Thursday, December 13, 2012

Drugs on the Street

Thriller the Thursday

For the first time heroin starts hitting the streets of Manchester, forcing Gene to send his officers out as a task force in order to find the culprits, though the investigation is complicated when Annie is kidnapped by the drug smugglers and the only witness is the mother of Sam's future girlfriend.

The review for "Coercion" can be read here.

Drawn toward individuals that will have affect his life in major ways, Sam (John Simm) is unable to fully invest himself in 1973 because the investigations at hand tend to signify changes in his life in 2006. While his budding relationship with Annie (Liz White) could mean drastic consequences to the girlfriend he left behind in the future, meeting his girlfriend's mother in the past might also mean something in regards to her well-being in 2006.

The depiction of racism in this episode is better handled than the same issue as presented in the events of "Every Son Kills His Father," and it feels much more genuine here, with Ray (Dean Andrews) stating, in reference to Indians, that "they all look the same," having learned nothing from his earlier treatment of Glen (Ray Emmet Brown). Sam is finally pushed to his breaking point over his colleague's racism, standing up to Gene (Philip Glenister) out of his love for Maya (Archie Panjabi) and getting backlash in return for having 'mixed the races.' The way that the story plays out here, with the whites attacking Indian businesses and people, even firebombing Layla's (Alex Reid) apartment because she's dating a Pakistani, and it feels very genuine for the time, far improving on how the earlier story had dealt with the issue.

Gene finally opens up a little to Sam, revealing that his brother had gotten hooked on speed and they haven't seen him in the ten years since. As the episode closes Sam offers to help find him, stating that everyone's traceable, and Gene is forced to admit that he had already found his brother, but was too late. There is a vulnerability to Gene here that we are not often shown, and it goes a long way to humanizing him as a person and showing the audience why he should be sympathized with.

In this story Gene resorts to the extreme measures of asking Toolbox Terry (Ian Puleston-Davies) and Big Bird (Lorraine Cheshire) to kill Ravi (Paul Sharma) as a means to end the drug problem on the streets. Gene has before shown a tendency to do whatever it takes to clean his streets, but this is beyond anything he has done before, perhaps a commentary on his feelings toward race-relations, but it seems unreasonable even for him. Sam, forced once more to be the voice of reason, has trouble even getting through to Gene, and while Gene has had to make compromises in the past with the criminal element, here he is taking direct responsibility for having people murdered, and he is becoming everything that he has taken a stand against.

In spending time with Layla Sam learns that she is pregnant, eventually to give birth to Maya, his girlfriend from 2006. Soon he is forced to deal with the possibility of Maya being aborted, trying valiantly to ensure that the future stays on track and that the woman he loved has a chance at life. The episode itself seems written simply as an effort to get Maya out of Sam's life to open him up romantically for Annie, and it's very heavy-handed and poorly scripted. The entire plot is framed around Maya leaving Sam and Sam learning to let her go, and while it's certainly an important point for Sam to meet in his journey toward learning to appreciate the world of 1973, but it doesn't seem vital enough to have taken over an entire episode's narrative and instead might have been better served as a secondary plot to another story.

While the acting isn't technically bad, the issue is that there's no point during the hour for anyone to really shine in their roles. The material here is all so lackluster that it really affects the performances, and it creates something of a dull episode to watch, despite all the players doing the best with what they've been given.

Andrew Gunn directs this episode with a very strange pacing, starting the story very slowly as though to stall a lack of story, only to later rush the ending as though there hadn't been enough time. A greater focus should have been spent on the interaction with Toolbox and Big Bird, with less intensity on Maya's story, because, as a viewer, I found my interest waning throughout. The opening with Sam having flashes of Maya, as well as seeing her in a movie and hearing her through the walkie-talkie, speaking back and thinking that she, too, can hear him, are all nice touches, as is Sam's feeling that he's seeing himself in a coma when watching Ravi's brother in his coma.

Writer Guy Jenkin has a few interesting ideas to throw out into his story, the most poignant of which is Layla's observation that, while her immigrant boyfriend "felt like a stranger" in 1973's Manchester, Sam feels like he's "from even further away." Unfortunately, there is more wrong with Jenkin's script than there is right, with the reveal of Toolbox and Big Bird being the culprits feeling very forced, and their kidnapping of Annie is beyond ridiculous as they had to know that they were going to get caught, especially since Gene and his team had already stated their intention to come see them. It would have been so simple for them to have knocked both Sam and Annie out during their attack, taking Ravi while maintaining their facade of innocence, and it makes no sense that they would have worked in the way they did aside from the narrative need to close the story quickly.

A real relationship between Sam and Annie is inevitable at this point, with Sam having gotten the closure and go ahead from Maya that he needed. There also appears to be something at work behind the scenes following Sam, having stolen his broken walkie-talkie only to later be found in a police car, perhaps in connection to the phone calls from Hyde.

The review for "Stacking the Evidence" can be read here.


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