Let’s get an important issue out of the way: If you haven’t seen the first season of the original U.K. version of Life on Mars, you’ve no business reading this review. Move along – there’s nothing for you to see here. But do go check out our review of the first season, buy the set, and then come back here if you liked what you saw (and chances are, you will). Life on Mars is great television, and the Brits may have a lot to teach Americans about the economy of storytelling, as Series Two is again comprised of eight episodes, which in turn wrap up the entire story; the whole thing is a mere 16 episodes, which makes its two seasons together a whole episode shorter than the one season of the ABC remake from last year.
The first season of Mars offered up a fairly even mix of procedural and out of time weirdness. We didn’t learn much more about the “whys” of Sam Tyler’s (John Simm) predicament by the end of the season than we knew at the beginning. Season Two kicks off without showing its hand immediately, and yet from the very first episode, the viewer gets the feeling the stakes have been raised. A series of nasty killings leads Sam and Gene (Philip Glenister) to casino owner Tony Crane (the criminally underrated Marc Warren), whom Sam recognizes as a nemesis from his future (or is it his present?). Gene believes Crane to be clean, but Sam knows better, and throughout the episode a hazy version of Crane threatens Sam’s life in the hospital many years away. Crane’s girlfriend, Eve (Yasmin Bannerman), may be the key to putting him away for good, if only Sam can convince her that forming a lifelong partnership with Crane will lead to her eventual death. It’s a pretty amazing (and complex) kick-start for the season, and Warren makes for an unusually effective boogeyman.
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