Monday, 22 March 2010

Torchwood: Combat

“I didn’t want saving.”

The first rule is: you do not talk about Combat. The second rule is: YOU DO NOT TALK ABOUT COMBAT. But nobody tells me what to do. I’m a rebel, me. I live life right out there on the edge.

This is our first and so far only script by Noel Clarke, which reminds me I must get around to watching Kidulthood sometime. It’s much better than I remembered; bloody brilliant in fact. And once again there’s a lot of story arc stuff, some of which passed me by the first time round. Not the Gwen / Rhys stuff, of course. Their relationship hits a real low here; “What’s happening to us, Gwen?” asks a despairing Rhys, just before things start to get worse. Even Jack is warning Gwen, not exactly without hypocrisy, that she should take a bit more care of her personal life, but she doesn’t get it: “Rhys will get over it. He always does.”

Things don’t get better; Gwen has to give the bad news to a bereaved wife and immediately gets snapped at by a particularly depressed and nasty Owen (of whom much later, obviously). He surpasses even his own history of nasty putdowns with “I was getting tired of your fuck-tricks anyway”. It’s clearly over between them.

And then, the climax: Gwen confesses her infidelity to Rhys. His reaction is to say “But you wouldn’t do that,” bless him. But Gwen makes her confession meaningless by revealing that she’s drugged Rhys with retcon, desperate for forgiveness. Ever since Gwen joined Torchwood it’s been changing her for the worse; this is rock bottom. And this is where she discovers Torchwood is no replacement for her life with Rhys. Symbolically, she turns up at the Hub with a pizza in a parallel scene to the one in Everything Changes. But this time the team aren’t there for her and she sits alone, crying.

Anyway, Owen. On the one hand the character is so unlikeable and shallow I have no sympathy for him, even after what’s just happened with Diane. But on the other hand I suspect I’m not expected to. And on the, er, other hand (assume a hypothetical three-armed alien creature, or something), Burn Gorman has been putting in brilliant performances right through the series and is truly outstanding here. It’s a staggering achievement to make such a git of a character so compelling. Especially as we start off with him just being a bit of a mardy git and having a bit of a foreshadow-y fight in a bar with Hot Chip’s “Over and Over” playing in the background. How very 2006.

Also very 2006, and this time not in a good way, is the Crazy Frog ringtone found on the phone of the corpse found by Tosh and Jack. I’d managed to repress my memory of that particular trauma, and now it’s all coming back. Damn you, Torchwood. Fortunately the plot is gripping enough for me to almost forgive this. And once Owen deigns to actually joining in with it by going undercover, things start getting really good.

Owen meets Mark Lynch, who seems to like him in the false belief that he’s found a fellow Nietzchean wanker to be all nihilistic and laddish with. Mark is a fascinating and well-written character, though; for someone with a basically shallow personality whose life revolves around arrogance, crap beer, fighting and cod philosophy he’s made to seem quite compelling. Oh, and we get another line about something coming, “out there, in the darkness”. Gosh, do you reckon this might be a subtle piece of foreshadowing?

Interesting to hear the speech from Mark about the world having no meaning without, among other things, “faith”. On the one hand this fits in with the pessimistic pseudo-atheism of the series, but on the other it hints at a possible religious meaning intended by the author. Either way, it’s a superficially shallow philosophy at the surface level intended by Mark but asks interesting questions about the series themes deeper down.

The stuff with the Weevils and the cage may not be particularly original (Angel did this a year previously), but it’s just a McGuffin; this is another story where theme and character are the main focus. And Owen’s apparent death wish is a very interesting development.

Another interesting point; Jack allows Janet the Weevil to run loose as bait, at the risk of killing innocent bystanders, although Tosh and Ianto both object. And Tosh later calls Jack on his treatment of the Weevil. Once again, we’re shown that Torchwood may be our protagonists but they’re certainly not heroes.

Excellent stuff, the best Torchwood yet. 5/5.

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