(Index to all Torchwood posts here.)
So, Torchwood and friends are on the run and trying to dig up info on PhiCorp, the Über Eval drug company that may have orchestrated Miracle Day. They’re doing pretty well on the info front, but they’re doing lousy at the lying low. Esther actually drops by her sister’s and reports her to social services as an unfit mother. Gwen wanders around in the bright sunshine on her phone calling Rhys. And, having chastised Esther and Gwen, Rex shoots off to have an angsty-lack-of-reconciliation with his dad (and steal some of the painkillers his dad happens to be stock-piling). Unsurprisingly, they pick up a suspicious dude with a telephoto lens.
Torchwood learn how to break into a PhiCorp databank by obtaining the fingerprints, vocal patterns, and retinal image of a top scientist. Their tail does the same, in less humane ways, and lies in wait for them.
Meanwhile, a new News Star is on the rise, as Tea Party darling Ellis Hartley Monroe steals the limelight from Oswald Danes with her ‘Dead is Dead’ campaign, arguing that those who have died-but-not-died should not have equal rights to the properly ‘living’. At the same time, hospitals are persuaded to shove their emergency cases off to one side in a woefully under-equipped ‘plague-ship’ style hospital. Oswald steals the stage back by entering the disease-ridden building, making a speech, and holding a baby.
How was it?
I don’t know. I want to be more blown away by it than I am. I think the biggest problem is that, having started the series with an ass-kicking bang, Torchwood and friends are continuing to be disappointingly rubbish. I know it’s what keeps the plot going, but I can’t help but feel like there ought to be a Better Way. Also, much as I like seeing mental illness explored, there seems to be a conveniently unlikely amount of close-relatives-with-extreme-paranoia running around. It’s not entirely clear to me exactly what sort of mental illness these people suffer from, and at the moment it just all seems like a push towards heightened melodrama that’s hardly needed in the context of everything else that’s going down. It makes any discussion connected with these things feel like a throw-away-convenience.
Some elements of the plot are still working quite well, but I sort of feel uncomfortably unbalanced between something hard-hitting and clever and something surface level and pulpish. Where the opening couple of episodes really got the mix of old Torchwood fun and Children of Earth grimness right, it’s feeling more like an uncomfortable see-saw to me at the moment.
I don’t know how I feel about the Oswald Danes plot. It’s either brilliant or awful. I don’t like it. I’m deeply, deeply uncomfortable with how easily people seem to be swayed into forgiving him and even worshiping him. They had a child molester hold a baby for Christ’s sake! I know we’re meant to be all ‘isn’t public opinion fickle’, but I’m not convinced it is as fickle on issues like this as is being portrayed. People really, really don’t like child molesters. Yes, one or two people stand up and say it’s sick and they see through him, but I’m fairly convinced there would be a lot more. People would have snatched that baby right out of his arms once they realised who he was, charisma or no charisma. And, frankly, despite how much I usually adore him as an actor, I’m just not finding Bill Pullman’s performance that compelling.
What is interesting is his relationship with his PR lady. I liked the reveal that she is thoroughly disgusted by him, but she’s doing her job anyway. There are a couple of really nice moments, like when Vera tells Jilly that the media circus and Jilly’s excitement about it is disgusting, and Jilly delightedly responds ‘I know’ – a very nice piece of acting from Laura Ambrose. I also really loved the moment in Oswald’s hotel room as he crouches quietly by his mini-bar, cracking bottle after bottle just to hear the carbonated hiss we presume he’s been denied all these years. But overall, I’m just not sure. Mostly I feel like I’m being poked to talk about Oswald’s story because ‘gosh it’s so edgy’, but instead it feels overblown and implausible in a way that cheapens the edge. I am torn on this one, but it shouldn’t be mistaken for the sort of story that’s good because it sets your emotions and intuitions at war. This is no Dexter. Rather, sometimes it verges on something genuinely interesting, whilst at other times its crass and unbelievable.
In a similar way, bringing in a Tea Party Sarah-Palin-alike figure is in some ways quite daring and a nice piece of dry wit. But she’s introduced and thrown away in one episode, fitting in with my feeling that there are a lot of interesting ideas here, but they’re just being thrown in for colour rather than being really explored.
Perhaps I wouldn’t mind so much if the Torchwood focused stories were stronger. Credit must be given for Eve Myles’s consistently strong performance and the continuing believable emotion she brings to her familial relationships. However, the plot with her father being shipped away was so obvious it just bored me, rather than heightening the tension.
Still, I remain interested in seeing where it goes. The Jack plot is really intriguing, and I thought the bit where the hitman won’t kill him because he’s the last mortal man is a nice touch even if it’s also a fudge to explain why we get to keep our leading man when really he ought to have been killed. Keep it up, Torchwood, I’m still with you, but I’d like to see just a little bit more competence resurfacing soon.