Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Torchwood: Greeks Bearing Gifts

“So you secretly fight crime. Is that it, Tosh?”

By now I’m getting to quite like these pre-titles sequences and the way they come to appear in quite a different light after a later twist. This is a fine example, as a rather blackguardly soldier from the Napoleonic Wars is apparently about to shoot a lady of the night out of sheer nastiness, but we are eventually to find out all is not as it seems.

The titles, and we find that this episode is by Toby Whithouse. I’d forgotten that. We begin with some nice character stuff with Tosh’s resentment of Gwen and Owen and their amusement at her nerdiness. It’s good to see Tosh getting an episode; she’s been the most neglected character so far, although it doesn’t feel quite so blatant as it did on original transmission.

Tosh ends up at one of these horrible trendy bars that seem to be infesting Cardiff, and is chatted up by Mary, who’s mysterious and manipulative but also quite fit- a fair trade, I’d say. It’s a nice point, and very telling, that Tosh has been waiting for someone to talk to about her rather unusual lifestyle. Tosh also briefly recites her origin, which sounds like a rather dull and typical career trajectory. So, just as was implied last episode, there are definitely no long stays in cells in Tosh’s past, then.

The stuff with the pendant is really quite well scripted. The stuff with the Torchwood team is great, especially Owen’s rather eyebrow-raising assessment of what Tosh would be like in bed, another example of the character being well written as a total arse. But what really impresses me are the dozens of random thoughts from various members of the public we hear throughout.

Mary’s obviously bad, of course. We know this because she smokes. And as soon as she and Tosh have had sex she becomes a totally different person, indeed species, and even gets a name which alludes to Greek mythology, just to justify the episode title. Naturally, she ends up being killed by Jack. It all feels very Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which is definitely a good thing as far as I’m concerned. It also feels like Angel, though, with all the jump-cuts and everything.

Behind all the sci-fi / fantasy stuff, though, there’s a rather dark subtext; it’s not Tosh’s betrayal of her friends that’s the most upsetting thing for her, but the insight into human nature she’s had, and the realisation of just how unpleasant people generally are. And because of this, and what we’ve seen, it’s implied that Torchwood, amusing and even likeable they may often be, are morally ambiguous characters, protagonists but not necessarily heroes. Even Gwen, the group’s conscience, is cheerfully cheating on her boyfriend and slowly coming to adopt the group’s attitudes.

Good, solid stuff, this, but not more than that. A good 3/5.

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