Thursday, December 27, 2012

The End of the Tunnel

Thriller the Thursday

Sam is given the promise of returning home provided he's strong enough to get through one final operation: the complete destruction of Gene Hunt. Working with Frank Morgan, Sam must gather evidence to remove Gene from his position, in effect risking the lives of everyone he's come to know.

Previous: Stacking the Evidence

Having spent his entire time in Manchester trying to get home, Sam (John Simm) is willing to do whatever it takes to end his time in 1973 and return to his real life. Despite knowing that these people are creations of his imagination, he has difficulty betraying them, having grown to love them like family, but should doing so allow him to go back to 2006, then it may be a betrayal he will have to make.

At the top of the episode Frank Morgan (Ralph Brown) contacts Sam telling him that he needs to destroy Gene (Philip Glenister) and the entire department in order to come home. This is the first time that anyone fully acknowledges what Sam needs to do in order to complete his mission, in order to go home to his regular life, and it's so clearly both a relief and a burden on him that it adds to the ambiguity about whether or not he's ready to leave 1973 behind him. His task is to prove that Gene is negligent in his work, which Sam is perfectly ready to admit won't be difficult to do, but at the same time he continues trying to change Gene's ways in order to save him from himself. Sam fully commits to his mission, does what he has to do in order to sever his ties to this reality and return to 2006, but there is still a struggle for him in leaving these people behind because they've come to mean so much to him. Even though he knows that they aren't real, that what happens in this fantasy means nothing toward his real life, he can't help but feel a very genuine connection to each of them, desperate to make sure he does right by them whether they're fictional or not. Morgan's mission is to ensure that Gene and everyone on his team is killed, wiped clean from the slate to ensure that Sam has no reason to stay, and the fact that it's Morgan's police radio that gives them away, causing the operation to go south, is a perfect way to close this story. Sam is forced either to let these people die in order to regain his own reality or to die along with them, and there's really no better way to conclude his journey here.

Throughout the story Annie (Liz White) does what she can to convince Sam to stay, but Sam continually refuses because he knows that this world isn't real. As much as he cares for Annie, and would love to be with her, he knows that she's a trick of his mind designed to keep him from waking up in his proper life, and even as he feels her heartbeat, noting that "it's amazing" how real it feels, he knows that he can't let his feelings for her stand in the way of getting home. He tells her that "[he] can't stay [t]here forever," asking her to spend the night with him and enjoy the time they have left, but she refuses because "[she] can't stay for one night," she can't let herself fall even more deeply in love with him only to have him leave her for good. It's only later, when Sam has returned to his proper time, that he remembers being told that if something's real, if you're alive, then you can feel it, if you feel nothing then it's not real, and all the while as Sam is dwelling on Annie's heartbeat, he fails to notice that he had cut his hand. Noting how vividly real 1973 had felt compared to the life he's leading in 2006, Sam chooses to go back to her, saving his friends from their deaths and asking Annie what to do. After a moment of curiosity she tells him to stay with her forever, and the two of them finally kiss, Sam having finally  realized what was really important in his life.

Through the last few episodes Gene has been getting slowly more out of control, far beyond where he normally would go in the name of justice, but he remained very hesitant to cross the line. Here Gene crosses that line far more easily, and it seems as though this was done simply to suit the story. The Gene of this episode becomes the villain that Morgan likes to imagine that he is, despite the fact that Sam knows he's so much more, and it doesn't quite fit with the man we've known for the past fifteen episodes.

As Sam works his way back to 2006, he watches his friends and colleagues gunned down, forced to turn the other way and leave them behind. In the end he comes back to save them, coming to the rescue after all but Annie have been shot, and there seems to be no consequences for him here. None of his colleagues are angry with him for his betrayal anymore, and each of them welcomes him back into the fold without question, with Chris (Marshall Lancaster) even apologizing to Sam for his actions despite the fact that it should be Sam apologizing to him. It's understandable that some things needed to be glossed over in order to close the series properly, but there should have remained some tension, especially between Sam and Ray (Dean Andrews), in regards to his actions within this story.

Absolutely everyone in this episode brings their best performances to the screen, and the story carries much more weight because of it. Simm's breakdown as Sam learns that he's not only been living a lie amongst his 1973 colleagues but also that there's no life in 2006 to go back to is absolutely fantastic, and watching his entire world break down around him is heartbreaking. The reactions provided by White, Andrews and Lancaster as their characters learn of Sam's double life is equally distressing, each giving great portrayals of differing emotions.

S. J. Clarkson directs Sam's final story here, blurring the lines between what's real and what's not in order to add a layer of ambiguity toward Sam's actions in the end. There are a lot of very distinctive shots during this episode, including Sam turning away from his friends and walking toward the light at the end of the tunnel, but the most iconic is bookended from the first episode where Sam stands on the roof of the station and considers jumping off, though in this story he finally does. A nice touch, when Sam wakes up, is the note that his tumor is embedded too deeply to be removed, indicating that, no matter what Sam chooses in the end he can never fully remove the people of 1973 from his mind, hinting that he can always go back there should he realize he made a mistake.

Matthew Graham writes this story with a focus on the options that Sam has set out before him; either he can stay with Gene and Annie in 1973, return to his previous life in 2006, or work with Frank Morgan to create a new regime in 1973. Over the radio Sam learns that they've found a tumor in his brain and can operate, but the surgeon, Morgan, needs to know that he's strong enough. Much of the wording is done ambiguously enough to apply either to the operation of removing Gene from his position or to get the tumor out of Sam's head, and it's worked in very organically and naturally into the interactions. As the episode winds up Morgan reveals to Sam that he had been in a car accident shortly after arriving in Manchester, having gotten amnesia in the process, and had been sent there originally undercover in order to bring Gene down. In realizing that his life in 2006 is nothing more than a delusion, he questions where his loyalties really lie, whether he will go through with Morgan's original plan or if he will stand with the people he's come to know as friends, and what makes the temporary twist work here is that they, too, would work as a satisfying end to the series.

In the end, the series closes with the camera being turned off, as though it were a television, and while there's plenty of evidence supporting the fact that 1973 was, in fact, the delusion, one also could argue that what Morgan had told Sam was true. Perhaps Sam, questioning his own sanity in the confines of the train tunnel, imagined waking up in 2006, imagined saying goodbye to the life he thought he had and abandoned it entirely to commit himself to Annie and the life he was meant to lead in 1973. And the beauty of it is that it's left to the viewer to decide, whether Sam is alive or dead, whether his friends are real or imaginary, Sam's is a life still being lived.

Next: Series 02 Overview


Post a Comment