to help people. He set buildings on fire with his military expertise and then saved people's lives inside them.
     3.3 was an awesome piece of characterisation, and really got the series going. Ray got the first real piece of characterisation he's ever had, and that made for a brilliant examination of the Falklands War and its fighters. Although often it could be a bit slow, that worked in its favour as the conflict built and built and payed off in a monologue that will go down in the series' history.


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