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Gene Hunt. Cop Killer.

May 22, 2010

Update: It occurs to me now that although the writers knew the ending from before the first episode of Life on Mars, the revelation of the truth about Gene Hunt creates a logical flaw that effectively invalidates the whole of Ashes to Ashes. Look back at episode one and Alex Drake knew the identities of Gene Hunt, Ray Carling and Chris Skelton before she was shot through her research into Sam Tyler’s case, and it is just not plausible that she would not have known that each of them was already dead. She would have known the truth about Gene Hunt the moment she met him. She would have been confused, but it would only have taken a little while to figure out.

So Gene Hunt killed Sam Tyler after all.

Not with a gun, a tire iron, a knife or his bare knuckles, but with what he was best known for, his core essence, the sheer force of his personality.

The bad stuff and the good stuff, the man and the monster, the bastard-nailing hard-nosed bastard, immoral man of principle who might bludgeon you with his wit or with his fists, friend or foe alike.

A man who sucked dead or dying coppers into his own particular self-created purgatory, and by dint of the fierce loyalty he inspired, kept them there in ignorance (albeit unknowingly, for the most part).

So what looked like Sam Tyler’s story (Life on Mars) and Alex Drake’s story (Ashes to Ashes) was really all about Gene Hunt. In an interview, co-creator Matthew Graham (and writer of last night’s finale) said that had always been the case, right from the get-go. The specifics of the resolution of the stories (whether Sam and Alex would live and return to the present day, whether they would die, or whether they would commit to life with Gene) were undecided and up for grabs, but the over-arching story was already determined.

The focus on Gene Hunt only really came to the fore in series three of Ashes to Ashes, with the key dramatic question, did Gene Hunt kill Sam Tyler? And although at face value it seemed the answer was an emphatic No (and any doubts about our Gene were erased as we came to understand the significance of his final trip to the pub with Sam), on reflection the answer was a rather poignant Yes.

At the end of Life on Mars, we the viewer didn’t know whether the mysterious world of Gene Hunt was real or not. Hard to see how it could be, but Sam Tyler believed in it, so that it was oddly uplifting when he chose to reject the modern day and go back to Gene Hunt’s world – by throwing himself off the top of the hospital roof.

But now that we know the truth about Gene Hunt’s world, that decision is no longer uplifting, but is retroactively tragic, sad. The lure of Gene Hunt led Sam Tyler to kill himself. No more, no less.

How many other coppers has he lured to the same fate? We weren’t shown whether Ray, Chris and Shaz were killed outright or whether there was ever any chance that they might return to their real world. We know that Alex, like Sam, had a chance. But for Gene might she have made it back to her daughter?

I thought the denouement was terrifically well conceived and executed – but the truth does have certain uncomfortable ramifications which I’m not entirely sure were fully intended.

Still, here’s to the man, Gene Hunt, Cop Killer:

… and my personal favourite – “as nervous as a very small nun at a penguin shoot”.

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. Alex permalink
    May 22, 2010 5:40 pm

    Alex never had any chance to get back. She died at 22:06. As for Sam, that wasn’t gene’s fault he became depressed in the real world, and decided himself that he wanted to go back, but he knew what it meant killing himself. Also remember that his girlfriend had left him in real life, maybe he felt he had nothing left to live for. Gene helps them sort their issues before they die. The clues were all there, shaz stabbing someone with the screwdriver, chris shooting and ray’s army episode. Then they move on when the time is right.

  2. terraling permalink*
    May 22, 2010 10:14 pm

    Hi Alex

    thanks for your comments. You are probably better placed to answer than me because, as I admitted elsewhere, I dipped in and out of the show recently, I didn’t find it essential viewing week in week out, so may well have missed important things. But I must have seriously mis-read something if, over the course of 3 series Alex never had a chance of getting back. And as for Gene helping them on their way when the time was right, it seemed as if it was only the intervention of Jim Keats that forced the issue and compelled him to ‘release’ them after the truth had been revealed to them. And with Sam Tyler I never felt at the time that he thought he was killing himself, even though that’s what choosing Gene meant. And in any case, with hindsight, a pretty bleak ending to Life on Mars. I’d still maintain that the answer to the question “Did Gene Hunt kill Sam Tyler” is yes.

    As I say you’re in a better position to say than me, so please chime in with anything else you think relevant.

  3. Lindsay permalink
    May 23, 2010 12:11 pm

    Hi, you did miss something, but it was only made clear in the final episode – she died at 9:06 in the first episode of series 3, so for this series at least she had no chance of getting back. I only realised when she did – she made Keats show her his watch, which read 9:06 and she said something like “it’s always 9:06” and realised that was when she died.

    It dawned on me yesterday as well that Sam had actually killed himself. I chose to see it as a happy ending previously as we weren’t sure how ‘real’ Gene’s world was, but like you said looking back it is a sad ending now. Still not sure what I think of it all!

  4. Lindsay permalink
    May 23, 2010 12:16 pm

    Oh, and I meant to say that your update isn’t necessarily accurate – I don’t think she thought that Sam’s story had any basis in reality so she wouldn’t have looked into it. When I watched LOM though I always thought the first thing Sam would have done if he got back to the present was investigate whether there ever had been a real Gene Hunt. Suppose he was too depressed, but I really think his character would have done that!

  5. terraling permalink*
    May 23, 2010 12:25 pm

    Hi Lindsay

    I got the bit about 9:06 meaning that she was already dead throughout series 3, but she had a chance of returning throughout the first two series, no?

    Re: the logical flaw, or otherwise. I went back and checked the script for ep.1 of Ashes to Ashes and Alex knows Sam Tyler’s case so well that when she first meets Gene, Ray and Chris, she recognises Gene Hunt from what he says (“Today my friend your diary entry will read “Took a prostitute hostage and was shot by three armed bastards.”) before his name is even mentioned, and knows the identity of the other two just by their first names. She has such intimate knowledge of them, I don’t buy it that she wouldn’t have at least googled their names.

    Not that it really matters because it all seemed to make sense – and was hugely enjoyable – at the time.

  6. Lindsay permalink
    May 24, 2010 2:27 am

    I don’t know if she could have got back really – personally I was always frustrated with her ‘trying’ to get back, when she should have known from Sam’s case that nothing he did had an impact on him getting back, he was only pulled back when his future/present self recovered. So I think she could only have got back if she recovered and obviously she died instead. This kind of thing makes my brain hurt!! By the way, I misread what you wrote, didn’t notice you said across the whole thing, so sorry for the unnecessary 9:06 explanation!

    Maybe the cases were too old to have made it onto Google? Gene would only have been a missing person as well so possibly less coverage than a murdered copper, and Ray was a suicide. Not sure when Chris died, think it looked like 60s/70s? And maybe Gene’s files really have been destroyed, as Alex was told when she was trying to trace 6220? And maybe I should just stop thinking about it now!!

  7. Jack :) permalink
    September 10, 2010 12:24 am

    Maybe Alex and Good old Sammy were not met to come back to life at that all. I mean acrding the Copper God. It’s been made prity clear that Sam and Alex where special cases, thay could remader there old life and here people talking to them and all the others could not (Annie, Ray and Chris). What Do you think?

    • terraling permalink*
      September 10, 2010 8:23 am

      I’m not sure that there was that much logic to it, I don’t understand why Alex and Sam were special cases when the others seemed to be in the same purgatory-boat — it just suited the writers to tell the story that way.

      Fun anyway…

  8. Wayne permalink
    October 7, 2011 8:39 pm

    I saw the ending a bit differently, I saw it as more that Hunt was caring for the souls of police officers killed in the course of duty until they could come to terms with their situations, non of them were in Hunt’s world through heroic acts – Sam Tyler was in a hit and run, Alex Drake was shot, and the others were likewise involved in similarly ‘pointless’ acts.

    I’m not sure what the spiritual logic is, since I’m not at all a spiritual person, but stories going back centuries of peoples’ beliefs in ghosts being tormented souls, much of the LOM/A2A story fits with that. Sam wasn’t dead throughout LOM, which ties in with the beliefs of some that coma patients travel around outside the pjhysical body.

    We can assume that somewhere between LOM and A2A, both Sam and Annie became aware of their reality and passed over just as the entire cast except Hunt did at end of A2A. Annie is a key character in getting to the crux of the whole plot, in LOM she seems to be settled in her ‘life’ and trying to help Sam, but at the same time she was always looking for something and it seemed to be Sam that she expected to provide that, not necessarily that she was always in love with him but that she appreciated his 21st Century respect for her against the 70s sexism.

    Sam is mentioned throughout A2A because he is key to Alex’s storyline, but Annie is forgotten. At the top of this page, it is suggested that Alex’s recognition of all of the people from Sam’s story should have helped her work things out sooner, but that would only be the case if she had taken the time to look up the names in police records.

    I suspect that, just like Sam and Alex, the other regular characters: Annie, Ray, Chris and Shaz were from different times just like Sam and Alex, so even if Alex had cross-checked the names mentioned in Sam’s story, she probably wouldn’t have found officers with those names together.

    Hunt’s role is to allow police officers killed (or in Sam’s case) injured in action to come to terms with their circumstances – his own death had been the most pointless of all, being killed a week into his police career at the time, so you could argue that in the limbo between life and death he is being everything he could not be in life…

  9. mandy permalink
    July 19, 2012 12:35 am

    i found both lom and a2a very addcitive loved the 70s caes and dress sense in it and the 80s stuff ppl shouldnt look too much into the plot take it as it was a brilliant series wish there was more

  10. John Gee permalink
    August 15, 2012 9:39 pm

    Would be nice to see Gene being re-surrected as a token gesture to his helping the departed and being propelled into 21st century policing, you can imagine someone of his ilk with all the 1970’s sexism, slack practice and all the rest upsetting the apple cart, i know the producers wont do this but it would make for a hell of a sweeney/bill series, seeing as the bills now also dead and buried. We can but hope.

  11. Stewie permalink
    January 5, 2013 1:31 am

    No logical flaw, Alex didn’t investigate if there was ever a real gene hunt or ray Carling or chris skelton simply because she believed they were all psychological constructs. Do remember she is a psychology type of person, not a religious “Oh is this an alternative dimension”, Would you research if an imaginary friend existed?”, it’s only in ashes to ashes series 2 that her belief that the world was a shared hallucination with Sam Tyler became unsteady ground for her when she met martin summers, the guy from the same hospital.

    Again since when did “Investigating if figments of peoples imaginations were real people or not” become part of Alex’s 2008 job?

    Put yourself in her shoes just for a second….. before being shot and sent back to 1981 she has -just- picked up the report , it’s on her passenger seat, she’s been reading it recently…. she’s given it the once over, it’s not something she’s been obsessing about….where would she find the opportunity to do the research into the “Fictional constructs” sam tyler created…..It’s like me researching if there ever really was a “princess liea in a galaxy far far away”…..logic tells me outright that she is a fantasy character, so not worth investigating…. Alex no doubt felt that the inhabitants of sam’s coma world were exactly that… fantasy characters.

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