It’s amazing how different Torchwood is right now than it was a year ago. I got through the first season through sheer force of will. There were some good moments, and Captain Jack Harkness is always fantastic, but the season overall was lacking some essential elements. Additionally, I pretty much hated all the regular characters and thought they were a bunch of inept, whiny losers. Flash forward to the season two finale, “Exit Wounds,” and every bit of that has changed for the better. The review (with spoilers) is after the jump.
Previously: The previous episode had the Torchwood team blown up in a building, thanks to the handiwork of one Captain John Hart (James Marsters, in his brilliant recurring role). The last time he was on the show, Hart very nearly killed Gwen, and this time he’s attacked the whole team. Everyone survived, albeit injured, to see a holographic message from Hart taunting them and showing Jack that he had captured Jack’s long lost brother Grey. This episode opens directly after that scene as the team springs into action.
Synopsis: Immediately, the Rift opens in targeted spots across Cardiff–in a hospital, at the police station, and in the main server building for the city. Jack delegates the rest of the team to handle the Rift openings. Jack insists that he go to Torchwood on his own to find Hart, as he’s the only one who would be able to deal with him. Gwen is able to deal with Weevils that were loosed up the police station, Owen takes down a voracious alien in the hospital, and Tosh and Ianto handily dispatch a team of reaper-like aliens in the server building.
Upon arriving at the Torchwood hub, Jack is shot and tied up by Hart, who is hard at work on some nefarious plan. Hart radios the rest of the team with a final taunt before Cardiff is rocked with a series of explosions. Mass panic descends upon the city, and it’s up to Gwen to coordinate the police response. Meanwhile, Hart and Jack disappear in a flash of light. Jack and Hart reappear in a field in 27AD. We learn that this is the location of the future city of Cardiff. Jack threatens Hart, who reveals that he has a bomb molecularly bonded to his arm. It is then that Jack’s brother Grey appears. Jack is astounded, having not seen his lost brother since they were children. He goes to embrace Grey, but the reunion is not about the warm fuzzies. Rather, Grey sticks a knife in Jack’s gut and dumps him into a grave.
It turns out that when Jack lost Grey, Grey was abducted by a race of sadistic aliens who tortured him and kept him on the verge of death in the midst of corpses for a very long time. Hart managed to find Grey and rescue him but quickly learned that the experience had twisted Grey into a vicious and revenge obsessed man. Grey blames Jack for what happened to him and wants nothing more than to put Jack through the same torture he endured himself. He has forced Hart to act against Torchwood and to bring him Jack. Hart is obviously wracked with guilt over what is happening, and he manages to drop a tracker into the grave where Grey is burying Jack. Jack lies underground, dying over and over again, for more than 1800 years, until Torchwood tracks Hart’s device and digs him up in 1901. Jack then has himself placed in the Torchwood morgue until 2008 so as not to cross his own timeline. He emerges from the morgue in the present to a baffled Grey and tells him he forgives him. Grey is not satisfied, and Jack has to knock him out before eventually cryo-freezing him in the morgue.
Prior to Jack’s return, Grey has been up to no good in the present. His explosions in Cardiff have triggered an impending meltdown at the nearby nuclear power plant. Grey also has summoned the Weevils up from the sewers, and they are rampant in the city. Due to his being “King of the Weevils,” Owen is the only one who is able to make it to the power plant in time to try to avert the meltdown. Tosh is back at the hub on the radio with him and is going to assist him with her remote computing. Before she can do anything, though, Grey shoots her and leaves her for dead. She manages to crawl to her transmitter and help the nuclear situation, but by the it’s too late; the meltdown is imminent, and there’s no way to stop it. Tosh only can contain it by flooding a chamber in the plant with the radioactive material. Tragically, Owen is now trapped in that chamber. And so it ends for the two; Owen rapidly decomposes as he is irradiated in the chamber, and Tosh bleeds to death just after Jack, Gwen, and Ianto find her.
Analysis: “Exit Wounds” had the biggest emotional impact of any episode so far in the series. As I said before, I would have said you were crazy if you had told me last year that I’d actually be caring about these characters. I’m still not too wild about Gwen, but I definitely had warmed to Owen and Tosh, and losing both of them was a surprise and a big gut check for the show.
I’m still not completely convinced that Owen is completely gone, though. When Owen died and was brought back to life earlier in the season, it was established that some sort of nebulous and mysterious energy was sustaining him. He was still dead, but he had consciousness. Basically he’s been an incorporeal entity driving around a sack of flesh for a good portion of the season. The meltdown destroyed his body, but there’s no reason to think that also got rid of the energy that housed his essence. I tend to think that Owen’s still floating around somewhere without a body, despite Burn Gorman’s IMDB entry that shows that he’s already signed on for a different new TV series after Torchwood.
Tosh does seem to be a goner, sadly, but anything’s possible in the Whoniverse. I didn’t realize prior to this episode that Naoko Mori previously appeared on Doctor Who as Tosh. She was in the episode “Aliens of London,” in which the Slitheen dropped a flying saucer on England to stage a fake alien crash while they infiltrated the government. Mori’s character is credited as Dr. Sato for that episode, and she was the doctor examining the fake pig alien that was dropped off by the Slitheen when the Ninth Doctor came to investigate. Owen and Tosh mentioned the space pig just prior to their deaths, making for a neat and poignant Doctor Who connection. It’s hard to guess where the series will go now.
The Torchwood team is down to just Jack, Ianto, and Gwen, so it’d be a good guess that the cast will have some additions next season. The likeliest addition would be James Marsters as John Hart. He’s perfectly cast as a mix of diabolical and irresistible, much like Spike on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The fact that he dresses like some hybrid of Michael Jackson’s chimp and Sgt. Pepper. Another possible addition next season could be the return of Freema Agyeman as Martha Jones. Torchwood is down one doctor, and she did a good job subbing the last time Owen died. One more possibility is Rhys, although he’d be a long shot at best. However the third season ends up, one thing is for sure… Everything has changed.
Jack: “Now we carry on.”
Gwen: “I don’t think I can. Not after this.”
Jack: “You can. We all can. The end is where we start from.”