As I said before, Mr Graham - you're a cheat. A great big, very naughty, awfully clever little cheat. And an old softie. And still excellent with the plotting and characterisation. In short, Mr Graham, I want an eighth of your talent.
But. It's kind of consoling to know, that for all of the considerable talents a writer like Matthew Graham has, he's not, actually, perfect. There was an over-reliance on repetition in this episode. And it annoyed me. If I never hear the phrases "god is in the details" and "perfect ten" again, it will be too soon.
I'm going to be a cheat too and copy and paste a lot of what I said at The Railway Arms, because it's 7.50 in the morning and I've been up all night, and really, I cannot be bothered to basically say the same thing in a different way, like I usually do.
I get the feeling this could well be the most controversial of all Life on Mars episodes, well - maybe not more so than the finale, but, hey, it'll give it a run for its money.
Matthew and his rug pulling.
On the one hand, I'm all aflail with how clever it was. Because it was smart. It was sneaky. It was brilliant in its evilitude. How do we give John Simm a rest from being in every scene? How about putting Sam on psychotropic drugs or having the 'real world' screw up his medication? And have him see scenes from other characters' points of view? Have it still be conveyed through the television on occasion, because that's familiar. Push the envelope, press at the boundaries, do something you've previously said you can't do. In other words - cheat.
So, there's the other hand. Production team - you're a cheater! How can you mess with the show we've come to know so well? What's with changing the format? That's not how it goes! This isn't Life on Mars, this is a different show, that bounces perspective! Huh?! Bad, show! Bad! No biscuit.
Okay, so maybe this other hand is tied behind my back, because when it comes down to it, I'm impressed. I'm really impressed. Because it is this show I know, and it's also not and really, I never thought we could get something like this from Life on Mars. I never thought we could have scenes without Sam. And suddenly, we could. It could all be complete fantasy - one great big drug trip - and it fits within the internal logic of the show.
A big, big kink of mine is seeing the same story from two perspectives, so seeing the boys' take on Graham's arrest and then Annie's take on it was all kinds of wonderful for me. Another thing I've always really adored is unreliable narration, so all instances of it (the whole episode), I was enjoying. Edgar Allan Poe eat your heart out. And then there's the twist at the end, which is a staple, and a favourite.
I have to admit, having already seen the Camberwick Green teaser, that first scene wasn't nearly as joy-inducing as I had predicted, although miniature Gene using the trashcan lid was really great. This is why I avoid spoilers, you understand. Because if I hadn't had any idea, this post would be one long CAPSLOCK OF GLEE. Because, yes, puppets! Claymation! Camberwick Green!
There are some fabulous details here. I loved a lot of the little glimpses we got to see within the madness. Chris and his moustache. Chris and the schoolgirls. Annie standing up to Gene. The general and continual awesomeness of Phyllis. There were the usual brilliant lines brilliantly delivered - such as "I haven't been to the pub for 36 hours" and the subsequent reaction, not to mention "And I ask again - only slightly louder - HOW?"
I do question some of the agendas raised. Sam, for instance, was not at all put out by the way Gene was treating Mitch Bathurst. Which, okay, Sam's not exactly behaving as himself, but this was still unsettling. There was a very pointed reference to torture there which made me uncomfortable and had me wondering about the Life on Mars take on police brutality --- more than I usually do. Because it glorifies it sometimes, and tries to undercut it the next. It's a complex issue, and I felt more disturbed than usual by it in this episode, with its shifting perspective and twisting plot.
Then we have the very obvious "they're useless without Sam" theme, which - if this is all in Sam's head, and all of the episode was from Sam's unsteady tripped out perspective - sure, makes perfect sense. But if, perhaps, what we get are some moments of true reality there - it shows Gene's number one team to be little more than incompetent buffoons without Sam, and that's not a balanced view of the situation at all. At some point, they must be getting something right. Sam, for all his loveliness, is not some kind of miracle worker. He shows the team different ways of doing things, but the point of Life on Mars, at least on some level, is that Sam's also supposed to learn something from the 1973 approach too.
Finally - Matthew's such a softie. Sam and Annie were really cute, and apparently Gene ships Sam/Chris (joking, joking.)