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Torchwood: Adrift

by Jason Hughes, posted Apr 6th 2008 1:04PM
Torchwood: Adrift
(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.

Is it right for Gwen to have told Jonah's mother about him?
Yes, she deserved to know66 (35.1%)
No, it could only make it harder43 (22.9%)
No, I thought what Torchwood did was supposed to stay a secret79 (42.0%)

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Marggy

Ianto already knew the secret about the missing people, so obviously Jack shares his secrets with him. I think they're closer than most people think they are. And I don't see Ianto as a puppy chasing Jack or anything. He's never been shown to be jealous of Gwen or insecure about it. He's just doing what he's doing.

It's the writer's fault that we really don't know where these characters stand, but if could very well be that Jack's more invested in his relationship with Ianto than some see him to be.

April 07 2008 at 1:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Stacy

This was a decent episode, but I'm really sick of Gwen at this point. Most of the episodes seem to be Gwen centered or she has some major role.

I don't see Gwen as the "every person" or "heart" of the team. She usually comes off as self centered and annoying. And it really bugs me that she keeps telling people about Torchwood when it's supposed to be a secret.

What also bothered me, besides all of the things in the review, was how come Tosh didn't notice this before? She has been working at Torchwood longer and does all of the CTV, computer and rift stuff, so how come this escaped her?

Also, why didn't Gwen want to tell Jack about her little project at the get go? And why would Tosh agree to keep it a secret from Jack? They weren't stealing alien technology or anything...

I agree with you, Anita, about Jack and Ianto's relationship. Jack seems to have emotional feelings for women, but sexual relationships with men.

I thought it was great, however, when it was Ianto that tried to "talk to Jack." With the way the writers have been forcing Jack/Gwen down our throats for how long now, it's nice to see that they are giving Gwen/Rys the respect that relationship deserves. Also, it makes Jack look like an a$$ every time he fawns all over her.

I also think that Ianto and/or Owen knew about the island/returnees. Usually, Owen jumps to help Gwen out with something. He gave up pretty easily at the board meeting. Also, Ianto giving her the device that showed her exactly where to look was just too convenient, even for this show.

April 07 2008 at 12:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jaerisk

I don't really see the point in keeping Torchwood a secret. With all the aliens popping up all over the city and space ships and tall monsters, what the hell Torchwood she be like the government Ghostbusters.

April 07 2008 at 10:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jon

What I had a hard time buying is why didn't Gwen just give Jonah's mom some retcon and make her forget that anything happened? She said that she was better off not knowing, better off with hope and I think that Gwen agreed with her. Even if she couldn't wipe out the initial telling of the good news, Gwen could have just said that she made a mistake. Granted that might have 'Americanized' it and wrapped things up, but I can't image that Gwen would have really wanted the mother to live with that much pain.

April 07 2008 at 10:06 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Anita

What is up with Gwen suddenly wanting to tell the world about Torchwood? It makes sense to tell her future husband but not her family and then the survivors' families. I felt the mom's end reaction a bit off. Think about the kids who are kidnapped, tortured, mutilated and sometimes returned to their parents like Megan Willard. Clearly these kids won't look/act the same. So, the mom's initial desire to remove her clearly scarred son from hospital care and her resulting anger at Gwen for not receiving a perfect child back seemed a bit much -

P.S. Regarding Ianto-Jack, I think there's more emotion in I's side than J's. As for Jonah, Gwen was going to start with his mom and then move onto the other survivors.

April 06 2008 at 10:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jun

"How many mainstream shows in the US would allow the whole show to get wrapped up in misery and shame and leave us there?"

I remember one. It was called Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

April 06 2008 at 8:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jun's comment
popbuzz

I hate to admit it, but that is a show that's been on my "to do" list for far too long. And for the argument, I'd offer the new Battlestar Galactica as well. But, as is often cited, those shows and Rescue Me (but now we're getting into cable where the rules are different) are far away the exception and not the rule in network US television, I think.

April 07 2008 at 8:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Karen

I agree with Jason on the strange behavior of Jack where Jonah was concerned. Having shown Jonah to Gwen, and then agreed to bring Nikki out to her see her son, that he wouldn't, you know, MENTION that Jonah was batshit crazy for more than 80% of each day.

Also, if Jack is claiming he's taking care of these poor rift survivors for their own good, then why are they stuck in such dark, dank, creepy little cells? A little cheery wallpaper would have killed him?

I did really like the aspects that dealt with Rhys and Gwen's relationship; it felt very real and true-to-life, for a marriage where one spouse is dealing with some truly indescribable things. The more they show of this, the more you understand what a babe like Gwen is doing with a fairly ordinary sod like Rhys.

And I don't think every guy who meets Gwen falls in love with her. Owen wasn't in love with her, he was just having a hot monkey fling. He dropped her like she was hot as soon as he met the sultry aviatrix. As for Andy--it's not surprising that there was a guy at work who had feelings for her, and it's even less surprising that that would be the guy who comes after her for her help. As for Jack--isn't he in love with EVERYONE??

April 06 2008 at 6:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mj green

Just maybe, Jack felt really awful about the facility, and, knowing his team is human, didn't want them to contstantly think about it. Maybe you need to remember that not everyone 'loves' the same way. Personally, I don't like Gwen and Rhys. Gwen was quick to hop in the sack with Owen, wasn't she? And maybe Jack didn't want any of the families to know the pain their loved ones are in. Now the boy's mom knows what he's doing all the time. Yup, makes her feel really good, don't you think?

April 06 2008 at 5:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
TedSez

Gwen is spunky and cute enough -- despite the Lettermanesque gap-tooth -- but does everyone she comes in contact with have to be in love with her? (And surprised/annoyed that she doesn't love them enough back?) So far we have the cop who was after her in this episode, as well as Owen, Jack, Rhys, and probably a bunch of aliens I can't remember.

April 06 2008 at 4:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to TedSez's comment
Shebbie

I was thinking the same thing. I think the only male on the show that has not fell in love with her is Ianto. I mean, come on. Through Tosh a bone once in a while.



April 06 2008 at 5:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Zarquon

I feel bad being the first comment when I really didn't like this episode. Actually I liked your review much better and its made me a little more accepting of it. I think the main reason why I didn't like this one is just that I'm not much for "heartwarming" stories, they mostly make me want to gag. Though this one wasn't particularly warming, it was still played that way. I guess that's one of the good things about Torchwood, with the tone all over the place the way it is, there's something for everyone.

"One has to accept and overcome some of these little "conveniences" in plot and logic to enjoy the show..." This is what makes me sad about Torchwood, because I don't think this should necessarily be so. Real, logical life has tons of drama; real stories are some of the most gripping. Throw in a little sci-fi and you shouldn't have to throw out logical story progression.

So some of the contradictions in Gwen particularly annoy me. After re-watching the support group scene, I'll admit its not clear whether she runs away (literally) before or after the actual meeting. When I first watched it, I assumed before. Which led me to ask, If Gwen's the "people person" of Torchwood, the one "keeping them human", why wouldn't she listen to their stories? Instead she runs off to "cross-reference"?? Being human and people-y doesn't mean just making a cute collage of missing person posters, it means Actually Talking To People. Moreover, hearing the stories of the missing would help us, the audience, feel more sympathetic to the families and the missing, instead we're just told how we should feel. In the same way, I feel like we are told that Gwen is the emotional center of the show, rather than being shown that.

I was also bothered by many of the things Jason pointed out, i.e. Jack keeping the returnees secret. But also, when Gwen finds out, her first reaction is anger of the "you stay away from me!" variety. Has no one learned to trust anyone yet?!? What did she really think he was doing with them.

I do appreciate the progress they made on Gwen and Rhys's relationship, I'm rooting for those kids. And I appreciate the ambiguous message. But it was reading the review that made me feel that way (so, thanks!); I guess I was too distracted by everything else in the episode to get there by myself.

April 06 2008 at 3:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Zarquon's comment
BC McKinney

I didn't think the episode was that good, either. In fact I thought it was the worst of episode of the series. Possibly because I'm beginning to really despise Gwen, so any episode in which her annoying traits are so much the focus is going to bug me. I also dislike it when characters like Tosh and Owen are almost written out of an episode, even if it's Naoko's and Burn's fortnight off.

April 07 2008 at 3:03 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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