Thursday, June 11, 2009

I'm everywhere, Bolly. I was needed and I was there.

Ok so, now a certain Ms Philips has been unspoilered, please allow me to let a great enormous SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!! not only for this luvv-erly pic of the Gene Genie, complete with appropriate cowboy boots (if ever there was a modern cowboy, it's Gene Hunt), but also for the most brilliant series end since .... Being Human. Watching the last episode on Monday night I felt just as excited as I did watching the Dr Who episode when Derek Jacobi was revealed as the Master, and the throughout the whole of Being Human. And TV doesn't get much better then that.
If you haven't yet seen it and don't want to be unspoilered, look away now.


I had intended to review each episode, but then ran out of time, and now I haven't really got time to do a proper overview of the series. However, if you haven't been watching and are one of those people who gave up on Gene Hunt after Life on Mars, on the basis that the spin off weakened it and you hated Keeley Hawes (and I believe there were a number of people who inexplicably thought this), I shall attempt to bring you up to speed.
Series 1 of A2A had Alex Drake a police psychologist who'd been dealing with Sam Tyler's case, shot in the head by a man who claimed to know the truth of why her parents had died. She wakes up in 1981 to find Gene Hunt, Ray and Chris, characters she knows from Sam's notes turning up at the Met. She is convinced they are all figments of her imagination and spends rather alot of time referrring to them as "imaginary constructs" which I found really funny myself, but other people didn't seem to like it.
The story arc of the series involves her trying to find out who had killed her parents when she was a child, as she feels sure that is what will bring her home to her 12 year old daughter. She does uncover the truth, but it turns out that her father having discovered her mother's affair with Alex's godfather has killed them both, and intended to kill young Alex, who just manages to escape. Discovering the truth doesn't get her home, but it does lead her to greater respect for Gene, who tells her: "I'm everywhere, Bolly. I was needed and I was there.", which is a brilliant line for summing up his character I think.
Series 2 started with time having moved on and Alex being more accepting of her situation. She has begun to trust Gene implicitly, but the story arc this time around leads to both her trust in him and his in her being stretched to the limit. Rather fortuitously (given the current crop of headlines about political sleaze) the series has dealt with police corruption and couldn't have felt more timely.

In the first episode which I reviewed here, Gene and Alex uncover a whiff of police corruption, which Alex suspects goes right to the top, but Gene won't hear a word against his superior officer, known as SuperMac. Alex is suspicious when she follows Gene to a Mason's meeting and hears him take the oath, which leads her considering the offer of dinner from the mysterious smoking man who drugged her in episode 1, leaves her roses and promises he is the only one who can get her home. However, on discovering that Gene, too, is suspicious of Mac, and has only joined the Masons to find out more, Alex decides to stick to what she knows, and rejects the advances of the smoking man (a nice nod to the X Files).
What I loved about this series was the constant seesawing between Alex and Gene, and the occasional unexpected turn of events, as in episode 4 when SuperMac is uncovered as the corrupt officer, and shot just when he's being arrested. His dying words are Operation Rose, and Alex therefore links the smoking man to police corruption, and decides he is not to be trusted.
The smoking man, aka Martin Summers tells her that she cannot get home without his help, and reveals that he is also from the future, and is in the next bed to hers, but she says she'll do it without him. And in the meantime, she is hearing voices from her world telling her first that she's been found, and then that she's being operated on. Alex is sure she is close to getting home, and yet every time she thinks she must be there, she finds herself still trapped in 1982.
I can see why others might not have liked her performance in the last series, it's true she was a bit shrieky (I liked her for that. I think I'd be shrieky too), but this time around I think Keeley Hawes brought out the pain of Alex's situation more, and there was a quiet dogged persistence about her determination to get home to her daughter that I really liked. Also she got to wear alot of great 80s clothes, had a hair style similar to the one I was sporting in 1985, and she had red and white mugs on a mug tree which I also owned c 1985. Plus, of course, wonderful and all as the Sam Tyler/Gene Hunt relationship was, it lacks sexual tension, which the Gene/Alex relationship has in spades. (For the record though, I don't want them to ever get together cos that would ruin it totally. They have to end up thwarted lovers, locked in different dimensions a la Doctor/Rose pre Handy Doctor).
I have to say, that although this whole series has been much deeper, darker, and probably if I'm honest, better then series one, which I did love, the last two episodes really took off with a vengeance. It was really edge of the seat stuff, with twists and turns aplenty and a growing feeling that both Alex and Gene were on the rack.
In the penultimate episode, Alex encounters the young Martin Summers who accuses the owner of a building site where a body has turned up of being involved in corruption. Alex is so convinced that he is as corrupt as his future self, she ignores what he says, to Gene's disgust. Her conviction that Summers is corrupt, leads her to meet him at the building site where the older Summers turns up, and in another omg-I-didn't-see-that-coming moment, shoots the young Summers, and puts the gun into the shocked Alex's hands. Not knowing what else to do, she buries the body in concrete. Now get out of that one, Houdini. (I do love those kind of how the fuck do you get your characters ouf of this kind of moments).
In the meantime, Gene has discovered there is a traitor in his team, and sets a trap to uncover the culprit. I wasn't as clever as Marie, and missed this, so it was a genuine shock to see it turn out to be Chris, who had taken a bung because he'd got into debt to finance his wedding to Shaz. I was gutted. It couldn't be Chris, lovely Chris, who's in love with sweet little Shaz (who has a great 80s beret and crimps her hair and everything), and is the only trying-to-be-reconstructed male about the place.
Marshall Lancaster put in a fine and moving performance of someone who had betrayed everything dear to him, and lost all in the process. I thought he must be for the chop, but we got a typical Gene Hunt (have I mentioned how much I love Gene Hunt?) moment of magnaminity, when he tells the rest of the team, Chris made a mistake but as far as you are concerned, I am judge, jury and executioner (which was nearly, but not quite, as good as he's I've drawn a line in the sand moment after SuperMac dies - told you he's a cowboy.)
The final episode starts with a brilliant brilliant Jackanory moment with Gene as a pretty scary storyteller, if truth be told, reading the story of Alex's life. In the meantime she hears her surgeon saying she's going to be injected with 50ml of super antibiotics to get rid of the fever, but it's up to her to fight it off. Interpreting the fever as the corruption of Operation Rose, she wants to go after that angle, leading her into conflict with Gene who's trying to find out what's happened to a missing snout. However, thanks to a lead from Chris, who's been contacted by the people he was informing, Alex uncovers evidence that the major blag they've been expecting is a bullion robbery, and not only that it's one she's studied at Hendon, so she knows and can prevent the outcome.
In the meantime, Gene is getting a little too friendly with the snout's sister, who drops large hints about not trusting Alex. Now it's Alex who has to win back Gene's trust - a task made more difficult by Martin Summers planting one of the tapes she's been making about her situation in his office. Gene is not best pleased to hear Alex talking about her need to fight him.

In a brilliantly tense scene, Gene confronts Alex and asks if he can trust her, and then she tells him the truth. For a moment, I was sure he was going to buy it, however mad it sounded, because I couldn't bear the thought of Gene not trusting Alex (I know, I know they're imaginary, but they are real to me, so there), but of course to him what she's saying sounds bollocks. So he suspends her, takes her badge away, and tells her if she goes near the bullion robbery he'll kill her (which significantly I feel for series 3, everyone hears).
Alex of course ignores him and turns up at the robbery, which turns out just the way she predicted. Gene and co have been misled so are nowhere near the scene of the crime, which allowed for some very fine and absolutely necessary thrashing of the Quattro (who cares if it's not the exact model for the time, it's one very very cool car, and I don't even like cars.), before turning up in the nick of time to arrest all the bent coppers in the universe apparently (it's a wonder there are any left in Gene world, so many have turned out to be corrupt.)
Meanwhile Chris having encountered Martin Summers, who is masterminding the robbery, who tells him the guilt about what he's doing will eat him alive, follows a suspect who turns on him at the top of a stairwell. I was sure that Chris' story would have to end with him being shot, but it was better than that, just as bad cop pulls the trigger, Shaz appears out of nowhere, complete with wedding dress and beret (she's been having a fitting, but it's such an 80s look), and saves the day. Yay for Shaz. I felt like doing a little jig.
Then...because this episode was really twisty and turny and you never quite knew when it was going to stop, Alex follows Summers, who pulls a gun on her and reveals he's come back to 1982 to stop the robbery, because at the time, as a young cop, he turned a blind eye, and has never been able to live with his conscience since. When he discovers how incorruptible Alex is, he sets up Operation Rose to expose the corruption in the Met...
At which point, in rides Cowboy Gene, armed of course with a gun, to save the day, and Alex. Hurrah. He hasn't given up on her. We knew he wouldn't.
I will shoot, says Gene. I know, says Martin, which is of course what he wants Gene to do. So Gene shoots, Martin falls to the ground, cue very touching deathbed scene (I'd like to have Gene at my deathbed, he says the most comforting things) when Gene reminds Martin of being a young idealistic copper again. It's all over, Alex can go home, she sure thinks she can, and then....
... Snout's sister turns up waving a gun, demanding money, and grabs Alex. Alex, escapes, sister drops gun, Gene shoots, and ... whoops, he's shot Alex.
Everything in Gene world goes all white, and distant and heavenly like, and hey, here she is, Alex is back in the real world. Her surgeon's sitting by the bed, telling her she fought off the infection, and look, here's Molly, she's back, Alex is alive and holding her daughter. How very touching.
Spouse made the fatal mistake of leaving the room at this moment. Unlike me, he doesn't pay much attention to gossip about future tv series, so he probably didn't even know there's a series 3 in the offing. However, as a horror film fanboy, he should have KNOWN that everything was far too clean, and white and sparkly to be right - it reminded me far too much of the end of Nightmare on Elm Street to be a happy ending.
And of course, dear reader, it wasn't.
Just as Alex is left to her own devices watching children's tv, the tv screen changes and there is Gene in all his glory saying, Bolly wake up. They think I shot you. Well I did, but... Would it help if I slapped you? Turns out in 1982, she's been shot, and they think Gene did it.

Cue Alex getting out of bed, running frantically through a hospital full of screens with Gene's face on it shouting, Bolly! and that's it. That's all we're getting for a year. I felt properly wrung out I can tell you.
Is she in a coma in 1982 and 2008? Is Gene's world the real world? Can she ever get home to Molly? Does Molly even exist? Does it matter? Do I care? Cos with TV this much fun, the answers are irrelevant. Although I do want to know if the Quattro's number plate JLY IV 1975 is significant. I feel sure it must be...
I have had three days to calm down, but really that was one of the best series finales I've ever seen. And I shall be squeeing about it for a very very long time. Roll on series 3....


Anonymous said...

I too loved As2 Series I and Series II. Series 1 Alex was a character completely different from Sam. She was sure of herself, pro-active and knew exactly what was going on (or at least she thought she did.) She set about figuring out how to get out of that world. If you dropped me in 1981 I'd be unsettled and freaked out too. Even though some silly folks mistook the character of Alex Drake for Keeley Hawes, she really did play what was on the page very well.
In Series-2, they went dark and sinister and twisty turney. Alex has settled in as part of the team and, gee, KH plays her as more settled in. (I guess that's why they call it acting huh?)
The Alex-Gene and Alex-Ray relationships are a joy to watch as they grow, hit some bumps, and deepen. The mystery is nested nicely and made for the most compelling show I've seen in a very long time.
Great stuff and I cannot wait for Series-!

Anonymous said...

Well I have to disagree completely. I absolutely loathed A2A series 1. I enjoyed the first episode, but it felt weaker, less well plotted than LoM and had no John Simms in it. I don't think Alex and Hunt have any sexual tension whatsoever, and I hate her acting - shrieky, whiny, waily. Awful. I was quite intrigued by the story with the parents, and the pay off of the clown being her dad was worth waiting for. But I was so gutted as I loved LoM and felt A2A just didn't match up.

I've been at college on Mondays this series, but now classes have finished, I've had time to watch the last two episodes. I tuned it on the other week not expecting much and was only half paying attention when old S shot young S. That made me sit up a bit. But the tension created by who the mole was, followed by the devastating revelation that it was Chris, was the best bit of TV I've seen in a long time. Keeley Hawkes was better than last series, but outclassed by Philip Glenister, and Marshall Andrews who was marvellous.

That was so good I thought I'd give the finale a go. And I have to say I have mixed views. I loved Gene Hunt's Jackanory, but I felt the rising mgs to fight off the infection over-done and too reminiscent of Sam's cut out the cancer. I thought the blag robbery plot was all a bit tedious. And having worked out the Summers thing (which I'd found confusing the previous week) I wasn't quite sure if I could buy it. But the moment that she told Hunt the truth and he didn't believe her was marvellous. I also thought Summers death well done & the ending was absolutely brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. Reminded me of the end of Twin Peaks when you think all's well and then the FBI agent looks in the mirror and you see he has been possessed by the bad guy.

So thought A2A 1 was a disappointing 5/10, but I'd give those last two episodes of series 2 7/10 on the basis that it was so patchy (though the bits I liked were 10+/10. And I definitely want to know how it turns out now, particularly as the writers are hinting we might find something more out about Sam, who I always absolutely adored.

Mad Twinx

Jane Henry said...

Anony-mouse Yes, I loved the way Alex and Ray in particular developed a relationship.

MT, I disagree TOTALLY about Alex and Gene not having sexual chemistry. Didn't you SEE them locked in a vault in series 1, that scene OOZED sexual tension. And there were lots of moments of almost revealing themselves to one another emotionally, this series. I also think you've suffered from watching LOM from the first which affects the way you look at everything else (viz, you loved Martha and I didn't in Series 3 of Dr Who, but you hadn't seen Rose so you couldn't compare). A2A was always going to seem paler in comparison to LoM, but I really think this series has matched up all the way through. And if you'd seen it from the beginning, you'd really have felt Summers' story worked. The scene when they uncovered Supermac in ep 4 was easily as good as anything in LoM, and Gene's speech at the end fabuluous. I liked the numbers of ml rising, I thought it added tension.

Anonymous said...

It's a matter of taste I think. I didn't watch Series 1 because our kids were too little. I caught a couple of episodes and liked Rose a lot. Wasn't too keen on CE's doctor though, as I thought he was a bit OTT at times. I caught about half of Series 2 and enjoyed the Sarah-Jane story, the cybermen, Love&Monsters (which a lot of fans hate) and thought the finale terrific. I managed to watch all of Series 3 because number 2 was in to it. I loved Martha's beginning & got quickly frustrated with the writers for all that unrequited love nonsense. I enjoyed Rose as a character, but thought there was an overdwelling on her saintliness, which was the writers' fault!

I've now seen the whole lot and think that the writing in Series 2 dipped a bit, so Series 3 was much stronger in comparison. The writing in Series 1 and the CE/BP relationship was better than Series 2 and DT/BP in my view. I really felt DT grew into the character in Series 3 and that's why it is my favourite of all 4 series, (also has John Simms in it - see a connection?) though there are bits of Series 4 that I thought were marvellous - the library, and Midnight (my fave episode ever).But lots of people hate Midnight too!

With LoM and A2A I think the same thing happened. The writing wasn't as strong in A2A (Series 1). And I can't help it, Alex's character should have engaged me (I really like the premise) but I don't like Keeley Hawkes and she doesn't pull it off for me. And I found that scene when they were locked together, so stereotypical that there was no sexual tension for me.

Having said all that, I am willing to believe series 2 is better, and as I said, she was less shrieky so that was better too. And the ending was so damned brilliant, I forgave the bits that didn't work (because it still is very patchy)... I accept the Summers thing might make more sense having seen it from the beginning.


Ann oDyne said...

I'm with (not so) Mad Twinx (above) -
"no John Simms in it".

He is the reason I loved L.O.M.

The USA remake of LOM has been broadcast here in Australia.
The USA remake of State Of Play has just opened in theatres.

Neither have John Simms in them.

Me and the adorable Mr.Simms are both wondering WTF is wrong with those idiots in Hollywood.

Jane Henry said...

Hi Ann Odyne, nice to see you hear.
Am with you on John Simms. He is lovely, and LoM was fabulous. I just like A2A too and think the Alex/Gene dynamic every bit as good.
But yes, WTF is wrong with Hollywood?!!!