When the motorised curtains fail to close around Viv’s coffin, Gene’s patience snaps and he stalks to the front of the chapel to tug them shut – and say sorry to his friend. Chris can’t help but see the funny side and stands in his pew giggling like a school boy. It doesn’t endear him to the DCI who is feeling his loss acutely.
Chris’s clumsiness at the wake has a ragged Gene snapping at him – not for the last time this episode. There are fans who weren’t impressed with Gene’s loudly proclaimed loyalty to Viv last week, perhaps they’ll be mollified by the neat little bit of backstory slipped in here – that Viv apologised to Gene when he first arrived in Fenchurch East from Manchester because all Northerners look the same to him; and that he promised to look after our Manc lion.
I’m sure it wasn’t just my heart that sank as Keats collared that roll of film from Alex – there can be no good that comes from that man. Although I’m glad to see that his taunting is water off a duck’s back to Gene now, and that Alex and Gene have the nasty piece of work a bit rattled – “Do you think this is a flirty game between you, me and Gene?” he snaps.
The rest of us are enjoying the flirty game however, as Alex ask Gene what he’s doing tonight. “Going to a revival of The Caretaker at the Royal Court,” he deadpans. When, unsurprisingly, this turns out not to be true, and Alex asks him out for dinner, the nation’s women swooned and once again wished themselves into her red pointy shoes. Even his declaration ” Got to warn you Bolly, first date, upstairs outside only…” is sweetly endearing. But there is much to get through before we can enjoy some serious chemistry between these two.
There is poor Chris – starting to feel the pressure both from Gene and the literal disintegration of the world. Is that whistle marking the end of the game, perhaps? There is much talk of final chapters, and fighting for our lives, there is the sheer terror of Ray and Shaz as the corridor fills with unexplained noise – all ratcheting up the foreboding and tension a few more notches. Will we find out what’s in the locked red cabinets? Or are they another red herring. (Is all the red stuff a red herring ? It wouldn’t surprise me if the writers were poking a little fun at us and our many theories.)
There is also the ANC cell and the accompanying history lesson. It’s easy now to forget that Nelson Mandela was branded a terrorist, that apartheid wasn’t just about inequality and racism – it was about brutality and terror, and that there was a time when an end to that terrible regime seemed unthinkable. I rather liked the mirroring of Tobias/Joshua (it’s that nice Lucian Msamati again) with Mandela’s journey from violence to peaceful protest too. Quietly done, with lovely performances from Msamati and Marshall Lancaster. Good work boys.
I can’t, of course, let the detective’s recreation of Zulu pass without mention. There, I’ve mentioned it. Please don’t ask me to do it again. I’m also wondering if I can get away with using Gene’s imprecation for a “bit of peace and bastard quiet” next time Hat Junior is driving me crazy. I’m guessing not…
And is there a clue in the fact that Keats didn’t call Gene on the phoney paperwork required to hand Tobias over to Special Branch (Gene: “I’d trust an estate agent before I’d trust Special Branch.”)?
But back to that chemistry, and that date. And Alex quoting W B Yeats to the Gene Genie (“Pam Ayres?” “No…”). As the man said, it was like a date with Leonard Cohen. It did, however, address the elephant in the room. We now know Gene’s version of the story of what happened to Sam – he had to get away, told Gene it was better he didn’t know the truth, and asked him to help him fake his own death. And this, added to the way Ray, Shaz and Chris conspire to keep their terrifying experiences to themselves has me seriously considering the possibility that this world exists to protect Gene.
But Ashes can’t answer a question without raising at least two more: what was Sam getting away from, and where is he now? They try to distract us from these by getting Alex to tell Gene to get his coat, he’s pulled, and then derailing this delicious moment with actual dynamite.
We rip quickly through the bombing of the South African embassy, Chris letting Tobias go free, Gene’s rage and violence towards Chris, the sombre mood in Luigi’s (“Pam Ayres was right, things fall apart”) to reach the important point of the story – Chris’s redemption – and the resumption of Gene and Alex’s date.
I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t love every minute of their encounter in her flat. Alex making him dance, her choice of music (True), his enquiry as to whether she has any Herb Alpert, seeing them so close, and so close to kissing… but the truth is that a kiss will ruin everything (unless it’s a kiss in the last minute and sends Alex home, and even then I’m not sure I’m going to like it). So, for once Keats’ timing is perfect – even if he is setting in motion the final reel of the story and sealing the fates of our beloved characters. After all, even Luigi’s going home – there’s no turning back now…
[A postscript – I saw the full-length trailer for next week while typing all this and it had my palms sweating. Never has TV felt so much like life and death…]
Posted by Jo the Hat