some glimmer of hope

TV Oh the gushing praise! Oh the brevity of the paragraphs. They Keep Killing Suzie isn't actually this good but when this was first posted I was clearly desperate for some glimmer of hope in this cold corner of the Whoniverse.  As with last week, the episode wouldn't be as enjoyable without Indira Varma, who on reflection was essentially doing charity work in a series which should have declared a state of emergency weeks before.

Who wrote They Keep Killing Suzie? Speculation suggests that this is the episode that Russell T Davies mentioned rewriting from top to bottom in a recent issue of Doctor Who Magazine and it certainly shared many of the same qualities as the opening episode -- excellent dialogue, pacing, characterisation and the sense of Torchwood as a team rather than a bunch of individuals thrown together.

If it wasn't for that bloody awful music cue at the end this might have been only the third episode which didn't make me wince at the thought of having to come on here and write about it. But here I am writing floridly for the first time in weeks. And having also seen the disappointingly disappointing Pan's Labyrinth tonight. Perhaps I'm just in denial about everything.

It was fairly inevitable that Suzie would be resurrected after the closing scene of Everything Changes and against all the odds they didn't waste the opportunity. Although the rejuvenation glove is the kind of magical device familiar to anyone whose played role playing games, its execution, sapping the life force from Gwen was excellent, especially the 'You're being shot in the head ... slowly ...' moment.

Indira Varma is the missing link of the entire series and her performance was by turns gruesome, sympathetic but importantly weirdly convincing. As she sat in the car almost channelling Eve Myles speech patterns I genuinely wondered if they were going to drop in a real surprise and let Gwen die, Suzie carrying on with some of her personality.

Seeing Torchwood from the outside once again proved to be a highlight, with the brilliant Yasmin Bannerman's comic timing seeming to coax from John Barrowman the sense of fun that's been lacking in previous episodes. In other series she would be a recurring character, like Kate Lockley in the first few seasons of Angel, helping Torchwood but not getting too close.

The one genuine laugh I think I've had in weeks occurred (and I want this marking on the calendar) when her entire office were huddled around the speaker phone to hear that Torchwood were locked in their base. Frankly like large sections of this episode, these scenes looked like they'd drop in from the alternate reality where Torchwood is the best thing on television.

Of course, not everything worked. The chat surrounding what to call the glove and knife was a bit blank and not a patch on the similar scene in the film Tremors (Graboids?). Once again there was a sitcom like attachment to the Hub presumably because, having spent half of the programme budget on the set they want to get the most use from it. There was another visit to what looks like the worst night club in the world (last seen in Day One).

The cavalier attitude to continuity -- as they're speeding at night to Gwen's rescue in the Torchmobile, Owen explains she only has minutes to live only to arrive in broad daylight, or should that be the dawn of the dead? Oh and that final music queue crashing in like a someone with the Best of LeAnne Rimes cd at a student party.

There's also still that ever present lack of interest in the fate of humanity which tends to make it difficult to care about any of the main characters too much. Although calling the amnesia drug, some might say a blatant steal from Men In Black, 'Retcon' has a modicum of cool, it's generally their fault that Max is in the brain sucked condition he's in, but there were Jack and Owen treating him like an animal when he actually deserved their compassion.

But all of these seem like nitpicks in an episode that was doing everything we'd hoped Torchwood might be doing from the off -- asking the big questions about life and death within a soup of humour, cartoon fantasy with sprinkling of violence. Even Tosh was likeable and Ianto regained is original cool. Owen gained something related to character detailing when it was revealed he'd tupped Suzie before Gwen -- so that's a pattern with him is it?

We even found out what was in store for all Torchwood personnel -- you're stuck in a freezer, the rest of your life in a lock up garage -- these are the details that we should have been hearing all along instead of the insistence on focusing on plot over anything else. And the movement in the darkness? I think Jack is going to look Death in the eyesocket and offer to show him his stopwatch.

Next week: Business as usual as another ex-cast member from As, If runs through a storyline which will look strangely similar to one from Star Trek: The Next Generation (The Next Phase if anyone cares at this point -- "C'mon Data, put it together...").

PS, I'd forgotten I'd not enjoyed Pan's Labyrinth the first time around. But I saw it with a good friend and she'd not liked it either.  Perhaps it rubbed off on me.

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