(A Matter of) Life (and Death) on Mars

Okay, that pseudo-clever title has already pretty much taken it out of me… Last night we watched the final episode of Life on Mars. There was definitely some good material in there, some very atmospheric bits – but on the whole, it struck me as a cop-out. They didn’t seem to have the courage to go with the ambiguity they’d evoked and instead ended on what felt like a reprise of the season 1 finale.

***Spoilers to follow! Don’t say I didn’t warn you!*** 

Sam’s decision to go back to, or stay in, 1973 by means of (real? dreamed? imaginary?) suicide was sold to us as the right decision, but that just doesn’t gel with Sam’s ambivalence (to say it mildly) about the past he was stuck in. He comes out of the coma (or not – there were hints either way, but nothing that suggests the writers really thought about it) and no longer feels at home in the 21st century? That’s okay: it makes sense, since he’s been in this other reality for so long, and it’s interesting for the character. But don’t try to tell us that the best of all possible solutions is for him to choose the immature, made-for-TV Boys’ Adventure that is Hunting with Hunt. Don’t dangle ambiguity in front of us and then say, “But it’s all okay, because 2007 means boring meetings about grey areas, but 1973 means driving too fast, beating up suspects and feeling good and manly about it!”

The sad thing is, the ending could have been much, much worse. It could have been much more hackneyed. But it gave in to the infatuation with Gene Hunt, as did Sam. And I guess that in the end, I felt that there could have been more to the series than “DI Tyler, or How I stopped worrying and learned to love that misogynist, racist, homophobic dinosaur Gene Hunt (and you can, too!)”.

Ah well. This means that now we can get started on Battlestar Galactica season 3. Yay!

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