Friday, November 21, 2008

Life on Mars: Oedipus Vex

Here is where the map mostly ends. Last night's mid-season finale for Life on Mars started as a nearly note perfect remake of the BBC original's season one finale, featuring Dean Winters (Rescue Me, 30 Rock) as Sam's father. LoM has at least 10 more episodes to go this season (after recently garnering another four episode order,) and the Lost-like ending suggests that the series is going to finally start moving away from the original and start to walk on it's own, and since it's going to be following Lost when it returns in January, I can't think of a better segue.

But back to our guest star for a second... how is it that an actor like Dean Winters doesn't have regular gig? Winters acts the hell out of this role, turning into Keyser Soze before our eyes. For Sam to find out his father was a criminal thug must've been like a gunshot to the gut, figuratively first, and then quite literally.

The scene was backed by Harry Nilsson's great "Spaceman," combining both the opening of Sam pretending to be an astronaut and the two bullets now in Sam's abdomen. "Bang, bang, shoot em' up to the moon." Meanwhile, Sam is kind of a spaceman now, lost, unable to get back home: "Hey mother earth, won't 'cha bring me back down?" Meanwhile, to open the episode, we got Bread's classic AM radio staple "Everything I Own" was a perfect music choice given it was written by songwriter David Gates following the loss of his father, and wanting a chance to see him again. Of course, losing your father is one thing... having him shoot you in the gut, well, I don't think there's a song for that.

The episode brought out the best and the worst of the series, specifically the scene with Sam and his dad on the basketball court. The stiffly directed scene was difficult to watch and reminded me that these are the same folks who helmed the awful October Road. But then they broke into some terrible basketball (cheerfully to Steely Dan's "Reeling in the Years,") and all was nearly forgiven, except O'Mara is terrible (what, no basketball in Ireland growing up?) Hopefully, knowing that they'll be following Lost when they return, the series will play to it's strengths more, leaving the lame Grey's Anatomy soap opera moments behind for good.

Playlist: Life on Mars - Episode 1.07
1. "Everything I Own" - Bread
2. "Reeling in the Years" - Steely Dan
3. "Life on Mars" - David Bowie
4. "Spaceman" - Harry Nilsson

Previously: Holding us all hostage (Episode 1.06)

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