I watched the Sport Relief Ashes to Ashes sketch in gloom. I don’t know if it was just the audience laughter that killed the mood, but for me it really fell flat.
I mention this only because tonight for a brief and wonderful moment we seemed to be back in Sport Relief mode as Ashes to Ashes had a Let’s Dance moment. It wasn’t quite as good as Robert Webb’s Flashdance or Paddy and Keith’s Dirty Dancing, but the sight of Gene Hunt strutting his stuff to Billy Joel’s Uptown Girl will be with me for some time to come.
No wonder it kept haunting Alex throughout the episode. Speaking of haunting, the nasty piece of work that is DCI Jim Keats was turning up the heat – quite literally – on Ray and Chris. The smile he gave Ray at the end of the interview made poor old Gordon Brown’s efforts look convincing.
The meat of the episode is the hunt for a serial killer who’s been using a dating agency to find his victims. There is some fun to be had on the way, of course. Alex offers herself up as bait and signs on – as Kate Winslet – with the agency’s owner Elaine Downing (played by Glenister’s wife, fact fans). Her almost subtle probing is scuppered by Gene storming into the office booming, “I’m looking for love – you got any?”
I found the scene where Alex and Gene compare notes on their agency application forms quite touching. Apart from the Huntian line about how women love Herb Alpert because it reminds them of “sun and sea and getting poked behind an electricty sub-station in Torremolinos”.
All of which shenanigans leads to Alex ‘inventing’ speed dating in a bid to flush out the killer. Which in turn sees Gene trapped with a man-eater in a dreadful gold dress, Ray attempting to get up close and personal with some very Page 3 twins, and Chris stripping down to his underpants (well, it looked like they were about to be forfeit too, but thankfully we were spared this horror).
For the most part though this is serious stuff, from the almost tender unearthing of a dead woman in a shallow grave by Gene and the team, to Shaz’s hour-long torment, the aforementioned humour is much-needed.
Poor Shaz was like a dead woman walking for most of the story, so I’m glad she got to save the day and finally get the promise of a just reward for her hard work (not to mention a hug with Gene).
On top of all that, the writers are finding new ways to spook us – the weird flashes of Life on Mars imagery and music, the swirling cosmos that opens up in front of Alex as she walks down a dark alley. If they’re going for a foreboding atmosphere, then they should be getting gold stars.
But nothing now can shake my faith in the Gene Genie. I will say it now (and hope not to have egg on my face in six weeks’ time) – he’s a force for good not evil. I also refuse to believe he killed Sam Tyler (with the caveat that it may have genuinely been for Sam’s own good). And anyway, how do you kill someone who’s already dead?
There was of course much more – mystery numbers, mystery air con men (red herrings or no?), the nice line from Elaine about the former Mrs Hunt, the clues that are – I’m convinced – on the staff kitchen noticeboard and the sight of Sam’s leather jacket. And – just when I’d forgotten about him – PC Dead With Half His Face Missing turns up in a damp-looking field.
I’m none the wiser, but that’s okay. Sometime the journey can be as thrilling as the destination, and I’m nowhere near ready to get out of the car yet.
Posted by Jo the Hat