Life on Mars — S2 Ep6

LOM S2 E6 featured

Every episode of Life on Mars begins with Sam’s narration that maybe he can get home.  By now, with the series about to wrap up for good, you might be starting to question if Sam even wants to get back home–or, rather, if you want Sam to get back home.

Sad Maya faceUntil now, my answer has always been “yes.”  I mean, I know that Sam is really starting to love the job in 1973, and he’s definitely got feelings for Annie.  But I also know that Sam has a girlfriend back in 2006, Maya.  I’d be pretty ticked if Sam decides to stay in 1973, remaining in his 2006 coma forever, leaving Maya grieving at his bedside, unable to move on.  Besides, I’m a bit of a romantic, so I want to see Sam happily reunited with Maya.

This episode is for me and people like me.  Because, while it is nominally about heroin and racism, what it is really about is Sam and Maya letting go.

Indeed, were it not for the bits about Maya, it would be wholly unmemorable.  Even with the Maya story, it still ranks down there as my least favorite Life on Mars episode.  Racism?  OK, sure, we haven’t seen it directed toward the Ugandan Asian population (check this wikipediastory if you need a quick history lesson) before, but we’ve certainly seen it through many other episodes.

Taking matters in hand

Gene interrogating a suspect

Gene letting a crook handle the smaller crooks?  We’ve seen that too, back in episode four of the first season, when Gene not only lest Stephen Warren run the town, but ultimately learns what a bad idea that was.  So seeing Gene allow drug dealer “Toolbox” to take care of other drug dealers seems like a giant step backwards for him.  The Gene of a whole season later wouldn’t turn a suspect over to Toolbox — even if Toolbox can do something as memorable (and downright ridiculous) as torture a guy with a hungry ferret.  Why on earth is Gene surprised when Toolbox turns on him and the rest of his crew?  The answer is either that Gene has forgotten everything he’s learned, or sloppy writing.  I prefer to think it’s the latter.

Even the Maya plot suffers a bit from sloppy writing — in that Sam doesn’t recognize Maya’s mother.  Admittedly, she’s given Sam a fake name, which throws him off at first.  But you’d think that he’d have seen some pictures of her as a young woman, or known something about her story, so that a bell or two of recognition would go off.  (Hell, at some point, Maya must have told Sam her father’s name, but Sam doesn’t recognize that either.)

Life on Mars, S2E6 - ultrasound of baby MayaBut there is some beauty here, too.  When Layla is talking about how the brothers feel like exiles in Manchester, Sam says, “Whichever strange place you find yourself in, make that your home.”  It’s a bit on the philosophical side, but we know Sam is talking just as much about himself.  Or is he?  While he’s saying that to Layla, he’s still trying not to lose Maya in 2006, and wants to return to her.  It takes Sam seeing little Maya on the ultrasound to realize that he has to let her go.

And I can’t help adoring Sam painting the white supremacist white–it’s a great little piece of revenge, and it’s the sort of thing 2006 Sam, he of proper police procedures, would never do.  2006 Sam would treat all citizens, even scumbags, with respect.  1973 Sam has the freedom to let loose on a suspect, and it feels good.  Maybe he has made this place his home.