blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Life on Mars (2006) s02e05

It’s a Matthew Graham episode, where he definitely goes far in showing I was right to dread Matthew Graham episodes.

After a delightful claymation opening, John Simm wakes to a phone call from the station. They need him there ASAP. He’s been out a day sick, which we’ll later find out is closer to two days. Why’s he been sick? They gave him speed in the future. He gets messages from his doctors who address him directly, except there’s no continuity between the doctors. The O.D. manifests in coma-land like a common cold, though there’s eventually an explanation for it, which also has Simm gaining the superpower of being able to flashback into a character’s story if they touch him.

But only for the stuff he’s missed since being out sick because I’m pretty sure he touches the killer and we don’t get a flashback to the crime.

The superpower goes away when Simm gets better, but it’s interesting to think what they could’ve done with Simm getting level ups in the Matrix and having it matter to the story instead of it just being a way to fill time and dump exposition.

The emergency is civilian Reece Dinsdale threatening to hang himself in the police station unless the cops release Adam Beresford from prison. One year before there was a murder case and the coppers had a fast, guaranteed result with Beresford. Only when Philip Glenister tells it to Simm as part of a narrated flashback exposition dump—not sure why Simm didn’t just touch him for a segue—it’s obvious Glenister banged the kid up and made him plea when he wasn’t guilty.

Only the show doesn’t ask the viewer to acknowledge it until much later in the episode, which doesn’t say a lot for Graham’s trust in his target audience.

There’s some funny flashbacks with Marshall Lancaster having a mustache. Glenister has an okay arc; he’s convinced Beresford’s guilty and resents Simm’s distrust in him. It’s a very simple kind of character development, but it’s something. Like, Glenister’s better than the script and makes it happen.

Liz White gets to do a bunch of the actual investigating—Simm spends a large portion of the episode unconscious but able to watch the goings on with his fellow coppers; so he’s in a coma imagining he’s unconscious in a false reality while then observing that false reality without interacting.

Did the better directors on the series just make it all seem less pedestrian in the gimmick, I wonder. Andrew Gunn does an all right job but it’s not anything special.

Nice use of Roxy Music, which figures into the subplot where Simm uses the information he mind-read from White to ask her on a date. It’s okay because he’s just imagining her.

Anyway. Good support from the suspects and victims this episode. There are more than usual—four or five fairly active ones—and they’re all quite good. “Mars” doesn’t often rely on a set of usual suspects, but it clearly could if it wanted.

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