Monday, 24 May 2010

Torchwood: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

“This is the entrance for tourists.”

“I remember the last time you said that…”

Well, serves me right, that does. There I go pretty much defending the reputation of Torchwood Series One by giving it some fairly positive write-ups, and then this episode comes along and effortlessly blows them out of this water. A Chris Chibnall script, too. On the evidence of this, he may sometimes drive people crazy but life is much more fun when he’s around.

The script sparkles and the fun pretty much never stops. Even the pre-titles sequence seems effortlessly perfect; the blowfish in a sports car high on cocaine, “Bloody Torchwood!”; the blowfish’s nicely put summary of every team member; Gwen’s newfound confidence and authority as the de facto leader of the team. And then Jack makes the perfect entrance, giving the sequence the perfect climax. Pun not intended but, hey, it fits.

There’s a bit of resentment, of course; Jack buggers off for a bit and then returns expecting to walk right back into his position. This is dealt with but, quite rightly, not taken too seriously. Already there seems to have been a quiet rethink about the team’s chemistry behind the scenes; this is a Torchwood team who actually like each other and probably won’t be shooting one another quite as often as we became accustomed to last season.

The directorial style reminds us Torchwood is back, too; all those little camera tricks and fast cuts between night-time cityscapes we all loved so much are back. This look is perfect for the introductory scenes of the fantastic James Marsters as “Captain John”; Torchwood is looking even more like Angel than usual.

Possibly the funniest scene in the history of ever is when John appears as a hologram type thingy from Jack’s wristwatch; not long after you’re thinking the words “Obi Wan Kenobi, you’re our only hope”, John only goes and says it. Genius.

The scene in the bar between Jack and John (the name is a complete mickey-take, of course), snogging and fighting, is fun too. And I love the concept of rehab for murder. We also hear, intriguingly, that the Time Agency has shut down, and there are only seven Time Agents left.

With the team’s arrival at the bar we get a bit of metatextual fun, too; I believe John’s suggestion of Excalibur is the name RTD originally had in mind for the pre-Who idea which later became Torchwood.

We get one surprising revelation (Gwen’s engaged!), and one slightly less surprising one (John’s a baddie. Who’d have thunk it?) Meanwhile two little character arcs start up again here as Tosh makes it clear (to the viewer, anyway) that she’s rather keen on Owen, while Jack, with an uncharacteristic nervousness, asks Owen out on an actual date. We also get the debut of the New, Improved, Wisecracking Ianto as he tells Jack that he’s “good on roofs”.

There are a couple of intriguing lines later on from Jack and John about “Rear of the Year, 5094” (sorry, can’t quite repress my inner continuity nerd) and on how they “should be among the stars, claiming them for our own, just like before”. Blimey. Some intriguing implications there.

The plot works its way through, and it’s a good plot, but the plot here is just a skeleton to hang the coolness from, and there’s plenty of coolness; a Torchwood which is recognisably the same people but has loosened up a lot, as it had to; John, the coolest antihero since… well, Spike from Buffy; the dialogue; lots of little revelations. Speaking of which… who’s this Gray then?

5/5. An endlessly rewatchable bundle of fun.

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