Life On Mars – S1 Ep7

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LOMS1E7LockerOh, I’ve been waiting for this since Episode 1 — Sam and Ray finally have the fight they’ve been building up to since they first met.  Ray has backed down in the past, but now that his career (and possibly his liberty) are on the line, he comes at Sam with all the raw locker-throwing power he can muster.  Our hero emerges victorious, of course, but not without picking up a few battle scars for his trouble.  But, yeah:  Sam knocking Ray down — it just feels so good.

I can’t really dwell on that.  The fight is great; Gene demoting (and publicly dressing down) Ray is even better; and the fact that Ray is responsible for actually killing a guy sucks.  But in terms of overarching story arcs, there is so much more going on here.

First, look at the opening scene.  Gene has sent Chris and Annie on a little undercover mission.  Annie.  I mean, sure, we’ve seen Annie in every episode, but she’s a uniformed officer whose only tasks around CID seem to be, well, whatever passes for “women’s work” in 1973.  (In this episode, it seems to have a lot to do with delivering food to the cells.)  So this looks to be a step up for her.

Then when Gene needs someone to go to dinner with, he picks Sam.  (Now, as it turns out, this was the wrong call, and Gene knows it.  Gene should have left Sam in charge of the prisoner and taken Ray to dinner.  Eating seems to be well within the range of tasks Ray can be called upon to safely perform.)  But look at it for what it is — just last week, it was Ray’s birthday party and Sam wasn’t invited.  This week, Gene selects Sam as someone to socialize with.  He lies, saying he wants to discuss police procedures — probably because it would look unusual to both Sam and Ray if he’d said he just wants someone to eat with.  But you can’t get past the fact that, at this particular moment in time, Gene is coming dangerously close to treating Sam as a friend.

Interesting, too, that Gene disparages the fact that Sam has taken him all the way to an authentic curry restaurant, but he slurps up the food with no complaint.

I’d almost say that Sam is rubbing off on Gene — that Sam is making Gene more open to Annie (and ethnic food) — but I think that may be giving Sam more credit than he deserves, and underestimating Gene.  Gene’s initial reaction is always to say no — to women cops, to Sam, to authentic Indian food — but it’s almost like that reaction is just for the sake of appearances, and he’s actually willing to give everyone (and everything) a shot and to judge them on their own merits.

And he’s a very good judge.  Gene ultimately takes responsibility for the cell death because, as he explains to Sam, he left “a weak man” in charge.  There’s a compliment in there (which Sam doesn’t even acknowledge).  Gene knows that Sam is not a weak man.  His strength is often what drives Gene up the wall (as it can look suspiciously like pigheadedness), but Gene ultimately values it.  In fact, Gene relied on it — knowing that Sam wouldn’t let the investigation go when he kicked Sam off the case.  (It was some fairly advanced manipulation on Gene’s part — first giving the job to Sam when Sam said he’d leave if there was no investigation; then sending him away as soon as Sam genuinely started investigating.)

LOMS1E7WeakRayGene is right about Ray:  he is a weak man.  If you want to know how weak, just take a look at what happens after Sam plays the tape for Gene in front of everybody.  Phyllis says it’s her fault; she  shouldn’t have been asleep.  Annie says it’s her fault; she should have called a doctor.  Chris takes the blame as well, saying they all messed up.  Gene takes responsibility for leaving Ray in charge.  Who doesn’t take responsibility?  The guy who actually forced cocaine into the suspect with a weak heart.  Everyone else steps up, everyone — and Ray just offers excuses.  Weak.

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