Review: Ashes to Ashes. The finale.

Television And so the finale of Ashes to Ashes was broadcast tonight bringing to a close five years worth of drama begun in Life on Mars. As expected it was a brave, exciting piece of storytelling and if I was slightly disappointed because it didn’t go for the genuinely life affirming happy ending of Alex awakening and being reunited with her daughter (why do so many dramas always have to be so bittersweet?), it did manage to resolve the story in interesting and surprising ways and provide a satisfying conclusion to Gene Hunt’s story too even if closing on a close-up of his face rather than Alex's seemed to be a shade too much like the Star Trek: Enterprise approach (I'll leave that reference hanging).

Across this series, the actors have been gifted a near impossible task by the writers, charting the development of their characters growing self-awareness whilst simultaneously indicating the seeping in of the attitudes of their respective times with Ray in particular reverting to his more racist and sexist earlier state. With this final episode, Dean Andrews, Marshall Lancaster and Montserrat Lombard were finally able to shed their stereotypical characters and give them real depth with Shaz's breakdown in particular a heart stopping moment. Arguably it's been more of an ensemble piece than before, with Shaz especially gaining in strength as Alex broke down though it's to Keeley Hawes's credit that Drake still went into that good night/smoke filled pub with dignity.

Matthew Graham has given an interview to The Guardian explaing the symbolism of that pub and much more besides (the Metro has an even more succinct version). You probably won't believe this, because I didn't bother to post it here so can't quote it as proof, but the explanation of the world and Gene Hunt's place within it was exactly as I guessed it would be at the close of the first/third series. The differences were that I thought Hunt was just as metaphysical a figure as Jim Keats turned out to be and that the only copper that was being helped along was Sam and then Alex with everyone else a construct or indeed a "figment" as she described them for much of the first season. That would explain why it seemed to continue to exist when Sam wasn't there at the close of series two.

Some questions were still left dangling. Are all of the police officers in this world like Ray, Chris and Shaz including the crazy perm guy who looks like a stereotypical 80s copper? The new Skip's blank reaction to Ray's new gun suggests that they're not, just key figures like Viv (who it seems was sent to hell by Keats). In which case why are some of them like Sam, Alex and the iPhone guy aware of the change in location and time but not others, including for all those years, Gene? Was Gene's story about were he sent Sam (and Annie?) during his date with Alex his sub-subconscious's way of rationalising the real truth of them going to the pub? Is their heaven an eternal lock-in were the final round is never called? What if you don't drink?


  1. Brave, brave ending to have Alex move on rather than return to real life. Unlike you, I wasn't disappointed by this aspect at all, and in a way it seems more appropriate. After all, they can't all return to life like Sam Tyler.

  2. Yeah, I'm with Graham on this. An excellent ending to the series - glad I still have Life on Mars to watch, even though I know how it ends!!

  3. Oh don't get me wrong, I wasn't disappointed. I thought it was a brave and interesting way to end the series and entirely logical in relation to Life on Mars. I was just registering the fact that it's very common these days for this kind of drama to have a downbeat ending.

  4. I actually thought Ray's revelatory moment was far better; beautifully understated and quite heartbreaking. I was nearly in tears.

    And Gene Hunt headbutting the devil? The writers deserve some sort of award for that.

  5. Anonymous12:00 am

    I think this series made it clear that the longer you are in this constructed world, the less you remember about your real life. Indeed, where previous series had Alex wanting to get back to Molly in every episode, there are really only a couple of mentions of Molly this season - and they are quite oblique in comparison. So presumably Gene, Ray, Chris and Shaz have been there so long, they have forgotten - Gene, in particular, is repressing the truth because he's so active in maintaining the fantasy. Which is understandable, since the way he died there was no way he could go back to that life. It's believable that the others could have survived their wounds - though they (probably) didn't.