Sunday, January 27, 2008

No. 2: Torchwood, S2, E1

This Week: Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, or, Jack, You Ignorant Slut

Previously, on the 'Wood: Months of tension and mistrust culminated in the team's mutiny and murder of Captain Jack Harkness. But, Jack being Jack, he survived both that and a life-draining encounter with dark god Abaddon, before ditching his mates to join The Doctor on another world-saving adventure.

The makers of Torchwood probably prefer it if you don't ask a lot of questions while watching their show. You know, like, "What did these people do before joining the agency?" "Don't any of them get counseling?" And perhaps most obviously, "How can such a group of fuck-ups be trusted to run a drive-thru, let alone operate a Top-Secret Government Program?"

"Dwell on any of this too much," the creators seem to want to tell us, "and your head will probably blow up. Just stare at the pretty damaged people and we'll all have a laugh, okay?" So it's surprising that the much-hyped season premiere shows a few changes in the formula.

The big news first: slashfic monkeys, rejoice! You have a new playground for Cap'n Jack, in the form of Captain John Hart (Whedon alum James Marsters, wisely rediscovering his British accent), a fellow ex-Time Agent, con man -- and partner, he quickly informs us, "in every way imaginable." As George Takei would coo, Ohhh, my!

Armed with Adam Ant's leftover jacket, Spike-esque snark, twin hand-cannons and a MacGuffin, Hart isn't memorable as a character, yet, but he does bring something besides kissy-face to the table: finally, Jack and the series have a nemesis. And a bad ex, to boot, so it's more drama, less melodrama.

A good chunk of the episode is spent watching Jack try to reacquaint and re-assert himself with his teammates, and it's nice to see that, at least for this hour, the gang -- Gwen, Owen, Toshiko and even skittish ol' Ianto -- has adjusted to really working together without the good Captain. But, given that we last saw Jack in Doctor Who, he was being dropped off almost literally at Torchwood's front door, how could it take him so long to re-join the team?

Oops, there I go, asking questions.

The Scoobies may be getting along these days, but Jack still has issues: he asks Ianto on a date while going all Dawson on the newly-engaged Gwen; he still sneaks in a few snogs with Not-Spike; and he still won't 'fess up to his, uh, time as a Time Agent, or even to the real reason he skipped out of Cardiff after the battle with Abaddon: to hitch a ride with The Doctor and the goddamn-fine Martha Jones, which ended up with him helping to save the world. Again.

There could be two unspoken reasons for this strained level of secrecy: the show's creators want to keep it "independent" from its' more family-friendly parent program; and Jack, the character, might look at it this way: Why would I confide in a bunch of schmucks who killed me and took my job? Still, with Martha due to join the team later this year, and Jack himself reportedly teaming up with The Doctor later on in Who's season, something's sure to be revealed.

Another subplot that seems to be developing is that, for a Top-Secret Government Organization, suddenly more people seem to know what Torchwood is. In the opening chase sequence, an otherwise common matron gripes, "Bloody Torchwood!" Later, at a crime scene, Andrew the Cop asks Gwen rather flippantly whether the case is "another one of [their] spooky 'dos." Did Harry Saxon sell them out? Did the repeated alien and supernatural goings-on around the country make them take on a higher profile? Oh, and who the hell is Grey?

For once, those last few questions aren't recriminating toward the show. It's a welcome change of pace after last year.

Final Score: 7 out of 10


Combustible Monkey said...

Man, do I even want to watch the first season of this?

ABoyNamedArt said...

It's not a bad show, strictly speaking; the trainwreck was pleasant enough, for the most part. Much like Heroes, you just have to go with it a bit. This week, at least, there was less of that going along.