Saturday, January 26, 2008

Torchwood: First you wanna kill me, now you wanna kiss me. Blow.

Brief spoilers for the "Torchwood" season two premiere coming up just as soon as I trademark the name "Bikini Cops"...

Now this is the show I was hoping for when they gave Jack his own spin-off.

Like I said in my column, Angsty Jack is a complete waste of both the character and John Barrowman. Brooding, he's a bore. Charming and happy and perfect, he's wonderful. And the overall mood of "Torchwood" seems to have brightened right along with Jack.

The blowfish car chase/hostage situation was done with just the right light touch; a deadpan moment like a blowfish-headed alien driving a red convertible isn't the sort of thing this show could have pulled off last year. (It was maybe the most "X-Files"-ish moment of the series so far.) The team is getting along better instead of betraying each other every five minutes (Jack's absence having forced them into it), and the main story with Captain Jack vs. Captain John managed to ride that Whedonesque funny/scary/funny/tragic wave really well.

James Marsters' presence obviously helped -- I imagine the scene pictured above exploded the heads of half of skiffy fandom -- but the entire production felt far more confident, whether it was John's violent arrival, or Jack entering the bar for a Wild West-style shootout, or a paralyzed Gwen trying to will Ianto and the others to find her. The execution on almost everything was spot on.

It wasn't perfect -- the "it would activate the bomb" excuse for not cutting off John's hand was lame, and the writers really need to make up their mind about whether Torchwood is a super-secret organization or so well-known that old biddies make derisive jokes about it -- but it was a vast, vast improvement over nearly all of season one.

What did everybody else think?

20 comments:

Newscoma said...

I agree. I felt like the show finally found it's rhythm with tonight's show.
And why doesn't James Marsters have his own show where he's the lead?

Harriet said...

Hey, thanks for blogging about this. That was a seriously fun episode. I guess we really do know that the old Captain Jack is back when he manages to show up, shoot a blowfish, kiss James Marsters, and get into a bar fight all within the first ten minutes of the episode.

I actually took the old lady's "Bloody Torchwood" as the show sort of making fun of itself for how unsecret their secret organization is. Sort of like when Ianto told Jack he should look on the roof because he's good at roofs (having spent all that time last season standing on the tops of tall buildings for no particular reason.) Which is good--this show could do to take itself a little less seriously.

If they were going to cut hands off, I suppose they could have just cut Gwen's off as well. But small gripes aside, that was the most fun I've had watching television in a long long time.

Nicole said...

Someone in the ivory tower must have read the fan forums on how to improve Torchwood, because keeping Captain Jack the same character as the one from Doctor Who is exactly what made this episode work. James Marsters helps too, but he isn't the only reason, because he was in Smallville too and the show wasn't improved that much.

Now if they can give Ianto and Toshi even more character development, this series will go swimmingly.

Matt said...

As your friendly neighborhood trademark lawyer, I must note that based on a preliminary knock-out search, the BIKINI COPS trademark appears to be available for registration. It could be the next "Baywatch," folks--get crackin'!

Harriet said...

Actually, another reason I enjoyed this show is that they're not only finally putting John Barrowman's talents to good use, but they're making better use of James Marsters than anyone has since "Angel" ended. Certainly better than anything "Smallville" has come up with for him to do so far.

Toby said...

Apart from the return of the Captain Jack we first came to know, I loved the pop culture references the best. Among them:

the Starfleet symbol on those office computers

"Help me, Obi-Wan. You're my only hope."

Next week's has a nice one as well.

That image of one hand slipping away from another when John mentions having seen Grey to Jack bodes well for a season arc, or at least for a season-ender story.

And considering Chris Chibnall was responsible for a couple of the truly dreadful stories from last season, it looks like he's improved as well.

Here's hoping the rest of the season hold up to the promise of this episode.

Anna said...

I'd bet anything that the "cut his hand off" lines were looped in after the fact. I can just imagine everyone sitting around watching the cut and going, "You know, why didn't they just cut his hand off?... Oh shit, we better put something in there." But, really, I don't care. I just laugh.

This episode was so much fun, and the tone so tongue-in-cheek, it doesn't even matter that the plot barely made any sense. At least the conflicts don't seem to be coming from the characters just being idiots anymore. They've got this competent, team spirit thing going on now. I thought it was a lovely symbol when Owen fused all their blood together to save the world.

Holly Martins said...

I agree with all of the above, and also:

Thank God they lost the pterodactyl.

Holly Martins said...

... oh, and nice title, Alan. Hail to the king, baby!

Sowey said...

Didn't like that episode that much. 'twas fun, but I expect Torchwood to be darker, funny but relevant, without the sometimes goofy omni-sexual scheme.

The following episode is way better IMHO, and is what I expect from the show.
Also thrilled by the Martha Jones cameo later in the season. Way to go, guys !

> Excpect Ianto development to be extended next episode...At least he says something about him, twice. I hope this is some kind of self-irony from the writer...

holly > Well, praise Primeval for the pterodatylc disappearance !

Jim said...

What was with the old lady who knew what Torchwood was? A teaser?

and I liked the pterodactyl, but other than that, yeah, a big improvement all around.

TiVo Queen said...

I did like seeing everyone working together as a team for a change, but have a question that may be answered if I knew anything about Dr. Who...Is Harkness emotionally promiscuous? First it seemed like he was back for Gwen...then Ianto...then who knows. Is he just one of those guys who can be in love with anyone? Was Ianto a backup to Gwen being engaged? Because at the end of last season I thought Ianto was it. I don't want to be such a girl about things but I need less ambiguity in character's love lives.

jim treacher said...

Yeah, they really played to Marsters' strengths, didn't they? He was basically Spike: Charming, amoral creep who you can't stay mad at, no matter how bad he screws you over.

Boreanaz must have watched that first Harkness/Hart scene and muttered, "There but for the grace of God..."

Peter said...

I think Torchwood is the least secret secret government agency in the history of TV.

La G said...

I've always felt that if you insist on driving 'round Cardiff in that ridiculous car, don't expect your organisation to be sooper sekrit.

Harriet said...

I kmow. They even have their name printed on the side of the car. No wonder even old ladies know about them.

Eric said...

I'm pretty sure that the public knew about Torchwood back in Army of Ghosts and Doomsday - that they had something to do with the ghost appearances and were working to keep them around longer. So Torchwood's existence isn't particularly secret, but the particulars certainly are.

sowey> Torchwood without the "sometimes goofy omnisexual scheme" is like Doctor Who without "It's bigger on the inside than it is on the outside."

Anonymous said...

Blah. Is Marsters ever going to be in a show where his writers aren't trying to out-clever each other with each succeeding quip?

I am glad Torchwood is overseas because they are so incompetent that they would be quickly hired by the Bush administration here. Bunglers!

Nicole said...

In response to Tivo Queen: Captain Jack seems to go for his love triangles in Who too. In the first season he was crushing on Rose and the Doctor (nine). In the third season, he seemed to keep his crush only for Ten and Martha was just a buddy. That will probably continue when she returns to Torchwood.

I'm also glad that Marsters will be back for another episode. I seem to like the guest stars better than the regular cast on Torchwood... except for Captain Jack.

Harriet said...

I get the feeling there are a lot of complicated emotions going around in this team that won't be resolved any time soon. They're fun to watch, though.