‘It’s always the same: nobody cares until you tie them up.’ On the one hand, it’s much better than End of Days, with some genuine stakes that flow from story ideas seeded through earlier episodes: Jack’s relationship with his brother; Owen and Tosh, even Rhys and Andy. The return of Captain John provides a link to the beginning of the series, and Marster’s performance is more impressive as he takes John from being a sniggering chaos monkey to something more nuanced and sympathetic.
And yet… This is still only partly satisfying, and again a lot of that comes down to Chibnall’s failure to do anything more than superficial. Jack’s burial for thousands of years – repeatedly dying and being reborn as Cardiff is built above him – is a horrifying idea, but he seems entirely unaffected by the trauma, and picks up exactly where he left off. Gray’s lifelong resentment of his brother manifests in him being a pouty brat / evil genius because the finale requires one, a plot device in search of a character. Owen’s resurrection is all so that he can walk through some weevils to the local nuclear power plant and switch it off – you imagine anyone with the Torchwood jeep and could have driven through them without having to have become a Weevil God. Essentially, this resolves the plot points raised through the series with the efficiency of a man with a tick-list – a taste of things to come with Flux. It could be worse, but it’s got none of the off-the-wall genius of an RTD Doctor Who finale. Or even The Sarah Jane Adventures. Even the direction fails at points – many of the Weevil attacks are in blurry slow motion, as though trying to hide the makeup. And what’s with the strange focus on the number 3 – at the warehouse from Fragments, and on Jack’s Torchwood casket? A plea for a third series?
So, that was Torchwood Series Two. For my money, it’s a vast improvement over the first series, but still it feels like a show that only occasionally fires on all cylinders, and which does that Eric Saward thing of confusing gritty with hopeless. Victories are won at a terrible cost; regular characters receive horrifying deaths; the hero seems powerless as he tries to do his best in a cruel universe. ‘The end is where we start from,’ Jack promises. But where do they go from here?
Captain Jack will return in Children of Earth – Day One
Next Time: Partners in Crime