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Hyde and Seek: Sam Encounters A Tantalizing Clue on "Life on Mars"

If there's one word to sum up this week's episode of Life on Mars, it's just... wow.

The latest installment of the second (and final) season of Brit import Life on Mars has once again managed to bowl me over with its low-key dread and spine-tingling mystery; all this and a plot about the Gene Genie himself, DCI Gene Hunt, arrested on suspicion of murder. Can Sam clear Gene's name? Does he want to? And just what is acting DCI Frank Morgan hiding?

I'll admit that the murder investigation had me baffled. While I knew that Gene was somehow innocent, the evidence clearly pointed to him. He had thrown a brick through the victim's window only hours before his death (after threatening Terry Haslam in a courthouse surrounded by witnesses), drunkenly dropped his gun at or near the victim's house, and went back to get it. Next thing Gene knows it's the next morning, Haslam is dead and his corpse staring at him from across the room, and his gun is missing... only to be found under the sofa, with only Gene's prints on it, and signs that it had been recently fired.

You'll admit that it didn't look too good for ol' Gene, though Sam reluctantly agrees to help clear his name. What follows is a gripping--and often hilarious, thanks to inept surveillance from Ray and Chris--story of Gene being on the other side of the law for a change. Of course, Sam manages to find Gene innocent, thanks to a irate hairstylist who saw a man pour a drunken Gene into the back of a van the night of the murder and a heating vent that altered the time of death significantly.

End of story, no? Hardly, thanks to the ominous arrival of Frank Morgan (Meadowlands' Ralph Brown), Gene's temporary replacement at CID, who comes to Manchester PD from... Hyde. Longtime viewers on Life on Mars will remember that Sam Tyler's cover story--including his miraculous transfer paperwork--came from the English town of Hyde as well. So just what is the connection between these two and why does Morgan seem so hell-bent on Gene going down for a crime he didn't commit? Curious, as is the creepy and overly familiar way he keeps saying Sam's first name, rather than Tyler.

But I was not prepared for the episode's very ending, in which Morgan casually turns to Sam and says that it was too bad that Gene managed to wriggle out of the murder charge but that it's not Sam's fault. A puzzled Sam can only stare at Morgan as the lift doors open. And then came the words that made everything else fade into the background: "Hang in there, Sam. As soon as we can, we'll sort this out... and bring you home."

Say what? My jaw hit the floor. Even though I suspected Morgan of some sort of profound connection to Sam, I had no idea that he would actually speak--out loud--directly to Sam about his condition, his appearance in the past, or about his getting back to the future.

Which puts everything else we've seen so far this season into question. Was Morgan the voice on the telephone that Sam heard a few episodes back when he called that number in Hyde? Is Morgan responsible for getting Sam his cover story and paperwork? And just what is Sam's mission in the past and how did he get there? And what relationship does it have to the car accident and his apparent coma in 2006?

More tantalizingly: was that dream phone call Sam received this week--in which he could hear gunshots and Annie's voice begging for help--a harbinger of things to come as we move into the eighth and final installment of this groundbreaking and brilliant series?

In a series that has proven so adept at pulling the rug out beneath your feet, this week's episode was another turn of the screw, a thrill ride that few series, British or American, manage to achieve. While I'll miss Life on Mars when it wraps up next week, I am deeply pleased that it is ending on a high and leaving the party when it's still going strong, rather than overstaying its welcome.

Next week on the series finale of Life on Mars, the team investigates the murder of a miner, with all fingers pointing towards a notorious cop killer. While Gene and Morgan both race to arrest the killer, Morgan makes Sam a tantalizing proposition in order to bring him home...

What's On Tonight

8 pm: Power of 10 (CBS); Deal or No Deal (NBC); Crowned: The Mother of All Pageants (CW); Wife Swap (ABC); American Idol (FOX; 8-10 pm)

9 pm: Comanche Moon (CBS; 9-11 pm);
Law & Order: Criminal Intent (NBC); Gossip Girl (CW); Supernanny (ABC)

10 pm: Law & Order (NBC); Cashmere Mafia (ABC)

What I'll Be Watching

9 pm: Gossip Girl.

After my lovely fiancee, the future Mrs. Televisionary, presented her case about why she loves Gossip Girl, I am relenting and catching this soap from the very beginning. On tonight's installment ("Pilot"), Serena returns to Manhattan under some mysterious circumstances and her former BFF Blair is less than pleased to see her.

10 pm: Project Runway on Bravo.

On tonight's episode ("On Garde!"), the designers have to put aside their preconceptions when they are tasked with creating a design based around a model's hairstyle, while Sweet P and Rami reach their breaking points during an argument.

Comments

Argh! I can't believe there's only one episode left of this brilliant show. And while I'm happy they're going out on a high note, I still think they could have done at least one more sesaon without jeopordizing the show's integrity. I think threre are still so many stories that you could tell about this amazingly absurd cast of characters.

I have no idea how it's going to wrap up but I don't like the looks of Frank Morgan and I certainly didn't like how disappointed he was when Gene's name was cleared. I'm very, very worried for Sam and the rest of the gang.
"Ashes to Ashes" is due in the UK sometime around February 8th and the first episode has already had its press screening. Nobody is saying much at this point, but what they are saying is very positive. Here is a brief spoiler-free* preview from The Stage. The other preview I saw (I can't remember where) basically recapped the end of "Life on Mars", so tread carefully on the Internet.

I'd like to think that BBC America's swift acquisition of "Torchwood" series two is an indication that "Ashes to Ashes" will be with you soon, but you never know. With new drama drying up elsewhere, I'd be buying up as much stuff as I could and promoting the hell out of it (and I certainly wouldn't be re-running old episodes of Dancing with the Stars), but what do I know?

*Assuming you know what the basic premise of "Ashes to Ashes" is... if you want to remain completely ignorant before the finale of "Life on Mars", don't click this link.

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