Torchwood: The Categories of Life

Two good episodes, two weak.  Will episode 5 break the balance for the better, or the worse?  Thankfully, I’m going to say it gets better.  I’m not really sure it’s a great episode but it did keep me completely on the edge of my seat and it does do some unexpected things.  Taking out one of the main characters at the half-way point of the series is some serious commitment to telling a good story.  I’m bummed that they took out Dr. Juarez, but it’s unexpected and I do see that as a strong move, so I’ll give credit to the decision.  Where it might fail is that Dr. Vera Juarez, super-genius, confronts a man who has the backing of a soldier in a remote area of a base with no witnesses.  What was she thinking?  It’s one thing to feel justified in  one’s anger, but her assault of a man she can’t beat is not proving her intellect.  On the flip side, indignation and anger can shift a persons judgement and make for some bad decisions.  After being shot twice, she is then thrown in an incinerator which was extremely unexpected.  Meanwhile, Gwen flies home to rescue her father from one of these camps, and ends up causing him to have a severe heart attack, almost certainly signing his death warrant.  Again, credit for bold storytelling.  This might not have the impact of the 456 from Children of Earth, but the scope is audacious!

To add to the strength of the narrative, the Oswald Danes story continues to evolve.  Jack intercepts Oswald (after first doing one of those mysterious stand-in-the-corridor moves he likes so much).  He offers Oswald a chance to be more than he is.  I don’t know if the rest of the audience felt like I did, but I fully expected him to get onboard.  He doesn’t.  Instead he gives an impassioned speech about mankind rising to the level of angels.  Again, he captures the religious zealotry of his viewers.  This is magnificently filmed: we focus on him with camera angles looking up to him while light beams down from above.  It gives the viewer the impression that he is, in fact, rising.  He revels in the moment, swaying as if in a dance.  While this is happening, we are seeing Vera being burned alive in an oven.  The music is capturing the moment focusing on the rise of Oswald, while the good guys are being beaten.  Visually it’s amazing.  From a storytelling perspective, I’m hooked.

Jack however really does feel like a relic; a left over from a show that ended a season back.  He’s relegated to the sidelines for most of the episode.  When he does feature, he does that same Jack-the-ass move he likes to do, usually to Gwen.  This time, it’s to Dr. Juarez when she flies out to see Rex.  It’s almost like Jack only wants the camera on him and he doesn’t like that Rex has taken his place.  Glad to say, for Rex’s sake, it doesn’t derail him.  One thing I did enjoy is that, after two episodes where Rex seems somewhat homophobic, Jack has some fun putting Rex in an ambulance saying he loves that “crazy boyfriend” of his, to which Rex just smiles while subtly giving Jack the finger.  (This is one area that I think Rex fails as a character; Jack is open to all life while Rex seems to oppose that which does not his own accepted beliefs.)

The rest of the cast do a solid job helping this episode along.  I feel worst for Esther, who clearly loves Rex and he doesn’t see it.  Gwen just wants to save her dad, but again Rhys comes in as an absolutely amazing supporting character, actually supporting Gwen and preventing her from getting arrested all in one deft move.  (I also love some of his lines.  When asked about where the baby is, he tell Gwen, “I left her with some petrol and a cigarette lighter!”)  Jilly Kitzinger is hard to put a finger on.  Her encounter with the mystery man makes me think she’s on the wrong side of things, but sometimes, she seems to truly despise Oswald making me think she has a conscience.  Is she only doing her job or does she believe in what she’s doing.  When Oswald gives his “revelation” speech, I fear she may believe his rhetoric.  Disappointing.  I do like when characters have dimension and are more than they appear.  Although if you try to tell me that should be the same for Oswald, I don’t think I’m going to buy it.  Child murderers are not something I can abide, even in fiction.

“You’re cursed with intelligence!”  Yes, that might be a curse, especially when watching some shows and realizing the writer wasn’t similarly cursed, but this episode defied expectations.  Colin Maloney (played superbly by Marc Vann) is a disgusting character and a fantastic villain for the episode.  (What C. Thomas Howell should have been one episode earlier!)  The tension is high and the cliffhanger was stunning.  Rex records his girlfriends death so it has meaning, even if it is awful.  Can that help them in the coming weeks or will his efforts just fizzle out?  ML

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1 Response to Torchwood: The Categories of Life

  1. scifimike70 says:

    Opposing a form of life that is not one’s own is a most malleable subject matter in the Whoniverse as I recognized very early on. The Doctor may bring his wisdom to the fold. Even sometimes with AIs like the Voc Robots thanks to D84. It makes us contemplate how far the Whoniverse should go with this familiar drama which, imaginably enough, would depend on how many stories could be set within the era that we now recognize as contemporary.

    The atmospheres of the 60s, 70s and 80s went as far as they could before Dr. Who started to run a little dry of its creative magic. Torchwood via Miracle Day might have reached the same dilemma while still justly drawing in loyal audiences. So it was healthy for novels and Big Finish to make a more creatively influential break from television for as long as they have.

    Thanks, ML, for your review and congratulations to how well the Junkyard is now doing.

    Liked by 1 person

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