Ashes to Ashes (3.6): Braveheart in Paco Rabanne

With the end in sight the Ashes to Ashes team delivered a clenched fist of an episode tonight. Not even top-quality Huntisms (the rioting prisoners are “Scum de la scum – you name it, they raped it, robbed it, killed it.”; his riposte to Alex’s “I hope you’ve got a heart in there.” – “I’ve got two. Mine and some toerag’s I ate earlier.”) could pierce the darkness for more than a moment.

It was a clever move to have Viv taken hostage by the prisoners (as well as essential for the backstory to work) – he’s a sympathetic character, but one we don’t know well enough that we can second guess his reactions. So, we’re worried about him (and that football of his – I can’t help but admire the chutzpah of the writers chucking in random red herrings just to bait us – the bastards) and then there’s the mysterious Paul Thordy (the internet serves up dozens of anagrams for this – many of them faintly mucky-sounding – but none that scream out for attention. I suspect I’ve just had my chain yanked again…).

I had chills and tingles top to toe when Alex opened the cell window on Thordy (the escaped prisoner who apparently precipitated the prison riot) to be confronted by Steven Robinson doing his best Sam Tyler meets the Master impersonation… The mania was very Time Lord, but everything else – that classic Life on Mars intro (“Am I mad, in a coma….”), the intonation, the physical mannerisms, were close enough to conjure the tiniest drop of doubt. After all, we’re told Thordy is a conman and a fantasist – so he can’t be our beloved Sam, surely? When Ray and Chris go to pick him up and declare Alex would go nuts if she knew who he was, they’re alluding to the fact that Thordy was Sam’s last arrest before he died – right?

The performances and writing are pitch perfect and we are putty in the team’s hands. Having written him off as a conman – that Alex seems to find some sort of answer to her problem in a tin box just opens it all up again.

And there’s poor Gene – his colleague held hostage, Keats blaming him (of course) after he led the riot police on the first failed attempt to put the riot down (Braveheart in Paco Rabanne, as Alex warmly describes him), the team coming apart… though it’s hard to summon sympathy after he beats Thordy to a near pulp in a bid to get information about the riot leader Sacks. (Especially, if it does turn out that Thordy is Sam with a new face. It crossed my mind, when Gene confronts Sacks at the end, that perhaps this is some sort of game. When Sacks claims to be a legend, immortal, now that he’s killed a cop – it sounded like a computer role-playing game. I know, I know – they’re just messing with my mind…)

I love the real warmth that shines through between the team too though. Shaz’s concern for Ray about seeing stars (is it significant that he describes them as pricks of light, like before you pass out?), the team staying on late – and eventually falling asleep in the office – to try and help Viv, Gene’s answer to Keats’ question about acceptable level of collateral damage: “Not a hair on their heads”. And you can’t help but be touched by Chris sucking his thumb in his sleep when Alex takes the burning fag out his hand.

If I didn’t have doubts about Keats’ motives before, I do now. The look on his face leading the special ops guys into the prison tells you he’s hoping to get his hands on some bodies. And what the hell did he do to Viv at the end? (Is taking the gloves off significant or just sinister? Gene still had his on when he cradled poor Viv’s head.) The phrase baby-faced assassin springs to mind.

What are we left with? Poor Viv dead. The knowledge that journalists smell of old spice, fags and loneliness. The sight of Alex delivering a fabulous right hook to a convict. And an answer from the copper with half a face – albeit in true A2A style one that just leaves you with more bloody questions. Thanks a bunch guys. We’d have tuned in next week anyway y’know.

Posted by Jo the Hat.

7 Comments

Filed under Ashes to Ashes

7 responses to “Ashes to Ashes (3.6): Braveheart in Paco Rabanne

  1. natalie

    Chill, Shivers and goosebumps throughout the whole episode tonight..do you remember in episode one Alex in 2010 sees a computer game with all their images on it and picks it up before Gene’s face come through all the tv screens. I really hope it’s not a computer game after everything! Keats was very chilling tonight especially with Viv.. not at all like he was with Louise and what about the trailer and all the video tapes he was stacking up with Shaz, Chris and Ray’s names on them.. some kind of final tally?
    and they did play a David Bowie track (Scary monsters and super creeps) when Chris and Ray were apprehending Paul Thordy.

    As you say questions questions but we are so close now and all will be revealed very soon!

  2. Will

    Heres an interesting theory, by my girlfriends sister. she reckons that Ray, Shaz and Alex are all in the same boat, trapped from the future (as they have all seen stars) and that in being Gene’s world, he is the one keeping them alive, as if they stick with him, they wont die in the real world. However, Keates is trying to break the team up, and in doing so, will kill Alex, Ray and Shaz in the real world. Interesting, no?

    Notice that Keats laughed when Alex made a joke about Gene being like “Braveheart in Paco-Rabbane”? (with that being the title of the episode) Surely that implies Keats is also from the future (and that being significant in the last two episodes)? With that he positively acknowledged a “future” reference earlier in the series too.

    Furthermore notice another reference to walls collapsing tonight from “Sam” – giving more weight to the bible code theory. Book 6 Chapter 6 Verse 20 (6620) describes the fall of the walls of Jericho, very interesting I must say

  3. Like your girlfriend’s sister’s theory… I definitely believe that Gene is protecting them all – but is it their lives or their souls he’s taking care of? I guess we’ll find out soon enough!

  4. natalie

    there have been bibical references haven’t there all the way through..Tabernacle Road was another one a couple of weeks at go and Tabernacle is the portable residence of a divine presence during the Exodus.

    What about poor Chris.. where does he fit in.. why hasn’t he seen any stars? Will we found out more about him? Especially as he seems to have come under keats’ spell a little bit.. calling him as well as Gene Guv. Alex did dream of Chris, Ray and Shaz playing pass the parcel with the tin box didnt’ she?

    What is the significance with Football.. episode one had the ransom exchange at the Hammers Ground (and there was using the bible as a code for the message) and last night “I’m forever blowing bubbles “. that is the West Ham Song isn’t it? Plus the bouncing ball..and the reference to City and Man U last week. is this just a massive red herring too?

    Oh to next week!

    • Off on a LoM-related tangent, I was watching a programme about memory last week (narrated by the lovely Philip Glenister as it happens), made by BBC Manchester. The volunteers thought they were doing straightforward memory tests, but were also being set up as witnesses to a violent stabbing in a local pub. I’m guessing the pub is just round the corner from BBC Manchester – and it’s called The Railway. Can’t help wondering if it’s the inspiration for the Railway Arms…