To begin, the CGI and special effects are quite possibly the best ever seen on the show. Despite being in charge of the specials that will be airing next year, it seems that this episode was treated as the last that Davies will ever run. As a result, he wrapped up most every storyline he could think of going back to the first season.
(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.
It was cool to think of Jack exploiting his immortality by performing as "The Man Who Could Not Die" in a traveling freak show a hundred years ago or so. It would make perfect sense that he'd go into that line of work. But then we learned that he did so while investigating the "night travelers," but he wouldn't say for whom and why he was investigating. Another layer of the Captain Jack onion almost peeled.
This was more of a comic-relief episode than any of the season's previous ones. It was a welcome respite from the heavy life-and-death episode about Owen from last week.
On a side note, I'm amazed Owen, since he died and was resurrected, still doesn't have the craving for human flesh that the shapeshifter from this episode had. In all other aspects he's pretty much become a zombie. Maybe that bit happens later.
(S02E08) "You get to live forever. I get to die forever." -Owen comparing his situation to Jack's immortality.
This was a very different Torchwood episode. There were no aliens to battle and no major action sequences. In fact, Team Torchwood was mostly inactive. Instead, we got to take an episode to look deep into the psyche and situation of Dr. Owen Harper. Everything from the music to the way the various scenes were shot lent itself perfectly to the melancholy and hopelessness of the character. Burn Gorman showed tremendous depth in his portrayal of Owen this installment, and it looks like we may finally be looking at some major growth for Owen. Not that he still doesn't have some very serious issues to deal with.
(S02E04) When Gwen first joined Torchwood, she brought with her an element that none of the other team-members had, namely a significant other in Rhys. Since that time she has struggled to keep those two worlds separate, insisting to Rhys that she was still working for the police department and keeping him in the dark as to the otherworldly doings of Torchwood. Seems that would be difficult to maintain, right? Well, Cardiff is only so big so inevitably it would become impossible.
(S02E03) The adventure starts in 1918, featuring the Torchwood of its era. We get to see the future from the perspective of the past and the end of the episode from the perspective of the beginning. Confusing? Good. It's time travel, you're supposed to be confused. Torchwood continue its string of excellent episodes this run with this Tosh-centric installment. The inner struggles between team members seem to be a thing of the past, resolved while Jack was away, and what we have now is a real solid force that I can believe is prepared for whatever is coming.
Just as happened with parent series Doctor Who, those of us stateside won't have to wait as long after the British airing of Torchwood's second season to see it here, though ironically it has yet to be announced when it will premiere on BBC Two in the UK. TVGuide.com tells us the second season of BBC America's biggest hit comes to us beginning January 26. And with James Marsters (Buffy/Angel) dropping in for a guest shot, and Doctor Who's Freema Agyeman (companion Martha) checking in for an extended stay mid-season, this second go round with Captain Jack Harkness, Gwen and the gang is shaping up to be more exciting than the first.
Marsters will play a time-agent criminal who "goes around in different times killing people with no remorse at all." His character Spike, remains one of the most popular in the Buffy-verse, so I expect Torchwood's ratings to see another "spike." (Boo! Boo! Hiss! Get off the stage!).
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