Torchwood - Countrycide
And so, two weeks late, a review of episode six of Torchwood. And why was it late? One, I'm a lazy cunt. Two, I actually had to leave the room ten minutes before the end on the first showing, as I'm a complete wuss. And three - this was undoubtedly the worst episode of Torchwood so far - and I just couldn't be arsed sitting down and watching the rest of it.
The problem was, at this point in the series, I was worried. I still think the first episode was fantastic, but each successive episode had left me more and more disappointed. (I'll admit to not seeing episode 5, Small Worlds yet.) Each episode was fine, watchable, entertaining enough... but this is from the Doctor Who team. "Entertaining enough" is not the standard I expect. At this point in the series, I needed something to jolt me out of my chair - something up to the standard of that first episode.
What I got was a dull 50 minutes of television.
The good things first, then: it looked beautiful. Lovely rolling shots of the countyside - really spectacular to look at. And, I have to give credit where it's due - it was some of the most relentlessly disgusting television I've seen in a while. All rather too much for my stomach, but I appreciate the sentiment.
Beyond that - pfft. For a start, where was the plot? You could have told the whole thing in a five minute short film, FFS. Perhaps that's unfair - the same could be said for any show in the world - but it really did feel paper thin this week. Then, there's the dialogue. A common complaint throughout the first two series of Who was that some of the dialogue shouldn't have made it past first draft. I thought the first episode of Torchwood was fine in this regard; but this problem has crept into the show - but in a different form to Who. The worst example of it here is the exchange between Toshiko and Ianto when they're first captured. "It's worth the risk, to protect people!" / "Well who protects US?" It's not the actual dialogue that's really the problem - it's more the way they launch into it with virtually no preamble whatsoever. For a show that has five minutes more time to play with over Who, the pacing of the show is laughably bad sometimes - lingering too long on some things, and rushing others.
Meanwhile, Jack is still moping around like a bored middle manager, instead of being the utterly wonderful Jack we know and love from Who. I realise that he had to be toned down for the series - 13 episodes of an excitable Jack leaping around might be slightly too much to take, and presumably there is a point to his new demeanour that will be explained come Series 3 of Who - but did they have to tone him down quite so bloody much? He's lost pretty much everything that made him such a fun character in the first place, and it's only John Barrowman's (excellent) performance that is giving him any sparkle whatsoever.
As for the revelation at the end, all it makes me think is "LOL DO YOU SEE THE HUMANS ARE THE REAL MONSTERS!!!!!!!!!" Unfair? Yes. But that's how I felt after being bored stupid for 40 minutes. Short of Eve Myles and Naoko Mori taking all their clothes off and doing some proper lezzing up, including explicit shots of cunnilingus and strap-on activity, I can't see much they could have done to rescue the show for me at that point.
Maybe it's me. I'm not steeped in horror film lore; I just don't watch them, because frankly, they just make me feel sick. (Not from a moral view or anything - just purely because I feel too queasy.) Perhaps if I was a horror fan, I'd enjoy the cliches for what they were. But I just found it incredibly boring. (And it's telling that I'm not even a horror fan, and I can see that the episode wasn't much more than cliche after cliche after cliche.) The parts of Torchwood I like are the lighter moments; the interplay between the characters, a good joke, a piss-taking slo-mo shot, or simply laughing at the flashing blue lights on the gang's Mystery Machine. There was precious little of that here, and I found the relentless grimness a poor substitute.
Oh, and the Gwen/Owen storyline is as interesting as a dead dog. In one way it's nice - the first episode in the series set up the show to be Gwen's story, and this has been neglected somewhat over the past few episodes. Unfortunately, I don't care enough about either character yet to be that interested in a relationship between them.
At this point in the series, I was pretty depressed. Countrycide is the episode where everything changes. Before then, it was still riding on the goodwill it had from me from the first episode. This was the point where some of the show's flaws became really obvious - for me, it was the first complete faliure of the series. And each episode now has to earn its approval from me from now on.
And we shouldn't be saying "Oh, I hope this is a good one". We should know we're in for a good 50 minutes of entertainment.