I think any series totally bereft of comedy cannot sustain and we’ve had two very heavy episodes of Torchwood in a row. The chuckles during those death-centric episodes are minor at best. Then we come to Something Borrowed and things change. If Random Shoes was the light episode of season one, this must be the one for the current season. And there are a lot of fun moments.
Gwen is getting married! The episode opens on Friday night with her hen night party coupled with scenes from a few hours earlier when she was hunting a shapeshifter. After her party, Saturday rolls around and she wakes, ready for the wedding only to discover she’s about 9 months pregnant… with a shapeshifter’s baby. And the alien mommy is ready to rip her open to get her baby out. How’s that for an opening blurb? To quote Gwen, “oh!”
Maybe because this episode feels more like a comedy, I really didn’t have much to fuss about. Owen is pretty much over his death, getting on with things like normal, but is that really a problem? Some time could have gone by giving him more time to cope. Really the only thing that bothered me was opening the episode with the flashback of Gwen telling Jack she’s basically marrying Rhys because “no one else would have me”. But I can’t really be mad at this episode for that? In fact, this episode really drives home how much Gwen does love Rhys. There’s a hint that there’s still a chance that Gwen might call off the wedding if Jack offered to be with her when she says “Who else would stand by me…” but that could easily have been her really trying to convince herself and Jack that there is no “her and Jack”. Equally it might have been her saying she appreciates Rhys for all he’s dealt with. But considering how many other things she says about Rhys, I tend to think she does love him. Even when offered the chance to retcon the whole night (along with all of their guests), her comment is “there’ll be no secrets in this marriage”.
I think the rest of the cast shines in this episode as well. Rhys reminds Gwen (and hopefully some members of the audience) that “the lies don’t work!” A good reminder to all couples. Ianto is tremendous fun and I don’t think I realized how great a character he was on my first viewing. His eye for the dress was humorously played but the real win for him is when he asks to cut in on the dance between Jack and Gwen. As Gwen reaches for him, he turns to dance with Jack. (Gwen’s reaction is priceless!) I love how Jack is portrayed as emotionally complex. It’s evident he does love Gwen but it’s always overshadowed by … what? Ianto? Chivalry? A deeper knowledge that he can’t allow himself to love and outlive every person that matters to him? I mean, love in general is a complex emotion; one can have different types of love for different people, and sometimes that might be too close for comfort for a spouse or significant other, but it doesn’t necessarily mean anything would ever happen. This seems to be what Jack and Gwen have. It’s there, it’s deep, but it’s always at arms distance. That complexity makes for fascinating storytelling. Elsewhere, Owen gets a moment in front of the Nostrovite, the episode’s monster, but it does nothing to him because he’s already dead. Tosh has a lovely moment too where Gwen tells her one day, she’ll get married.
The Nostrovite itself is actually a really fun part of the episode. Shapeshifters always are! (I guarantee John Barrowman had a blast playing the monster too; he seems to revel in it!) The scene where Jack comes in and offers some unkind remarks to Rhys’s mother, thinking it’s the shapeshifter is hilarious and played so well by everyone there. But the shapeshifter takes a rather eye-catching form and I call this unfair. How do you give a horrible monster such a beautiful visage? That actress, Colette Brown, is a strikingly pretty actress with amazing eyes. (I checked on IMDB and realize I have seen exactly nothing else she has ever been in!) I can’t deny there was a part of me that wanted Torchwood to make friends and invite her back to the hub. (No doubt, there’s a pun there…) For all its beauty in human form, the nest it creates to capture Tosh and “Banana” is nasty looking.
The in-law rivalry also offers a lot of laughs but perhaps one of the things I liked most was the way the writer began phasing out my “Batman” comment from a few weeks ago. The Singularity Scalpel, a device that turned up coincidentally for the episode Reset, which I claimed would be like so many Batman tools that we never see again, is still hanging around and is being used just as effectively. I no longer feel like this was a cop-out tool The only thing I was really left wondering was how the retcon reception would cover up the death of one of Rhys’s friends. Won’t someone wonder where he went? Maybe start digging? Or will Torchwood fake a death to hide the facts? Still, at the end of the day, this is a bright, fun, and entertaining episode. A much needed break after a few very heavy episodes over the last few weeks. And it does one last thing as it ends; a last surprise for the viewer. It gives us a hint into Jack’s long past. Jack had been married! ML