One of the main rules of the first series of Torchwood was that every time there’s an episode isn’t absolutely terrible, it must be followed by one that is. This pattern has been broken for Series 2, which has now delivered back-to-back “not too bad actually” episodes, although neither of them have eclipsed any of the better efforts from the first run. The bar is not particularly high, but at least they’re comfortably clearing it now.
There is of course the inherent problem that the protagonists behave in quite a monstrous way at times. It’s easy to forget that Torchwood was originally introduced as a big bad enemy for The Doctor, and there’s always a nagging doubt, like David Mitchell noticing the skull motif on his uniform, that you’re on the side of the baddies. The way they treat poor Beth is pretty disgusting; worse still is their justification of “if you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to worry about”, like you’d read in the Daily Mail after every freedom-restricting Tory policy of the last seven years.
It’s more complicated than that, of course, because there is a legitimate threat that Torchwood are duty bound to neutralise, but I guess it’s a question of attitude. Jack seemed stuck between his two personas this time round, callous and heartless while he was torturing Beth (another uncomfortable moment for a liberal viewer), but wise-cracking and humourously cocky at other times. And at least these days, when Owen suggests a inter-team threesome, it’s treated as a joke. In Series 1, they’d have actually done it.
That’s a key difference between the series actually – the salacious stuff has been toned down, which allows more screen time to be spent on actually exploring the more complicated aspects of the story. There was some interesting stuff about what it means to be human, although, true to form, there wasn’t quite enough of that to reach any satisfying conclusions before it started becoming more action-packed towards the end.
The other sleeper cells were interesting for various reasons. I was distracted by one of them having a baby in a pram, moments after Beth touches upon the fact that undercover aliens can’t reproduce with humans. The way the first guy snaps his wife’s neck is shocking, as is his later stabbing spree. By the time he reaches the army base, someone must have watched Terminator 2 during the development process. And I’m pretty sure having such a big explosion next to a nuclear weapons store is not particularly healthy.
And another thing, stop getting Jack’s death thing wrong. He’s supposed to die and then come back to life, but sometimes they forget and simply make him impervious to death instead. Here, he gets skewered by an alien’s knife-arm, looks slightly pained, and then just unskewers himself and carries on.
So yeah, decent enough episode, but there’s still plenty of slightly daft things to distract me from it. But despite the tone of these first two reviews, I am feeling a lot more positive towards the show this time round. I’m not dreading the next episode any more, like I was at times during Series 1. It’s probably only going to take one stinker to change that, but it’s been a solid and entertaining start, even though it’s still nowhere near the level of actual Doctor Who.