blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Life on Mars (2006) s01e03

It’s a good episode, with the most impressive element being the introduction of Lee Ross as the jackass cop in charge of anything involving firearms. Meaning Philip Glenister, John Simm, Dean Andrews, Marshall Lancaster, and the other guys without lines in the backgrounds aren’t supposed to be shooting things up. This episode indeed has the first shooting things up of “Life of Mars”.

Ross feels like he’s been annoying the entire show, even though he only gets introduced at the beginning of the episode; it’s just so well plotted it feels like he’s been around forever. It’s got a great conclusion with him too. I really thought he first showed up last episode but nope, they got all that established here.

“Life on Mars” uses its one hour so well.

The main plot is a major downer about the dwindling textile industry. There’s a murder at the mill, which in the future will be renovated into Simm’s apartment building—something no one in 1973 can believe anyone would want—and the victim was a known scab and they’re trying to unionize. There’s old man worker John Henshaw, who quickly becomes suspect number one even though he doesn’t appear capable of committing the crime; he just wants a better life for his son, Andrew Knott–or at least as good of a life. There’s some good, tough scenes with Simm interacting with them, knowing how British industry is going to go, and reflecting on the tragedy unfolding around him. It’s very well-done.

And makes up for the B plot—about Glenister and Simm having a bet whether or not Henshaw really did it; see, the only way for Simm to keep boss Glenister interested in the case and uncovering the truth is the bet. The episode takes strides in making Glenister more unconditionally likable, but it’s definitely baby steps.

There’s also a C plot about stolen guns, which involves Liz White investigating on her own (and now working for Simm), which is going to bring in Ross too. And then, obviously, more development on what Simm’s mission to the past might be; Simm has memory flashes with intriguing details. There’s also a scary sequence with the girl and her clown doll and the general thread Simm giving up in the past means his body’s giving up in the future.

Again, way too literal.

Otherwise, it’s a very well-plotted episode, even if the ending’s a little too trite. It focuses on Simm and Glenister’s working bro relationship, which is less interesting than the episode’s developments in Simm and White’s friendship. It can only go so far as Simm still think White is only in his head. Their relationship develops with them fully engaging with that situation, in another neat move of Graham’s script. The Glenister and Simm stuff is far more obvious, far less layered.

Different director than the last two episodes; this time it’s John McKay, who’s fine. Not as good as the last guy but fine.

Even with bumps, “Life on Mars” continues to be rock solid.

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