Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Torchwood 'Sleeper': Rating A

Recapping Torchwood takes a variety of skills and experience (ok, no skills and experience but the sentence had to start in some way) but the most important thing is a permanently-pickled liver, preserved for all eternity by the vast quantities of alcohol required to watch episode after episode of Jack's never-ending obliqueness, Gwen's omnipresent hypocrisy and Owen's indescribable cheek bones in slow motion for up to 8 hours.

Tonight, the alcoholism remains in potentia however as...I enjoyed this episode. Yes, there, I said it, you all heard me (or rather read it after I typed it, proofed it, re-read it, and then posted it on my blog, but you get the idea.). Not even Jack’s increasingly annoying pronunciation of ‘Touechewood’ at the beginning of each episode (hilariously spoofed by the Dead Ringers btw) can disguise the fact that I, gulp, enjoyed this episode.

We start our story in the middle of a Cardiff night. You’ll note I’ve left off the tautological adjectives this time because as far as this show is concerned, ‘Cardiff’ and ‘night’ are synonymous so ‘endless’, interminable, ‘infinite’, ‘incessant’, ‘perpetual’ and ‘possibly against the laws of physics’ are assumed from here on in.

It’s night, in Cardiff, and in suburban flat in suburban town; Mr and Mrs Nameless wake up to a noise. As Mr Nameless goes off to investigate, Mrs Nameless calls the police and I’m left pondering the absolute wonderfulness of British television, where people are married to people who look different and it’s considered so normal and ordinary as to be beyond comment unlike American shows where every time token black character is revealed to be married to token sassy black wife with token sassy daughter and angry, disenfranchised son, my family is forced to sedate me and I find myself banned from the living room.

Mr Nameless keeps a cricket bat by the bed, something that I’m reliably informed has never happened in the history of bedrooms anywhere ever except in the States where it’s actually a gun used for shooting family members in the middle of the night and if you don’t believe me, look up the stats. That’s two counts of Yank bashing in the first 500 words. Whoops.

As Mrs Nameless is on the phone, Mr Nameless (oh, I just rewound and it turns out his name is ‘Mike’, sorry Mike) is forced back into the bedroom by two men who are robbing the place. I’ll move on from how ridiculous it is to burgle an occupied house by bursting into a bedroom and holding the occupants at gunpoint and straight to Mike, who’s apparently been injured, and the strange sound these burglars can hear that I can’t. As the camera pans in on the phone that Mrs Mike has dropped on the floor and the dramatic strings of “something wicked this way comes” rasp across the soundtrack, the burglars scream and beg and...

Flick flick flick...Torchwood.

It’s night, in Cardiff, and the VOC is pulling into a crime scene (sip) while Tosh tells Jack that there’s one fatality and one serious injury after our burglar friends fell out of the flat’s window onto a police vehicle. Then Jack and Tosh get out of opposite sides of the car and move in different directions, neither speaking, while Tosh is apparently still explaining the crime. Go you continuity gurus.

It’s night, in Cardiff and Owen walks past Jennifer Connelly singing the blues and up to the one surviving burglar. “Bloody hell,” he says, without examining the patient in any way but giving the IV serious scrutiny. As Gwen looks up into the sky, trying to remember what role her character was supposed to play in this team anyway (I still don’t have any actual skills, she’s thinking, do you think Jack keeps me around in case he gets truly desperate one day?) Jack orders Owen to the hospital and asks Tosh to follow him into the building. Which apparently leaves Gwen looking at the sky. Go Gwen.

It’s night, in Cardiff, and in the room of dead burglars Tosh is scanning (sip), while a police officer states that the husband did it with the bat even though one of the burglars was apparently stabbed. This is a statement so incomprehensibly dumb that it was written, I suspect, just to make Torchwood seem smart by comparison. Jack makes an inexplicable sexual innuendo about hockey (sip) and oh alright, I am drinking. But it’s just a glass of wine and some brie, which is very civilised and what I often do on a Friday night. Oh, I think I just added something else to the list of ‘Top 100 reasons The Recapper is still single’ Damn.

Do you know, my team has started sending me emails with a virtual representation of themselves in a phalanx at the bottom? Dey’re my widdle soldiers. Just so long as no one says that this reveals my soul or something, we’ll all be fine...

...I wandered lonely as a God...

So, it’s night in Cardiff and Jack and Tosh declare themselves nonplussed because there’s a body but no weapon and neither Mr or Mrs Mike seem physically capable of this sort of damage. Meaningful looks all round as bald men in black cloaks float by the window.

In the hospital Mike and Mrs Mike are telling their story to Gwen, who obviously decided to go with Owen to the hospital. There’s some nice hubbie/wifie banter about the Doctor ordering Mr Mike not to talk for a week, which serves a double purpose both of making you go awww and of making you realise that she definitely did it but doesn’t realise it because we’ve all watched TV before.

In the hallway outside the hospital room, Owen tells Gwen there’s no blood on either of their hands but that he’s convinced the wife did it. Gwen is equally convinced it must have been the husband, which leads Owen to point out that it was quite a feat for him to murder someone, swallow the evidence and then knock himself out.

“To be continued,” says Owen before taking a call on his Bluetooth. It’s from the Cap’n who declares that one of the couple did it and that Owen is to stay with the injured burglar in the hospital all night. Owen then gets off the phone and pretends that Jack wanted Gwen to stay in the hospital all night. “Brilliant,” she says and asks him to grab her a coffee before he goes. He actually scrounges the cash for it off her and, as he does, the lights flicker and the words “foreshadowing” appear on the walls in big bright letters written in blood. Oh ok, not really.
I like Owen and Gwen’s dynamic in Season 2 btw: their so-called ‘affair’ in Season 1 was absolutely ridiculous and I’m relieved the writers are pretending it never happened. God knows I am.

In the hospital room of mangled burglars, Gwen is sitting by mangled burglar’s bed trying not to fall asleep when Mr Mangled Burglar wakes up and says, “the woman, the flat, keep her away from me,” before crashing. Wow, Mr Mangled Burglar is hot. Dead, but hot. Dead hot even.

Cut straight to the Hub, where Jack and Gwen have brought in Mrs Mike who, in traditional Torchwood style, still doesn’t have a name. “Tell me everything,” says Jack, but Mrs Mike is dazed and confused and not in a good way. They explain Torchwood’s oft-mentioned questionable legality and morality (we don’t need to charge you, you won’t get a phonecall, you won’t get a lawyer) and tell her she won’t be leaving the room until they get answers. Through a glass petition, we see Ianto’s shoulder and I realise this is the first we’ve seen of him in the episode so far.

Mrs Mike is protesting that she doesn’t know anything, as Gwen lays out the images of dead burglar and Jack tells her the second one just died in the hospital. As the questioning gets more intense, she yells “no!” and the lights go out. Gwen looks pensive (damn, she thinks, I was going for thoughtful) and, because we live in a world where the greatest psychoanalysts are apparently blowfish, she kicks Jack out of the room so she can play good cop a.k.a. “the carer”. And we just know Jack’s in the other room going, “I’m the bad cop, ooh yeah baby, the baaad baaad cop.”

While Jack explores the dynamics of being such a naughty naughty boy with Ianto in the other room (no sorry guys, not like that, but I’m sure you’ll get your Jack and Ianto action later), Gwen’s soft approach elicits only a further denial. Mrs Mike says all she knows about what happens to the burglars is that it wasn’t her.

Tosh is scanning (sip). This time it’s a body scan, the results of which are that Mrs Mike appears completely human but generates an electro-magnetic field that causes the lights to go out. They decide to do some tests.

There’s a scene that involves Gwen doing her “look how well I speak to the common man routine” (because she’s the CARER) with a rather hysterical line about how the Hub has no windows because of the “whole secrecy thing”, which begs the questions, “who is Torchwood still secret from?”, the answer being “that guy at Number 52 who’s blind, deaf and is anyway in a coma”. Then we’re on to the tests, which don’t last long because it turns out her skin is impenetrable.

“Ok Beth, you make light bulbs blow, we can’t break your skin, what planet are you from?” says Jack. Beth? She so doesn’t look like a Beth. Short for what, do you think? Bethany, Elizabeth, Bethesda. I think I’ll stick with Mrs Mike. “Earth,” stutters Mrs Mike and Jack yells at her to stop wasting their time because they know she’s an alien. “There’s no such thing as aliens,” says Beth and so they introduce her to Janet. You remember Janet: the sentient being they torture periodically and keep locked in the basement? Yep, these are the heroes alright. Mrs Mike breaks down about this point so she doesn’t take very well to the fact that Janet starts backing away from her, obviously terrified.

Aerial shot of Cardiff (sip) and OMG it’s daylight. Wow that puts paid to all my ‘Dark City’ snark doesn’t it? *Sigh*. Well, I did say this episode was a significant improvement. Proof of this is the fact that it is 12 minutes in and I truly don’t know what’s going to happen next (so, I didn’t see what the name of the episode was the first time through, ok. I can’t keep track of everything!) Well done James Moran.

In the Hub, the gang is doing their exposition of “things that have really really happened before but that we’ve never shown you because continuity is a bad bad thing” (naughty naughty continuity, says the Jackmeister, slipping a stopwatch into his pocket so he can time things in an office environment or something and musing on the fact that everything in Torchwood must inevitably explode when he’d just be happy with some general swelling).

Not the mind probe, Jack! This is Torchwood and her head will explode and what species built something called a “mind probe” that would kill any creature it tried to probe? What was that Mr Moran, it’s dangerous if you say it’s dangerous? Ok then. Not the mind probe, Jack!!

Ianto sits in the chair of the evil mind probe and pretends to be electrified because apparently this week he’s the “comic” “relief”, otherwise known as “that annoying prat”. My memories of him being my favourite character are receding quickly, possibly because Mr Chubby’s ever-expanding waistline appears to have had too many of the chips, eggs and beans that constitute a good English breakfast. Because I am that shallow. And because these recaps are apparently all about me.

So Torchwood prepares the mind probe, which I would make fun of but I’m distracted by Gwen’s rather bizarre statement that Jack has bad manners in bed. Ianto quickly agrees and then looks to this left where “logic”, “continuity” and the Torchwood producers’ last shred of dignity are swinging by a long rope called “humour, ark ark” in the centre of the Hub. You know what would have made the statement actually funny? If Gwen had ever slept with Jack. Just saying.

So the mind probing begins and I can’t snark at this scene because this woman kills me. She is in pain, screaming, begging them to stop, while Jack barks questions at her and demands that they dig deeper. The electromagnetic field begins to build up again, she’s screaming and Gwen is begging him to stop because Miss Hypocritical likes to criticise them while still standing there on their payroll. Oh sorry, it’s because she’s the CARER.

As the electromagnetic pulse goes “off the scale” (which scale is that, do you think?), Mrs Mike stops begging and just starts concentrating on staying conscious, and even Tosh and Owen ask Jack to stop. Mrs Mike finally passes out and her arms morphs into some sort of alien arm that bears a suspicious resemblance to a tree trunk with flashing lights.

Gwen breathes, “oh god”, and Tosh says that the alien consciousness was in a buried component of her mind and she wouldn’t have been aware of it. As Jack probes her (eww, not like that!), she keeps repeating something over and over, which I can only assume is her name, rank and serial number. Because she’s a Sleeper agent, and this episode is called “Sleeper”.

Hee, he asks whether she likes his shoes and before she gives her standard reply, she actually looks.

Jack reckons he knows who the Sleeper is and they turn off the mind probe, which “resets” Mrs Mike. She asks if they found anything, which results in meaningful looks all round and a sudden scene change to the Briefing room of watery walls, which has a nice selection of carafes and glasses in the forefront of the shot. Well, you try watching a show in slow motion.

“She’s a Sleeper agent,” says Jack, so I guess even he read the name of this episode. The writer takes a day off from “invention of complicated alien back story with names like the Hath, the Graske or the Slitheen” as Jack explains that since Sleepers rarely leave any survivors they don’t know much about their species. So Jack ‘it’s exposition time now and I’m a very earnest exposition man, oh yeah I’m giving that exposition a good flogging ‘cause it’s a bad bad, oh hang on’ Harkness tells the team that whoever these aliens are they send advance scouts with false memories to infiltrate planets and that poor Mrs Mike has absolutely no idea. Her real self took over and killed the burglars out of self-preservation. Her purpose is information gathering and by the time the aliens invade they’ll know everything about Earth. Exposition is boring.

So Tosh ‘a line, a line, my kingdom for a line’ Sato, gets up and starts moving the conference through the powerpoint presentation she did earlier. It shows the information gathered by the device in Mrs Mike’s arm, which was apparently designed to be hidden by a false image and a forcefield.

“They know more about this place than I do,” says Ianto ‘hopefully no one will notice Tosh and Owen are the only ones who do any work around here, but at least I’m pretty, oh yeah, I’m pretty’ Jones. “Nobody knows more than I do,” and it’s obvious that even Gareth David-Lloyd couldn’t take that line seriously, particularly since it’s practically only his second since “we don’t sniff the etheric beam locator or something (sub-etheric resonator?? resonating etherea??)”, which I didn’t even bother to recap at the time.

Gwen asks what they’re going to do and Jack says first things first they tell Mrs Mike. And thank you everyone for giving us Jack sombre in the last 10 minutes. This is a time for sombre, something that Season 1 regularly forgot. Contrary to some people’s opinions on this episode, a well-paced and thoughtful piece on the inevitable demise of an ordinarily good woman because of unfortunate circumstance is not the time for glib sexual innuendo.

Poor Mrs Mike. She’s in the Cells of Weevil, with the convenient breathing holes in the Perspex, being shown the video of her transformation by Gwen. Damn this woman is believable. Not Gwen, Mrs Mike. She manages to deliver the line, “and I’m a mass-murdering alien” without it sounding completely sci-fi and trite. Jack’s doing an astonishingly understated performance of “the man who knows what happens next” as he talks Mrs Mike round to the inevitable fate for an alien sleeper agent bent on world domination.

Mrs Mike starts talking through her life, her fake memories, declaring them and her love for Mike real. “I love Mike and he loves me,” with only a short falter before the last bit because she’s not entirely sure (are we ever?). “He does and you do,” says Gwen ‘but a blowfish told me I was a carer and they’re the best therapists in the Universe’ Cooper with a smile. Let me comfort you through to your death. This will make me feel better about myself.

She asks Mrs Mike if she feels human and when she says yes, tells her that makes her human. Jack’s face tells a bigger truth; what Mrs Mike wants or feels is irrelevant. Mrs Mike is far smarter than Gwen and she’s already worked it out. She says they can’t keep her locked up next to the Evil Weevil and what’s the use of all their technology if they can’t help her. She asks Jack if they can make her human and when he says no, she asks if they’re going to kill her.

No, says Gwen, quickly and Jack’s face says, yeah and I’m so not happy about it. “Have you killed other aliens?” asks Mrs Mike and Gwen tells her they only kill as a last resort. For some reason she doesn’t mention the illegal detention, torture, retconning and nearly destroying the world bits. Must have just slipped her mind.

Don’t let my facetiousness and severe dislike of Gwen disguise the fact that this scene is killing me. Mrs Mike is fantastic: yesterday my life was perfect and now it’s rocketed out of control and it is not my fault so why do I have to suffer for someone else’s manipulation? It’s never said, but behind every heartbreaking word is the implication, it’s just not FAIR.

Can she promise to be a good alien and go back to the normal life, which is all she wanted anyway? No, because the direction of her life is no longer under her control. Jack knows it and he tells her so, straight up. Gwen won’t admit it because she still wakes up every morning and deludes herself about who she really is and what she really does. Nothing can disguise the fact that at this point in time, the evil alien killing machine is the best person in the room.

Back in the Hub, Jack says they’re going to have to kill her and Tosh suggests cryogenically freezing her until they can work out a way to stop her memories from coming back. She can fry the implant’s transceiver using an electromagnetic pulse, which will stop it gathering intel without alerting Mrs Mike’s alien friends that they’re on to them. In this scene, Tosh is suspended above the Hub so she’s above Jack and Gwen, a position I’d have to agree with both literally and figuratively. But for some reason Owen is top right on one of the walkways...watering plants??

“What about her husband?” asks Owen ‘but I’ve always had an interest in horticulture’ Harper and Jack says Mrs Mike is just going to have to disappear.

Down in the bowels of the Hub, where so many people are frozen that half of them are forgotten, Mrs Mike is starting to have flashbacks of the evil alien murders and images of mushroom clouds. Jack pronounces the alien consciousness is a coming and they bundle her into the cryogenic chamber.

Mrs Mike tells Gwen it’s human or nothing and asks her to turn the machine off if there’s no cure. Gwen actually refuses to make this promise so either she’s an idiot or...oh, we all know she’s an idiot. Mrs Mike asks Jack instead and he gives his word without hesitation. I mean seriously, Gwen, if you can’t make her human then what’s the alternative? And she’s a good person so her one terror is hurting other people. You’ve just told her you can’t guarantee to stop her from doing that. Moron.

“It’s funny, I’ve always had this nagging feeling I didn’t fit in,” says Mrs Mike and then, with a perfect amount of understated irony, “just so desperate to have a more exciting life.” Tosh tells her she’s about to knock out the arm implant and notes that this will knock out the force field as well. Mrs Mike says, “do it” without hesitation because the last thing she wants is to be invincible. The deed is done and there’s a close up on the monitor where the implant is...doing something. Pulsating? Signalling? Shutting down?

We cut to suburban family home in Cardiff so I’m going with signalling because there’s only one thing that can happen in this scene and that’s the triggering of another Sleeper. Some nice man called ‘David’, having an afternoon drink with his wife, is activated. His arm goes alien and he promptly strangles the Missus. The chilling thing about this scene is that he obviously wasn’t going to and then at the last minute went oh, may as well.

On a street somewhere, a paramedic is giving a guy CPR when he activates. Oh, cliché-ville in Cardiff town, where a young mother looking remarkably like the woman from Blackpool who used to gamble away her pension each day with a baby in tow, gets activated and walks off as baby’s pram heads into ongoing traffic. Oh, the clichéd “horror” of it all.

Back in the Hub, Owen ‘my first love is plants'Harper pronounces Mrs Mike frozen and sends her down to the vault. And can I just say for the final time ever: it’s an autopsy room that in this episode was also used to give a medical examination. It needs to become a sterile environment. Build a wall or something. Done. For good. I swear.

As Ianto (oh, is Ianto in this episode, I didn’t know) stores her in a vault labelled 007 (a James Bond reference...I don’t get it), Gwen looks sad and Ianto gives her his arm in sad solidarity. I’m suddenly reminded of Lisa and, from the look on his face, so is he.

Less than a minute later, Mrs Mike wakes up and the Hub’s lights flicker. Considering they’re somehow on mains power and don’t apparently have a Generator, I’m not quite sure why Tosh and Gwen look so concerned. After all, they don’t have any admin staff and it’s possible they just forgot to pay the bill. Oh, an alarm’s going off and it’s because Mrs Mike has escaped. In doing so, she turned off the lights.

“What is it with her and light bulbs?” says Jack and I think, well, it’s funny you asked, Jack, but I do have a record of all those conversations detailing exactly what it is with her and light bulbs. Do you remember? You were there. I can email them to you. As you keep reminding us at the beginning of each episode, it’s the 21st century after all and email’s practically instantaneous.

Tosh is looking at a monitor containing a series of eerie blue (it’s very in, eerie blue; it’s the new black) boxes that are apparently informing her that Mrs Mike ‘escaped through the tunnels’, which if my knowledge of Hub geography is correct means that (a) she’s drowning in Cardiff Bay and (b) she hasn’t escaped because there are no tunnels. Unless they mean she’s gone through the Tourist Information Centre, in which case ‘waltzed out of the front door’ seems more applicable. Once again a big tick for Torchwood security. Performance review time must be a bitch for these people.

And in honour of the fact that I’ve managed to write more than 4000 words on the first 25 minutes of this episode, I bring you a Torchwood performance review:

Jack: How do you think your performance has been this year?
Gwen: Well, it’s difficult to say since I don’t actually have a job, but I think I’ve done pretty wonderfully. I think I bring a much-needed level of humanity to my work. I’m very caring, you know. I care about people. Of course, there was that time I stole retcon and used it on my boyfriend to cover up my affair with a co-worker and, oh yes, that time we nearly destroyed the whole world, but it should be noted that I nearly destroyed the world in a very caring way. I’m a caring person, you see. I’m the carer.
Jack: One day I’m going to be a gigantic telepathic head in a jar full of smoke.

So, as alarms blare and people shout and Owen repeats the line “she was definitely frozen” over and over and nobody realises that maybe a few armed guards and a decent security system would stop the inevitable “an alien has escaped” routine from every bleeding episode, the frenzied stream of exposition establishes that: Mrs Mike had all the information on Torchwood she needed to destroy them but didn’t; all her bio-readings must have been a fake image projected by the device to show Torchwood what they wanted to see and she was drawing power from the lights to help the illusion; and Mrs Mike can’t have activated because if she had they’d all be dead and she must have some other agenda.

Mrs Mike’s other agenda is seeing her husband and while this scene absolutely kills me I can’t help wondering several things: what happened to the determination to be human or die; why hasn’t Mrs Mike succumbed to the other personality with the rest of the Sleepers; and, the biggie, why are all the Sleepers in Wales?

Mrs Mike is at Mike’s bedside and as he wakes up, she tells him that she has to go away but just wanted to make sure that he loved her. She says she’s leaving because she doesn’t want to hurt him and he notes that she is just by going away. She says she has to set things straight and that she loves him too much to be anywhere near him. They lean in for a hug and even though I know she’s about to flip and murder him, the subtlety of the moment kills me (no pun intended). She hears a kind of squishy sound and Mike looks slightly stunned. As she pulls back, she sees her arm has turned into a weapon that looks kind of like a tree trunk with a sword stuck in it and that sword is stuck right through her husband’s stomach.

She starts screaming for help and pressing the emergency button and screaming for help, and he’s bleeding and dying and Torchwood gets there before a Doctor does. Gwen scans Mrs Mike’s arm and says “Clear!” The doctors and nurses run in and as we move out of the scene we just know that Mike is dead.

More death across town as a father is stabbed and stabbed and stabbed by ‘David’ as he’s about to sit down to dinner with his family. It’s really quite brutal.

More death across town as Mr Paramedic drives a semi, presumably filled with fuel, under an overpass and stops traffic. As the driver behind him discusses the evolution and prevalence of road rage in the modern world, Mr Paramedic detaches some sort of device from his arm and places it on the truck. It’s presumably an explosive and as Mr Road Rage pelts for safety I can vaguely hear him saying, “Bloody Torchwood”.

The Dummy’s Guide to Ironic Segue was obviously referenced for the next scene, where Jack and Gwen are leaving the hospital with Mrs Mike and manage to say, “we’ve got her, it’s all over,” before the hospital explodes. Oh, the irony. Of course, the greatest irony appears to be that in the pursuit of world domination, the vanguard of an alien invasion just murdered some man, blew up a truck and attacked a Cardiff hospital. And that’s all. Be afraid, be very afraid.

In the Hub, it’s panic and flashing lights and eerie blue boxes of information as the gang try and work out what’s going on. Tosh says the truck blew up some sort of fuel-supply line used by the military in times of emergency (oh, it was the petrol tanker explosion that for some reason blew out a wall in the hospital...oooo’kay).

Owen says that Patrick Grainger has been murdered and Ianto says he was some sort of Cardiff City Council Co-ordinator who had all the security protocols in case of an emergency. “How did you know all that?” says Owen. “I know everything,” says Ianto (pause), “and it says so on the bottom of the screen.”

Ok, bwa hahahahah. Now that is classic Ianto. Fantastic.

Still dragging Mrs Mike out of the hospital, Jack says, “they’re putting all the pieces in place,” obviously referring to the great alien invasion plan of conquering the Earth by disabling Cardiff City Council. This begs the obvious question: if aliens successfully conquered South Wales, would anyone else on Earth notice?

Oh, it’s white trash single Mum (is this what they call a ‘chav’?) and she’s blowing up...some other building. Must have been some sort of telecommunications hub because the phones go dead. I just rewound it and apparently the building was a “Telecommunications Switching Station and Mobile Switching Centre”.

Jack gives his weekly “statement of the bleeding obvious” just so we know that he’s caught up with what we’ve known for about the last 15 minutes. Oh, Mrs Mike isn’t the only Sleeper agent? And they’ve activated? You don’t say.

Jack yells at Mrs Mike to tell him how to stop it and Gwen tries the caring approach. Mrs Mike says she doesn’t know their plan but that she escaped from Torchwood because she’s able to control her arm implant. Except for that last scene where she couldn’t control her arm implant.

Anyway, she tracks the signal from her arm implant back to the cell and declares that there’s “one left”. Does that mean that Paramedic Man and Chav Girl died in their explosions? I thought they had a personal force shield and were invincible? Are you saying there really were only four Sleeper agents on Earth and they’re in Cardiff? I mean, seriously, CARDIFF.

Off screeches the VOC (sip) to track ‘David’. It’s been a long dry episode for my personal version of the Torchwood drinking game. Up screeches the VOC onto the footpath (sip) and Jack says he has an idea.

Back in the Hub, Owen is waving his mobile around, apparently demanding that Tosh hook something up to make the phones work. “The entire telephone network is down,” declares Tosh. “What about the mobile network?” says Owen. “The...entire...telephone...network... is...down,” says Tosh, providing Ianto with the perfect opportunity to make fun of Owen because you know, who wouldn’t? And while everyone’s personalities seemed to have been magically reset at the beginning of this season, I am reminded of Owen and Ianto’s run ins last season.

So, as Ianto practically dances to the lines, “mobiles, landlines, tin cans with bits of string, everything, absolutely everything, no phones, phones all broken,” (mimes putting a phone handset to his ear) “hello, anyone there? no, because the phones aren’t working,” I’m simultaneously punching the air, laughing at Ianto’s delivery, and wondering if his character’s entire purpose in Season 2 is going to be walking in, delivering sarcasm, and walking back out. Because that’s almost as much of a waste as Toshiko ’10 seconds of technobabble per episode but at least I’m wearing a nice skirt’ Sato.

Back to the VOC where Jack declares he’s going to contact the Hub using a CB radio. Back to the Hub where the Dummy’s Guide to Ironic Segues has been pulled out again to give us Tosh declaring that there is no way to contact Jack followed by...Jack’s voice on the resident Torchwood CB radio. Jack explains the situation and asks Tosh to find out whether there’s anything important where ‘David’ is going, which is apparently some farmland outside of Cardiff.

Shots of ‘David’ in car playing with the pretty lights on his alien arm. Shots of confusion in the Hub. Shots of confusion in the VOC. Shots of ‘David’ crashing through a pretty lightweight barrier with the words ‘Danger’ out the front. Shots of Tosh hacking into the military’s mainframe in the Hub, (“it’s almost obscene what you do to security systems”: Ianto) and the conclusion that the military uses the site for the storage of 10 nuclear warheads.

So, just to recap, that being my job, the military stores nuclear warheads in an old cave mine outside of Cardiff without a single guard on the gate? Now I know why the aliens didn’t go to London, Russia, the United States, China or India to take over the world: they might have been guarding their nuclear weapons.

Worry in the Hub as the gang asks Jack to save them please and John Barrowman delivers a great line about being a dashing hero who’s going to save the day, while his face says, “oh crap”. “He is dashing, you have to give him that,” says Ianto, but in a subdued way. Owen wants to know what happens if Jack and Gwen can’t stop it and Ianto says it’s all over.

“Let’s all have sex,” says Owen and Ianto doesn’t even pause before saying, “and I thought the end of the world couldn’t get any worse.” Hee hee. Oh and Ianto. Word.

Aerial shot of the VOC (sip!) racing to save the world. Or at least a small part of Britain.
Oh ok, ‘David’ has pulled his car up at the real entrance to the storage facility and it is guarded: by a grand total of three soldiers, which is all one needs to protect a small nuclear arsenal these days. The soldiers plug ‘David’ full of holes but his personal forcefield is protecting him. The VOC screeches (sip) down the road after him to the facility as ‘David’ using his extensive arm knowledge to key in the correct security code.

The VOC screeches (sip) up to ‘David’ and mows him down. Jack leaps out of the car, tackles ‘David’ and asks “how they can stop it”. Stop what? The plan was to get the warheads. They’ve just stopped him. What is he talking about? ‘David’s’ arm morphs and he stabs Jack through the chest. Gwen takes the scanner thing and she’s scanning away. Oh, it must be a magical “turn the transceiver off” device because she declares that ‘David’ can no longer use his implant and his personal force shield is apparently gone.

‘David’ says that they know all about Torchwood (well, who doesn’t?) and that they will be “factored into their plans”. How to factor Torchwood into your plans? Um, try a city other than Cardiff? Just saying. Jack asks when the “others” will be coming and ‘David’ says they’re already here. Ooh, it’s the dum dum dum of dramatic music. It’s dramatic. Jack, Gwen and Mrs Mike run for safety as ‘David’ blows himself up.

Back in the Hub, the gang are preparing to freeze Mrs Mike again and as they walk through the set doing “we’re busy” acting, Jack and Ianto share a look that I can only interpret as “first we’re going in the back to have a quick shag”. Ianto is carrying something that looks like a looped antenna or something. Wow, he likes his props, doesn’t he?

In...some other part of the dimensionally-transcendental Hub that recently grew itself some tunnels...Mrs Mike is staring intently at some glass jars lit by the ‘lights of eerie blue information gathering’. Gwen declares her intention to freeze her again and says that Tosh has re-configured the device to work around the implant so it will no longer give false images. There’s a lot of dialogue here, delivered expertly by Nikki Amuka-Bird but the gist is that Mrs Mike, ever the realist, is already so far ahead of Gwen. She can see what will happen, what will go down, how it will end. It’s not what acts she will commit or what horrors she will inflict that bother her; it’s the fact that once the change begins she won’t care anymore. No guilt, no memories of love or of humanity and as she talks it through we can see the thoughts across her face as she decides to do the honourable thing; the kind of thing Gwen should have the guts to do but wouldn’t because she’s too caught up in her own self-image.

She activates the arm and backs Gwen into the Hub, yelling that she won’t let them freeze her. Gwen realises Beth is deliberately provoking them but can’t do anything as Mrs Mike pulls back her arm and is shot dead by Jack, Owen and Ianto.

“She wanted you to shoot her,” yells Gwen in anger, “she used her last shred of humanity to do this,” and Owen notes that they had no choice. “She just wanted to make it easier for us,” says Jack and we pull back on the dead and broken body of Beth, the most human person in this room.

An aerial short of Cardiff at night (sip) before cutting back to Jack’s office and even though my job continues, what happens now is almost irrelevant, particularly since Jack and Gwen decide not to actually do anything about the multitude of alien sleeper agents and the inevitable alien invasion. I would have thought that identifying the evil army of aliens would be the next step but apparently not. Somewhat of an appropriate end to the hole-filled plot that did not undermine this emotional episode. Like ‘Captain Jack Harkness’ in Season 1, I choose not to care because the poorly-written science fiction is just not the point.

Gwen reminds us that she’s getting married, Jack is left in his office alone and we fade out of Torchwood. See you next time.


DoctorsDaughter said...

Hey, I want to see the drinking game. What are the rules?

Leanne - currently not phalanxing said...

What's a Ianto? Is it one of the plants Owen was watering - because they have aliens in the HUBle (place of moodiness constantly undermined by farcical nonsense like a Buble') and I KNOW there's go to be talking plants in the universe somewhere. Oh wait did you mention 'the sleeper' looking like a tree? That puts a whole new spin on Treebeard huh?

What was my original question..?

genfie said...

Leanne - I have no idea what your original question was. But if it's some reference to Michelle Bubbles (as he's known in my family)...no, still confused. Are you saying Ianto is equivalent to a talking piece of wood? I'd be careful posting that in the blogsphere - people have been killed over less.

genfie said...

Also,what do you meant you're not currently in a phalanx? oh and yeah, get back to work.

Leanne said...

I think I'll be reasonably safe there are large protective walls between my fandom and this one (sometimes referred to as 'teenage gurls').

Although I bet someone out there has written some dodgy fanfic about Legolas and Jack, or maybe Aragorn and Jack (because Jack seems to like butch men and Aragorn seems to like older women/men). Oh god, now I will be dead *goes into the bloggers-witness-protection-program* dunno what my alias will be.