Interestingly, my memory of Combat was of a ridiculous Owen episode about him being more of a jerk than normal. Interesting because while that is at the heart of it, it’s actually an engrossing character piece with some action added to drive home the difficulty Owen is having coping since Diane left. Owen was by far my least favorite character. He’s nasty and in most ways repulsive and that was the case from episode one. I’d love to compare him to Sherlock (from Sherlock), but he is, while sometimes hard to like, always interested in doing the right thing. Owen is a jerk always looking for a fight. Noel Clark (Mickey from Doctor Who) gives us a chance to get inside the head of this crass character. Meanwhile, Gwen’s story with Rhys is developing and I’m really impressed with Clark’s writing for this sequence. It’s tense and more believable than Owen’s story.
Focusing first on Gwen, the opening between her and Rhys is powerful and as much as I like Gwen, I have to say I agree with Rhys’s feelings. It’s how he goes about addressing those feelings, demanding Gwen to sit down, that I disagree with. Remarkably, more than either of them, Jack annoys me the most in this scene; he should know better, but still pulls her away, then reprimands her for not keeping her life in balance. Jack is a very hit-or-miss character himself. (Although in fairness, he’s more likable than not and his “oh, you don’t think I’d have that ringtone, do you?” did have me laughing!) Gwen later retcon’s Rhys to be able to tell him she’s been cheating on him and wants him to say he forgives her. It’s a powerful scene, but I think Gwen has totally lost herself in her job. This is not the way to apologize. Not to mention, didn’t we learn just 2 or 3 episodes ago that retconning a person can lead to a mental breakdown? Sure, it was established that greater doses were needed, but still, do you take that chance with your fiancee??
Meanwhile, Owen is investigating a murder as a guy who sells jellied eels. I’m not even getting into that. I will however make fun of his negotiating skills. He goes to the Lynch/Frost agency (clearly fans of Twin Peaks; David Lynch and Mark Frost) to see the guy who runs the place, Mark. (See, fans!) Here he negotiates with his back turned to the guy he believes to be the bad guy so he can stare moodily out the window like he’s looking for a clue. Squint, Owen! Squint hard!! You won’t find a clue out the window, dope! To prove his dope-hood, he throw his gun somewhere in Mark’s flat then leaves without it. So, this gun, issued to Torchwood staff, is just something you leave behind? (Don’t get me wrong, in the scene, he and Mark walk off-camera so there is a chance he would have grabbed it!) But he’s so ill-equipped to be a human being, that he’s willing to get into a cage with a Weevil to be eaten. The only thing I did like about Owen in this episode is that when Mark calls him out on his lame cover story, he doesn’t even try to deny it; he owns it and starts listening to Mark. (Maybe he found a clue after all!)
Now, while I rip Owen apart, the story plays out in such an engrossing way, I wasn’t really turned off by his stupidity. It’s sometimes the little touches, like Gwen reaching for her empty ear and starting to talk to Jack before she realizes she’s not online with him that impresses me. It’s handled so well by Eve Myles because her eyes convey the shock perfectly. I also like Mark’s speculation that the Weevils are the future of us; humans who have become totally consumed with rage. A good commentary. And I have to ask, why don’t Weevils appear in Doctor Who, beyond just spectators during the Pandorica scene? They didn’t strike me as the sort of group to go to the theater or play the part of spectator of any sort! I love the reference to “something is coming…. out there in the darkness”. Yes, it’s another heavy-handed hint to drive us to watch more, but it works for me even if I do realize I’m being played.
Less effective is the ending with Owen snarling and cowing the weevils in the Torchwood cells. It’s not that it was a bad thing if they used it again, but to the best of my (admittedly somewhat hazy) memory, this is the one and only time we see Owen has any “powers” of any sort. So why bother? Maybe to make him a bit cooler. It fails. However, the only slight recovery I’ll give this is Owen’s hospital room, he questions Jack with, “Do you always know what’s best?” No, Owen, he doesn’t. First, he should have let you get eaten because you’re a nasty piece of work. And second, rewind to the start of the episode for proof that Jack absolutely does not know what’s best. He’s making it up as he goes, and he really needs a Doctor to help him figure it out. Better luck next time, Jack. Owen, go snarl at your colleagues for 2 more episodes. Maybe the season break will help mellow you out. ML