The thing with the last episode, that I have hinted at - is that it's all over the place - it's nowhere near as strong as it should be. The other thing is that, despite the fact the general audience appears to have bought it, the entire resolution is not exactly borne out of canon. That's the 'progression' thing I'm talking about.
A lot of the last episode working for me was due entirely to John Simm. He truly is a brilliant actor. He made it so real. The terror, the horror, the confusion. And without that - without his performance --- it would have been a completely laughable text. The confrontation scenes with Annie, Ray and Chris showed us the most clearly that Matthew used to work on a soap opera. They were overwhelmingly melodramatic - in that bad, false way, not the fun, awesome way. It's in Sam's head, so okay, that kind of makes sense --- but if he managed to come up with a character like Gene Hunt, you'd think he wouldn't skrimp on creating for himself a decent 'you betrayed us' scene. I was similarly not especially enamoured of Sam's wanting Annie to spend the night with him scene (although I think it's a brilliant representation of his repression that his fantasy girl turned him down - Oh, Sam.) It ended up redeeming itself for me, but as I was watching, I was frowning at the screen in 'urk' - and I like Sam/Annie.
Now, I'm going to talk critically about the ending I found so emotionally satisfying - you know, the one that made me literally weep with excitement and joy and vow to Matthew my soul. I might be a little bitter, because Matthew made the massive mistake of telling Ian Wylie his intention - and the writer's intention and the audience's interpretation very rarely see eye to eye. As it is, I had actually pegged what he'd intended straight away - but I loved the ambiguity of not knowing. Now I know. And as I said before, it doesn't work logically.
We needed to see Sam assimilating into '1973' more for the ending to completely hold up to scrutiny. Episode 4 - the one that I had thought was the 'strongest' in terms of character development - actually turned out to be the one that should not have existed - not the way Ashley wrote it. It was the perfect example of Sam needing to go back to 2007 forever. It was (partly) why I was convinced he was going to. And to be frank, I find that kind of manipulation downright devious. For it to be episode four of this second series is remarkably weak plotting.
Episode four was where it should have been clear that Sam was enjoying 1973 just a little too much, to make way for 'wahey, craziness' (with more emphasis on Sam thinking he was also on '1973' drugs) in episode five and then more stabilising in six and seven. In all of these episodes, we should have had Sam finding out about the Sam Williams connection - so that the graveyard scene could be the conclusion to episode seven, seeing episode eight's Sam a bundle of nerves and confusion, what with the 'operation'. Episode eight would then have included more of Sam in 2007, unable to fit in, feeling that he'd betrayed his friends - giving us more of his report (to set up Ashes to Ashes.) The internal consistency and pacing as it stands at the moment is not brilliant. In an effort to string along the audience, perhaps even pander to the fans, the writers of Life on Mars structurally weakened the entire series.
Things that were never explained, not even a little:
*Why 1973? Why - in those early stages - couldn't Sam change it to the eighties? Sam never really did resolve his issues with his father - so that was unimportant, in the long term.
*How did Sam create characters that are quite possibly more complex than him? Yes, the mind is a wonderful thing, but really? Frank Morgan was his surgeon (a still very creepy surgeon) - where did Gene come from? Annie?
*Does Sam like Dan Brown or not?!
Okay. I think my dissatisfaction is all over with now. As I said in my other, slightly more positive, response - imperfect perfection. That I am still talking about this - that I got so invested in the first place - is an example of all the ways Life on Mars got it right. To me, I still think it's fantastic television - an interesting and involved text. I knew it could never live up to the expectations placed upon it - and in some ways, it far exceeded them, so I cannot, in any way, dislike it for that.