I’m still not quite coherent after this week of mind-wrecking tv but I need to vent things and since that’s what this place is for…
Just to be on the safe side I’ll put this after a cut for any stumbling in Americans that are waiting for BBC America’s broadcast starting July 20th. In short, I loved the series as a whole, well written, well acted, well directed, easily 4 out of 5 stars. I just have some minor issues and one major issue that ruined everything for me.
So… Torchwood… I’m in danger of rambling so I’m just gonna take this sort of by topic instead of doing it episode by episode.
Let’s start with the aliens. I thought the portrayal of the 456 was excellently done! By keeping them hidden the tension was kept up and there was no risk of having the audience burn the cgi. I was bothered by the fact that no-one tried to use the 456′ box against it. It sent instructions to build it so the government people knew how the thing worked, they couldn’t figure out a way, later, to break through the box and just kill the alien by venting its atmosphere?
The other thing about the 456 that I liked was that they didn’t want the children for some kind of higher purpose but just as a fix. To them, we mean nothing, we’re just a drug to them.
Then there’s the team. My love for Torchwood grew from the team dynamic. Granted, the wacky adventures they had we’re great fun to watch but it ‘s the characters and their dynamic that kept me watching. I love Captain Jack as this swaggering, cheeky man, almost always with a twinkle in his eye and at his best when he can go and do something. I also loved how they built up Ianto from the manservant who never got involved to full-fledged member of the team. And the Jack/Ianto relationship really gave a new dimension to both characters. Owen was another of my favourites, it was awesome to see him grow, see him become more than the basically angry man he was in the first few episodes of series 1. And, at the risk of repeating myself, same for Tosh and also Gwen. And then RTD started to break this down.
First he killed of Owen and Toshiko, leaving the team broken. I’d wished they would’ve touched on this a little more even though the scene were Gwen says good morning to their picture was really touching and all out lovely.
During the beginning of the crisis, the team sticks together and the team dynamic is good. As the situation worsens, however, the more the team gets separated (if not physically, then emotionally), especially after the hub explodes. I love about Torchwood how the team can make me laugh, and this series had remarkably few moments of that. I know it’s been emphasised from the get-go that this would be a darker Torchwood but there’s a thing as too dark. I watch Torchwood to have a good time, get some decent sci-fi in and have a laugh and a chuckle. I can’t remember any laugh out loud moments in this series, however, outside of the moment where Ianto breaks Jack out of prison. That was so very much a Torchwood thing; Gwen and Rhys sneaking in as undertakers, of all things, then Ianto and his JCB come barging in. And Gwen admonishing him for taking his time when they run out and climb in to run :).
I also really enjoyed the moments the team members had with their families. Gwen with Rhys (even though he was almost a team member in this series), Ianto with his sister and her family and Jack with his daughter and grandson. They rounded out the characters, made them more human. Plus, they brought home the fact that this thing with the children does not only affect the world, it also affects them personally.
Now, outside of the the fact there was not much laughing or even chuckling to be done, I was gaining faith. The team was growing, getting used to being this smaller group. The dynamic was different but it came back. And then the unforgivable happened. They killed of Ianto. o.0
The scene was excellently acted and wonderfully executed by remaining close on them as Ianto was dying. But, and this a big one, it totally ruined everything for me. Jack is my favourite character of the bunch, but Ianto was such a close second you’d need a very tiny measuring tape to get the distance between them. And the Jack/Ianto relationship was awesome and brought new insights to both their characters and was slowly getting Jack out of his comfort zone. Jack is really a man who has been hurt a lot in his long time on earth and he keeps his emotions inside for the most part, a measure of self-protection, and Ianto was breaking this down. And then they killed him, and with him a part of Jack too.
The way of killing Ianto, however, seemed random(ish). No heroics, no going down fighting, just a virus, from an alien in a protective box, neither of which can be fighted, can be stopped. I get the point they’re trying to make: Torchwood is dangerous, you can die at any time, and it doesn’t have to be a major event either; but this was like a last straw kinda thing. After Owen and Tosh, now getting rid of Ianto killed the team dynamic. There is no team anymore, there’s Jack and there’s Gwen. Jack can’t really fall back on Gwen (although the scene with Ianto’s body was very touching) cause she has Rhys and her unborn baby. And with Rhys being the type of man he is, there is no room for Jack, not in the long run. And with no other people close to him, this leaves Jack on his own.
Then, the government. I have mixed feelings over this. On the one hand, I loved how they showed the process in which the government went along with the 456. How, once the decision had been made to hand over the kids, the people, almost casually, went on to decide which kids should be taken. Creepy Prime Minister was good too, really the embodiment of how many people see the government I think. It was John Frobisher, however, who was hands down the best part of the government parts. His development from a general paper-pusher to front man was very well done. You could see him wrestle with his emotions and it really showed how easy things change. He worked hard his entire life, was successful and then this comes along and in just a few days he is brought to the edge. The scene where the PM tells him he has been chosen as example and that his kids will be taken was chilling. The following sequence, where he requisitions the gun and goes home was marvelously done, with the sound going away and the music swelling. I half expected the scene to end with the closing door but then… the gunshots.
What I didn’t like about the government was that it took up so much screen time. I get that in this story line the government is important but, getting back to a previous point, I watch Torchwood for the team, I wanted more team time.
Another thing I really enjoyed were a lot of the secondary characters. These were excellently cast and brought diversity to the plot. Rupesh Patinjali for some reason really reminded me of Dr. Bashir from Star Trek : Deep Space 9, all wide eyed and ready to dive into the world of secret organisations and missions. Of course, we learn he already is involved and gets in over his head, just like Julian (almost) has on a few occassions.
I especially liked Clem and his tics 😀 His “isn’t it” over his shoulder, his smelling of things. A favourite part, one of the few moments that got a chuckle out of me, was when Gwen brought him to the makeshift hub. She’d introduced Rhys and then Clem goes “Who’s the queer?” Ianto’s fierce “Oy!” brought a smile and then Clem’s sullen response “He is, I can smell it” brought the chuckle.
I loved Ianto’s sister, Rhiannon, how her voice nearly broke when she asked Ianto if it was something she’d done that he wouldn’t talk to her. And then Ianto telling about him and Jack was marvelous, really brings home the point, we don’t fall in love with a gender, we fall in love with a person.
Jack’s family was a pleasant surprise too, Alice was very good, I loved the little tidbits we got to know about how she deals with having a father who can’t die and doesn’t really age. And how quickly she figured out that Jack was there initially for Steven, because he needed a kid.
Johnson was another I liked. Not at first, mind you, then she was just another person who happened to be the one wanting them dead. But later, once she started learning what it was the government was hiding, you saw her change, and that was very well done. Mellowing her without having her lose her hard edge, as demonstrated at the end with Steven’s sacrifice.
And that brings us to the ending. I didn’t really like the fifth episode. It seemed both too slow and too fast. It was awfully fast how the government managed to set the whole process of rounding up the kids in motion, a matter of hours, that seems a bit unrealistic (yeah, I know, it’s TV but still :D), yet the way it was filmed took too long, I got impatient with it. The way they showed the actual taking of the kids in the buses and such was a bit low on extras, I’d expect more angry parents at the fence and more fighting back. Not running after the bus for 3 steps and then stopping, no, get in a car, chase after it, stuff like that. Same goes for the scene on the estate where Rhi and Johnny live, the amount of soldiers and of civilians seemed to low. And the whole running off with the kids and hiding in the barn, that was… meh.
I both did and didn’t like how Rhiannon lashed at Gwen that she didn’t really know Ianto at all. Made it clear that there were still many things about Ianto we didn’t know and now never will, but also showed that Ianto apparently didn’t feel comfortable enough with the team yet to share that kind of information about himself.
The final solution that Jack and Mr. Dekker came up with seemed to easy, surely someone must’ve figured that out before… Mr. Dekker seemed to relish the thought the kid at the center would fry, the way he said it, it was very creepy. Jack’s in charge again, saving the world. And he has to make the decision to sacrifice Steven. there is no other choice, no other kid nearby. It was an excellent scene, very well done. Then when the transmission starts and Steven starts to bleed and you see Alice at the window and Jack standing there, tears streaming down his face. That’s when he breaks, and then when all is said and done and he’s in the hallway and Alice comes in and just looks at him and leaves him, that’s when he starts running away from things. He can’t take any more.
If it had ended there, it would’ve been better. The six months later epilogue was kinda lame. I get why they needed a set-up where Jack goes into space and such so he can meet up with the doctor (since six months later puts it conveniently in time for the Doctor Who Christmas special he is cast for) but… there’s just something off about it.
So… yeah. Taking us on a darker path this year, definitely. But there’s also something like too much darkness. Torchwood’s upbeatness was one of the main pulls for me, but this was just mostly bleak and harrowing and full of despair.