Top positive review
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For its flaws, still unmissable
on September 26, 2008
It's yet another season of "Torchwood", a "Doctor Who" for adults. Now in its 2nd season, we meet a team of professionals who battle aliens and try to protect us from all sorts of cosmic anomalies. Based in Cardiff - centrally located on a rift in time and space - "Torchwood" stands ready to do the job. With plenty of foul language and sexual...um...stuff, you never forget the seriousness of the situation, or the fact that the end of the world never means having to forego a good "snog".
"Torchwood" remains a pretty controversial show. Everything that made the 1st season both fun and frustrating are ramped up in S2.
But first, the ep.s themselves.
"Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang" (I wonder how many British shows have come and gone wishing to use that title.) Remember how S1 built up the anticipation to that same sex kiss in "Captain Jack Harkness"? Well, subtlety goes out the window in the first few minutes of the season opener, returning Jack from his adventure in the "Doctor Who" season 2 finale. Here, Jack introduces the team to his thrill-kill former colleague and not-so-former lover, Time-Agent Captain Jon Hart. What is Hart's agenda? And how much lip-lock will the team be forced to watch before Jack takes any action?
"Sleeper", an obvious idea nevertheless not given the treatment until now. The team must confront deep-cover terrorist insurgents from another planet. They look like ordinary people - husbands, wives, lovers, parents - but when the signal starts, they become indestructible agents of mass destruction.
"To the Last Man", a pretty good episode in which the team finds a breakdown in time barriers between the present and WWI era threaten the space-time continuum. Only an inhabitant of that period, sent back to his time from our own, can save the universe. Luckily, Torchwood has kept a WWI soldier on ice since 1918 for just such an occasion. TV shows (especially cop shows) are typically weak because they marginalize guest stars, but this ep. shows how Torchwood excels in integrating guest characters into its larger mythos.
"Meat". An episode that gives the vegans a chance (among many) to laugh at us carnivores. The team investigates a meatpacking operation profiting on the flesh of apparently alien source. The story itself is pretty thin, but as with many eps. the saving grace is the character interaction - chiefly involving Rhys, Gwen's annoying fiancée.
"Adam". Who's Adam? Nobody seems to think that Adam has been anything but a longtime and loyal teammate, so nobody seems to realize that he just insinuated himself into the group and their memories. At first helpful, the script reveals how darkly dangerous a man with memory-altering powers can be. A great episode that reveals more background on Capt. Jack and also informs how much they care about each other.
"Reset" what would sci-fi be without a dig at the medical establishment? This was actually a weak story punctuated by a great appearance from Alan Dale (known in the US for "Lost" and "Ugly Betty"), the debut in Torchwood of "Doctor Who" vet Martha Jones (which provides for much cheerily licentious dialog) and a thoroughly heartbreaking ending.
"Dead Man Walking" picks up where "Reset" left off. The facts of the story substantially nullifies the tragedy that ended "Reset" without damaging the other episode's dramatic payoff. (Can't say anything else w/o a substantial spoiler.) The episode is the midway to the conclusive "A Day in the Death". Again, spoilfree review guidelines prevent more specific description. Suffice it to say that this ep. is "Random Shoes" of the season, only better than that ep.
"Something Borrowed" has Gwen and Rhys finally tying the knot. Only, a late night duel-to-the-death with a shape-shifting alien carnivore leaves Gwen in a compromising position that threatens to ruin the wedding. Funny, scary and still very adult, this is easily one of the show's more entertaining eps.
"From Out of the Rain" has Cardiff menaced by "Night Travelers", performers of a ghostly circus that steals the breath of ordinary human beings. A decidedly creepy ep. with a disappointing payoff.
"Adrift" a horrible story. Gwen follows up on a large volume of missing-person cases possibly tied to The Rift. In bonding to many civilians in search of missing loved ones, Gwen's makes some pretty obvious and painful errors in judgment. Anybody who thought last season's episodes "Small Worlds" and "Out of Time" were pointless will probably feel the same way about "Adrift".
"Fragments" a great episode in which a crisis situation forces each of our heroes to separately delve into their past and recall how they joined Torchwood. Best part of the episode: Jack meets Torchwood's saucy Victorian era operatives. This ep. sets the stage for the season finale -"Exit Wounds". It's very difficult to discuss the finale w/o spoilers. Let's just say that it involves Captain Jon and Jack's lost brother, Gray, and basically ends with final heartbreak for the team. Unfortunately, it also follows too closely the 3rd season finale of Doctor Who, with the emotional confrontation between hero and villain.
WHAT'S WRONG W/TORCHWOOD?
Torchwood never fully becomes the adult version of Doctor Who. Too many ideas are developed without a payoff (the "Night Travellers" being an obvious example; the show eerily introduces them, then quickly discards them); also, the show falls into the trap of so quickly assuming its maturity based on sexual content & bad language, that it sometimes leaves fatally obvious signs of its lineage to "that other show", itself originally a kid's show. It takes more than a profusion of potty language and a healthy diet of "snogging", to elevate "Torchwood" to maturity - think of kids playing "dress-up" and you get the idea. The other flaw is in the premise, but it's a somewhat complicated flaw. Watching the show, it's hard to get past the idea that "Torchwood" is often more in need of help than capable of providing. Their position often makes them vulnerable to otherworldly threats - despite Captain Jack's weekly refrain, "Torchwood" is NOT ready.
WHAT IS IRRESISTIBLE
But that premise actually the show's saving grace - the vulnerability of Jack, Ianto, Owen, Tosh and (especially) Gwen is the biggest reason for the show's appeal. The script works in well just how close these guys get to getting offed on a weekly basis, trading witty and well-timed banter even as half the cosmos wants them dead.
For the sake of the Cosmos, our lawyers insist on the following disclaimer: absolutely no DVD extras were viewed in the writing of this review (sheesh - we know we're controversial, but 20 unhelpful votes!?)