Episode 17: “Life is a Rock” (Series Finale)
Like many high-quality shows, Life on Mars has its loyal fans, but apparently the message never got to the mainstream. And that’s a shame. This was definitely a show that should not have been canceled, or missed. I might never have tuned in myself had I not seen the series finale of the original British version.
Now I’m no media critic. I generarally fail to see the larger metaphor beneath the surface of good entertainment. But create a cop show with an intriguing twist, lots of cliffhangers, likeable (and unlikeable) cast, and some great ’70s nostalgia, and I’m hooked.
The initial storyline of the show is about Sam Tyler, a New York City detective with the 125th precinct. While investigating a case, Sam is struck by a car and “wakes up” in 1973. His new co-workers are a rough, tough, opinionated, sexist bunch of hard-core cops who believe that the best confessions are beaten out of their suspects. One exception is Annie “no nuts” Norris, a former psychology major who is trying to break into the previously all-male world of law enforcement. Sam’s adventures lead him to confront his past: his childhood home, his naïve mother and the father who disappeared on Sam’s fourth birthday. He meets a childhood friend who ends up dead, relives a crush on his first babysitter, and teams up with a man who was/will be his mentor in the 21st century. Sam spends much of his time in 1973 trying to figure out what’s real, what’s not, and how he can get back to the present/future.
Life on Mars did not go quietly. In this episode Sam gets a phone call telling him he has three things he must do before he can “go home.” In the process he confronts his father one last time, let’s his mother in on his real identity, chats with his wacky neighbor, Windy, who is the quintessential 70s flower child. Annie gets that promotion, Sam promises his mother he will read to her when she is old, and – finally – Sam acknowledges his feelings for Annie. Then comes the final phone call: Sam has one last task before he can leave 1973. “But what if I don’t want to go?” Sam asks the voice on the phone…
I never saw this ending coming but there will be no further spoilers here. If you want to know what happens you’ll have to watch for yourself. The last five episodes are available for viewing on abc.com, and you owe it to yourself to watch all of them. Better yet, the entire series (17 episodes) will be out on DVD in September. If you are (or become) a hard-core fan like me you might also want to check out the British version: Series (season) 1 comes out in July, series 2 is scheduled to come out next year.