The final episode of Ashes to Ashes isn’t just that. It’s the end of a saga which began away back when Sam Tyler woke up in the 70s in Life On Mars, so there’s a lot hanging on the episode. There are questions everyone wants answered – who is Gene Hunt? Where is Alex Drake? What is Jim Keats up to? Do we get the answer to these questions? Well, yes. The finale of Ashes to Ashes will have some kicking themselves, some smugly nodding and saying “see! I told you!” and some scratching their heads.
Above all else though, this is a typically split story of the case-of-the-week and the Ashes mythos, but as the episode continues it becomes apparent that these aren’t necessarily two different things. “We’re coppers,” Drake reminds Hunt, “This is what we do.”
It begins in filmatic style. No title music, no intro “My names Alex Drake…” stuff, but straight to it, with the team investigating a gangland slaying. This is very Sweeney, and leads them to diamond smugglers and Dutch (or Hollandaise as Ray puts it) gangsters. It’s a high profile case which Gene, in his customarily friendly racist way invites Interpol to get involved in.
But this case ends up being the charge of Ray with Chris and Shaz as Alex is distracted by images of a shallow grave in an abandoned farm in Yorkshire, so much so that she has to go there. Closely followed, unbeknown to her, by Gene.
As Ray takes centre stage in a daring sting operation, Keats scuttles around in his usual Dionysian manner, whispering into their ears and, more importantly, leaving them their bespoke videos to watch. He also completes his report on Gene, a large box with a very significant something in it.
Keeley Hawes is fabulous in this episode as an every despairing Alex, and her revelation of who exactly is in the shallow grave, as well as her final fate, is heartbreaking. Dean Andrews, Marshall Lancaster and Montserrat Lombard manage to hold centre stage too in their scenes as each discovers who and what they are in terrifying and soul destroying videos, and have a shared “Life on Mars” moment as the revelations sink home.
Daniel Mays Jim Keats finally gets to reveal his true colours when Gene confesses all to a heartbroken Alex, and he is terrifying. Slick, convincing and friendly but also unhinged, desperate and hungry. His collapse into a feral state in the denouement is very creepy. His scene at the elevator echoes many a great horror movie. Red, those elevators are…
But the episode belongs to Philip Glenister as Gene Hunt, who conveys all the foibles and flaws of Hunt along side the brave stoicity (is that a word?) that his character fully deserves. His reason for being there too is heartbreaking and Glenister managed to convey this with only his eyes as Hunt’s stone scowl barely moves. His acting though when he pulls a gun on Alex at the graveside “Tell me it’s not Sam, Guv,” she pleads, is fabulous. A man lost. And found.
And so to what’s exactly been going on in Ashes To Ashes. Who is Gene Hunt? Do we find out? Yep. And where they are, and who they ALL are. Do they turn their back on the Guv? Well, yes they do, for a while, but Ray says it all as they stand outside the Railway Arms with a familiar face beckoning them – all – in “You’ll always be the Guv to me,” he says. “You’re in danger of getting gay on me, Raymondo,” Hunt replies.
That’s all I’m saying. I’m not going to spoil it for anyone who’s read down to even here. If you WANT to know what’s going on, then PM me, I’ll tell you. It really is a very satisfying although very heartbreaking finale and a fitting end to the universe. Fire up the Quattro? Well, in this episode, they do just that. Sort of.
I for one am going to miss Gene Hunt, but when the strange man bursts into his office at the end shouting about offices and iPhones, the look on Gene’s face says it all. He puts down the Mercedes manual and opens his door. “Oi, mush,” he barks. “A word in your shell-like”.
Fire up the Mercedes, perhaps?