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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

‘Torchwood’ blogging: “Exit Wounds”

Time to finish up Torchwood Season 2 blogging before Season 3 is upon us (which looks like it’s gonna be in June or July). (Before commenting, please read the intro to my Doctor Who blogging; the same caveats apply to Torchwood.)

(previous: Episode 12: “Fragments”)
Oh, so mean! The last episode looked like it was gonna be the disastrous one, what with everyone getting blown up and reminiscing about their tenures with Torchwood and all. And then, when everyone was safe and no one died, it was like, Whew! We dodged that bullet.

But no! Disaster was merely delayed to this episode. Killing off two major characters in one swoop? Yikes. That’s not only heartbreaking from the perspective of the story — Tosh and Owen finally connecting just as they’re both about to die! — but pretty darn daring for a popular show to do. I admire that, though: I wish more shows weren’t content to just keep shoveling out the same old stories over and over again and shook themselves up like this once in a while. It’s the only way to stay fresh. (It’s too bad on Burn Gorman and Naoko Mori, though, losing their jobs like that. But hey: this is science fiction. No one is ever dead for good. As Gorman should already know.)

Okay: Jack. I wondered, after the previous episode, when we saw how awful it is to resurrect and how many times he’s done it, how Jack could maintain his sanity over such a long stretch of time. But talk about one-upping! Gray buried Jack alive in the year 27AD, and Jack presumably suffocated under all that dirt and then came back to life only to suffocate all over again… and he presumably did that dozens of times every time for almost two thousand years. Now I really do have to wonder how he maintained his sanity. (Or maybe he didn’t…?) I can’t imagine that merely accepting this as his “penance” for losing Gray and not being able to find him was enough to keep him sane…

Hey, if Gray wasn’t dead, killed in that attack when he and Jack (or whatever name Gray knows Jack as, cuz it sure as hell ain’t “Captain Jack Harkness”), where’s he been all this time? How’s he been nurturing that anger and rage and craziness for so long? (It’s hard to stay mad like that for decades.) I smell fan fiction!

Oh gosh, and there must be some spectacular stories to tell about Jack and John Hart: “I was the only one who could ever control him,” Jack says, “that’s why the Time Agency partnered us.” Yet they were obviously lovers and great pals, too. I smell another Doctor Who spinoff TV series about the 51st-century Time Agency! And surely John will be back in the future, right? He and Jack have made up, John says he’s gonna hang around on Earth…

Like a lot of the recent Doctor Whos set on present-day Earth, I find myself wondering about how the rest of the world beyond the characters we’re focusing on are reacting to events here. Much of central Cardiff is destroyed, city services are ruined, the population is terrified. Surely this is breaking news around the planet. Surely this looks like a terrorist attack on a (relatively) major city. I mean, it is a terrorist attack, of course, though not by the kind of terrorists BBC News and CNN would be reporting it as. What known terrorist groups might be taking credit for this? Would there be political repercussions that have nothing to do with Torchwood and aliens and such?

The more I think about the cultural landscape that Doctor Who and Torchwood came out of — post the 9/11 attacks in the U.S., mostly post the 7/7 attacks in London — the more I think that both shows are plugging into a fear that many people have that none of us are safe anymore (whether that’s true or not, whether that was never true or not), as well as what we might as well call the conspiracy-theory theory of current events: that there’s so much more going on than we’ll ever know, and that lots and lots of people are keeping lots and lots of secrets. That’s pretty much a contradiction, of course — the more people are keeping a secret, the less likely it is to stay secret. But this isn’t about logic. It’s about paranoia and uncertainty. And these shows both feed off of those and feed into them. Which is surely partly why they’re so compelling: they’ll confirming our fears while also reassuring us that at least a few someones who are good and decent and noble are working on our side.

Random thoughts on “Exit Wounds”:

• It’s the Misters Death — they’ve come about the servers:

• The Weevils in the police HQ who killed the four most senior officers… how did they know whom to target? Was that all Gray’s doing — he can control Weevils somehow? Perhaps that’s how Gray has been maintaining his rage: evil science. He’s got a secret lair on a deserted asteroid somewhere in the 51st century?

• Wow: Lachlan Nieboer, who plays Gray, looks and sounds so much like John Barrowman that it’s eerie.

• “I’ve crossed my own timeline,” Jack tells early-20th-century Torchwood when they dig him up. “I can’t be allowed to meet myself.” I want to say that this ties in somehow to why Jack, during his first go-round through the 20th century (the one when he was unfrozen), deliberately avoided the Jon Pertwee/Tom Baker/Peter Davison Doctors when they were hanging around the 1970s and 80s, but it doesn’t really work. Jack wouldn’t have been crossing his own timeline if he’d encountered them: he’d be predating it. I want more wibbly-wobbly, timey-whimey stuff out of Jack’s extended stay on Earth. (That smells like fan fiction, too. Geez, do I have to do everything myself?)

(next: Season 3, Episode 1: “Children of Earth: Day One”)


MPAA: not rated

viewed at home on a small screen

official site | IMDb
  • In case anyone’s missed the news, there’ll be three new Torchwood radio plays aired before Children of Earth goes out.

  • Magess

    Seems to me that Jack should be significantly more screwed up than he is given his millennia of torture. I accept that you can’t have your main character BE that messed up (unless you’re Farscape, I guess), but some nightmares here and there? Some unexplained anger and freaking out? SOMETHING?

    Quite daring that they killed two characters. A bit like BSG in their willingness to just go for the unexpected. Here’s to hoping that they pull off the big change successfully.

  • RYan

    For the last 15 minutes and then a good half hour after the episode ended, I was a ball of tears. And not just a tear here and there, but full blown “can’t breathe can’t see anything” type of crying.

    So yeah it was a very emotionally resonant finale. But I agree with what you said about Jack being screwed up. NO ONE absolutely NO ONE would come out normal if they were buried alive for TWO THOUSAND YEARS and had to die over and over again by suffocation. I hope they address this in the future, but I think they’ll just whitewash it.

  • LaSargenta

    Given how much energy is put into the writing for this show and how well the emotional tug-o-war for Toshiko and Owen has been done, I’ve always been annoyed at the apparent lack of affect that Capt. Jack has. It seemed that the Capt. Jack Harkness episode had the most. Otherwise, he is just some fully-formed and stalwart hero-type. A LOT more could be done with his character.

    On the timeline issue, I thought that he was risking crossing his own timeline in Torchwood, not so much with the various Doctors. Of course, with the Doctor, he’d be predating himself on their timeline, but he would possibly meet himself at Torchwood.

  • Katie Dvorak

    Oh this episode was so brutal. The thing I remember most is Owen coming to grips with his final death and going ‘it’s okay, it’s okay’ while Tosh is bleeding out alone on the floor and I’m crying going ‘it’s not okay, it’s not okay!’ Because wow, it’s so not okay but it works and I have so much respect for Davies for doing this.

    Honestly, I try not to figure out Jack’s timeline because as interesting as it is/would be it always gives me a bit of a headache thinking about it.

  • Bart

    If Gray allowed John to go anywhere after his revenge, why didn’t he hung around Cardiff 27AD a couple of days and dug up Jack then? Why leave him underground for 2000 years?

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