Life on Mars
Things to Do in New York When You Think You’re Dead
Original Air Date: Nov 13, 2008
Sara M. – TwoCents Reviewer
This is an episode of questions. Is Sam alive? Is Sam dead? Is Sam in a coma? Very little is actually answered about these questions, but we do get a few hints. One thing is clear, a child is dead and 1973 New York City is on the brink of rioting.
The Black Liberation Alliance is out for justice and their leader, Brother Love, is encouraging violent actions. Are you ready to groove?
We begin with a butterfly. As simple as that. A monarch butterfly, flitting about the city while we hear Brother Love’s broadcast. A 9-year-old African American girl, Keisha Davies, was thrown off the roof of her apartment building. The man suspected of this heinous crime is Angel Rodriguez. In a neighborhood already brimming with African American/Puerto Rican tensions, this death can only serve to exacerbate the problems. And offers a quandary for Sam when he recognizes her as the little girl on her bike singing the sandman song.
Accordingly, the 125 catch the case. Now there are very few rules in Gene Hunt’s kingdom, but one that won’t be broken and tolerated on his watch, the death of a kid. Our favorite detectives are ready to go vigilante, but there’s no need. Young, timid, newbie Chris has Angel cornered in a church. The only problem is that Father Tim won’t turn him over. Sam and Ray arrive to help Chris out, under the promise that they’ll be fair to Angel, the Father turns him over. As Ray is roughing Angel up against the car, trying to handcuff him, two members of the BLA come along and throw a pipe bomb beneath the car. Sam gets the three of them out of the way just in time. But Angel gets away, leaving Sam and Ray disoriented and bleeding in the middle of the street.
Back at the precinct the drunk tank is being emptied in order to make room for all the rioters they’ll be bringing in. As one of the drunkards is ushered past Sam he randomly tells him, “maybe you’re already dead and don’t know it yet.” He and Ray have returned just in time for Gene’s rallying of the officers. They’re ready to go after those responsible for the pipe bomb instead of looking for Angel. A young African American detective, Fletcher, interrupts the speech. He caught the two responsible for the bombing. In the Lost & Found/Interrogation room, things are beginning to get terse. Ray is more than ready to get the hammer and pliers from his desk when the two begin to cooperate. Just as things begin to flow Annie interrupts, representation for the BLA members has arrived.
The woman, Denise Watkins, is not just a lawyer but Fletcher’s future wife. Although the only person to know this is Sam. The conversation with the bombers is cut short, leaving Gene with no other option but to declare the manhunt for Angel on. Officers are encouraged to shoot first and ask questions later. Fletcher and Sam set out to find Angel first and bring him in alive. On a hunch they return to the church, the priest is less than helpful. Back in the car Brother Love broadcasts a possible location for Angel. The two take off only to discover that it was a trap. They are taken hostage by the BLA. As soon as the cops catch Angel, they’re going to trade Fletcher and Sam for him.
Per usual, Sam’s mouth gets them into trouble. Long story short, he has to rap in order to keep Fletcher from being shot. Under pressure, he comes up with Vanilla Ice, which goes over surprisingly well. While the gun is still drawn, Denise arrives, angry to find that they’ve kidnapped two policemen. They begin referring to “Him,” who is involved with everything they do. Down the hall they’re taken to meet Him, Brother Love, who turns out to be a she (Whoopi Goldberg). It’s hard for a woman to get her point across, so an octave lower and she becomes Brother Love Butter.
She’s preaching about how the BLA has it right, violence is the only option. Fletcher injects logic into the conversation, pointing out that as soon as street justice is done the officers will arrest any accomplices. That includes Brother Love. She agrees to give them 24 hours of radio silence while they look for him. They use the radio station to reach out to Angel, who calls in and begins to tell his story. He is interrupted however when Gene calls in and tells Sam to stop messing around and get to work.
At the port authority they spot someone wearing Angel’s jacket. But it’s his pregnant girlfriend, Marta. The bring her back to the station and try to get the information out of her. Again Fletcher steps in and is able to convince her that her baby is going to need a father. He was going to the candlelight vigil for Keisha, to pay his respects. While there Sam begins to hear voices. All of them saying good-bye, he looks down at the paper he’s holding only to see that the headline is from 2008, reporting the death of a police officer. The moment is interrupted when the BLA arrives, someone looks up and spots Angel on the roof.
Gene and Ray are already up there, weapons drawn. Sam and Fletcher pull their guns on them. This is the only moment for Angel to tell his side of the story. He was up there painting, Keisha had been playing with a butterfly she had found in the park. When it got away she gave chase, moving closer and closer to the edge. He tried to grab a hold of her, but wasn’t fast enough, she fell before he could do anything. Although this is the truth, there was no way out of the situation that doesn’t involve some kind of justice being dealt. Down on the street two gunshots can be heard.
They fake Angel’s death and get him out of the area in an ambulance. Sam returns to the church and once again meets the lush from before. Suddenly the church is transformed, it’s 2008, no one can see Sam and there is a closed coffin. It’s Fletcher’s funeral, not Sam’s. Whatever forces controlling this world decided to let Sam say goodbye to the man Sam considered his father. He goes home and prays for a way home.
A great episode. They did a lot of interesting things with these characters. One episode they appear to be on the take from a local mobster, made to look like dirty cops. But then an episode like this shows that Ray and Gene are good guys, just have different priorities.
Thoughts? Is Sam dead, alive, in purgatory? Who was the drunk man that kept appearing? For those who have watched the show already, are you picking up on anything new that you didn’t notice the first time round? Share your Two Cents.