All entries for April 2007

April 16, 2007

Life On Mars: Alternate Ending (Spoilers, natch)

To start it plays out pretty much as shown on TV. As Sam flees the scene of the gunfight he sees the white light and walks into it. Sam wakes up in a hospital room (Hyde ward) and eventually returns to work. We cut to the police station canteen, where Sam and Maya are eating lunch. Sam asks about her dissapearence (as shown in the first episode), but Maya looks confused and asks what he’s going on about. When Sam references the serial killer they were chasing she claims to have no knowledge of it, and asks Sam if he’s sure he’s fit to come back to work.

The meeting scene at the old office is extended. It opens with discussions on security for the upcoming United/City game next week. Sam’s colleagues discuss assigning a small detail to the gates and surrounding areas to ensure there’s no trouble. Sam queries how that will be sufficient to off-set the huge amounts of violence and vandelism that these games inevitably bring with them. Again they look at him quizically and point out that there have been no major incidents of violence at a Manchester local derby since the 1970s. Sam seems confused and becomes lost in thought, which is where the scene as shown picks up, with Sam not even noticing his cut finger.

After the meeting we see Sam rush to the archives room, where he digs out the files for 1973. He pulls out the “Hunt, Gene” file and finds attached to it a newspaper clipping: “4 Officers Killed in Train-sting Gone Wrong”, with the subtitle “A furthur officer is missing, presumed dead”. Sam is slowly becoming convinced that somehow he really did go back in time, and goes to visit his mother. Here we get another extended version of the scene as shown, where he tells his mother everything that happened. She’s skeptical until he relates to her the precise details of thier meeting in 1973, and her sudden dissapearence. She comes to accept that what happened was real, and encourages Sam to ‘keep his promises’ as shown.

The rest of the episode plays out as show, except it’s made clear through the radio at the end that Sam isn’t dead in the ‘real world’ but instead back in an even deeper coma, with little chance of him waking back up. We then cut back to the archives room, the headline on the newspaper changing to “Justice served for Cop-Killer”.

-----------

Okay so I made all that up.

Sorry.

It’s not that I was dissapointed with the Life On Mars ending, it far, far exceeded my expectations, and was brilliantly brave (our hero can’t cope with reality and so kills himself). In fact, I’d always maintained after the first episode that there was no way of resolving this show that would be entirely satisfactory: Sam’s primary objective in the show, as relayed in the titles voice-over at the start of every episode, was to get back home. But if he wakes up, all the characters we’ve come to care about cease to exist. And that gets to the problem I have with the ending: if Sam’s 2007 life was really so bad and pointless, why was he so desperate to get back to it? Why did he keep telling Annie “there are people that care about me back home”, when it really seemed from that episode that there weren’t. Sure, there was some attempt in the previous couple of episodes to show Sam coming to terms with staying in 1973, but by the final episode he was still willing to ‘betray’ Gene to get back home. He still chose 2007 over 1973, and it’s hard to reconcile why he’d do that if in 2007 he literally had nothing to live for.

The alternate ending I made up tries to address this by playing the science-fiction element up a little more, with Sam going back to 1973 not just because he doesn’t like his 2007 life (and to get the girl), but adds in the extra factor of him truely believing that through some strange circumstance he can actually do more good back there than in the present day. It’s still not a perfect ending. It still has problems, the major one being that, if Gene and co are real, how do they accept him back and forgive him so quickly for turning on them (the ending as show indicates it’s all in Sam’s head, so since it’s his ‘story’, thier motivations don’t have to make sense)?

Still, I prefer it, and it seems more logically consistent to me…


April 13, 2007

Mars 'Planets'

So I bought some Mars Planets, the new Mars snack the other day. They’re like Revels, except there’s only three different types: chocolate-coated nougaht, chocolate-caramel, and chocolate-coated honeycomb (obstensibly like Malteasers, but made from a chewier, moister honeycomb, like the occasional weird Malteaser you’d get where it was sticky and chewy instead of crunchy as it hadn’t be mixed enough or something).

The point being, of course, that each individually represents one element of a Mars bar, so you eat all three together and get the same taste… but hang on! There’s no honeycomb in Mars bars! Where has this interloper came from, and why is it in the pack?! Presumably the concept of ‘three’ being the ‘magic number’ holds a lot of sway with Mars.

Collolorary: There should be Mars-with-honeycomb pieces bar! That’d be awesome.


April 06, 2007

Shows You Should Be Watching Number 2: Dexter

Let’s get one thing out of the way before we get started. If you’re a Buffy/Angel fan you should know that this show stars Julie Benz. If you’re a bloke you should also know that this show features Julie Benz dressed as Lara Croft, and Julie Benz dressed in nothing at all. For some of my readers that will be enough and they’ll go and watch it now, for the rest of you, read on.

Dexter is a show that almost passed me by. It airs on Showtime in the US, which is basically HBO’s uglier but easier cousin. Both being subscription cable channels they’re not subject to the draconian censorship that pervades US network television, and as subscription channels they’re not totally shackled to ratings when it comes to what shows they keep and what they cancel. But while HBO take this as an opportunity to commission and air challenging dramas with adult elements, such as Six Feet Under, The Sopranos and Deadwood; Showtime instead airs stuff with lots of blood and boobies. Meanwhile the odd stab at doing something interesting gets cancelled after the first series or two: see Dead Like Me, Odyssey 5 and Jeremiah.

But something is changing. HBO recently went a bit mental in the head and started cancelling shows left and right, with Deadwood, Carnivale, and most recently Rome facing the axe. Now this isn’t something that’s surprising, until you consider that prior to the cancellation of Carnivale, HBO hadn’t cancelled a TV show in about a decade – it let them all run to their natural conclusion. One wonders exactly how HBO plans to fill it’s schedules when The Sopranos airs it’s last episode in eight weeks time.

Meanwhile Showtime have been putting out the brilliant Sleeper Cell, recently commissioned a second series of Brotherhood and have also renewed the subject of this article, Dexter, for a second year. While in the past I’d always given every show HBO put out a go (even Sex And The City) just because it has their logo on, it’s seeming like Showtime is increasingly becoming a network to watch. What really started me watching Dexter though, was the cast. The star and title character is played by Six Feet Under’s Michael C. Hall, his girlfriend the aforementioned Julie Benz, and three members of the cast appeared in the brilliantly bleak HBO prison drama Oz. With so many familiar names involved I couldn’t help but give it a go.

It’s based heavily on the novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay, and the set-up is quite similar. Dexter, our star and hero, is a serial killer. He also works as a blood-spatter specialist for police forensics. As the show progresses we also learn through flashbacks about his childhood, and how his adoptive father taught him to channel his compulsions into his own macabre form of justice. Dexter’s code is quite simple: he only kills ‘people who deserve it’. As the series continues Dexter finds himself on the trail of another serial killer, one who he discovers he has more in common with than he first thought.

What truly makes Dexter work is the first person narration from the titular character: we see right inside the head of the killer, a device used in many a movie and book but rarely (if ever?) in a TV show. It’s a brilliant stroke that’s so refreshing in a world of TV full of CSI and such that only ever show things from the perspective of the people hunting the killers. But of course, the reason it hasn’t been done like this before is simple: how can you hope to get the audience to sympathise with a serial killer? I’ve said before that Dexter only kills those who deserve it, but the show in no way takes the easy road out. This isn’t ‘Dexter the friendly neighbourhood serial killer’, fighting for justice in his own way. Dex is a genuine pathological maniac, he has no feelings (though he’s learned to fake them), and he can’t resist the compunction to kill. So instead he channels it in a way that does the most ‘good’. And even though to him the notions of good and evil are but academic constructs beyond his own emotional comprehension, he follows the ‘good’ path as that was how he was raised. He’s not made to be easy to like, and although the viewer eventually ends up siding with him, it’s not a comfortable choice to make. He’s a brilliantly complex character and is what truly makes the show.

The b-plots aren’t exactly brilliant: political drama at the police station, Dex’s girlfriend’s ex (and father of her kids) causing trouble, and Dex’s sisters love-life are very much par for the course – except of course they all have a psychopathic killer hanging around with them.

And that’s why Dexter is great. It’s utterly unique in what it does, there isn’t a single other show out there like it, and I’m not sure there ever has been. Oh and it also has the single most disturbing title sequence I’ve seen in a show ever: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Si6YLWRS9A

Unsurprisingly, Dexter has yet to be picked up for broadcast in the UK.


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