Life on Mars – S1 Ep8

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Then it all, well, goes to shit.  Sam believes, with absolute certainty, that he can get home if he just makes his father stay with the family.  He almost accomplishes it, too.  (While I generally adore John Simm’s performance, the way he yells, “Assume the position!” when he thinks he’s going back just annoys.)  But the stakes get impossibly difficult once he’s out in the forest and realizes exactly what his father is.  Because it isn’t just “make dad stay, improve my past, and go back to 2006” against “catching a two-bit crook who got in over his head”; now it’s “let a murderer leave, betray my identity as a cop, and never get back to 2006” versus “keep him here, make my past worse than it was, and go back home.”

And he lets his dad leave.  Honestly, I would have wagered against it.  We know Sam isn’t above a little rule-breaking in the name of a good cause, but this is serious.  Vic is the new crime lord of Manchester; he’s committed multiple murders and ruined countless lives.  Not only does Sam let him go, he lets him go at the cost of not getting back to the present.  And who is he willing to risk his identity and his future for?  A largely absent, largely worthless father who would have killed him moments ago?  Yes, but also for that man’s pretty blond wife and cute little son, who will go on thinking that Vic Tyler’s leaving was the worst thing he ever did, and will never even know the sacrifice Sam made to preserve their (mostly) untarnished memory of Vic.

It is here that the rule-bending wildness of 1973 in general (and Gene Hunt in particular) come to Sam’s rescue.  Had he pulled his weapon on a superior officer in 2006, it would have been a career-ending move.  That he does so in 1973 will result in little more than the first round of drinks being on him.

By the end of the episode, Sam: has solved the mystery of his dream; has “saved” his family by doing the exact opposite of what he thought he had to do; is no closer to getting back to 2006; and is off to the pub with his new colleagues.  What will the next season bring?

 

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