Ashes To Ashes: Series Two

Ashes To Ashes: Series Two


Reviewed by: Stephen Carty

For most of us who (rightly) loved the quite brilliant Life On Mars, the first series of spin-off Ashes To Ashes wasn't in the same league. The atmospheric yet funky Seventies were replaced by the naff-feeling Eighties, Philip Glenister's Gene Hunt went from perfectly-drawn icon to a neutered God-like figure and Keeley Hawes' snobby protagonist wasn’t near as relatable as John Simm's superb everyman. Throw into the mix that the mystery wasn't actually mysterious since Mars had already provided the perfect finale and it seemed that Ashes' only reason for being was to revisit the Gene Genie.

But still, here we are for a second Quattro firing-up stab. Still mysteriously stuck in 1982 after being shot, DI Alex Drake (Hawes) now also has to help boss Gene Hunt (Glenister) combat the ever-growing corruption in CID. Meanwhile, Chris (Marshall Lancaster) asks Shaz (Montserrat Lombard) to marry him, Ray (Dean Andrews) contemplates leaving the force and a mystery man (Adrian Dunbar) claims he knows how Alex can get back 'home' to the present day.

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Thankfully, creators Ashley Pharoah and Matthew Graham deliver an improved second series that has more recurring plotlines and less irrelevant crimes of the week. For sure, there's still lots of plodding self-contained yarns to distract us from the more interesting mythology, but even the 82-set storylines have a few ongoing threads (rising police corruption, Chris’ upcoming nuptials, Ray's growing disillusionment) to keep us hooked.

Having clearly taken the harsh (and somewhat unnecessary) criticisms of series one to heart, Hawes tones down the condescending 'you're all constructs in my mind' babble and is a tad more likeable for it (though she still says things that would have her dismissed as crazy way too often). While Lombard's Shaz is mostly confined to the sidelines as the impossible-to-please fiancée, both Lancaster and Andrews grab the chance to make the most of the emotional material handed their way (particularly in ep seven, the show’s best yet).

And what of Gene? Well he's still not Mars Gene (both Manchester and 73 were key to him), but Glenister remains fantastically watchable as he barks out brilliant lines like "this motor's more a part of me than me own ball sack!" while showing fleeting glimpses of hidden inner-depths. Though his nickname for Drake seems overused at times (he christened her DI Bollynickers last year) it also fits into some nice quotes: “You’re looking very chirpy Bolls, you been sitting on the washing machine again?”

It might still not be a patch on its predecessor, but the second series of Ashes To Ashes is a welcome improvement. Plus, with a clever, game-changing final reveal (seriously, who saw that coming?), the third season looks like a surprisingly intriguing proposition…

Reviewed on: 14 Jun 2009
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Director: Catherine Morshead, Ben Bolt, Philip John

Writer: Matthew Graham (2 & 8), Ashley Pharoah, Nicole Taylor, Julie Rutterford, Jack Lothian, Mark Greig

Starring: Philip Glenister, Keeley Hawes, Dean Andrews, Marshall Lancaster, Montserrat Lombard, Adrian Dunbar, Roger Allam, Geoff Francis, Grace Vance

Year: 2009

Runtime: 280 minutes

Country: UK


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