Only two episodes left till Life On Mars closes up shop for good (can't imagine a letter-writing campaign gracing us with any tele-movies here), so the question now is, how's it all going to end? There's no investment in the show improving itself enough to stay on the air, but it would be nice if things went out on a high note; years from now, we could be remembering a finale on par with "The Man Who Sold The World" and not, well, pretty much anything else. Tonight's ep, "Everyone Knows It's Windy," started taking certain steps towards closing the door. After MacManus, the guy who shot Ray and Chris, is gunned down in cold blood, Sam winds up getting blamed for it, and his life has become so screwed up that not even he is sure of his innocence. It's a little added pressure to raise the stakes, and much appreciated.
Just as appreciated, but not as immediately obvious, is the appearance of Agent Frank Morgan, investigating the MacManus killing and putting the screws to Sam. Frank Morgan just happens to be the name of the actor who played the Wizard of Oz in, y'know, The Wizard Of Oz. Pretty sure that means something. Morgan's played by Peter Gerety, a welcome face to Wire fans; but even more interesting is that his character is a familiar one to fans of the BBC version of Mars. His presence was a major catalyst in the second series, essentially bringing about the crisis that forced Sam to decide between his past and their future, and while there's no real indication that Morgan will be serving the same purpose here, it at least indicates that the writers have definitely watched that last ep, and were hopefully taking notes as they did so.
"Windy" is a step up, dealing with series' mythology and diving back into the mindfuckery it's been leaving to the side for a while now. It still has its share of problems, though; the big reveal at the end piled on the weirdness to the point where it was less a revelation and more a failed attempt at justifying the unjustifiable. There's no way to explain the various hallucinations Sam's had in any real world way, but "Windy" makes the effort, with predictably goofy results. Plus, there are references to the "Aries" project (here a supposed toy company) that seem less like a gradually developing mystery and more like randomly putting words onto other words for the illusion of depth. Sure, it corroborates references we've already heard, but not in any meaningful way.
Watching Sam run around New York trying to clear himself was fun, though, and so was seeing him struggle with the possibility of his own guilt. After MacManus is shot, Agent Morgan arrives, and it's not soon after that a witness (Scott Adsit, aka Pete from 30 Rock) ID's Sam at the murder scene. When Morgan searches Sam's apartment, he finds the gun used to shoot MacManus; and Sam's alibi folds when he's unable to find Windy, the hippy-dippy neighbor who popped in to play some checkers just the night before. Vague philosophical ramblings aside, it's cool to have Windy back, as she represents a connection back to Sam's uncertainty. Like having Frank find Sam's list of reasons on his wardrobe mirror, it's makes the show feel less like each episode was written on the back of a napkin three days before shooting.
For all its flaws, Mars has at least managed to stay roughly true to its characters and their relationships, which means in all the random nuttery tonight, there were some solidly affecting scenes between Annie and Sam. Their chat while Sam is stuck in a cell was predictable (Sam doubts himself, Annie believes in him, hands are held), but it felt real enough that Annie's willingness to risk her own life at the end to keep Sam from jumping off the ledge was believable. The freaky stuff hasn't really worked for me in a while—it's too cartoony, too self-consciously forced—but Annie and Sam's chats, bad topical nods aside, are—nice, I guess would be the word.
For those keeping track, Sam didn't shoot MacManus, but he was there when MacManus was shot. If I'm getting this right, Frank reveals that the Aries Project put a little robot in Sam's head, and that robot started reacting with the bad blood Sam got from his father. It sent him out into the night to kill MacManus, only Frank arrived at the same time and shot MacManus himself. Or else this is all a lie MacManus concocted because he wanted to off MacManus for some bad business deals. (Wait, does that make even less sense?) Frank tells Sam it's time to go home, ordering him to jump off the roof of the Aries Toy Company. Gene, Ray, and Annie arrive in the nick of time, and Annie manages to talk Sam down from the ledge in much the same way her British counterpart did at the end of the first episode of the original series.
By the end, nothing much has changed. The Aries Project, though (sort of) explained is still out there, maybe, Sam still doesn't know if Windy is a figment of his imagination, he's still got his job, and he still doesn't know how he can get back home. But there's something "different" about his relationship with Annie now, which is something, I guess. Maybe they'll even go on a date before Mars goes out of orbit for good.
- The dialogue was all over the place tonight. Morgan got some good lines, but Ray, who I usually don't mind, was terrible.
- Morgan was the voice that told Sam to look in a basement. That's not supposed to make sense, right?
- Keitel looked like he was sleepwalking through a lot of this. More so than normal, I mean.