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Torchwood 2.9: Something Borrowed

March 5th, 2008 (10:43 pm)

current music: The Scaffold: Liver Birds

So. Ever wondered what happened to Ultraviolet's Kirsty? Maybe she spent too much time with Jacob in that darkened flat, only going out at night.... Whatever happened, she's now sharp-toothed and long-nailed, and when she scratches herself, bleeds black. Well, Jacob was a journalist. She also wants to tear open our Gwen on her wedding day.

Enough of this thin backreferencing to ten-year-old shows. Why bother when you can go back thirty-odd. Rhys's mam is Sandra! Yes, that Sandra - the one on the right. Which means his gran ought to be Mollie Sugden; but that would be too arch even for this series.

I liked this one, despite the hopeless tension-discarding moment late on where Gwen is thoughtlessly left on her own by her colleagues and almost-husband and nearly gets torn into by the shape-shifter, pretending to be a more rapacious than normal Jack. Was this meant to be the Jack of Gwen's secret desires? If so, it was another sign that this series desperately needs more time, both on and off screen, to really work out its identity and the arcs of the characters. Owen and Tosh seemed more distant from each other than they were in A Day in the Death, for example. More progress was evident in Jack/Ianto, leading up to the dance at the end, though the fragility of the relationship was stressed throughout.

I can just about allow for Gwen telling her parents that she was pregnant; she was in a state of panic and trying to pretend that everything was normal, and her parents don't know about Torchwood - presumably because they are from Swansea, as everyone in Cardiff seems to know who they are. While I've complained about the series' weaknesses popping up, this episode knows how to deal with them - Ianto pursues one of Gwen's hen night friends to stop her revealing that there is an alien on the loose with a taste for raw flesh, but doesn't reach her in time, leaving him to report that the situation is 'uncontained' as she screams to the wedding congregation that Merfyn has been murdered! Quite brilliant in its way. I see that the scene where Tosh brings the wedding dress to Gwen, who burbles on about how Tosh will get married one day, is coming in for criticism, but I've met brides in real life saying the same sort of thing to every single woman with whom they come into contact, so it was all too credible.

There were all sorts of bizarre references - the cornering of Rhys and Gwen in a barn, hay strewn everywhere, made me wonder if this was another biblical reference, but Rhys's assault on the mother-impersonating monster with a chainsaw suggested another genre entirely, as Jack's dialogue confirmed. A pity that Rhys didn't kill the alien himself, but the power running out on the chainsaw at the wrong moment perhaps confirms that he is now part of the team, as it's the sort of mishap that seems to happen to Torchwood all the time.

There was much that was funny - Gwen's father deciding after his daughter has told him about Torchwood that she is suffering from extreme stress, and the controlled over-the-topness of the two mothers from hell, plus the discussion by the hen night girls of Gwen's pregnancy, and their decision - entirely plausible - that they must have been even more tanked up by the time Gwen arrived than they thought. A lot of this turned out to have more resonance, though. Gwen's father's realisation that everything she had told him was true, as Jack and Tosh, two science fantasy archetypes, launch themselves through the remains of a plate glass window in the pursuit of a smartly dressed woman with bad teeth, brought us back, like a lot of this episode, to the original format of someone from a humdrum career plunged into the extraordinary. Rhys takes up the singularity scalpel to defend ordinariness, to destroy the alien in Gwen, to take his wife back. It's underplayed beneath all the shouting, but to Rhys, Jack might as well have been Gwen's attacker - effectively her rapist. I think that the script's intention, in having Rhys push away the offered champagne and retcon cocktail, was to emphasise Rhys's control, that he is now on top of Gwen's job and knows how to handle it. The days of panic are over; but let's see if future episodes carry this through.

The musings in the Torchwoodmobile, too, emphasised the distance between Torchwood and the outside world. We are led to believe that Jack doesn't understand weddings (though the final reveal provided counter-evidence), or the current fashion for holding them in country houses or hotels; Owen and Ianto are hardly spokesmen for the mundane. The fact is, though, Torchwood are better company - given the choice of the hen night pals, or the increasingly-confident Tosh, there's no contest. I loved Tosh's put-downs to Banana.

Gwen wins, though - she gets her husband and her honeymoon and can put Jack and the rest in their place. In this show, Swansea girls have the lippiest lips you ever saw, and beat all the rest.


Posted by: daniel_saunders (daniel_saunders)
Posted at: March 6th, 2008 01:12 am (UTC)

I still haven't got further into Torchwood than the second episode of the first season, but I do enjoy your reviews. I still can't work out whether you like the programme (but think it has big weaknesses) or dislike it (but watch out of fan-loyalty and because occasionally it produces something worthwhile almost by chance).

I see that the scene where Tosh brings the wedding dress to Gwen, who burbles on about how Tosh will get married one day, is coming in for criticism

Is this a cultural thing? It's pretty much accepted that Jewish newly-weds/newly-engageds and their families and even friends will make remarks of this kind to any single person in their path, regardless of how (in)appropriate it might be. Likewise to childless couples at celebrations for new-born babies.

The Jewish-blogosphere is full of people complaining about the many cases in which this is rude, tasteless and offensive, but it doesn't seem to have made much of a difference.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: March 6th, 2008 09:28 am (UTC)

I like it while thinking the series has weaknesses. I am sensitive to this as most of my friends list are far more critical of it than I am.

As for the cultural thing, I have the impression that the practice you describe is fairly widespread - though I do remember pellegrina responding to my tales of my family with the question "Are you sure you're not Jewish?"