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Headscratchers / Ashes to Ashes (2008)

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In the first episode, Alex mentions everyone from Life On Mars excepts Annie but no-one mentions Annie. Did Sam never mention her?

  • I get the feeling Annie's going to turn up later.
    • Whether or not it's Canon is debatable but Annie gets killed off in a short story posted on the BBC webpage.
  • Annie finally got a mention in season 2, when Jackie confirmed that Sam and Annie married, and that they were "the happiest couple you ever saw".
  • Keats mentions her in 3.08, though he says that his "office" can't trace her. It's implied that she and Sam got to be Together in Death.

Also from the first episode...

Alex takes whoever's word on Sam being there for seven years. Why does she so easily and without questioning accept the word of someone that she is so convinced is a hallucination?

Chris provoked to upchuck by maggots? Srsly?

Look, writers: I know Marshall Lancaster is adorable, and DC Chris Skelton's lovable naivete is a great source of comic relief, but: as of mid-1982, he has been a detective for at least ten years. (He was on the 1972 investigation of the teenager killed in the "Camberwick Green" episode of Life On Mars, albeit as a rookie.) He should not be vomiting uncontrollably at the sight of a dead rabbit. Come on, writers: this strains credibility just a tad.
  • Except Chris isn't real. He's imagined by Sam and Alex. The 1982 of Ashes to Ashes isn't genuinely connected to 1972. It's not 1982 because ten years have passed. It's 1982 because Alex is younger than Sam. This is also why there's a huge tonal shift between the two series, as each of the models their idea of policing in the time the shows are set on the cop shows that were on TV at the time.
    • That's your epileptic tree, not necessarily canon, and it's not a satisfying excuse for lacksadaisical writing. On topic, some people genuinely don't toughen up or grow like that; it's a bit of a case of Reality Is Unrealistic.
    • Except Chris IS real. 3x08 leaves you in no doubt of that. The reason he's still puking over maggots is likely because he was barely even a copper at the time of his death.
  • Further to Reality Is Unrealistic above; Some people have phobias. Most people know somebody who freaks out at the sight of a spider; maggots are less common, but this troper knows one person who is so disgusted by them that they can't even look at a picture of a maggot without feeling unwell. Also, when Chris is going to a crime scene, he knows it's a crime scene and has time to steel himself; when he finds the rabbit, he has no warning whatsoever.
  • Also, it could have been the smell, not the sight. The rabbit was dead long enough to have collected maggots, after all, and rotten meat is pretty foul.

About The Unreveal of 3.05:

If Gene didn't remember his role as a psychopomp for dead coppers with issues, what on Earth did he say to Bevan to make him sob and whimper like that?
  • Perhaps his face changed to Dead!Copper and scared the crap out of Bevan.
  • Gene isn't entirely unaware of his status as a psychopomp though. He chooses not to remember a lot of it, presumably for the sake of his own sanity, but he is aware of it at some level. Presumably with Bevan he chose to stop forgetting enough to tell Bevan and then afterwards went back to his choosing to forget.

Regarding the ending...

If the final episode is to be believed, then how could Sam and Alex have seen Annie and Gene when they were children?
  • Word of God is that Alex was rescued by a real copper, but that the fact that she saw him as Gene could have been a premonition/foreshadowing of the protective role that Gene would have in her (un)life. Sam is still anybody's guess, though many fans are floating the idea that Vic Tyler kicked Annie to death and that memory is why Sam has the flashes of the woman in the red dress i.e. Annie.
    • I always took Gene taking young Alex's hand to be just the afterlife universe overwriting her real memories. (as is seen more later on in the Series 2 and 3) And if the woman in the red dress really is murdered and really is Annie, it's arguably Fridge Brilliance as that seems exactly the kind of trauma that could get coppers sent to Gene's world. You could even say that Annie's relationship with Sam is her version of 'making peace', like Shaz, Chris, and Ray do, with their death and in her case the Tyler family (from what we know of his character, Vic probably only became a crime lord because he wanted to give Sam a better future than a cleaning supplies salesman could give). It doesn't matter that Vic couldn't attack Annie in Gene's world, because we know it's not really time travel and it's not the same timeline.

How did some characters in Sam's world re-appear in Alex's world?

I understand that Gene Hunt transferred to London, but what's with Ray and Chris? Wouldn't they still be back in Manchester (or at least not in London)? Or do they just go wherever Gene goes? Or did they all re-unite by chance?
  • It seems like Gene makes the rules in Dead Copper Purgatory, and until you come to terms with your death, you can't move on. Gene went to London because he was needed in London. Chris and Ray hadn't resolved their issues yet, so they went with him.

Where do they go if they die?

Well, they're already dead and in purgatory, so what would've happened if Gene's bullet had actually killed Alex, for example, or if she hadn't revived Shaz after she was stabbed? Would they have just moved on to the pub, or gone to hell, or would their souls have just been erased completely? Or can't they actually die in Gene's world unless Jim takes them (like Viv) and will always end up being rescued just in time? Actually, while I'm on it, what would've happened if Chris had really been fired in 3.04, or if Shaz had gone through with her decision to quit? Inquiring minds want to know.
  • If you got fired you probably ended up like poor Viv, this is the last chance saloon for coppers souls after all. You get to fix whatever it is you've not dealt with, fail to fix and that's it. Quitting would probably result in a trip to the pub. You've dealt with your issue, you aren't a copper anymore and its time to move on. Getting killed, I suppose it depends how you get killed. If it is by going against the coppers code, then it is probably a trip downstairs, or if it is in line of duty you probably moved on (or just started again in another squadroom, like a series of russian dolls).

Who was "The Missus"?

Ok, so in reality it seems pretty clear that The Unseen wife of Gene Hunt was largely there as a joke in Life On Mars and got written out of this series so Gene and Alex could have Unresolved Sexual Tension. But given the reveals, it's interesting to wonder: Did she exist at all? If so, was she a lost soul like Alex et al, or one of the imaginary people that it seems (?) most of the population are, possibly including all those in Gene's team who never get any lines. The latter seems a bit strange (are those people "real" enough to marry?), but the former would presumably imply she was in the police, which also seems doubtful. Gene having been married seems much more interesting in light of Keats mocking him for always being alone.
  • I took the Missus as being a part of the grizzled middle-aged copper identity that 19-year old Gene Hunt took on, since a wife and an unexciting marriage largely irrelevant to his duties is something a middle-aged copper in the 1970s would have. The reason she isn't seen could be because Gene's life literally consists of his duties as a policeman. This would also nicely explain her "leaving him", also part of the bitter, grouchy old copper fantasy. Which, incidentally, allows him to have a more exciting, if caustic, relationship with the real Alex.

With what we know about the unreal nature of Gene's World from Ashes to Ashes, how can the Casino owner in Life on Mars be explained?

In Life on Mars (I forget which episode), a dirty Casino owner/crime lord that Sam knows from 2006(?), tries to kill him in the hospital. Sam remembers making a watertight case against him after he kills his wife Eve, and he was set to be sent down when Sam goes into a coma. Sam manages to have him declared insane in 1972(?) through some hijinks after telling him about the future, and he then hears nurses talking about the person who attacked him in the hospital being a lunatic kept there since 1972(?). At the time it seemed that Sam had altered the future through his actions in the past, but since we now know from Ashes to Ashes that he was not time travelling but was in Gene's world, and could not affect the future because he wasn't in the real world, it stands out at the most significant plot hole in the duality, in a universe that is otherwise surprisingly well wrapped up (considering the complexity of the story).
  • This is fairly obviously a case of hallucinations within hallucinations; he simply imagined the comment about him being a lunatic Or alternatively The guy was allways a lunatic, and Sam inadvertantly Tricked Out Time

Why was Shaz in the 1980s in the first place?

In the finale, it's revealed that she died in 1995, or thereabouts. Considering everything else we find out in that episode, it seems a bit odd that she was sent back in time, instead of dealing with her traumatic death in a 1990s world. There didn't seem to be any previous unfinished business linking her to the early 80s. Wouldn't it have made just as much sense for the plot to just have set her death in around 1980?
  • Shaz was 22 in 1995, if Wonderwall is to be trusted, making the 80s her childhood - like Sam and Alex, she went back to when she grew up. Weirdly, this makes her about the same age as Alex. More practically, she serves as a demonstration that they weren't the only ones to go back in time when they died.

Why did Ray go to heaven?

In "real-life" he 1) beat a guy to death due to his own frustrations. In Life on Mars he 2) tortured a teenager to death in police custody by forcing him to take cocaine, and tried to cover it up - attacking Sam in the process, 3) was a misogynistic, racist, homophobic thug throughout the entirety of Life on Mars and was just a general Jerkass all round to Sam and most others. In comparison Viv smuggled a gun into a prison in an attempt to get his brother freed from his sentence, which is admittedly a fairly heinous crime (if still done for altruistic reasons), but he was also the only officer who protested against beating a restrained suspect to death. So in comparison to Ray seemed like a more "good" person, but is immediately condemned to hell after one mistake. Ray on the other hand doesn't seem to have done anything to redeem himself, other than maybe being less aggressive during Ashes to Ashes.
  • He goes to Gene's world, like they all do, which is Purgatory, to be given a chance to redeem himself by becoming a better copper and a better man. Which he does.

The ideological leanings of the RWF make no sense.

Shaz says they claim to be anti-revisitionists (which would mean they'd subscribe to some variety of Stalinism, Maoism, or Hoxhaism), but in her opinion they're actually Trotskyists. However, the RWF lady who ends up discussing feminism with Chris is clearly using rhetoric straight out of critical theory, which is associated with the Marx-influenced Frankfurt school, and is normally dismissed as revisionism by most Lenin-influenced Marxist circles - meaning she is almost certainly not an anti-revisitionist, a Trotskyist, or any kind of Marxist-Leninist at all. If she is a Marxist, she's a Western Marxist and probably views Leninists as authoritarian class traitors. The RWF are pure strawman so Rule of Funny probably applies, but in-universe either the political science of Marxism makes absolutely no sense or Shaz was just talking bollocks.
  • It's likely a case of the writers simply not bothering to do much research on leftism and assuming that all leftist schools of thought are virtually identical, just with different names.