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Torchwood – Season 2

Six months have passed since the attack of Abbadon and Jack running off with The Doctor.

Recap

While Jack was off helping The Doctor prevent the end of the world (and lots of other stuff), the remaining members of Torchwood found the strength to carry on without him. Gwen went from the rookie of the group to the leader and even got engaged. Jack returns to find his team in pursuit of a Blowfish and swoops in to help them. The team has mixed reactions to Jack’s sudden disappearance and return but, overall, they’re glad to have him back. Things quickly get back to the normalcy of being abnormal, when Jack is summoned by his former Time Agent Partner, Captain John Hart. Hart shows up and wreaks havoc in Cardiff but he’s eventually stopped by Jack who takes advantage of the fact that Hart doesn’t know about his immortality (or the fact that the Torchwood team is so resilient). Before he leaves, he lets Jack know that he found his brother, a man named Gray. Jack’s brother is a subject that comes up in episode 1, 5 and then 13.

For a couple of episodes things do return to normal for Torchwood. They find alien sleeper agents living as people and prepping for an invasion. Then they have to get an out of time soldier to go back through the rift in order to stabilize time. Toshiko just so happens to have fallen for him and has to bear the brunt of knowing that they’re sending him back in time to his death. Both of those episodes are pretty intense emotionally with good performances from the characters featured in that episode. Things get really intense in episode 4 when Rhys (Gwen’s fiance) stumbles upon a Torchwood operation. He helps them out with the mission, which ends up being to mercy kill a large alien that’s being harvested for meat, but Jack wants to Retcon him after everything’s done. At first, Gwen goes along with the idea but she then decides that she’s tired of lying to Rhys and makes an impassioned plea to let him keep his memories. From that moment on, Gwen and Rhys’ relationship gets a new life with her not having to lie to him anymore. After that, episode 5 titled “Adam” deals with an alien that affects memories. It’s a cool concept but it’s ultimately just a reason for us to learn some more about Jack’s past and the loss of his brother.

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Episodes 6-8 deal with a consistent story line. It starts with the arrival of Martha Jones at Torchwood. She’s there as an extra medical officer to help them investigate a medical testing center that seems to be experimenting on people with diseases that were thought to be incurable. Of course, it turns out their using aliens to try to cure diseases which is just killing people. Torchwood shuts the facility down, but Owen is shot in the fallout. In a fit of grief, Jack goes and finds the companion to the Resurrection Gauntlet. He uses it to allow everyone to say goodbye to Owen, but it works differently than expected. Owen becomes an animated corpse but his existence is precarious. Physically, he’s dead, but his mind and soul are still intact. On top of that, he’s seen what’s on the other side and he’s terrified of going back to it. He struggles and lashes out at everyone because of his new condition. Eventually he and Torchwood come to terms with his condition and he begins working as an operative again. Owen’s return also marks the departure of Martha from her guest stint on the season.

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The season’s next big event is Gwen and Rhys’ wedding. I think it’s the most fun episode of the season. Right before the wedding, Gwen is bitten by an alien, which ends up impregnating her. It’s already bad enough that she’s showed up to her wedding with an immaculate conception, but there’s a companion alien hunting her trying to rip the baby out of her. On top of that, the alien is a shape shifter. After a lot of interruptions, Rhys and Gwen are eventually able to get married. It seems like Jack and Rhys come to a bit of an understanding as well. The episode ends with Rhys and Gwen heading to the honeymoon and Torchwood Retcon-ing and cleaning up the wedding party. This episode marks the culmination of what really started when Rhys found out about Torchwood. More of him coming to terms with what Gwen did and learning to not just accept all the different aspects of it, but to dive into it when necessary.

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Episodes 10 and 11 are two more standalone episodes. In 10, the team has to deal with some freak show performers that have escaped from an old film and are stealing the last breaths of their victims. In episode 11, Gwen follows the case of a boy that disappeared into the Time Rift. She finds out that Jack had found him and was keeping him hidden. Her attempts to reconnect the boy with his mother backfire when they find out that he was driven mad by what he’d seen and could no longer live in the outside world. Really both of these episodes have sadder conclusions as they show that there are sometimes things that Torchwood can’t solve. In the episode with the circus performers, all but one of their victims end up dying. Ianto seems distressed that they could only save one while Jack seems relieved that they were at least able to save one. In the same way Jack is able to live with the idea of doing what he can for the Rift victims while Gwen has a more idealistic version of how they should help. It just goes to show that Jack’s not heartless but that he’s making the best of what’s sometimes a terrible situation.

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The season wraps up with a 2 episode long series of events. In episode 12, the team investigates a building that’s been rigged to explode by Captain Hart. While they’re trapped in the rubble we see flashbacks to how each member of the team was recruited and what their lives were like before Torchwood. They manage to get away unscathed (mostly) but then Hart detonates 15 explosives across Cardiff. The whole thing has been orchestrated by Gray, Jack’s brother, who’s been controlling Hart. After Jack lost his brother, he was taken by the aliens and tortured. All that he had left was his hatred of Jack for leaving him behind. As a result, he wanted to take everything from Jack. He has Hart bring him back in time so that he could bury Jack underneath Cardiff, sentencing him to suffocate over and over throughout time. Hart buries Jack with a tracking ring that allows Jack to be found by Torchwood in the past and frozen until he can reappear in the present. He takes his brother down, but not before Gray shoots Toshiko. While she’s bleeding out, Toshiko shares her last moments with Owen, who’s trapped inside of a nuclear reactor that’s gone critical. After an entire season of missed connections and Toshiko professing her love for a distant Owen, the two are able to take comfort in each other as they die separately. In the last scene of the season, Jack, Ianto and Gwen see a recording from Toshiko thanking them and telling them she loves them. Jack says that all that’s left to do now is carry on.

Episodes

  1. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang
  2. Sleeper
  3. To the Last Man
  4. Meat
  5. Adam
  6. Reset
  7. Dead Man Walking
  8. A Day in the Death
  9. Something Borrowed
  10. From Out of the Rain
  11. Adrift
  12. Fragments
  13. Exit Wounds

Chronology

Season 2 of Torchwood Takes place after the end of Doctor Who Season 3. The events of the season happen during the time that spans the Doctor Who Christmas Special, “Voyage of the Damned”, and Season 4 episode 11, “Turn Left”. The events of Season 2 end before Doctor Who season 4 episode 12, entitled “The Stolen Earth” which is followed by “Journey’s End”. That frees up the Torchwood crew to show up (without Owen and Toshiko) in those final two episodes of Doctor Who.

Commentary

The episodes in this season of Torchwood had a bit of an odd quality. While I was watching episodes like “Sleeper” or “A Day in the Death” they felt really powerful, but when I thought about them later it didn’t feel like they left much of an impression. Similarly, I would say that this whole season felt like it just failed to make a huge impression on me. The big storyline with Jack’s brother didn’t seem like it was ever really a big enough deal. It felt like more of an excuse to kill off Tosh and Owen at the end of the season. There were some moments that were gripping, but really just moments. It was probably the result of the inconsistency between telling continuous stories and jumping back to one-off stories, I couldn’t really place my finger on it. Even the last scenes of Tosh and Owen weren’t particularly heartbreaking as much as they just felt like something that was more matter of fact. It was like there wasn’t enough time to be sad about it.

Still, that’s not to say that it wasn’t fun to watch. It was nice to see Martha Jones featured on the show and they did make Gwen and Rhys relationship a lot more fun in this season. The back and forth between Rhys and Jack was fun as well as some of Owen figuring out how his undead body worked. The show’s been good at finding moments of humor here and there but it felt like there were a lot more little funny moments in this season. I will say that, even though it was an interesting story line, I didn’t really care for the whole zombie Owen story. I think it was mostly because the last season featured an Owen break down so having it happen again just kind of felt like beating a dead horse. Thankfully, they put him out of his misery at the end of the season. It just seemed like nothing good would ever happen to that character. Toshiko was another story. I felt like her character never really had a chance to be happy and that she, somehow, deserved to have one.

When this season aired it got a lot more viewers (I believe 3 times as many) as the previous season. So, it’s not like the show is getting worse in any measure. It also probably benefited from having a true DW tie in during the season with Martha Jones. I imagine that huge fans of the series were likely distraught at the loss of two more Torchwood members, which probably added to the lore of the series. It did make me think that we’ve now lost 3 of the 6 known members of Torchwood 3. From a story standpoint, that’s gonna make the next season interesting since the group will be functioning with just the 3 remaining members.

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