Saturday, 10 September 2011

Torchwood – Episode 9 – The Gathering

This was a somewhat appropriate, yet wholly inappropriate title, given the plot, which featured the Torchwood team finally all being under one roof, albeit very briefly, before scattering all over the globe again.  What was nice was that much of this episode did occur in Wales again – finally returning the show to its roots.

As has been the major flaw in this latest series of Torchwood, much of the episode was filler.  I’ve said before that this series has a great and interesting premise, with any number of possible avenues for exploration, all of which would make great series’ in their own right.  Sadly, RTD and the team haven’t gone down any of these avenues – they instead have turned into a cramped cul-de-sac, and spent nine weeks trying to perform a U-Turn. 

From the cliff-hanger last week, I was expecting one hell of an opening.  Jack shot, dying in the backseat of a car driven by dunderhead Esther.  Gwen deported with no way of controlling the events as they spiralled out of control around her.  Rex stuck with Shapiro, trying to explain how Esther and Jack escaped.  Oswald Danes trying to evade the police, and the vengeful wrath of Jilly.  Jilly being taken by The Families.  The Morphic field under Angelo’s bed was created using alien technology from the Torchwood hub.  So how did it start?

“Two Months Later”.

Seriously?!  There is little more annoying than a cliff-hanger that doesn’t deliver.  And this one really didn’t deliver.  Whilst we were filled in, via TV and radio news feeds, about ‘institutionalised murder’ and the like, it still felt like I’d been cheated.  I’d hoped for so much, and Torchwood delivered nothing.  Just more exposition.

The loose end involving Gwen’s father was finally tied up – he’s been kept in the basement.  In agony.  For months.  Maybe I’m heartless, but in a world where death has stopped and the only option is cremation, or incineration rather, surely that’s a better option?  If, because of the heart attack they suffered, they should rightly be dead, then that must be better than writhing around in pain, being pinned down by your nearest and dearest as a shifty rat from the council snoops around?  But all this is besides the point – it didn’t matter about Gwen’s father. It never mattered about Oswald Danes, as he has nothing to do with the Miracle or the Blessing either.  In fact, it has nothing to do with any of the earlier plot points and twists and turns that finally got us to this episode.  With only another hour of screen time, it’s surprising that about half of the episode was wasted on this minor occurrence.

In a world which has reached major economic depression – yet Gwen’s family still get their shopping delivered – and health crisis, it’s a small wonder Gwen manages most of what she does.  Whilst being watched by surely the most incompetent surveillance man ever, she manages to sneak off and do a bit of smash-and-grab akin to the London riots, to steal two pizza boxes worth of painkillers, sanitary towels and diomorphine.  What made the entire sequence even more laughable is that whilst raiding this chemist – which surely should have some better security in this age of unlimited life – she took her balaclava off.  Whilst a man was walking past outside!  Having ram-raided the shop and shot out the camera, why would she not just leave the mask on?  Of course, we as an audience needed to know it was Gwen...  but really, we could’ve just had her crying or muttering “bollocks!” (her latest slogan – I can see it catching on with the kids at school) and we’d have known it was her.  Meanwhile, the man paid to spy on her radios in that it’s fine – she just went to get pizza.  Did he not think to follow her?  What if she’d done a runner, and emigrated?  He’d have had egg all over his face then!

We then cut to Jack and Esther, who for some inexplicable reason are hiding in Scotland, muttering about a man who asks too many questions, and Esther’s solution that they’ll keep heading north.  Why?  What is the bloody point?  They’ve had two further months in which to work out the miracle, and yet they have achieved absolutely nothing.  Not one of them has achieved anything.  None of the team has come up with anything of any value.  At all.  It’s ridiculous.  They must be the most inept crime-fighting team since Inspector Gadget.  But at least Inspector Gadget had a neice who managed to help him save the day.  All this lot have is Rex.

Rex has somehow managed to climb back up the echelons of the CIA again, despite his evident involvement in the escape of the prisoners the week before.  With the mole still beating them at every turn, Rex hasn’t achieved anything either, per se – but at least he’s trying.  I never thought I’d say this, but Rex was actually the best thing about this episode.  By a mile.  He’s proactive, resourceful, and most of all, he’s thinking outside the box.  Basically, he’s become Torchwood, whilst the original Torchwood team sit around doing bugger all.  The only thing which I found annoying about Rex this week was simply that he didn’t realise that Charlotte was the mole.  She couldn’t look more guilty if she tried.

Oswald Danes, everybody’s favourite paedophile, has somehow now joined the Torchwood team too, through the most convoluted reasoning imaginable.  Despite his heinous crimes, and being the most wanted man in the world, he somehow managed to ‘sneak in’ to Britain.  Most specifically, Wales.  Just like Jack.  Again, a bit of a cop-out, but I’ll look past that.  What frustrated me was the ease with which Danes entered Gwen’s house, and, following a severe beating, the confidence with which he spoke.  If a paedophile touched my child, I sure as hell would have given him more than a few soft punches and a whack with a pan.  It turned out Danes had arrived with information that he would only impart to Jack – information which turned out to be a link between Jilly Kitzinger and the Families, via a name – ‘Harry Boscow’. 

Bill Pullman’s portrayal of Oswald Danes has grown more and more pantomime as the series has progressed, peaking with his dreadful dancing last week.  This week seemed marginally more restrained, as he gurned his way through exposition on the floor of Gwen’s family home.  The Harry Boscow lead turns out to be a spin doctor term, rather than the man it at first suggested.  Whilst the team discuss this, watching ‘Boscowed’ footage, Rhys finally makes himself useful – all series, he has been nothing but a hindrance, a big Welsh lump with little or nothing to do.  In this episode, he spots the connection between Shanghai and Buenos Aires – despite the geographical implausibility, he spots that they are exactly opposite each other.  Frankly, it was incredibly useful that he had been playing with a globe, or the team never would have gotten anywhere.  My issue with Danes is that what we saw on screen was his the making of this pariah – and his fall from such a height has been entirely off-screen during these unaired two months.  There’s only one possible reason for having included him in the series at all – which I’ll mention in a moment.

And so, it is this discovery that sees our merry band of fools split up and traverse the globe – Rex met up with Esther in Buenos Aires, whilst Jack and Gwen begrudgingly team up with Danes in Shanghai.  Also in Shanghai is Jilly – Jilly Kitzinger’s storyline has now almost come full circle – after two months of working mistranslating data, she finally gets the promotion she had been expecting, and is shuttled off to Shanghai, despite the closed borders, to see The Blessing.  Lauren Ambrose has been the most involved character from outside of the original Torchwood clique, as well as the most interesting, and her scene in which she approached the Blessing was brilliant, as she smiled to herself and muttered that it told her she was “right...!”

And yes, we finally got to see the Blessing.  Which is good.  And it looked like a gigantic vagina.  Which is bad.

This week’s episode was good, though.  I think.  I still can’t quite make my mind up – there are so many holes in the plot that it’s difficult to look beyond them, but underneath the tarnished veneer there is definitely some shining beacon.  The most depressing thing is that this episode was penned by John Fay – the man responsible for two episodes of Children of Earth – one cannot help but wonder where it all went wrong.  This series of Torchwood had ten episodes – which could have been cut to half that – in which to keep the action tumbling along.  However, with so much filler, and no killer, it has felt stilted at all times, with important plot points rushed through, and time wasted on MacGuffins left, right and centre.

All in all, it entertained, but there is still so much left undone, and unsaid.  Jack’s blood is drawn towards the Blessing, despite his protestations that it has nothing to do with it.  Danes is with them in Shanghai, so my guess is that he’ll ‘redeem’ himself by stepping into the Blessing, with Jack’s blood held in his hands, to bring it to an end.  And what exactly will happen when the Blessing ends?  Will the dead just drop in the streets where they stand?  Will Rex die?  What about Geraint Cooper, Gwen’s father? (Not that I really care about him either way)  Will the Soulless reappear?  Will there be another Miracle rally?  Will the Dead is Dead squad do anything exciting?  These last three points are several of the interesting ideas mentioned early on and unused since.  There are so many loose ends that it’s difficult to figure out whether the final episode can provide an adequate conclusion to them all – it’s only an hour, after all.  Added to this the fact that RTD penned the episode himself, with Jane Espenson, and it is likely to be quite the explosive finale to this tumultuous series which has sadly had more troughs than peaks.

No comments:

Post a Comment