Life on Mars — S2 Ep1

While new science fiction or fantasy worlds are fun to explore, I like them best after they’ve been solidly established.  We have a general idea of the rules of the universe and who the characters are, and now the writers are going to start playing with the world.  We’ve hit this point in Life on Mars, so let the games begin.

The second season returns to some of the things we’ve seen in the first season, but now everything is cranked up a notch.

Whereas the first season’s first episode was about Sam solving a crime in 1973 to perhaps save Maya in 2006, the second season’s first episode sees Sam solving a crime in 1973 to save himself in 2006.  We’ve also seen 1973 Sam, in the first season, being effected by things done to reach him in 2006 (like strong smells and tastes).  Now, he’s being tortured in 2006 and it renders him very nearly unable to function in 1973.  (I mentioned before how well John Simm plays someone taking a punch.  This, too, is upped in intensity, as he’s now being hurt by something we can’t even see.)  And, in what is perhaps the best cranking up of the plotlines, Sam actually wins the game by using the fact that talking about being from 2006 makes him (and, by extension, the bad guy) sound certifiably nuts.

The most remarkable thing about this particular turnabout, though, is that it couldn’t possibly have worked in the first season, because the gang didn’t trust Sam.  Hell, Annie knows that Sam really believes he’s from 2006, but doesn’t speak up when the bad guy du jour is going to be packed off to a mental hospital for “insanely” thinking that Sam told him that.  Certainly Gene and Ray have also seen Sam saying crazy things, if not actually claiming to be from the future.  But when it comes down to a credibility contest between Sam and Tony Crane, everyone closes ranks behind Sam.

Life on Mars S2E1 -- Plant EvidenceNot only that, but we get the best evidence yet that, on that great continuum of policing, with proper investigatory procedures on one end and planting evidence on the guy you think did it on the other, Sam and Gene are closer than ever to meeting in the middle.  Hell, their positions are damn near reversed — although each one can scarcely believe what they’re doing — as Gene demands by the book investigation and Sam asks Eve to plant evidence on Crane.  There’s no denying that Sam and Gene have rubbed off on each other.

Not to mention that Ray is so competent (a huge improvement over his prior self) that he actually gets himself re-promoted back to Detective Sergeant.  By bizarre television logic that only makes sense if you don’t think about it, this opens up his recently-vacated Detective Constable position, and Sam gives the post to the most deserving police constable out there:  Annie.  You certainly can’t fault him for it; Annie has been stepping up all last season, and really took her performance to the next level here:  she cordoned off the scene on her own initiative; went through the evidence with another constable also on her own initiative; saved Sam’s life with the stinger; and (perhaps most impressive) stood her ground to interrupt Gene when she had evidence that could actually put Crane away.  Clearly, Annie deserves the promotion.

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