Finalewatch: 'Life on Mars' gets literal

Jasonomara_lifeonmars_240 So that's it, folks -- "Life on Mars" wraps up, knits everything together, and lets us know  just what the hell has been going on all this time. It's all explained -- Spaceman, David Bowie, Windy, daddy issues, love stories, bleeding memories, all of it. Does it work? Well, you tell me what you think in the comments. I'll tell you what I think after the jump.

Sam keeps having dreams of 2008. He thinks it means that he's getting farther and farther away from home. Windy thinks that "maybe rather possibly it means that you are close to going back." The voice on the phone at the precinct agrees -- Sam has to do three things, and then he can go home. First: Save yourself.

Enter Rose, crying. Vic took little Sammy! Save him! That mission goes awry, and Sam gets beaten to a pulp and bundled off to a random apartment in Hyde, where the street is named "Fletcher Bellows Way." The old guy from the Fletcher Bellows episode is there, along with the little girl who died chasing butterflies. So is the Mars Rover that's been plaguing him. But then they're gone.

Sam finds the boat where Vic is hiding, and there commences father-son beatdown part two. Vic gets the upper hand, and Sam tells him that he's Vic's son. Vic knows, doesn't care, and prepares to get stabbing. Gene and the squad (led by Annie's interrogation skills and her gut feeling) arrive in time to shoot Vic and rescue Sam.

Gretchenmol_lifeonmars_240 Back at the precinct, Gene promotes Annie to detective. From now on, Annie will be known as "Detective 3rd Grade No More No Nuts Norris." Heh. Ray talks about the utter pointlessness of life. Sam goes home, hangs out with Windy, and sees himself on TV reading Gulliver's Travels to an elderly woman in 2010. That turns out to be Annie. Windy saw the TV picture (and says she's seen everything Sam sees), and tells Sam it's sign that he needs to go to Annie. He does, and kisses her, and tells her that she's the whole reason he's back in time. "Welcome to 1973," Annie says.

The phone rings again, and it's that voice -- but Sam's not interested. "Because I like 1973 and everyone in it," he says. "And because a long time ago someone I love once told me that whatever strange place you find yourself in, make that your home." He hangs up. So, I guess Sam is staying in 1973 for good now, huh.

Or not... we hear Windy's strangely robotic voice reading off vital signs, and then she says "2B is awake." And he is -- and he's an astronaut. So are Chris, Ray and Annie (the commander of the mission). They're all been in suspended animation (or something) for 2 years, 3 months and 22 days on board the spaceship Hyde 125 on a mission to Mars in the year 2035. Windy is the onboard computer.

While they were under, a neurostimulation program kept them occupied. Sam's program was set to 2008 cop, but glitches brought about by space...stuff booted him to 1973 with his 2008 "memories" intact. All that time, he was working through his psychological issues -- his unspoken love for Colonel Annie Norris, his fear of his dark side, and his issues with his father, Major Tom, who appeared in 1973 as Gene Hunt. Now that that's all taken care of, Sam and the rest of the crew can land on the Red Planet (in that ubiquitous Rover that's been haunting Sam throughout the series) and get down to business: Finding out if there is, in fact, Life on Mars.

So, did it work? For me, yeah. I want to buy the DVD and look for clues sprinkled throughout the series. It explains everything, and it also explains away any anachronisms (like this week's opening song) that snuck into the show. And I have to admit, I prefer this ending to the BBC series. It made a lot more sense that this all happened in Sam's mind for a reason rather than this all happened in Sam's mind for NO reason. (And dude, no screaming about spoiling a three-year-old series. The statute of limitations is up. Also, Rosebud was the sled.)

But what do you think?
Highlights, thoughts and odds and ends
  • Little Sam's fondness for space toys makes sense now, doesn't it? So does
  • "Spaceman" and all the astronaut references throughout the show.
  • So many good lines, so many great performances. I'm tempted to just transcribe huge swaths of dialog, but my editors would frown upon it. All of the actors were phenomenal. But a couple stood out:
  • Jason O'Mara again hit it out of the park -- possibly my favorite moment (of many) was watching him confront Vic on the dock. The grim smile that flits across his face when he tells Vic he's not afraid of him was heartbreaking, exhilarating, and a joy to watch. Get this man another series, pronto!
  • Special props to Michael Imperioli this week, too -- he nailed the "we live on a rock, all is pointless, there is no God, there is no good, and now I gotta pee" speech. Loved it.
  • Astronaut Ray shared 1973 Ray's predilections -- his neurostim program featured him on an island with 200 women who looked like Splash-era Daryl Hannah or Scarface-era Michelle Pfeiffer. There were other men on the island, but Ray was the only one with man-tackle.
  • Neurostim programs: Not only do they keep you occupied during long spaceflights, they also let you save money on therapy! 
  • Gene Hunt counts gunshots and blessings. His advice: "Revenge is for the weak. The strong they brush it off and say 'Thanks for the gunshot, dinkweed, but I didn't even feel it!'"
  • Vic beats the crap out of Sam when he suggests that Little Sammy isn't safe with him. "You think I'd hurt my own son? Is that what you think?" Vic asks, choking Sam. "That's what we call irony," Sam rasps.
  • Windy tells Sam about a party she went to: "David Bowie was there, and he asked me to move to Spain with him and raise praying mantises." "David Bowie. Why does it always come back to David Bowie?" Sam wonders. Well, when your father is Major Tom, your subconscious can't really help it, now can it...
  • In the future, Frank Morgan (who is in mission control on Earth) tells the crew that "President Obama really wanted to be in the control room when you landed, but her father is seriously ill so she and her sister went to Chicago to be by his side." Heh.
  • Astronaut Ray makes a prediction: "We will find genetic DNA, Frank. And this will be one successful gene hunt."
  • Astronaut Sam goes up to the man we've known Gene, but who we now know if Major Tom. "I really don't want to fight with you anymore -- DAD," Sam says. Gene/Tom smiles and puts his hand on Sam's face. "Life is good, kiddo. It's like I've been telling you since you were a little boy -- Whichever strange place you land in, make that your home." Not QUITE sure what that has to do with not wanting to fight, and the dad reveal was a little clunky, but those are minor quibbles to an otherwise good surprise.
  • The penultimate image: Gene Hunt's white loafer stepping down onto the surface of Mars.
  • The last thing we see: The Life on Mars logo, with the years ticking up instead of down, landing on 2035. Nicely done.