Life on Mars — S2 Ep8

LOM S2 E8 featured

So, to the luscious tones of “Life on Mars” (following the surprisingly not-heavy-handed  “Over the Rainbow”), Sam goes to the top of the building, and (with no Annie to stop him) takes a running leap back to Oz.

I wonder if you’re actually able to plan a jump so that you hurt yourself badly enough to go into a coma, but not so badly that you kill yourself.  At first, I speculated that Sam’s return to 1973 actually happens in that split-second moment between when his head hits the pavement and when it splatters on it–but his subconscious expands that moment to infinity.  If that’s what goes down, I am happy with it.  (And when Sam eventually turns off the radio saying that they are losing him, it seems to support that sort of interpretation.)  Even if all of it is just in his head, even if he’s dead now, his essence (call it a soul, if you like) is back in 1973, going on endless investigations with Gene, Ray and Chris (who, like always, are quick to forgive), and finally, truly accepting Annie’s invitation to “Stay.”  In Brazil, Terry Gilliam made a movie in which the protagonist going insane is a happy ending.  Here, the protagonist commits suicide, and it makes me smile.

Life on Mars, S2 E8 -- Happy Ending

Sam gets everything he wants

But there is more than that; there is one last trick up the writers’ sleeves:  Test Pattern Girl.  This child has been the symbol of everything creepy in this show.  She is the human personification of Sam being split between the two worlds; she knows exactly who he is, what his doubts are, and how to mess with his head.  She is scary and not-at-all well-meaning.  But all of sudden, she’s now just a girl, giggling and playing in the street.  As her very last supernatural act, she reaches out and turns off the TV, which turns us off, and our window into 1973 disappears.

I can point to no actual evidence to back up my interpretation of this; I can only tell you what I felt the moment I saw it, as strongly as if it were printed in subtitles in my head.  The girl who has been in the TV is now real; we, who are real, turn out to only be in the TV; and Sam’s 1973, which, to this point, has been a figment of his imagination, is now the reality.   The sequence seemed to say to me that, all this time, Sam has been trapped between the two realities, struggling to choose one, and we have been witnesses to his struggle.  But now he’s chosen a home, and it’s going to be real.  We, the viewers, are simply no longer necessary.  Sam has chosen 1973, and it’s going to be his reality.

Now turn off the TV and go play in yours.

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