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April 14th, 2007


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06:08 pm - Cavemen go
I was terribly excited during Tuesday, waiting for the final episode of Life on Mars. At about 8pm I was sitting in the courtyard of the Royal Standard at Lyme, with the sky all powder blue, eating scallops and drinking Hoegaarden, and they put all little lights on all round the tables, and thought 'in a few minutes we'll go back and watch it'. It was a perfect moment, though it would have been spoiled if the episode then hadn't been any good. But I wasn't disappointed.

They told us that in the final episode all would be revealed. And in a way it was, but I am so happy that even with everything revealed we are no nearer to knowing what is real: just like in real life.There's a science fiction short story where a man keeps falling through a hole in reality to another reality, and then that reality collapses, perhaps after years have passed, and he is falling again, and the words in his head are 'never knowing... never knowing'. I think it's supposed to be a horrible ending. But in Life on Mars I think they made it a positive ending.

There was no way Sam was going to wake up and his seventies life was all a dream. No way. Credit to the script writers for demonstrating why that couldn't be the ending: because the 1970 characters were too self-willed to be his projections, and too human to be allegories (of 'the tumour' or 'compassion' for instance). And yet, neither could they resolve the two series by saying one time is real at the expense of the other, or that Sam was mad (or sane) or time travelling.

I think a possible interpretation (like with Pan's Labyrinth) was that a person at the point of death chooses to retreat into a fantasy, and that's the happiest ending that anyone can achieve. Kurt Vonnegut's 'Sirens of Titan' ended like that (coincidentally Vonnegut died on Wednesday). But it seems to me that the show was really intended to indicate that all times and species of existence have characteristics of reality and illusion, that every aspect of existence is contingent, and that applies to us too, watching the TV.

The show draws parallels, it seems to me, between faith in the ground of existence, and keeping to laws and rules of conduct. That's what is 'sensible' in both senses of the word. In that respect life in 2007 is 'sensible', and Tyler rejects virtue and restraint for romantic individualism. That's why I think it was important to show that rejecting virtue means that desperately bad things happen (Gene Hunt did some very evil things) and that rejecting fantasy might mean losing real life. But we are still - perhaps despite ourselves - rooting for romance over rationalism.

And yes there was a moment where I shouted out 'It's a Blakes 7 ending!'. It wasn't, quite, but I love any show that can make me shout that.


Did you post a review or comment on the final episode? Can you let me know so I don't miss what you said?

(21 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:happytune
Date:April 14th, 2007 05:59 pm (UTC)
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Thought it was bloody great!

You around tomorrow evening for a quick drink or cinema or something? Would love to hear how your holiday went. :-)
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From:communicator
Date:April 14th, 2007 07:27 pm (UTC)
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Sounds good. I've got to go and pick up Sam from Philip's house tomorrow, but later would be OK, or tonight if you are around.
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From:happytune
Date:April 14th, 2007 07:39 pm (UTC)
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Am actually slobbing around at home. Tomorrow evening around 8? Or is that not convenient due to picking-up-ness? Will give you a ring tomorrow. :-)
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From:watervole
Date:April 14th, 2007 07:08 pm (UTC)
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I loved it! Too tired to type a review, but I predicted an ending where Sam would wake up and then attempt to return to 1973 by fairly drastic methods if necessary, so I was pleased to get it pretty close (though, obviously I didn't predict the surgeon).
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From:communicator
Date:April 14th, 2007 07:29 pm (UTC)
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I wonder whether they implied that he never woke up, that the 2007 he 'returned to' was an illusion inside an illusion, so he was drifting even farther from reality. I also wondered whether it was supposed to be a choice between two afterlives, and while neither of them were heaven or hell, 2007 would have been definitely the wrong choice.
From:abigail_n
Date:April 14th, 2007 07:43 pm (UTC)
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You may have already seen this, but here's my review of the finale. Niall's got links to a half-dozen more in this linkdump.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:April 15th, 2007 07:47 am (UTC)
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Oh, that's a good pulling together. I agree with you about trust - I never really thought they would let us down, which is part of the reason I was looking forward to the final show so much. I couldn't think how they would do it, but I was sure they would.

The affection we feel for Sam, even though we know he isn't real, is like the affection Sam feels for Gene and Annie. But I'm not sure whether the episode is saying that 'Loyalty to an individual... should always be prized above adherence to a principle--even if that individual is violent and criminally stupid and that principle encompasses, among other things, the belief that chaining people up and torturing them is wrong.'

Is it saying that, or just presenting it as a choice? And you could say that it was when Sam disengaged from the individuals that he stopped trying to change their behaviour. So he was doing more to pevent the torture if he stuck around, being the voice of conscience, than if he went to milennial 'heaven' where the moral dilemma was something I can't remember about 48 hour custody extension.

In fact the more I think about this episode the cleverer it was. It was only while I typed this that I realised Sam was being treated as the voice of conscience in 2007 too.

I can't do justice to all the things that come to mind. I feel like I'd like to write quite a lot more about it.
From:abigail_n
Date:April 15th, 2007 11:12 am (UTC)
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I don't think the episode is ambivalent about the choice between Sam's loyalty to Gene and his principles. Sam is portrayed very negatively throughout the episode, and if you compare the narrative's response to Gene's crimes - Sam is put off - to the one it has to Sam's - Sam is disgusted with himself and his friends are irate - I don't think there's any question which we're supposed to be more offended by. And then there's Sam's defense of Gene - he gets results; he puts himself first when facing danger - which is actually no defense at all, but is nevertheless offered as the final word on the issue.

I do like the idea of Sam also being criticized for abdicating his responsibility to reign Gene in, but as the episode is written it's clear that any attempts to do so would have had no effect - Gene was determined to go ahead with his insane, suicidal stunt no matter what Sam said or did.

The affection we feel for Sam, even though we know he isn't real, is like the affection Sam feels for Gene and Annie

I like this.
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From:communicator
Date:April 16th, 2007 10:38 pm (UTC)
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I'm clinging on to my opinion that they aren't endorsing Gene's methods, just portraying them, but I admit the last two or three episodes have made it trickier for me.
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From:vilakins
Date:April 14th, 2007 08:24 pm (UTC)
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I liked it too except for his method of getting back, which may influence some unstable and desperate people to try it. I doubt anyone could invent a world that is so logical and consistent, nor that it's an afterlife because of the violence and hatred of the other (women, gays, foreigners).

I won't say any more because I did a review here.
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From:communicator
Date:April 15th, 2007 07:56 am (UTC)
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Perhaps there are (I mean in the show) multiple after-lives which are none of them good or bad, but just layers of shading. Though Frank was, as you say, seemingly 'evil', especially that last look he gave over his shoulder as he walked away, he was like a demon.

I also wonder whether, even though the original 2006 that Sam left was real, the 2007 in the final episode was a delusion inside a delusion. There's one strong piece of evidence for that: when he chose 1973 at the end, the voices you could hear in his head seemed to be operating table voices ('we're losing him') rather than pavement voices ('that man just jumped off the roof, call an ambulance') which implies he died during the tumour operation, not from suicide. The jumping was just an acknowledgement that the third reality he passed into, the 'new' present day, was false. Like in Vanilla Sky.
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From:vilakins
Date:April 15th, 2007 09:34 am (UTC)
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I would happily go with that, or multiple AUs, but then how does Alex Drake in the sequel have the recorded reports he made? That spin-off plays havoc with any solution I can accept.
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From:kalypso_v
Date:April 17th, 2007 10:25 am (UTC)
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I'm not terribly worried about Ashes to Ashes yet. When I first heard about it, I thought they'd ruled out the possibility of 1973 being a fantasy, because it would have to be real for someone else to meet Gene. But in fact they've worked out a method for it to be nothing but fantasy. And when we get there, something else may happen... But nothing at all has happened yet, so Life on Mars stands alone, and I can read it as I choose.

I'm not worrying too much about anything Matthew Graham says either, because (a) I don't regard authorial intention as final when it comes to TV series, and (b) he admitted in the relevant interview that he had lied about his plans in order to keep press and viewers in the dark. So he may be lying about Ashes to Ashes.

A fan has, however, come up with a solution that covers a lot of the bases: Sam really does wake up in his own present, but Morgan was wrong (or lying). The tumour wasn't benign, or begins to swell again, and Sam passes out in the middle of a discussion of ethical policing. Everything from the moment he cuts himself without feeling it, at least, is in his head again. And this explains why the final message from 1973 implies he's back on the operating table, rather than dead under Stopford House.
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From:vilakins
Date:April 17th, 2007 08:17 pm (UTC)
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Oh, I like that! I think I'll go with that too.

But in fact they've worked out a method for it to be nothing but fantasy.

They have? Bah. You mean Alex just dreams them up from Sam's notes? :-(

So he may be lying about Ashes to Ashes.

Very true. I hope he is in a way because I'd like
[Error: Irreparable invalid markup ('<i<life>') in entry. Owner must fix manually. Raw contents below.]

Oh, I <i>like</i> that! I think I'll go with that too.

<i>But in fact they've worked out a method for it to be nothing but fantasy.</i>

They have? Bah. You mean Alex just dreams them up from Sam's notes? :-(

<i>So he may be lying about Ashes to Ashes.</i>

Very true. I hope he is in a way because I'd like <i<Life on Mars</i> to stand on its own.
(Deleted comment)
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From:communicator
Date:April 15th, 2007 08:16 am (UTC)
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yes, wow, I like that. 'Going back and being happy there was an incredibly easy choice for the programme makers to make. Making him leave 1973 easily and without them all dying, and going back and being happy and having finished whatever task the series had for him in the past, and then being allowed to return and feeling a tiny bit sad but mostly having closure. That would have been the cop out.'

Absolutely, and although I trusted them not to do that, I couldn't think how they were going to avoid it. At the Blakes 7 moment I thought they were going to have him go back, leaving them to die, and become trapped in a delusional hell of his own making. God, that would have been too bleak, I'm glad they didn't end like that.
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From:archbishopm
Date:April 16th, 2007 09:02 pm (UTC)
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The last ten minutes were a mite overwrought, I thought, but the last ten seconds were brilliant. Brought to mind the penis at the end of Fight Club (that's, you know, the adult-oriented sequel to The Monster At The End Of This Book).

...


*smoke bomb*
[User Picture]
From:katlinel
Date:April 17th, 2007 06:36 am (UTC)
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I made a brief post in my journal here, with a few more details in the comments.
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From:communicator
Date:April 17th, 2007 08:45 am (UTC)
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Thanks. Another possible ending would have been if he had been too scared to jump, with the implication that by betraying his friends he had become stranded in some bloodless purgatory state. If we had just left him standing on the roof, paralysed with indecision, not sure if the world is real.
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From:altariel
Date:April 29th, 2007 05:21 pm (UTC)
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Finally got to see it today - and yes! I yelled, "Blake! Blake!" at the telly too!

I'm a bit uncertain about Sam choosing suicide/retreat into fantasy and need to think about it mor - I was also thinking of Pan's Labyrinth, and also the end of Brazil. But everything was worth it for the final shot of the test card girl turning off the telly.

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