Ashes to Ashes will never be as good as Life on Mars. It’s a sad fact but one we can’t escape. It’s a sequel for starts, which automatically makes it less good than Mars. It will always feel like an inferior retreat no matter how good it gets. And it certainly got good this series.
After a hit and miss first series that saw modern day DI Alex Drake (Keeley Hawes) shot in the head and sent back in time to the 1980s where, like Sam Tyler, she finds herself working for that mighty dinosaur of policing DCI Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister), this series has the writers finally finding their footing and gave us the worthy spin-off that Mars deserved.
The first series centred around Drake’s quest to save her parents and get back to her daughter. Series two expands the scope onto the more complex topic of police corruption, a recurring theme in both Ashes and Mars. Corruption personified here in the form of Detective Superintendent Charlie ‘SuperMac’ Macintosh (Roger Allam), a character in the same vein as Captain Dudley Smith from James Ellroy’s LA Quintet, warm and friendly on the outside but rotten to the core.
However, Mac is not the main villain of this series. That would be the enigmatic Martin Summers (Adrian Dunbar), a bent copper who, like Alex, is also from the future. With the Bowie clown now retired, Summers becomes Alex chief tormentor and nemesis throughout the second series. But Summers is too enigmatic and mysterious to be a credible adversary to Alex and his storyline becomes tiresome after a few episodes only to explode back to life after he commits one hell of a head twisting paradox.
After that we get a betrayal from within the team that isn’t as earth shattering as it should’ve been followed by a cliff-hanger ending that defiantly is. If John Simm hadn’t decided to jump ship I’m willing to bet this is how the second series of Mars might’ve ended.
Despite a quality dip in the middle the second series is defiantly stronger overall than the first. Gene Hunt is no longer the cartoon caricature of the first series. He’s a changed man, old and if onlyperhaps a little bit wiser. Forced to fight corruption within his own department as well as criminal scum. Alex Drake has improved and become a less annoying character, while the new hairstyle make Keeley Hawes even more gorgeous than ever. In fact everyone is given substantial character development this series with the exception of Shaz (the ever adorable Montserrat Lombard), who continues to be underused to the point of criminal neglect.
But I digress. If the writers can maintain the same high standards for the third and final series next year than maybe, just maybe, Ashes to Ashes will finally be as good as Life on Mars.
Rating: * * * *