Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Torchwood 'Ghost Machine' - Rating B+

“Torchwood: outside the government, beyond the police. Tracking down alien life on Earth and arming the human race...etc etc. The pre-credit sequence looks as though it isn’t going to change each week. Torchwood walks in a cool way, it rains a lot, there’re aliens and then…

…Torchwood is running through the streets of Cardiff. Back at the Hub, Toshika is both tracking everyone through the CCTV network and directing them to some sort of alien signal. Once again, I’m astonished about this CCTV thing and I don’t know how they’re sensing this alien signal. But I choose not to care. We’ve already established how poorly this show is written. After last week’s rant, I’m just going to let this stuff go.

Anyway, Owen and Gwen are running and Tosh is giving directions both to them and to Jack, who’s in the black VOC. Tosh says she doesn’t know what it is they’re after, she’s just getting a signal. Whatever the signal is, they’re catching up to it.

Tosh gives updates; they’re 20 seconds behind, 15 seconds behind. Jack parks the VOC and joins the chase. “Got him,” yells Tosh. Apparently the suspect is “male and wearing a hoodie”. Hee. That just about describes the entire post-adolescent population of Britain.

Tosh yells “Go Gwen” into the mike. I’d gripe but I don’t think anyone could deliver that line well. And this is, after all, Naoko Mori, who brought us Saffy’s friend Sarah in Absolutely Fabulous and was quite good playing the Toshiko Sato character (however briefly) in Doctor Who. I can only assume her lacklustre performance in Torchwood is the material.

Another Boring Sidenote: I think Burn Gorman is the only main character in this show that hasn’t appeared in an episode of Doctor Who. We know Jack, of course, but Eve Myles played Gwyneth in the Unquiet Dead and, since she’s the girl who closed the Cardiff rift, I wonder if she’s going to turn out to be an ancestor. Of course, Gwyneth died without having children so Gwen couldn’t be a direct descendent, but still. Makes you think. ABS over and out.

Running, running, Gwen’s still running, with Owen and Jack behind her. A security shutter is going down. Suspect alien boy goes under it and Gwen just makes it underneath. Behind them, Jack yells at what I guess is a security guard to open it up again and the security guard complies. Suspect boy leaps a barrier and Gwen follows. They seem to be going either in or out of a railway station, so if this was really Britain some police would now shoot him dead.

Gwen finally catches up with him and tries to hold him but he fights back and she ends up holding his jacket as he gets away. She’s exhausted and stands there gasping, thinking she’s stuffed up (again) but Tosh yells excitedly that she “did it” and she “got it”. Gwen says she lost him but Tosh reiterates that whatever the alien device is, Gwen has it. Gwen checks the jacket pocket and pulls out the device. Then, being Gwen, she activates it.

The sounds pulls right back as we see Gwen now standing in an empty railway station. We can hear her breathing and there’s a surreal blue quality to the light. Behind her out of a tunnel walks a boy, about 10 or so, and we hear the sounds of an old steam train pulling away. The boy is carrying a suitcase and a teddy bear and his clothes are circa 1940s. Gwen tentatively says “hello, who are you” but the boy either doesn’t hear her or ignores her.

“Can you hear me,” says Gwen but he doesn’t reply. Instead Gwen can hear his thoughts. The boy’s voice has been manipulated, which adds to the eerie quality.
“I want to go home,” he says, “no one knows who I am here. I’m lost”.
Come back,” says Gwen as he walks away and suddenly she’s once again in the busy, bustling, modern world. Owen and Jack finally catch up with her. Gwen looks freaked out and says “I’ve just seen a ghost”.


Quite a good beginning, actually. I’ve already worked out exactly what the device does, so there’s not a lot of mystery here, but it’s already better than the previous two.

Back at the Hub, Toshiko is replaying the footage from the scene, which shows Gwen just standing there holding the device with not a little boy in sight. “No wait,” says Gwen, “it was as real as this is, more real. I didn’t just see that little boy, I could hear what he was thinking; I could feel it, like I was lost.”

So Gwen hasn’t twigged the device gave her some sort of vision. So, Gwen, rocket scientist and all round clever clogs: where did all the other people go? Just saying.

“Intense emotion can be part of a neurological event,” says Owen, and for a brief second I thought he was going to work out that the device picks up echoes of strong human emotions. But he doesn’t. In fact, he accuses her of hallucinating or of having dementia. Didn’t they give Gwen a medical before they gave her this job? Dementia’s not exactly something you develop overnight and people don’t just hallucinate for no reason. Guess that major drug addiction she’s been battling slipped by them.

For some reason, Jack is the only person in this ultra-secret organisation devoted solely to finding alien technology that thinks that maybe, just maybe, it was the alien device she was holding at the time that had something to do with it. That’s why he’s da boss.

Jack goes to press the button and they all start yelling, “Jack, no, don’t do it”. “As if,” says Jack. Ah, so tonight the single Torchwood brain cell is going to Jack. I don’t know how well it’s going to work if he never gets any blood flow up there. Gwen says it felt like an apparition. This reminds me of that joke people make whenever someone says their beer tastes like piss.

Toshiko says that tracking the guy they were chasing is going to be easy because she has loads of CCTV footage. She asks Gwen about the little boy and the tag around his neck, which apparently had his name written on it. Oh, I didn’t notice that. Sorry audience! Anyway, the little boy’s name is Thomas Erasmus Flanagan and Jack says it’s an unusual name, which will help to track him down. He starts barking out orders to check births, deaths, passports etc but Owen’s already found him in the phone book.

At number 74, Gwen and Owen knock and pretend to be police officers. Gwen says she’s “DI Cooper” and that Owen is “DS Harper”. By the look on his face, I think she’s just seriously demoted him. Inside, Gwen tells Thomas and his daughter that they’re looking for witnesses for the incident at the train station and says that Owen is “in training”. I like that ‘cause she’s got her own back for once. I mean, without throttling him.

Anyway, the daughter says they were in watching the “Strictly Come Dancing” finals. Must be a British thing. Gwen very wisely consigns Owen to the kitchen with the daughter to make tea while she talks to Thomas Erasmus Flanagan, now about 75 years old. Gwen is very personable in this scene and if she usually has this much skill at getting people to open up to her she maybe wasn’t quite as bad a police officer as you would think. She (surprisingly subtly) asks about his accent and he says he’s been in Cardiff 66 years “and still sounds like a borough boy”.

Tom tells his tale, interspersed with flashbacks of Gwen’s vision, as she realises he was the boy she saw the evening before. Thomas says he was evacuated from London in 1941 during the German bombing campaign. He says his mum packed him a suitcase and his sister wrote his name on a card and put him on a train at Paddington. He says that was the last he saw of them. He was only 8 years old.

“You must have been very very frightened,” says Gwen, trying to ascertain if the emotions she felt in the vision were real as well.
“I didn’t know a soul here,” says Tom, continuing on, lost now in his own memories.
“There was a mixup,” he says, “I’d kept my head down so much they forgot all about me so they left me all on my own. It felt like the end of the world. I wandered down this tunnel totally lost, forgotten, looking for someone, anyone, to look after me. Why don’t they come for me, I kept thinking, no one knows me. I’m lost. But in the end they came back for me.”

This monologue, though important to the story, is very poorly written. But this extra nails it. He’s really good. He just is this old man, a bit lonely, aching for someone to tell his stories to ‘cause the daughter’s heard them all seven hundred times before. You can feel his tiredness and his small joy that this total stranger has actually sat down to listen to him.

Tom says that after the war all his family in London was gone, but a lovely couple in Cardiff took him in and he’s been in Cardiff since.

“I don’t get it,” says Gwen, as she and Owen leave the house, “he was the boy at the station.” Owen says he can’t comment as, thanks to Gwen, he was “stuck in the kitchen with motor mouth.
“So, was what I saw just a bit of him from years before just hanging around?” asks Gwen.

Well, yes dear, exactly. And as I start to type my next sentence about how extraordinarily thick Gwen can be, I suddenly realise that she isn’t. I thought so at first, because she just can’t seem to grasp that the device could show her something without there being an obvious purpose to the vision. I’ve suddenly realised though that that’s what this episode is all about; the natural human need for events to have some meaning, our instinctual drive to create order out of chaos, even if that order exists solely in our imaginations. Gwen takes so long to accept what the device actually does because she can’t cope with the vision not meaning anything. She believes she must have been shown this traumatic event in somebody else’s life because there’s something she has to do, some task she has to undertake, some person she has to help. But there’s no purpose, no pattern, no grand design: just the small sound of a child’s pain echoing down through the years. And in the end, such knowledge will only drive people crazy as they search fruitlessly for an order that simply doesn’t exist.

Gwen’s mobile interrupts her thoughts processes and as she answers it Owen gets annoyed. Betcha 10 bucks we slowly discover that Owen’s sexist bravado conceals a lonely soul desperate for companionship and that this shaking of his head is way to hide his deep jealousy over Gwen’s perceived domestic bliss. He wouldn’t be so jealous if he overhead the call, however, as Rhys has called Gwen to ask about laundry but he’s actually spoiling for a fight about her long hours. He asks if she’s in or out tonight and she says she doesn’t know.
“Gwen,” he says, “I can live with all the secret squirrel stuff but if you can’t even tell me if you’re coming home…”
“Well, nagging isn’t helping,” says Gwen. Rhys says he’s not staying in on the off chance and is staying over a mate’s (Welsh accent moment here, he might have said his Dad’s). Owen beeps at her from the car and Rhys hangs up.

The Hub, and Jack is using their CCTV cross-referencing thing to locate Sean Harris a.k.a. ‘Bernie’, the unique “male in a hoodie” from the night before. Behind him, Gwen is doing something on her special “wall of humanity” but I don’t know what.

“19 years old,” Gwen says, “string of convictions; burglary, shoplifting, credit cards.” Once, according to Tosh, he was convicted of theft after trying to steal some tyres off a guy’s car. When the guy caught him in the act, he apologised and started putting them back on but the police arrived. He was also arrested for shoplifting a bottle of vodka and three pot noodles. Owen takes some time out from playing a computer game that involves killing aliens to note that ‘Bernie’ is not exactly a criminal mastermind.

“Got anywhere with that mystery object?” asks Owen. Jack notes that it’s alien and has “gorgeous nanotechnology” that apparently makes “NASA look like Toys R Us”. For some reason, John Barrowman has decided to do this entire scene with his mouth full. I’m not convinced Jack would do anything so gross. I mean, when you’ll shag anything you’ve got to look your best at all times.

Owen notes that Jack has not exactly made much progress. Gwen is scrutinising the device, which is kind of buzzing like it did when she turned it on. Toshiko asks what they’re going to do next and Jack makes sure he takes another big big bite of his food before he says they’re going to find Sean Harris. He apparently lives in Splott.

Ianto, who I swear to God was not anywhere in this scene for the last like, 5 minutes, says he believes real estate agents pronounce it “Splo”. He then takes a refined nibble of his food and I seriously start to wish he had more scenes.

In Splott, the gang are doorknocking the residents and trying to find ‘Bernie’. Not much luck as he owes everyone money and most people hate him. Even his mother calls him a ‘robbing little bastard’. The gang give up and gather in a park or something near a canal to have a bit to eat.

Tosh says Bernie is the ‘Scarlet Pimpernel of Splott’. Oh, “they seek him here, they seek him there”. I get it. Owen says he got 4 pasties for a pound and starts handing them out as Jack walks toward them. Tosh tells Jack they tried to find him but had no luck. Jack looks pissed. He walks off and they grab the pasties and follow him. Man these people like their food.

As they follow Jack into a tunnel, he says they’re going back to the railway station to replicate the original vision as a “controlled experiment”. Yeah, science never my forte, but doesn’t ‘controlled experiment’ mean there needs to be a controlled element? Or for that matter an actual experiment, with a hypothesis. He’s just making sure he’s in the same place before pressing a button to see what happens. Oh, I promised I wasn’t going to pick on this sort of stuff this episode.

Ok, moving right along. Gwen asks if she has to go through the experience again.
“Someone does,” says Jack and throws the device to Owen who has been ‘volunteered’.
“We don’t know what it is, what it does,” says Gwen, ignoring the fact that she was the one to just turn the thing on in the first place. She says it could be dangerous and Owen says he can spot some flaws in the plan. He’s not the only one.

Jack snits that since they gave up looking for a 19-year-old boy “this morning” (wasn’t that just like a minute ago; maybe it was 11:59 and it’s now 12:01) that he thought they were after something more exciting. As they walk off, Owen says the door-to-door stuff never gets them anywhere and the device in his hand starts its buzzing thing. He calls the team back but they keep walking and then, totally ignoring that entire piece of dialogue where he said this was a bad plan, he turns the device on.

We shimmer to the same surreal, blue-tinted world we saw in the beginning. This time, we hear the water from the canal and footsteps running into the tunnel. It’s raining heavily. Owen looks around freaked, as a girl runs in and rests against the wall. She’s wearing 1950s-type clothes and is upset and crying. She thinks, but we hear her say, that “he” is a rotten bastard. She seems to have been at some sort of dance with a guy who put an unwelcome move on her.

Owen asks her name but she’s just a memory of herself and can’t hear. Instead we hear a creepy male voice say “Lizzie” as a man walks into the tunnel after her. She’s frightened, almost too frightened I guess to move, and he stalks up on her.

“You’re a bad one, Ed Morgan,” she says in a show of defiance. This episode is considerably better than its predecessors so I won’t quote his dialogue, straight from the clichéd psycho-killers writing handbook. Owen is watching, wondering I guess where this is going. Ed is flattering her, and the actress does a good job of being terrified but also slightly hopeful that if she just plays along a bit maybe he won’t hurt her. Instead he grabs her and puts a knife to her throat.

“I told my Mum I’d be home by 9,” she says and this is quite pathetically sad. As if he cares. Owen looks on as Ed drags Lizzie out of sight and we all know what will happen to her now. Owen is distressed but can’t move; the device has him rooted to the spot. The expression on his face is helpless and horrified. Things we see but cannot change. Chaos and no moves available to bring order, forced to watch as the world collapses.

Back to the present and Owen says the girl was so scared but that he couldn’t move. He gives the device back to Gwen. He’s so distressed he’s nearly hyperventilating, all bravado gone. Back at the Hub again, the team is recapping the two events; Gwen notes again that they don’t just see the events, they feel them.
“She was terrified,” says Owen and he’s still very chastened. No alien video games in this scene.

Tosh has looked up her very special computer that knows everything and found Elizabeth Lewis who was raped and murdered in 1963. Owen says she told her Mum she’d be home by nine. This is enough of a non sequitar that it should have been a big flashing sign to everyone that Owen is not coping.

Owen asks about Ed Morgan and we can see his very human mind working. Can’t just see, have to act. Tosh notes that it’s kind of a common name but she starts looking. Gwen’s still trying to find the purpose, some meaning to the visions, so she asks Jack what the connection is between the two events. Because there has to be a point.

While they’ve been talking, the computers or scanners or something must have been analysing the device because Jack suddenly announces that it’s a transducer. Tosh gets all excited and explains that transducers transform energy from one form into another. Like a telephone, the device is picking up remnants of human emotion and transforming them into images. Jack says human emotion is energy and then proceeds to hammer the point home in a very long monologue in which he essentially repeats that human emotion is energy. Except they keep using the word ‘ghost’.

Owen is so not interested in any of this. He has too much chaos already and he’s doing his best. He asks if they have any more information on Lizzie and starts to run around demanding answers. Jack twigs that Owen’s off on his own crusade and tries to point out that he needs new evidence for a case to be re-opened.

“I saw it happen,” says Owen, wound laid bare, and Jack says he only saw an echo of a moment amplified by alien technology. He asks how that will play in court and Owen very rightly asks when Torchwood ever cared about the normal process of law before.

Jack’s still on the Torchwood mission, however. He wants them to track down Bernie Harris the next day and find out how he got the device so they can discover where it came from. He’s laying down the law, but I think he’s being a bit insensitive. I mean, vision or not, one of his staff just witnessed a brutal rape and murder. That would be traumatic for anybody, but in the long term doubly so for somebody as repressed as Owen. Without his quest for Ed, he has no acceptable vent for his feelings. Jack tells Owen and Tosh to go home but asks Gwen to stay.

Very long and boring scene follows in the firing range, where Jack teaches Gwen should I hammer it home again...a frigging police officer) how to shoot and the actors try to pretend their characters are feeling an attraction to each other. I didn’t know one could be bored and nauseated at the same time, but apparently you can. Afterwards, they establish that Jack lives at the Hub, doesn’t sleep and is quite lonely. Not a ‘lonely angel’, though. Please God, anything but that. Gwen says goodnight and heads home.

Rhys of course isn’t there but he’s left her a “we’re really going to break up soon” message on the machine about laundry, dishes and other household chores. In a world created by the power of one man’s obsession with sex, this relationship is so doomed. It turns out Torchwood still hasn’t improved its security system either because, in the great tradition of its employees, Gwen has brought the device home.

Meanwhile, Owen is at home stuck with the images of the vision in his head.

Gwen’s house again and she turns the device on and sees happy scenes of her life with Rhys. He chooses this auspicious moment to come in and they make up.

Across town, Owen’s place is looking like the site of the latest ‘stalkers anonymous’ meeting. He has paper all over the floor and is researching Lizzie’s crime. He’s also drinking alcohol straight out of the bottle, which is television code for emotional anguish. (Has anyone ever actually done this in real life?). Owen notices that an Ed Morgan was questioned in regard to the case but released without charge and manages to track him down.

It’s the next day and Owen is parked outside Ed’s place. He rifles through his fake IDs and chooses one. Apparently one of these IDs is for U.N.I.T. Aww, I liked U.N.I.T. If only the modern-day UN hadn’t been such a pile of stuffed shirts about the whole thing, we could be watching the Brigadier right now instead of bloody Torchwood.

Owen looks very bleak and determined as he gets out of the car and makes his way over to Ed’s house. He knocks but gets ignored. He peers through the window and sees an old man furtively looking out so he shakes the mail slot as well. Ed calls out from the house to see who it is. Owen calls him Mr Morgan and he opens the door.

Ed Morgan is old, white-haired and decrepit with a ciggie hanging out of his mouth and thick glasses. He's also Gareth Thomas who was Blake from Blake's 7! looking unbelievably old. I tell you what, watch the final episode of Blake's 7 if you want to see a killer series finale. I've rarely seen something so powerful.

Anyway, Blake asks Owen what he wants and Owen lies and says something about gas. Man, after watching British television for a while I would never ever believe someone who tells me they’re there because of a gas leak. It’s used in every show, even the good ones.

“Who says there’s gas,” Ed is moaning in the next scene, “I can’t smell anything. There’s nothing wrong or I’d have noticed. Can you smell anything? Is it next door?” Owen rather ominously asks if they can go into the living room. Ed complies but he’s starting to get suspicious. He says he only has an electric heater in the living room.
“What are you looking for?” asks Ed and I’m starting to wonder too. Owen does look like he’s searching for something. Maybe he’s just not sure what to do now that he’s there.

n the end, he asks Ed to sit down and Ed complies, still droning on about his nosy neighbour who makes things up about him. Owen sits down facing Ed and rather creepily asks him how long he’s lived in the area. He pulls himself forward on his chair: I guess he’s finally decided the right tack to take. He starts asking about how well Ed can remember his neighbours, people who’ve lived there for years, people who lived just round the corner, like Mabel Lewis. Ed flinches; he already knows where Owen’s going with this.

Owen continues, his voice even-paced, explaining that Lizzie’s family has moved away because they couldn’t stand the memories. We hear Ed’s heart rate ratchet up a notch and a close up of his hand shows it gripping the sofa. Owen is merciless and his monologue is interspersed with remembered glimpses of the attack.
“She loved dancing,” he says, “do you remember? You should. Pretty girl; blonde hair, blue eyes, used to wear this pink coat, all the rage, she was wearing it the last time you saw her, the last time anyone say her…alive. Remember now.”

Owen’s voice drops to a whisper and I almost think he’s enjoying this, this power. He’s finally doing something and he has the comforting glow of the righteous to warm him. He knows things no one should know and he can finally vent these feelings he didn’t dare show the people he knows.

“I know what happened under the bridge that night, just the two of you, the dark, water dripping from the roof into the canal, Lizzie’s hair all wet from the rain, cold and crying. I know what you did, Ed Morgan.” The heartbeat grows louder and Owen voice drops till it’s almost inaudible over the guilty thud of Ed Morgan’s heart. He says Lizzie told her mother she’d be home by nine and repeats her begging pleas word for word.
You’re a bad one, Ed Morgan, the girl’s said not to go with you and they were right.”

Ed’s had enough, he’s finally found his feet and he launches himself out of the chair demanding that Owen leave. Owen’s found his fury now and he turns on him: “You thought you’d get away with this, didn’t you,” he breathes (a lesser actor would have yelled this; Burn’s delivery is way more effective). “I’ve told you before, you’ll get nothing from me,” Ed yells and nearly throws Owen out the door.

Owen stands outside the house for a moment, coming down from his emotional high, before looking determined again and heading off. Back at his car, Owen is about to get in when he looks up and sees Bernie Harris, way too interested in Owen’s movements for this to be a coincidence. So he knows about Ed Morgan too.

“Bernie Harris,” says Owen and Bernie breaks for it with Owen pelting after. After all the emotion, mindless exercise is what Owen needs and he makes the best of it, pursuing Bernie with a dogged single-mindedness. The fact that he just came out of the house of someone Bernie is probably trying to blackmail and knows his name means Bernie probably thinks Ed’s hired Owen to kill him, but Owen doesn’t have time to work this out.

He’s running. Running, running, running, lots of running in this episode. Gives me a break anyway. Oh, I do like the older woman in the backyard. Years of living in Splott must make you cool.

Owen finally corners him and with the mood he’s in he’s seriously spoiling for a fight. Bernie actually cracks me up when he suddenly cowers against the fence saying “please don’t hurt me, I get asthma.” “I’m not gonna hurt ya,” says Owen, “I’m gonna bloody kill ya.”

Next scene and for some reason, instead of killing him, Owen has taken Bernie to a pub for a pint. Ooh, a pint. Now there’s an idea. Jack and the gang come in while Bernie is explaining that he got his nickname from accidentally burning his neighbour’s shed down when he was 12. I’m having an accent moment, but when the two walk in I think he says “if this is all about Dodgy Dan, I don’t know what happened to him, alright.” Except it may have been something about a dodgy van, or possibly fags.

Jack puts the device down in front of him and Bernie says he and his mate were using a lockup owned by an old guy who was a bit “soft in the head”. The old guy had left loads of stuff there and they chucked most of it except for a biscuit tin that was filled with foreign coins, weird bits of rock and the device.

Apparently he and his mate were going to try to sell it but one day it “switched itself on”. He said he saw a woman dumping a dead baby in the bay. He recognised her as an old lady that lived nearby, went to see her, and she offered him money to keep quiet about it. He doesn’t say, but we know, that this would have made his little petty-criminal mind perk up.

“I’ve seen things you wouldn’t believe,” he says to Owen and he starts to outline the vision under the bridge. Owen just starts nodding furiously through Bernie’s explanation. He doesn’t need to hear it again; he sees it in his mind every minute.
“He doesn’t know anything,” says Owen to Jack and the gang start to leave. For some reason, Bernie is upset about them going, yelling that “he has rights”. I don’t get it either. It serves the plot, however, as he yells “don’t you want the other half” and that certainly gets the cool kid’s attention.

Oh, I just rewound it and he said they couldn’t take the device because it was his and he has rights. Well, that makes more sense. Got to work on my Welsh accent, I guess.

The scene is Bernie’s apartment. Jack hands the other half of the device to Tosh and Gwen is going through the biscuit tin. It’s full of alien rock and alien money that Jack says is driftwood coming through the rift. I guess I have to accept this if I’m going to accept the premise of this show, but I thought the rift was closed and all that was left was a scar? Wasn’t that why Margaret the Slitheen was going to blow up the nuclear power station, to re-open it?

Anyway, back to the plot of this episode where Tosh has worked out how to re-attach the two parts of the device. Jack grabs it off her and Gwen grabs it off him. She then turns on Bernie and rather aggressively accuses him of separating the pieces. Um, yes, he probably did. It was his, after all. Not quite sure what the tone is all about.

Tosh runs off with the biscuit tin like a child with, well, a biscuit tin, and Torchwood prepares to leave.
“Aren’t you going to arrest me,” asks Bernie, who for some reason seems disappointed he’s not about to be handcuffed and given 7 to 10. Jack says they’re not the police and Bernie practically begs to be arrested by saying “but I robbed that”. I think he means steal, but he was probably out “robbing” pot noodles during English so it’s only to be expected.

As they leave, he starts begging them not to go. He looks quite distressed and says he only used the other half of the device once. He says he saw his own death, out on the road in front of his apartment and that it will happen before his next birthday. Gwen’s the only one left and listening but she tells him she’s coming back and runs out because Jack is calling her. Man, he’s co-dependent. Wait two minutes, Jack.

As they walk toward their respective vehicles and Gwen runs after them, the device starts to blip and Gwen, for whom curiousity without intelligence is a large but accurate middle name, presses the buttons to turn it on. For some reason, Jack starts running toward her in slow motion yelling “Gweeennnn, nooooooooo.” I don’t know why. The device hasn’t harmed them before. Plus, this is the universal television sign that somebody’s about to be blown up, so unless Gwen is about to explode it’s odd directing.

Close up on Gwen’s face and the world is vision-blue. Gwen sees herself with a bloody knife in her hand. The vision of herself thinks, so in the vision she says, “help me, please, I couldn’t stop it, he’s dead. Owen had a knife, he wanted to kill him, oh God, I couldn’t stop him, help me.”

Back in the harsh light of day, Jack grabs the device from her hand and asks her what she was thinking. Thinking? Gwen’s supposed to think? Seriously, the woman is “Instinct Girl”, you’ve said yourself that what’s you like about her.

Gwen and Owen stare at each other. She’s thinking that he’s going to kill somebody but I honestly believe he’s thinking that she alone knows what it’s like. She’s freaked out from the vision and regardless of what it showed her, Owen sees that she understands how it feels.

Back at the hub, Gwen’s explaining the whole thing to Jack. If Bernie dies in that street and Owen killed somebody then… Jack says he believes what she saw is only one of many possible futures and that it may not happen. But this is an episode about our need for, and lack of, control over the world we desperately try to make sense of, so we know there’s no way to avoid what’s coming. Somebody’s going to die. If it’s not Bernie, it’ll be somebody else.

Gwen still can’t accept this and this time she goes straight to the heart of what she does for a living. If they can’t make sense of this vision, if it isn’t a warning, if all the alien “stuff” they have access to can’t help then prevent his death, then what’s the point of anything? Jack says he’s sorry and Gwen says she wishes they’d never found the device. She feels sorry for poor, young, stupid Bernie and decides to tell him about the ‘possible futures’ theory. Jack notes that she certainly found it comforting and that’s true. She’s still holding on to that shadow of purpose and meaning, but she admits she doesn’t know what to do.

In his flat, Ed Morgan is dialling a number on a piece of paper and coughing up his lungs. He changes his mind, takes a puff of his cigarette and looks thoughtful. Ed, too, is trying to work out what to do.

In a bar, Toshiko and Owen are having a drink and she tells him she found Ed Morgan. Owen admits he found him too. He says he visited him and “put the fear of God into him”. Tosh says she found his medical records and he has a host of psychiatric conditions including claustrophobia, paranoia and depression. Ed’s conscience has been his greatest judge and harshest jury. Tosh warns Owen that Jack will be pissed if he finds out about the visit and Owen says he won’t, making her complicit.

Cut back to Ed’s place and he’s still sitting in the dark with his cigarette and the phone. He finally makes the call and it’s to Bernie, who’s still staring out the window at his death. He picks up the phone…

…and we cut back to the bar where Owen is discussing his visit with Tosh. He says Ed seemed to think he was after money and Tosh thinks it’s paranoia. Owen remembers the “I told you before” comment and suddenly twigs that Bernie Harris had been there before him. Of course, the writers think we’re dumb so we get a voiceover of Bernie telling us about seeing the rape, while Jack looks at a photo of Bernie on Gwen’s Wall of Humanity. I think Jack’s worked it all out too.

Back at Bernie’s, Gwen is knocking and Bernie lets her in. I do like that she gives a toss about this boy. He’s not bad, he’s just young and shallow, and at this moment terrified and alone. She tells him about the possible futures but he’s not convinced. She doesn’t know how to stop it from happening and she doesn’t have a plan.
“Some things you’re just better off not knowing,” says Bernie and that’s the episode in a nutshell.

Gwen’s phone rings and it’s Jack letting her know about Bernie’s blackmailing activities. Owen’s ‘fessed up, so I guess Jack didn’t work it out before. He was just being pensive. Gwen says she’s at Bernie’s place and Jack says he and Owen are on their way. Tosh is once more relegated to watching a CCTV monitor.

Mercifully brief helicopter shot of the VOC and we’re back in Bernie’s apartment, where Gwen is a little horrified that Bernie tried to blackmail Ed. In the Hub, Tosh is looking up Ed’s medical records again. She says he’s agoraphobic, but looks up and sees him on the CCTV walking towards Bernie’s place.
“I don’t believe it,” she says and calls Jack to tell him.

In Bernie’s flat, he keeps looking out the window and Gwen twigs that he’s waiting for someone and not just to die. Bernie sees Ed out the window and runs outside with Gwen following him. Her phone rings and she comes back in to answer it. It’s Jack and he says he’s on his way but Gwen looks out the window and sees something that makes her flashback to the comments about Bernie’s death.

American shows do this constant flashbacking and explanations of things we’ve already seen; we need to start an international “we’re not stupid” campaign.

She runs out of the room and Jack loses contact with her. He looks concerned. If she dies, he’ll have to get a pet.

Ed is walking toward Bernie with a knife in his hand.
“I knew that you’d find me in the end,” he says, “I knew you’d come for me. I’ve been waiting for years.”
Gwen walks out and he asks if she’s come for him too. All that paranoia and all those years of guilt: does he think they’re police, ghosts, avenging angels? It’s hard to say. Bernie is gearing himself up for the inevitability of his death, wondering why it hasn’t come, but Ed is letting it all pour out. He tried to hide but always believed that people knew.

“I haven’t been outside for so long,” he says, looking up at the stars, and Gwen takes this opportunity to try to reason with him and to get between Bernie and the knife.
“Little bitch,” Ed says, turning on her. Old, tired and guilt-ridden but still the same Ed Morgan, “you’re all the same, you blame me, make me the bad one: wasted my life for you.” Like all rapists, Ed still tries to live with his actions by blaming his victim instead of himself.

Bernie is begging for his life while Jack and Owen come up behind Ed. Ed is basically telling them he’s got the knife to kill himself, but Bernie’s too scared and Gwen’s too busy trying to see a way out to really listen. Owen and Jack grab Ed from behind and Owen grabs the knife. Jack is asking if everyone’s ok and Gwen says they are, but Owen is silent. He has the knife and this is his moment to make sense of everything, tell himself those lies we need to function in this world, the same lies we tell ourselves when we commit a crime or do the wrong thing. It’s justice, he thinks, karma, the natural conclusion, the reason I found out, the purpose to me being here.

“I’ve got the knife, Ed Morgan,” he breathes and in some part of his brain he’s mimicking Lizzie’s words deliberately, convincing himself he’s acting on her behalf, for her benefit, when she is dead and long gone. Ed looks worried and so does Gwen, but for different reasons.

“You were so close; you were going for her, weren’t you? Just like with Lizzie.” “You were so close,” he says again as he leans down and puts the knife against Ed’s cheek, “as close as I am now.”

Back to Gwen and we see her flashback again, which breaks up the story, kills the mood of the last scene and reminds us of stuff we only saw about 10 minutes ago and have had repeated and explained to us ad nauseum over the last 5.

Finally back to Owen asking Ed why he should get away with what he’s done.
“You said you were sorry, you said you didn’t want to hurt her, but you didn’t STOP,” Owen says, so angry he’s acting on instinct alone.
“What if I didn’t stop, would I be sorry?” he asks and by now he’s appraising himself and he’s not even speaking to Ed at all.

“I don’t know,” he admits softly and pulls the knife away. Choosing chaos over an order brought about by an act that’s wrong, morality over human instinct. The better man.

He hands the knife to Gwen and Jack angrily tells him to go away and deal with Bernie. Gwen’s all vindication: Owen didn’t kill anyone and after everything that’s happened, she still hasn’t realised the order she imposes on the world is all in her own head. She holds the knife with the point out, all happy and relieved, but unaware and unprepared for the chaos that is Ed’s mind all the time. Maybe he does believe she’s Lizzie come for him. He lunges at Gwen and the knife to receive the punishment he never got and the forgiveness it’s impossible for him to obtain. The knife slices through his heart and as the others pull him off her, he’s already in cardiac arrest.

And it’s Owen, still stripped bare to the soul we never suspected was so much better than the façade he hides it with, that thumps Ed’s chest, trying to bring him back to life.

Gwen looks horrified; the knife still in her hands. She drops the knife and holds her bloodied hands out to Jack, the boss, the manager, the organiser, who simply looks back not knowing what to do. Ad break.

The Hub, later that night or very early the next morning and Tosh is trying to reassure everyone that Ed obviously wanted to die and that he would have found a way, no matter what. Owen still hasn’t retained his frat boy exterior so he admits he screwed up, but reassures himself that at least he didn’t kill him. Not a very comforting thought for Gwen, who’s crying in the foreground.

Tosh asks about the device and Jack says we can’t just look at the visions; it’s too much in our nature to try and change what we see. He wisely gives it to Ianto to lock up in the secure archives and at least with Ianto we can be sure that it probably will be locked up.

The sun is coming up and Gwen and Jack are outside. Gwen says she killed him and Jack insists he killed himself. The pre-dawn sky is the same colour as the visions because, as Jack says, those remnants of deeds and emotions are all around us, every day.
“The city will be awake soon,” he says, “all those people, that energy.”
“All those ghosts,” says Gwen.
“We’ve just got to learn to live with them,” says Jack and he holds her as the sun comes up.

You know, that wasn’t a bad episode at all. In fact, if a really good show had done that story it would have been a great one. Unfortunately, this is Torchwood. But if they keep up this type of thoughtful character development and avoid the overt sex scenes and “we’re so cool” moments, this may not turn out to be such a bad show.

Next week: Torchwood gets attacked and ‘one of their own will turn against them’. Not permanently, I presume, since it’s the fourth episode and they’ve only got a skeleton staff as it is.

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