After the joy that was Life on Mars, Ashes to Ashes was a welcome return to the screen. It’s not quite as tightly written as it’s predecessor, and the main format is largely unchanged, but it’s a fun show led by large, loveable characters filled with a great 80′s soundtrack and the plots of each police case are varied enough to keep you guessing, just a little bit, each week.
Ashes to Ashes follows a similar plot line to Life on Mars in that Alex is searching for the reasons why she has been transported back in time, and how she could get back home to the present day. Unlike Life on Mars however, Ashes to Ashes focuses more on the revolution of the police force to a ‘modern’ force in the 80s as well as many of the social movements and changes happening around that time. It’s certainly interesting to see big events from the early 80s in dramatised form, and the team’s reactions to the events were wonderfully acted and scripted.
Alex and Gene Hunt have a great relationship, full of grudging respect, banter and comaraderie as well as an underlying attraction for each other. They tackle cases with a two pronged approach that always seems to meet nicely in the middle and certainly care about the police force and their fellow officers, both calling them their “family” throughout the show. I’m always a fan of a solid police partnership and although this one was different to Gene and Sam’s, Alex and Gene made for a likeable, solid team to get behind each episode.
Ray and Chris from Life on Mars make for a welcome return, with their story arcs mainly being becoming more of his own kinder man (Ray) and standing up for himself and others (Chris). Good to see such likeable characters getting their backstories expanded and characterisations fleshed out over the course of the show. Shaz and Viv are great supporting characters added to the police ensemble and they provide plenty of wit and drama to the proceedings.
Ashes to Ashes combines police cases with the mystery of Alex’s apperance in the 1980′s and the changes taking place during that time period very well, balancing each element across the series as well as during individual episodes. Gene Hunt’s swagger and gusto combined with Alex’s more refined approaches to cases makes for entertaining viewing and the stakes are often high for the police team as there is a significant lack of technology to help them out! Relying on old fashioned police work, research, contacts and luck keeps the audience guessing, and sometimes the outcomes aren’t favourable for all characters (RIP Viv).
Season 3 focuses on the inspection of the police unit and Alex uncovering more about how and why she came to be in the 1980s, adding a more mystery and supernatural element to the show. The biblical references and imagery of heaven and hell become more and more clear towards the season’s finale the the reveal of a police purgatory was a fitting (if a little too neat) end to the whole Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes universe.
I certainly will miss seeing Gene Hunt on my screen, may there forever be more anti-heroes like him making the world a better place, one questionable deed at a time.