Subject: Neshomeh has Feelings about Torchwood series two. (Spoilers)
Posted on: 2019-11-06 02:13:26 UTC

This isn't a review post, exactly. My thoughts aren't organized enough for that and I'm not going to make any attempt to be balanced. I just have Feelings I need to express and maybe talk about, that's all. {= )

Background: I've been doing some cowriting with Zingenmir, involving Jacques Bonnefoy, who is a character replacement of Jack Harkness. Eventually, it got to the point of being silly that I'd never watched Torchwood, so I finally got my hands on the first two series and Children of Earth. I finished series two over the weekend, and I'm holding off on CoE because a) Jacques is from some point in series two, so everything after that is less directly relevant to my interests, and b) I'm not ready to sink the emotional trauma I know is coming.


Let me start by saying that I basically like Torchwood a whole lot. I love all the characters, all of them, and there's definitely an enormous amount of talent and passion behind the scenes. (I watched the special features for insight; it was fun.) It's good stuff, it really is. The first episode of each series is pretty much pure brilliance, and most of the rest is pretty good.

For that reason, it is incredibly frustrating when they make choices I think are just dumb. I have a sense that the general philosophy of writing for the Whoniverse is "never let [logic/science/continuity] get in the way of a story," and that is pretty apparent in a few places in Torchwood.

Worst first: for all I'm about to complain, there's only one episode in the first two series that I think was completely useless, and that's s2e10, "From Out of the Rain." It's always possible that I missed whatever glue was supposed to hold it together—Torchwood does ask you to pay attention and read between the lines a fair bit, which I kinda dig—but basically, I have no idea how the monsters worked, what motivated them, or why I should give a damn. The tiny bit of Jack backstory in the episode feels out of place and ultimately irrelevant. I don't buy him putting himself and his immortality on display, or even pretending to do so; I really don't buy him being nostalgic about the traveling circuses, and the episode doesn't show me anything that makes me feel anything for them, either. Maybe if it had been more of an Ianto story—him being into old films could have extended to or been replaced with him being into old circus entertainments, and giving him an emotional connection to a sort of romanticized image of this bygone era, only to have it come back twisted and wrong thanks to the Rift, that would make a stronger story than the one we got. The image of Jack pointing an old video camera like a gun was just silly. Bah!

But that's fine, every show has a clunker or two. It happens.

What shouldn't happen is an episode completely missing the point of its story for the sake of more pathos when there was already plenty. Here, I'm talking about s2e11, "Adrift," in which we've got Jack forgetting that he recruited Gwen because of her inability to let a mystery go and the writers forgetting how human grief works. I can forgive Jack pretty much just being Jack, even if he ought to know better; setbacks happen. I can't forgive the episode showing me some very appropriate grief, catharsis, and moving on, and then expecting me to think it's a bad thing, and that Gwen was right to give up bringing closure to people based on the very understandable knee-jerk reaction of one person to learning that her son is injured, aged, and incurably insane. I mean... seriously. The mom, Nikki, had been spending her life combing through hours and hours of crowd footage hoping to see her missing son's face, and sleeping in his bed to remember how he smelled. This was not the life of an emotionally stable person. At the end, she might not like the truth, but she's finally able to properly grieve, and pack up her son's room, and get on with her life. This is not a bad result, episode. Gwen was right, and what's more, she was right in the course of being the "beating heart of Torchwood" and counterpoint to Jack's aloofness that she's supposed to be. Screw you for taking that away from her and undercutting the integrity of her role like that.

I liked Gwen's arc in that episode, see. I really liked it right up until the end. It's like, they had all the math right, but still got the answer wrong. Gah. This one bugs me the same way "Small Worlds" did in season 1, except I've come around to believe that we're supposed to be conflicted about the end of "Small Worlds"—we're supposed to see that Jack is right, but being right doesn't always make you popular; we're supposed to see that reality is harsh and that the members of Torchwood can't have nice things. Maybe something like that is true of "Adrift," too, and I'll feel differently once I've thought about it some more, but I dunno.

The last thing I want to gripe about is a trope involving the undead. Namely, that the undead "have no breath" and therefore can't perform CPR. I can forgive this in a fantasy series like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where breath is symbolic of life itself. It's dumb, but it's forgivable, because magic. It is not forgivable in a show that bills itself as science fiction.

Look. If your character can speak, that means they are capable of moving air into and out of their lungs. They may not need to breathe, but the lungs are blatantly capable of moving air around. In fact, you know what? If the character isn't respiring, that makes them better at CPR, because the oxygen they pull into their lungs isn't going to be exchanged for carbon dioxide on the way out! They're basically just a bellows at that point! And the bloody medic, of all people, should know this, zombie angst or no zombie angst.

Oh, and on a related note, what's up with poor zombie!Owen losing his sense of touch, but keeping all the rest of them? He can still see, still hear, probably even still smell and taste, else he'd have complained about it. Why is touch different? Surely whatever is animating the synapses of his brain, spinal cord, motor nerves, etc., can animate the various receptors in the skin, too? If not, why not? Apart from narrative contrivance, I mean. {= P

Finally (not that that's everything on my mind, but it's enough for now), not a complaint, but a serious question: Jack, did you really leave John Hart free to roam the Earth? I know he helped save the day and all, but you know that's only going to lead to mayhem. What were you thinking? {X D


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