Torchwood is back for season 2 and we get an exciting opener. Jack’s old partner (in more ways that one), Captain Hart, dressed for the Beatles Sgt Pepper reunion, is visiting and he’s bringing news of radioactive explosives hidden around Cardiff (because… of course that’s where they are) and he wants to help save the day. However, Sgt Pepper comes to town and within about 12 seconds, murders someone so why Team Torchwood want to help him is anyone’s guess.
We are then treated to a really good action story with some genuine jeopardy for the team. Gwen is paralyzed and left to die in a cargo container, and once again Eve Myles sells her terror with only her eyes. (I really want to know what she’s up to these days!) Owen is shot but I actually wanted him to be alright because he was acting like a good person mere moment earlier. Has he turned over a new leaf? And Jack gets another incredible on screen death, and boy does it look painful. So, this sounds like a really good opener.
But there’s a lot that bothers me and it’s not just that the writer was Chris Chibnall because this was before I associated him with the (at time of writing) latest seasons of Doctor Who. Let’s talk about last week: the TARDIS comes for Jack. We have to follow a three-episode arc in Doctor Who to find out what happened but the most notable thing for our purposes is his return. He’s dropped off outside the Torchwood hub in daylight. Unless he took a really scenic run to the hub, he should have arrived while everyone was there. This episode opens at night. Torchwood is chasing a fish-headed alien and while the scene gets a laugh, Jack isn’t there. He shows up at the house where Fishy is holding a family hostage. How did he get there? I admit, maybe he returned and found the team out, then tracked them down, but it’s a clunky solution. Maybe Chibnall decided it didn’t matter? I’d shake my head and move on but the first thing Jack does is shoots Fishy who is holding a young woman hostage. So his first act upon returning is to traumatize a girl and invade a family home? I know, I know, they will retcon the family but surely the dad will wonder where his bullet hole came from… no? (And I’m not even going to talk about Owen’s driving that he tells Gwen to take the wheel during a high speed chase, only to then perch himself on the window because, who’s foot is on the accelerator? Oh… I guess I did mention it!)
Let’s talk about Sgt. Pepper. He has all the potential to be a really fun villain, but he goes over-the-top on caricature. How about the bar scene? “Did I mention I’m armed?” Dude, you’ve got two big strapping guns on your hips; if no one saw that, Cardiff is populated by the blind. And for the love of Boe, did we need the kissy-kissy intro between him and Jack? As if that’s not enough, Jack can’t focus on the explosives laced around the city without first flirting with “eye candy”, Ianto. (Oh speaking of Ianto… they go to an office complex looking for bombs. Ianto’s first act: flip through a book! Those bombs were not that flat, pal!)
Gwen, who is the heart of the series, is an idiot in this story. She takes a call from her fiance while guarding Sgt. Pepper and loses sight of him, then forgets not to take her eyes off him a second time and almost dies for it. And I think someone should talk to Rhys. When Jack finds out she’s engaged, she explains “well no one else would have me”. So if Jack or Owen wanted her, she’d hand back the ring, right? Come on, Chibnall; this is beneath you. (Plus I’m calling Rhys and telling him… this is just not the way to accept a marriage!)
“It’s more fun when he’s around.” “Oh, yeah.. yeah!” Jack returns and immediately pushes his team away, angering them, even as he’s trying to convince them that he returned because of them, which is terrible writing, but Ianto does point out that it’s more fun when he’s around, and it is! I still think Jack is an awesome, if flawed, character. Now we just have to know why Capt. Hart’s last words impacted him so much. Who or what is “Grey”?
Overall, it’s a fun return, but you can’t think through it. You have to go into it for the fun it offers and just enjoy it, because it is fun. But if you want to think, or have mind-candy… no, this isn’t the episode to find that. It’s exciting, fun, and a bit too gratuitous, but it’s a season opener; they are meant to be big eye-catching affairs, and this does fit that bill. But I can only hope the next episode is a bit more thought provoking! ML