TV When I originally posted this at Behind The Sofa, it was with the title "Αυτό δεν είναι μια κατάλληλη αναθεώρηση. Ακριβώς μερικά περίεργα σχόλια" or "This isn't a proper review. Just a few random comments". Which it is. The episode essentially hangs together thanks to Denby-Ashe's compelling performance which to an extent prefigures Lauren Ambrose in Torchwood's Miracle Day, devilishly sexy with piercing eyes that can melt libidos male and female from a hundred paces, but in search of a decent plot.
As the endless shots of the Cardiff ring road passed by at the climax of Greeks Bearing Gifts I decided that I couldn't possibly review the episode this week on the basis that I've probably lost my sense of objective and because I'm not sure the series is going to get any better and that frankly there's nothing more to be said other than if Toby Whitehouse, who turned out the gorgeous and gut-wrenching School Reunion for Doctor Who this year can't work his magic on Torchwood, then it's more than likely that the series cannot be saved. Plus Sean's managed to eloquently set out any or all of the criticisms I might have.
Then I picked up the Metro this morning and read the four-star verdict of their tv reviewer Keith Watson. After a plot describing preamble he says: "Much more than just a Dr Who spin-off, Torchwood works because it mixes its sci-fi with human vulnerability and a random approach to plotting that means you're never sure you they're going to bump off next." Then he suggests that Owen is obviously gay and the Jack should have copped off with him (or words to that effect).
Knowing that actually the business of reviewing television can be a fairly nebulous activity particularly in the popular press, the last thing I want to do is criticize someone getting paid for something I want to do for a living. But having watched the same programme I wouldn't class the characterization in the show as including human vulnerability - and despite Watson's inference, the interpersonal relationships on show in Dr Who were far more realistic - or at least had a logic to them and rang true.
On the basis of last night's episode, Gwen seems infested with the illogical behaviour virus that Owen's been a carrier of since the beginning of the series, not that I'm trying to imply anything. Although she's under the medic's spell (I still haven't discounted the administering of that love potion from episode one) it seems completely wrong that the moral centre she exhibited in the opening episodes would be cast aside when she watches Owen bullying Toshiko and doesn't say anything.
The main element that is sorely lacking from the series is romance - even though the real highlight of last night's episode was Daniela Denby-Ashe's rum performance as Mary, this was yet another sexual predator in a series that has already had about six of them, one of whom is a main character. How much more interesting if Tosh's romance had been something normal and above all realistic, her partner being someone whom the audience could also be in love with, so that the betrayal would have resonated more with us too.
With the teaser, the show revealed far too much information up front, making the outcome guessable, surprises non-existent. If Mary had been a bloke, she would have had a moustache to twirl - obviously evil from the moment she appeared next to Tosh at the bar and so the episode turned into a waiting game for the penny to drop. Whilst it could be argued that Tosh is obviously happy for the attention (as any of us would I suspect from someone looking like that) given who she and who she works for, and how much the job apparently means to her (as she explains in every actors nightmare - the acting pissed scene) can we really believe that she'd be so easily seduced.
Once again, it's a wonder what this lot are doing in the jobs that they have. Once again I wonder if there's going to be some reveal in a later episode that in fact these aren't meant to be the best of the best and that they've been specially selected for their unprofessionalism as a cover for an even less public, more mysterious organization, the real Torchwood, that they're the middle people between UNIT and that. Which would explain why everyone seems to know who Torchwood is even though no one seems to know what Torchwood is.
I've even got a nagging feeling that there's some giant metatextual joke going on rather like the one being played by that arts documentary series on Channel Four in the late nineties, Art is Dead, when present Muriel Gray revealed at the end of the final rather heated discussion programme that all of the artists were fake (especially the one who picked up and displayed roadkill) and that they were actually criticizing the nature of art criticism. Or even that everything is going on inside Jack's mind accounting for all the darkness and discrepancies. I doubt it is any of these things. I think it's just that it's deeply average.
I can't understand the country mile between a large proportion of the fan reaction to the series and elsewhere. I could say that some see it for what it is and everyone else is in denial, but again I don't think that's fair, although I have read some fan criticism which amounts to making excuses for something that they've obviously inherently been disappointed by. It is eerily similar however to the phenomena that Mark Lawson identifies in The Guardian -- the print media were extremely positive about Robin Hood in its opening few episodes in sharp contrast to the internet reaction.
The ratings are holding up despite the timeslots and repeat showings which means someone must be enjoying it for what it is, rather than just tuning in hoping that it'll get better and exhibit the same vim as the opening episode. But I do wonder if they did turn out a great episode I'd actually notice, or if I'd still be looking for those pesky flaws. On reflection the closing scene in which Jack consoled Tosh was very nice, Barrowman demonstrating that he's still very good at genial - and I had empathy with Sato for the first time in the episode. Perhaps I'll try to tune in next week without preconceived ideas and see were that gets me.
And try to ignore the fact that Owen is being a twat again.
PS, Despite what the linked review says, that Art is Dead series was a televisual classic and a demonstration of what the form is capable of. Imagine any channel committing themselves to that now.