Tag Archives: Gene Genie

Ashes to Ashes (3.8): A love letter to Gene Hunt

Two questions. One, how can a mere blog do justice to a proper thrilling TV event like the conclusion of Ashes to Ashes? And, two, did you guess correctly what was going on? Actually – make that three: Did you make it through without crying? Me, neither.

I’m sure I wasn’t alone in approaching this episode with some trepidation – we Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes fans have invested heavily (time, theories and emotions) over the past five years and if the writers fell at the final hurdle it wouldn’t just be disappointing now – it would devalue everything that went before (not to mention taking all the fun out of those DVD boxed sets).

I don’t know about you, but I take my hat off to Matthew Graham and Ashley Pharoah. They crammed the episode chock full of the things we love about LoM and A2A: the great, incomparable Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister in his finest hour yet), a daft TV reference (well done whoever made the papier mache heads of Alex and Gene for that It’s a Knockout run), wonderful Huntisms, spine-tingling tension and some serious chills too. If it wasn’t enough that we’re wrapping up five years of questions (well the most important ones anyway), we get a crime of the week too.

And the truths we’ve been hankering after? Gene tells the truth about Sam in a moment you might otherwise miss – the DCI sent him to get a pint in. It brings a whole new meaning to Last Orders, doesn’t it?

The policeman who’s been haunting Alex? Poor old Gene… a green PC who thought he was Gary Cooper in High Noon and was buried in a shallow grave back in the fifties. But from the moment Gene experiences his own weird TV flashback in Keats’ office, you know your heart is really going to get broken.

Philip Glenister has been the star of the show from Day One (if you don’t believe me, read the reviews of Harvey Keitel trying to wear the Gene Genie’s cowboy boots), but, boy does he blow you away here. The look of trepidation on his face as he drives onto the farm, the terrible, un-Gene-like look on his face as Alex uncovers, first, the bones and then the awful, awful truth. The poignant story-telling in the decrepit farmhouse. Who could blame Gene for forgetting his past, and that this world is a place where coppers go to sort themselves out?

Which answers another question – Ray, Chris, Shaz – they’re all dead coppers working through their issues. But who is Jim Keats? Some sort of demon determined to wrestle some souls into hell it would seem. If there was a line where Gene explained it, we’ll have to wait for the 100-minute version of this episode on the DVD extras I guess. We can only go on the heavy symbolism (Ray, Chris and Shaz being led downstairs for their ‘transfer’) and plentiful hissing noises emanating from Daniel Mays for now. I don’t know which I found more disturbing – Keats driving the Quattro back to London or him stroking Alex in his office. Both had my flesh creeping though.

Neither matches the horror of him leaving the death tapes for Ray, Chris and Shaz though (and let’s not forget the incredible performances of Dean Andrews, Marshall Lancaster and Monserrat Lombard here) or the manic insanity as he tears down the walls of the world. For all that, I love that the team’s love and loyalty is enough to repair the world – and that Alex can restore the Gene Genie to his full powers (and in time to solve that crime of the week).

Funnily enough, for all the revelations, it was the moment that the Dutchmen ‘killed the Quattro’ that really drove home that the end was nigh. Of course, the sight of the Railway Arms – and Nelson – really started the tears falling. And as Gene’s beloved team finally move on, bickering, Alex faces her final test, Gene finally gives Keats that smack in the face and Alex at last kisses that man… well, it’s a good job the tissues were close to hand.

And then, just when you think it’s all over (in every sense), in stumbles some poor sod looking for his iPhone…

So what am I taking with me to bed now? A satisfying explanation for five years of weirdness and the stand-out performance of Philip Glenister – from the vulnerability in the farmhouse to the full-on Armed Bastard. I’m glad that the Gene Genie lives (as it were) to fight many more days – even if we won’t get to see them. Thank you Ashley, Matthew, Philip, Keeley, Dean, Monserrat and John (not forgetting the rest of the cast and crew) – you gave us something wonderful and unique. The Quattro may be dead, but Gene Hunt will live on in our hearts for many years to come.

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Ashes to Ashes (3.7): And now the end is near…

Only in Ashes to Ashes could the funeral of a white-hat character be pretty much the most cheerful moment of the episode.

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.)

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Ashes to Ashes (3.5): Giving me the SHIVERS

Raaah… we’re back firing on all four cylinders this week. There was nothing average about last night’s episode – from Alex’s dream about the lovely Sam Tyler, to the improved quality of Gene’s one-liners (“Not going to shoot him Bols? Then let’s go and run him over…”), the look of terror on Ray’s face, Chris body-popping – when they’re good, they’re very, very good.

Life on Mars fans will remember DCI “Bastard” Litton (and Press Gang fans will remember Lee Ross). It’s a delight to watch the tension between Litton and Hunt (Alison Graham describes it beautifully as ‘like watching two polyester-clad stags’ and I just can’t do any better.) as the former turns up on the trail of Manchester comedian Frank Hardwick, accused of stealing two grand from the Police Widows’ Fund.

You can almost smell the testosterone and cheap aftershave coming off the TV screen  – despite Litton’s nasty grey ‘Next for men loafers’.

Gene, of course, quickly discerns that there’s more to this than meets the eye, and determines to ruin Litton’s day by catching Hardwick (the great Roy Hudd) and arresting him on trumped up charges for selling hardcore porn. Alex, disapproving turns up to arrest Hardwick for the theft instead and gets to meet Ben Elton. (Incidentally, I’d love to know exactly which facet of Elton’s personality or career pissed off the writer so much that not only did he get crunched by Gene, but fatally shot by our bad guy – my money’s on We Will Rock You.)

Kudos to the writers too, for demonstrating just how fine the line between Gene’s outrageous one-liners and Litton’s downright offensiveness is. How they have kept Gene from teetering over that line in all this time is frankly miraculous. I also liked the little line about troglodytes they gave to Shaz – “It means big, strong men from the north.”

More worrying is Keats’ offer to transfer Alex to Fenchurch East and Gene’s refusal to talk about what happened to Sam. I still have faith in the Gene Genie (I even have a theory for what’s going on now), but I worry that Alex will be lost by the end of episode eight if she doesn’t take the leap of faith that Gene describes to her.

Actually, I’m worried about them all now – the look of terror on Ray’s face at seeing the edge of the world reminded me of a great novel about near death experiences (Passage by Connie Willis – possibly the most frightening book I’ve ever read – highly recommended). And here’s my theory – they’re all dead already (or as near to dead as makes no difference in the case of Sam and Alex); Gene is the guardian angel of this world; and perhaps he despatched Sam because Sam was threatening the stability of the world. That they’re seeing stars could mean the world is coming apart again. Whatever the truth of this world is, I’m damn sure that is what Gene whispered in the ear of the bad man at the end of the episode.

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Ashes to Ashes (3.2): The posh bird and the bit of rough

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).

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Ashes to Ashes (3.1): More questions than answers

So, we have eight weeks to finally unravel what’s been going on in Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes, and we got off to a cracking start last night. From Alex’s new introduction – “My name is Alex Drake and frankly your guess is as good as mine” to our first sighting of DCI Gene Hunt – the Audi Quattro roaring across the screen to the Ride of the Valkyries, Hunt in full-on sheriff mode (it seeems Alex may harbour fantasies of being rescued from various types of badness by the Gene Genie too) – it was good to be back in Gene’s world.

Alex appeared to have gone back to the future… but it was only a dream – one she was literally slapped out of by Gene Hunt, who needed her to clear his name with D and C (Discipline and Complaints) after he accidentally shot her at the end of Series 2. Question one, what’s the significance of the news report of a body dug up in the present day?

Talking of D and C, here enters DCI Jim Keats – is he also from the future? He says he wants to help Alex, but is telling the truth? Questions two and three.

There is also the Case of the Week to solve – a little girl called Dorothy Blond has been kidnapped. Ray Carling has been running the investigation while Gene has been hiding out abroad (“the Isle of Wight. But that was shit, so I tried the Costa Brava.”) but with little success. Lucky for Dotty, Alex (yes, in red shoes) and Gene return to squabble, pull faces and eventually save the day.

Frankly it’s amazing Alex gets anything done however, what with being haunted by a dead policeman who seems to be missing half his face (Q4), stumbling on a file about Sam Tyler (Q5), and being subjected to her worst hairstyle yet.

But this isn’t really Alex’s show – I’m not sure I care whether she gets back to Molly anymore – the beating heart of the show is Gene. It may be the braggadocio and one-liners that go down in history, but it’s the vulnerability that we’re occasionally allowed to glimpse that stops him being a cartoon caricature.

The final shot of him through a rain-soaked window, whisky glass in hand, after Keats has vowed to expose his secrets and destroy his reputation, certainly pulled at my heart-strings, even as I did my best to ignore the seeds of doubt the dastardly writers have planted. Damn you Graham and Pharoah!

Still, having slept on it, my faith in the Gene Genie remains. I can’t wait to see what he makes of speed-dating next week.

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