Exit Wounds.



TV Bastards. Utter, utter, utter bastards.

Truth be told, I had read somewhere online about the thinning down of the cast but as with all of these rumours (spoilers as it turned out) I didn’t think they’d actually go through with it. I thought it was of the order that Norman Lovett would be playing Davros, or hundreds of Britney Spears were going to show up in the last series of Doctor Who. Torchwood isn’t bloody 24, I thought, it doesn’t go around killing regulars (unless it’s going to resurrect them the next week, of course). It’s the ghost of Whedon again true, but even more shocking because it’s just not something a Who related series does often. I’m surprised the credits didn’t roll in silence over a shot of a stethoscope and a PDA, just to underline the point.

Owen had it coming. But not Tosh, who truth be told was always one of the few things to make the show bearable in the first series and like all the others has blossomed this time around. Both Burn and Naoki followed usual the routine for a character’s final episode and put in their best performances of the series; Owen screaming at the irony of dying twice, having spent two episodes appreciating what he’d be missing and Tosh desperately making sure he had a tranquil death even as she bled out of her chest. So she was covering for Owen in Aliens of London! It’s fitting that her final moments in the on-screen Whoniverse should bracket her first, mention of the space pig included. That final breezy video was heartbreaking and actually brought on my first tear. Torchwood made me feel and not in a shouty, sweary way. Huh.

This final exchange for one and a half beloved characters was so good it threatened to overshadow what had already been a pretty exciting episode. The opening alien encounters were as fun as anything in the preceding series from the dealing with the reapers Indiana Jones-style through to the cameo from the Hoix, their name finally mentioned on-screen. But clearly it’s a ruse to get the team (and us in position) for the demolition of Cardiff, which it has to be hoped will be rebuilt with some kind of logical street pattern. When I visited, I spent an hour and a half in the evening looking for a Jazz Club only to discover that two streets in close proximity had the same name and I’d been looking at the wrong one.

In spite of the slightly cheesy slow-mo release of the Weevils, Ashley Way confirmed that he is Torchwood’s best director, even referencing Martha's reveal crane shot from The Sound of Drums when Jack appeared in the past. But he made the most of the city, and it was great to finally see Cardiff Castle being Cardiff Castle after the interior was used to double for a monastery in The Sarah Jane Adventures – and we didn’t see enough of it that if the mother series should want to use it as part of a medieval setting its still there for the borrowing.

I still live in hope that PC Andy’s role will be expanded should there be a third series -- the chemistry with Rees was sweet, even if I didn’t quite catch all of their dialogue over the screaming and explosions and music. Eve Myles proved herself indispensable again as Gwen, authoritative and vulnerable in the same and proving why she didn’t get the bullet. If Gareth David-Lloyd seemed slightly wasted (and not in the class-A sense of the word), James Marsters’ work was magnanimous this time around, not consciously stealing scenes left and right. It’s not unusual for a previously sadistic character to be given a modicum of humanity and the doors open for his return.

To ender ponderland briefly, considering some of the evil that was done here by some people, how some some people weren't held account for it? Also,how old is Jack now anyway? Older than the Doctor apparently which is pretty good going considering he’s had far less screen time overall. More could have been made perhaps of the sheer horror of being in a constant state of life under six foot of dirt, but then again how exactly is one to film that? But now we discover that there were three of ‘our’ Jacks knocking around at one point during World War Two, and that he’s apparently been frozen in that chamber for the whole of the past two series.

How’s that going to be missing from the records though? Who knew he was there? Don’t they ever have a body audit? I suspect it’s like that room which seems to be in most libraries which is filled with random crap which no one wants to deal with and is left there for years. Good to see the Andrew Davies inspired version of Torchwood again, and I’ll say it again, if there’s a Casualty 1906 knocking around, why not costumed Torchwood too? If this and the usual question of how much the authorities know about the only the things wrong with an episode, Torchwood’s become must-see television.

Actually about the only thing wrong with the episode was Jack's brother Gray. I was watching The Hampster Factor last night, the recommendable feature length documentary about the making of the film Twelve Monkeys which has an interesting scene in which director Terry Gilliam casts a young boy because he has amazing eyes but on set discovers that he simply can’t the performance he wants. Luckily, his producer has brought another child actor, who isn’t quite as cherubic but is wonderful as he looks amazed around the departure lounge of an airport. The casting of Lachlan Nieboer (whose only other works appears to be this short) in this episode was another example of that, the selecting of an actor for their looks, in this case his similarity to John Barrowman.

I’m not often one to single out actors for criticism, except for Mr Barrowman of course, who when he’s good is very, very good and when he’s bad he’s crying. True, Grey was hardly the most shocking of villains, but Nieboer was still horrendously miscast, a Jason Priestly lookalike delivering the lines with all the venom of a mild-mustard. This part would have been improved immeasurably by someone who could show those years of hurt and desperation; it needed, with the best will in the world a name probably, someone from the Brit pack or that bloke from Skins. More than anything else he needed to be at least slightly menacing and imply threat in his movement. Sadly, though I wish him well in the future, Nieboer was unmemorable here.

Thankfully, at least for me, he wasn't enough to overshadow a finale that like The Last of the Timelords it also managed to call back some of the best moments of the series and the mythology that’s been layered in. I actually found myself cheering when Owen reminded us that he was king of the Weevils and it was great to have the Weevils actually doing something, even if the budget could only stretch to having them stand around in the streets looking ominous. True overall it was an unusual beast, slightly diffuse if you looked too closely at it, but it still managed enjoy a proper conclusion, unfettered by the mother series. Anyone else expect the perfect closing seconds to be spoilt by Donna Noble turning up at the Hub at the end asking Jack and co for their help?

Chris Chibnall in what might be his last script for the series gave us his very best and entirely gave us leave to forgive him for the travesty that was End of Days. He’s buggering off to be show runner on the London remake of Law & Order, but on the strength of Exit Wounds, it's clear that instead of simply reconfiguring old scripts for our version of English in that series, he should be brave enough to write something new. Here he remembered that the point of the best drama, is that despite the pyrotechnics, it should be about how characters deal with horror, rather than horror literally overshadowing the characters. If Torchwood has an arc which spans the two series, it’s about Chibnall maturing as a writer.

We’re at the end, then, of what has felt like a very long series. Despite my initial optimism and enthusiasm, it’s again been far from perfect in places, but it’s always been entertaining, and often for the right reasons. I think I’d probably have thought this a classic series if there’d simply been less episodes, if there’d been ten instead of the usual thirteen. With some tweaking and dialogue looping you could easily lose Dead Man Walking, From Out of the Rain and even Something Borrowed, with Gwen turning up at the hub after the honeymoon wondering what she’d missed. Perhaps, like the fantasy single disc version The White Album, fans will be debating for years about how their perfect Torchwood Season Two would be shaped if you lost a few episodes. Then again, perhaps not.

The general problem was knowing when to stop. Two whole episodes of Owen coming to terms with his own death were excessive, especially since he was going to be bumped off further down the line anyway. Perhaps Martha’s appearance would have had more impact if it had been for a single episode, for Reset in which she actually had something to do; she was generally wasted in Dead Man Walking and A Day In The Death because by then she’d become part of the furniture and mostly hung around the Hub, which didn’t seem fair to Freema, having left the TARDIS, I still think prematurely. That said, there is a proper vacancy at Torchwood Cardiff now for a doctor …

Next: It’s back and it’s on at the wrong time…

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