Destined to be discussed long into the night once it’s screened.
Firstly, let me say yet again that I know just how lucky I am to be able to see episodes of Ashes in advance.
Plus interviewing the cast on set and elsewhere.
But mixed with the excitement of seeing episode one is a sadness that now there are just seven left to go.
As we head towards what promises to be an epic finale to the Life On Mars and Ashes To Ashes journey.
Update 1: Episode one was due to be broadcast on BBC1 in the week starting Monday March 22.
Placed in the official BBC weekly listings yesterday.
But less than 24 hours later the schedulers changed their minds.
With series three now listed to be “shown at a later date”.
Let’s hope it’s only a short delay – I’ll update this blog again as soon as I know any more.
Update 2: The first ep will be screened at 9pm on Good Friday – April 2.
So to early impressions in what is, I think, the exclusive first review.
What can I say about Matthew Graham’s episode one without including any serious spoilers?
As you’d expect, the opening titles have been tweaked again.
Alex Drake’s (Keeley Hawes) updated voiceover alone is worth the long wait between series two and three.
We left Alex in a coma within a coma after she was accidentally shot by Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister).
Or at least that’s the best guess we have to be going on with as to where she is.
The action resumes three months on.
It’s 1983 and Gene has been on the run.
First in the Isle of Wight and then the Costa Brava.
But now he’s back in town and ready to clear his name.
The very first scene may surprise, along with the intense minutes that follow.
A2A3 ep 1 also giving us a glorious re-introduction to the Gene Genie.
En route to what may eventually be some pretty dark places.
Not forgetting a modern day TV news report from Lancashire.
The return of Ashes poses many questions:
Will we finally discover who Gene Hunt is?
At the centre of his kingdom and this universe?
Does he have secrets in his past that we don’t know about?
And just what is in Gene’s filing cabinet?
With Life On Mars bleeding into Ashes To Ashes, it’s not giving too much away to reveal that there is an early mention of Sam Tyler.
Although there is no sign of any return by John Simm, it seems clear that Sam will be a key off screen figure in this final series.
Along with an intriguing new character – DCI Jim Keats, played by Daniel Mays.
He’s from the Met’s Discipline and Complaints section, brought in to investigate the shooting of Alex.
As The Guv tells DI Drake: “If you shoot a fellow police officer, they get a bit annoyed about it.”
Jim Keats fits straight into Ashes like one of Gene’s driving gloves.
He appears to know a great deal about Gene, Sam and Alex and is certain to be pivotal over the course of the final eight episodes.
Possibly the most influential incoming “outsider” in all three series of Ashes.
Can Jim help Alex get back to her daughter Molly in the present day?
If there even is a present day.
Or is Alex there to help him? Or for another reason entirely?
It’s a delight to be reunited with the rest of the CID family – Ray (Dean Andrews), Chris (Marshall Lancaster) and Shaz (Montserrat Lombard).
All three characters appearing stronger on screen than ever before.
Even the Quattro seems to have acquired extra final series zip.
Some ranks and relationships at Fenchurch East have changed.
While those who fear the dark side of Ashes can rest assured that there’s still plenty of humour sprinkled across the first 60 minutes.
To contrast with the latest mysterious figure in Alex’s life.
Ashes fans know that everything is significant.
They’ll be kept busy in episode one with lots of potential clues to the final destination of these characters.
Including fascinating final words from Jim for, first, Gene…and then Alex.
Special mention for yet another classic moment of screen photography in CID.
With everyone involved in this production hitting top gear for the final lap.
Earlier in the episode Alex and Gene are discussing how she was shot.
“Sometimes in life, you can’t help which way you fall,” she says.
A line later repeated to Alex by one of the characters in the crime story of the week – the kidnap of a schoolgirl, which obviously resonates with the DI “trapped” in 1983.
Is that line significant?
I’ve absolutely no idea.
But finding out is surely going to be the best fun you can have with a television in 2010.