Ashes to Ashes episode 8 review

Rob recaps the explosive - literally - finale of Ashes to Ashes. If you're spoiler-phobic, you might want to skip this one till you've seen the episode...

With the series coming to an end now, all the plots and themes of the show get wrapped up in what is probably the best hour of entertaiment that was on TV this week. With the exception of the guilty pleasure that was Benidorm, this week’s TV has been dreary, dull and downright boring. But the great British broadcasters have redeemed themselves with the finale of Ashes to Ashes as Alex and co finally come to the end of their first season with an explosive conclusion.

For those who have followed the show from the beginning you will know that Alex was shot in 2008 by Arthur Layton, a mentally unstable ex-convict who may or may not have something to do with the death of her parents in 1981 via a car bomb. While Alex lies in a coma in 2008, in 1981 it’s only days until her parents are killed and it is up to her to try, by any means necessary, to stop this exploision and save her parents.

Like everything in the show, Alex’s goal isn’t straightforward; there are many obstacles to overcome, as not only does she have to try and single-handedly stop the bomb, she also has to stop Gene, Ray and the rest of the team being too heavy-handed on a gay rights march, and also make sure that all the smut, forged confessions, fags, booze and unsightly bits and pieces are well hidden as Lord Scarman, the police commissioner, makes a visit.

With some manipulation, manoeuvring and underhanded tactics that would make Gene proud, Alex manages to commandeer Ray to help with her parents, going to some very extreme measures to make sure that they won’t be in the car when it is going to explode. Resorting to demolition via a convenient pink tank (don’t ask) and even arresting her parents, Alex’s desperate attempts to stop them being killed uses every tactic at her disposal, whether that involves nicking Gene’s car or giving Ray a broken nose. All previous notions of fair play and firm policing are out of the window.

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Not all of the episode revolves around this heavy dark plotline, as there are some superb bits of lighthearted fun involving a trophy cabinet full of pawned trophies, Gene continually getting ripped off by his staff by not getting his change back and also, to fill up the empty cells with ‘quality’ prisoners, Chris is volunteered to spend a night locked up for a charge made up on the spot involving buses and the exposure of naughty bits.

We also get a rousing chorus of YMCA as every gay rights protestor is arrested quite heavy-handedly by the entire team, eventually providing Lord Scarman with a very entertaining evening.

With everything to brown sticky stuff the entire situation is intensified as Gene releases Alex’s parents, who, after a evening of entertaiment are free to go, much to the horror of Alex. The organised chaos of a night in the cells is put across brilliantly and inter-cuts of the mayhem are balanced out by some deep emotional scenes between Alex and her mother, which are put together superbly and within the context of the rest of the series work well, wrapping up plot points, dangling ideas and resolving some of the emotional baggage Alex has.

It is also during these scenes that we get the first look at Alex’s dad, who has been absent from the rest of the series. Intense and thoughtful, it’s fun to see this character in his entirety for the first time – and at the conclusion of the show you find that you have actually seen this character a lot more in the show than you first thought.

The show’s conclusion might make this the best bit of telly all year, forget all week. From the stark realisation that Alex has written off the wrong car to her desperate attempt to out-maneover a van intentionally blocking her way to the subsequent explosion, the finale is shocking, so well planned and jaw dropping that while it was obvious (if you think about it) both myself and my girlfriend completely missed the continued hints at the cause of the explosion. We were both caught completely off guard, having a joint ‘blimey…that’s clever’ moment to rival anything that Hollywood or modern telly has thrown at us recently (think Usual Suspects, 6th Sense, Heroes or the end of Watchmen).

With this shocking revelation still burned onto the retina, the aftermath and clean up is also handled superbly. Gene’s role in Alex’s coma is brought into question by his enigmatic answer to the question of why Alex couldn’t remember him rescuing her – “I am always there.” From the video confession of the car-bomber (destroyed by Gene) the request by the (evil?) Evan to have both custody and the burden of preventing the young Alex from ever finding out the horrible truth about that day, which back in 2008 also leading to the blackmail of Evan by Arthur Layton and in turn Alex getting shot (wow) things are all wrapped up in the last five minutes with some fantastic writing.

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Although most of the loose ends have been tied up, just enough new questions have emerged to hook you into the next series – which has been commissioned for next year. We find that Alex is still stuck in 1981, Gene has very strong feelings for Alex and her ‘rump’ and also the person who was taken last week by the evil death-clown is not quite as ‘taken’ as we first thought.

As for the rest of the team, well, after Gene’s rousing speech, it looks like they are there to stay (porn, fags, booze and all) and with the revelation that they are still open for business all that is left to do is to kick off a party in Luigi’s restaurant to celebrate and wait for season 2.