Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Torchwood: They Keep Killing Suzie

“That’s all we are in the end- just a pile of boxes.”

For the first time we get some footage from a previous episode in the pre-titles bit; at last the series is starting to acquire a mythology of its own. We then move to the teaser itself and Yasmin Bannerman as Detective- surely Detective Inspector?- Swanson. It’s quite an effective teaser, with the reveal reminding me of Seven. Swanson directly blames Torchwood for the murder; it soon turns out that she’s right. This episode continues the recent run of episodes implying that our protagonists are not the good guys and do much more harm than good.

This episode is by Paul Tomalin and Daniel McCulloch. Who they? I remember at the time there was speculation that this was a pseudonym for RTD, but frankly the dialogue doesn’t feel polished enough for that. Still, it’s a good episode, with the earlier scenes quite strongly foregrounding the themes of the episode, which by now are looking to be the themes of the season. The murder victims are linked by Retcon in their bloodstream; the connection is Torchwood. This in itself implicates Torchwood in some dark stuff, but their decision to use the glove means we see them making a morally troubling decision here and now. Crucially, Gwen, the new girl and still the group’s conscience, is specifically implicated in its use.

It’s not all moral murkiness, mind. This episode sees the start of Ianto’s line in dry quips. And the Ianto / Jack thing. And the stopwatch. But from the resurrection of Suzie to her final death all this stuff is pretty much foregrounded. Interestingly, Suzie spend two years confiding in Max and then giving him a retcon pill; this is exactly the same urge to talk to someone about what happens with Torchwood that we saw with Tosh and Mary last episode- in fact it’s such a blatantly exact parallel it pretty much hits you over the head. The implication seems to be that Suzie is the end result of what the Torchwood lifestyle does to you; in the end the moral compromises have turned her into a serial killer. Come to think of it, that’s two separate serial killing sprees…

The scene shifts to a rock club, rather depressingly playing some nu-metal rubbish instead of the sort of thing they used to play in my day. Sigh. I mean, is a bit of White Zombie or Therapy? Or The Almighty really too much to ask?

Anyway, Suzie turns out to be rather clever, having planned this entire situation to happen in the event of her death, making use of Max and Emily Dickinson. Unfortunately, this means Gwen is going to die by being shot in the head. Slowly. Clever but with collateral damage; yep, that’s Torchwood all over.

I’m glad DI Swanson gets to have a good laugh at Torchwood’s expense because let’s face it; she’s the only character in this episode with a speaking part who can possibly be described as a “goodie”. Torchwood aren’t a bunch of incompetent failures who mystifyingly never seem to get fired; these “failures” come from moral failings which arise from who they’ve become by working for Torchwood. And they’re not constantly failing to save the world; they’re not trying to save the world- that’s not the point. Torchwood is a murky, unaccountable organisation with its roots in a fit of xenophobic pique which can do whatever it likes and seems to do little but satisfy its own curiosity and succumb to temptations which lead to very dark places culminating ultimately in killing sprees. Its existence is not a good thing. All its members- even Gwen, even Jack- are corrupted by belonging to it. I’m starting to suspect that the subdued version of Jack I’ve been having such trouble with is supposed to show that he realises all of this but is trapped.

Or, on the other hand, I could be barking up the wrong tree entirely with all those sweeping statements I made just then. I’ll see what I reckon at the end of the season…

Ahem. Interesting description of the afterlife from Suzie, because it seems that there is an afterlife; it may be that there’s “Nothing. Just nothing,” but it seems from the way things are phrased that Suzie was consciously experiencing that nothing. Oh, and there’s something in the darkness, it’s moving, and it’s coming for Jack. Lovely. In no way is this foreboding.

Anyway, another good ‘un but not quite up there. 4/5.

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