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cultural vandal | by maryann johanson

‘Torchwood’ blogging: “Adam”

Torchwood blogging is back! Haul out your Season 2 DVDs and get watchin’. (Before commenting, please read the intro to my Doctor Who blogging; the same caveats apply to Torchwood.)

(previous: Episode 4: “Meat”)

Torchwood blogging is late this week — sorry!
I love this episode. It represents the best of what Torchwood can be, and it distinguishes it from Doctor Who. Yeah, I guess you could do a Doctor Who episode with an alien who infilitrates the TARDIS by implanting memories in the Doctor and the existing companion(s) that he’s been there all along, but I don’t think it would work quite as well as it does here. At the very least, it would look very different from this story. Incursions into the Doctor’s mind don’t typically slip by nearly so unnoticed, for one…

This is how Torchwood came into its own in the second season: it stopped looking like plots rejected from Doctor Who and started being uniquely about the characters here. Like poor Tosh. She’s so lonely that it makes her particularly susceptible to anyone who pays her any attention, even if that someone is an alien looking for a foothold on Earth (as we’ve seen before). And because we’ve been privvy to the day-to-day workplace interactions of those who work at the Hub — which is radically different from what we see of those who travel in the TARDIS with the Doctor — we can have an entire subplot, or perhaps we should call it “one big clue that something is wrong,” about Owen being the lonely, sensitive nerd who’s after Tosh, and doomed to failur because of it. That scene in which Owen pours out his hear to Tosh — he loves her, he knows they’d be amazing together — isn’t heartbreaking just for itself, but because we know that Tosh, were she in her right mind, would be leaping at this chance.

Which in turn raises all sorts of questions about what, precisely, Adam has done to Our Heroes. Has he really just “made everyone better,” as he says, or has he released their true selves from shackles, or has he completely invented alternative lives for them? It’s almost easy to believe that Owen really does feel something for Tosh but that he’s too much of a scared, self-centered child to admit to it. It’s almost easy to believe that Tosh is merely waiting for the right impetus to burst out of her shell. It’s easy to believe that Gwen might take any opportunity to forget Rhys and put him out of her life. (“You’re itching to go to work, aren’t you?” Rhys says to Gwen in the opener — um, yeah, partly to get away from Rhys. What is wrong with her? Cut the poor guy loose already… And Rhys, don’t say things like, “I’m gonna marry this bloody madwoman even if it kills me,” because it might, as you now well know.)

It’s not so easy, though, to believe that Ianto is, under the skin, a serial killer waiting to happen:

(Does it say, “Home always hungry” on the door behind him?)

Though that would certainly be an, er, interesting twist to Ianto’s character: the mild-mannered young man who’s secretly seething with rage. It’s hardly unheard of…

Jack: ah, Jack. We learn more about him here, through Adam, but what we learn is only a tease, a reminder of how little we know of him at all. We don’t even learn Jack’s real name, in the flashbacks/dreams: he’s called “son” by his parents, and Gray doesn’t say his name at all. “My home in the 51st century…” Jack says to Adam. Has he told anyone else in 2008 Cardiff that? I doubt he has. And why Adam? Perhaps the alien has some sort of affect on its victims that makes them trust him, but Adam must have chosen Jack to be the one Jack confides in, in this phony alternate reality. Is it just because Jack has such a “singular mind”? Perhaps it’s the loooong extent of Jack’s memories that makes him such rich pickings…

What else we know now about Jack: He searched for his brother but never found him (which means Gray could — ahem! — show up in a future episode). He had buried the memory of his past 150 years ago… which makes sense: those memories could really weight him down, seeing as how he has so many of them. He lived “under the threat of invasion” on the Boeshane Peninsula by “the most horrible creatures you can possibly imagine” — Daleks?

What we also know: He doesn’t take a retcon pill when the rest of the Torchwood team does? Is that selfishness, a reluctance to let go of anything? Or is it selflessness, a willingness to hold onto unpleasant memories on behalf of the team, to be able to be alert to their recurrence?

Random thoughts on “Adam”:

• I love how they slotted Adam right into the opening credits:

as if he’d always been there.

• Have we seen this graffiti-style red dragon before?

I know the red dragon is the symbol of Wales, but it isn’t usually stylized like this… certainly not that I remember seeing at the Hub previously.

(next: Episode 6: “Reset”)

MPAA: not rated

viewed at home on a small screen

official site | IMDb

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