Last episode left us in a tense place: Jack was blown up along with the Torchwood tower and Ianto remains unaccounted for. Gwen is alive, but injured. This episode opens by adding to the tension: someone is actively working on killing Ianto and Gwen. For the second episode in a row, the cinematic feeling continues.
I failed to comment on last weeks episode that we are getting more background on Ianto and this episode continues building on it. We learn that Ianto’s dad broke his leg, but his sister says it was not intentional. The family dynamic is an interesting one. One of the things that really impressed me was that in episode one, Ianto’s brother-in-law is a bit of a loud mouthed jerk. But when Ianto’s sister is complaining about what Ianto may have gotten them into, his brother-in-law that tells her “we’re the only family he’s got.” I credit clever writing like this because it’s rare that people are ever just one thing. It’s not the only instance of good writing that we will see in this episode. The other moment comes from Lois Habiba. When she intercepts a call from Gwen, she elects to meet up with her. The dialogue is brilliant. She asks in no uncertain terms that if Torchwood is the good guys, then who does she work for?
To that effect, the British government is not portrayed well in this story. The Prime Minister started off by disavowing any knowledge of what was coming and now tells John Frobisher that he’s just been made one of the first to fall. Frobisher is disappointingly a bad guy as far as I can tell. Yes, he loves his family but he seems entirely too willing to allow people to die to keep a secret about the 456 having been to earth before, rather than just ask if they can come to an agreement.
Of course that’s the heart of the overall story: what do the 456, as they are called, want with us? But we won’t learn that for another week! This episode focuses on finding out what happened to Jack. A friend of mine once called this season of Torchwood one of the best written 5 hours of television he’d ever seen. This episode certainly gives that sentiment credence. The entire sequence with Jack is permanently etched into my memory. The sheer horror of just a few body parts surviving, then reforming is terrifying enough, but to see his enemies bury him in cement is ever more shocking. Equally, Ianto’s rescue is amazing even if completely far fetched. The rescue is done in one of those super-slow moving forklift trucks, but they manage to outrun an entire squadron of armed military personnel. Furthermore, considering Gwen is targeted for execution, why Johnson doesn’t just open fire is anyone’s guess. That said, it’s such an incredible scene that you ignore what may have been little more than a dramatic moment. Conversely, maybe Rhys is the reason she doesn’t shoot: she may be on strict orders to avoid civilian casualties.
Dekker presents plans for a construct of what he calls a “throne room” and an enclosure is built to house the 456 who will be arriving “tomorrow”. The whole second episode is a tense build up that begs us to keep watching. In fact, this is a far harder season to write about because it’s like a magnet that pulls you in for a 5 hour, non-stop, ride. Hard not to push on and talk about this in one fell swoop!
One of the best parts of the episode is Habiba. Her moral compass is what truly impressed me and she turns the tide of what is looking very bleak for the team otherwise. I would be very happy to see her join team Torchwood. And even though this is a super-powerful story, there are some fun lines. Andy sees Johnson and comments that if she’s anti-terrorism, he’d like to be uncle terrorism. Frobisher’s wife is annoyed by the way he’s handling a globe-spanning horror and angrily insists that this “isn’t a hula hoop craze”. And call me warped, but among the list of people targeted for murder along with Captain Jack is a Colonel Sanders. Is this the end of KFC as we know it? Alright, it is definitely a warped thing to laugh at, but this episode is so impressive, I can hardly stop long enough to write this before I jump into episode 3. Oh, but there is one thing that hit me: with the destruction of the Torchwood hub, the plot thread that was left open last season is successfully closed – Jack’s brother Gray is undoubtedly dead. Guess we’ll see what other after effects will exist with the destruction of the tower! The poor pterodactyl! Oh no… ML