by Jason Hughes, posted Apr 6th 2008 1:04PM
(S02E11) "Always room for one more. We could have used you an hour ago for naked hide-and-seek." Jack to Gwen after she walked in on him and Ianto having an intimate moment
Well, it was a vast improvement over last week's episode. And it actually revealed some significant information about the rift and its activities, but that's not to say the episode was without some logistical problems and "conveniences." As seems to be par for the course on Torchwood, there was at least one ridiculously convenient coincidence that the emotional hook of the episode hinged on.
Speaking of that emotional hook, you know how you can tell this is a British television show? Because it didn't get all wrapped up in the end in a nice, easy bow. This is a mainstream show in the UK. How many mainstream shows in the US would allow the whole show to get wrapped up in misery and shame and leave us there? Torchwood has always been the darker, more mature cousin of Doctor Who, and this episode lived up to that title.
I really enjoyed the technique this time of having Gwen serve as narrator. Since the story was a very personal, emotional journey for her it helped drive home the impact of the experience for her to hear it in her own words. And, of course, the nice reveal at the end to explain just why we're getting this story through her voice to begin with. That said, I'd like to applaud the writers for handling the marriage of Rhys and Gwen in a painfully honest way.
Rhys has always been a character who feels very strongly against people who carry themselves as if they are better than everyone around them. So when he started to feel that Gwen was perhaps getting that way regarding the lofty ("save mankind from aliens" and all that good stuff) nature of her job with Torchwood, his lashing out at her was difficult to watch but perfectly within his character. And by the same token, after telling her to deal with her work issues at work, it was just as within his character to ask her to open up and tell him everything when clearly those work issues were too much for her to handle alone. A true definition of "love" written with subtlety and perfection.
Then you can contrast the depth of that love with what we saw from Jack and Ianto. Granted, theirs is a fairly new relationship, but nevertheless one could argue that Ianto betrayed Jack's trust by giving Gwen the lead she needed to find the "returnees" compound. Even Jack knew it was Ianto who had betrayed him. Their relationship is shown as passionate and fun, and seems to serve some deeper purpose that Jack needs, but how emotionally authentic and real can it be? But love is complicated, so who knows.
As for Jack, the whole situation with the "returnees" was fundamentally flawed for me. I don't understand why he would so vehemently keep the whole thing a secret from the rest of the team. They've seen and experienced some pretty shocking and disturbing things, and their whole jobs are about analyzing and dealing with the rift, and yet there's an entire facet of it that Jack intentionally kept a secret from them? I just find it hard to believe.
As much as it is difficult to imagine having to keep those people abducted by the rift and returned in an off-shore secret facility for physical and psychiatric treatment, I don't think it's something that the team would be unable to comprehend or understand. But it's more the fact that he knew the rift sometimes took people and he knew that there were ways to track when it did after the fact, and he kept even this from the team. I just don't understand his motives completely on this one.
And he has to have known that Gwen wasn't going to rest until she got to the bottom of the problem. She's a good investigator and a stubborn and determined woman, traits Jack likes in her. So did he really think telling her to "let it go" and "drop it" was going to convince her. "Oh, okay, Jack. I'll just stop caring about these missing people, and this missing child in particular because you used your manly voice. La-la-la-la, who wants to watch some telly?"
I think at this point he wanted to get caught. It does seem that he's grown to trust the team and care for them more and more. Maybe he wasn't sure how to tell them about the facility without looking like some sort of monster, like he did to Gwen when she first found him there. I think those emotions were a bit overdone when she was telling him to stay away from her; surely he's earned enough trust by now that she would at least hear him out.
And as for that amazing "coincidence." The whole thing that lead to Gwen's quest for the missing people of Cardiff was one missing case in particular, a fifteen-year old named Jonah. So of course, out of the hundreds of people taken by the rift, and out of the seventeen that have come back, Jonah is one of them. This allowed us to have the personal and emotional impact of Gwen bringing his poor mother to the island to see him. She's horrified at first, followed by compassion and loving that only a mother can give, and horrified again when we learn that he screams a gut-wrenching roar twenty hours a day.
Why would no one have bothered to tell Gwen this to begin with? Why let her go all the way to the point where she brings his mother there before telling her about this little affliction. Was it a scheduled phenomenon? Did the "nurse" not think such a thing an important detail? And how come Gwen wasn't as adamant about finding the other sixteen families and bringing them out there, or was she going to as soon as she was done with Jonah's mom?
Don't get me wrong. Overall, this was a very good episode. One has to accept and overcome some of these little "conveniences" in plot and logic to enjoy the show and I have no problem doing so. All of that didn't lessen the tragic emotional impact of the moment when Jonah's mom told Gwen to promise her not to do that to any other families, to not tell any other families that their missing loved ones are alright and bring them to them. While Gwen was trying to do the right thing, instead she shattered this poor woman. Where there was once hope and pleasant memories of her son (along with the anguish of not knowing) there is now only the horror of the truth and the pain of the suffering her child is going through.
It's an ambiguous moral about knowing versus not knowing, and I like that there weren't any easy answers. It also worked very well as a solo piece for Eve Myles; I think collectively the rest of the team had less than five minutes of on-screen time. She is the emotional heart and center of the show, and has always represented the "every man" point of view. And it strengthens her individuality and humanity that they've seen fit to keep Rhys as a significant non-Torchwood figure in her life.
The bottom line is that this was an excellent showcase episode for Gwen's character. It revealed some heretofore unknown aspects of the rift's activities which may or may not have some significance in the future, and it showed that somehow, some way Jack will always know best.
|Yes, she deserved to know||66 (35.1%)|
|No, it could only make it harder||43 (22.9%)|
|No, I thought what Torchwood did was supposed to stay a secret||79 (42.0%)|