Perhaps the strangest decision was to show an extended preview after the first episode. It didn’t just give us a taste for what was to come but outright revealed important story points. As a result much of this episode was spoilt.
Those who watched the trailer knew that the pharmaceutical company was stock piling drugs and that they’d recruit Oswald Danes. How we got there was lacking any surprises and was generally disappointing.
After an initially exciting raid on CIA director Friedkin’s house the pacing slowed right down. It is shame that Friedkin was dealt with so quickly, after the previous episode set him up a well connected villain for the heroes. Instead the focus is placed on PhiCorp.
We did get a taste of how this new Torchwood team could operate. It was pleasing to see them at least moderately competent, coordinating their actions to carry out their plans. That is until you realise that more than half of the team spend time away from the action, looking at laptops while Captain Jack, lacking his immortality, is given less and less to do.
The shame is that when Captain Jack was introduced he was a con artist. The situation the Torchwood team find themselves in would be perfect for these skills to be remembered. Instead he is the stoic square jawed hero. Now he seems reliant on technology and pointing his gun.
Confusingly Rex was feeling the effects of his wound again this week, bleeding out and collapsing. I wish there were some lines of dialogue to make it clearer whether he will heal or if this will be a continuing problem.
This isn’t the only thing that isn’t clear in the world the show is trying to create. We are told about panic buying and people going crazy in the streets but all the location filming shows a completely orderly streets, with no trace of this supposed chaos. Of course this was a question of budget but it is hard to believe that society is breaking down when every other scene depicts things a business as usual.
It is disappointing that we are only told about the new mask wearing cult by Gwen. We don’t get to hear directly what the Souless cult members actually believe, reduced to simply adding colour to the background of a few shots.
All the tension and excitement of the previous episode seems to have evaporated. The early discovery of the drug stockpile wasn’t particularly shocking, nor was the push to remove the need for prescriptions.
I think this goes back to the point I raised about the first episode. The lack of death is not a great threat. Even if we are to believe that drug company has engineered miracle day, so what? Where are the stakes? Where is the countdown?
The heroes have all the time in the world to stop this crisis. This seems to be reflected in the leisurely pace in which the Torchwood team are carrying out their investigations. This ‘24’ without the clock.
Oswald’s story arc continues, simply going through the motions as he is recognised for his crimes, beaten by cops before becoming a messiah figure, apparently attracting a small following.
It is still not believable that anyone would listen to him just because he didn’t die on Miracle Day. He has yet to shown any form of charm or charisma that could make people forget what he has done.
In addition the audience is kept distanced from him, never sure what his actual feelings are. We lack any insight into what he truly wants. His pleas for forgiveness and backing of the drug company are obviously are a facade but is his confession to Jack also a cover? Is Jack right in that he is seeking to be punished and that living with what he did is worse than death?
Captain Jack did have some of the best scenes in the episode, despite being side lined. The scene in which he calls Gwen, his only friend left in the world, only for her to abandon him in favour of a long distance vid-link to her family is heart-breaking.
His confrontation with Oswald is intense but a little strange. After having the plot meander for much of the episode Jack suddenly climbs in through a window and meets exactly who he was looking for.
I found it amusing that Oswald ‘correctly’ guessed that his name is Jack Harkness, even though this is a false identity. I can see that they were trying to establish a connection between the two men, possibly due to Jack having to kill his grandson last season, but it seemed a stretch that Jack would understand the feelings elicited from raping and killing a 12 year old girl.
The scene also continues an unfortunate theme for Torchwood, characters threatening people for information who don’t have anything to reveal. Other than having the characters meet nothing new was learned and the plot wasn’t advanced.
Dr Vera Juarez was used to once again give us some grizzly medical implications of no one dying and actually seemed to have an interesting character development when she seemed to throw in with the villains, rejecting Rex.
Sadly this wasn’t to last and she was helping the Torchwood team out shortly afterwards. A shame as having a ‘good’ character working with the bad guys could have been interesting.
The writer, Jane Espenson, tries her best but some of the dialogue was truly cringe worthy during this episode, particularly the trans-Atlantic communication barrier between Gwen and Esther. With so much exposure to US programs very few people in the UK would get confused about calling crisps chips or biscuits cookies.
The biggest problem is that this still doesn’t feel like a Torchwood series. The involvement of the team is dubious at best, especially with no alien involvement so far to be found. The question is whether this would have benefited from being its own series rather than taking on the baggage of a Dr Who spin-off?
With only two episodes before we reach the half way point of the series I hope that the pace will pick up.