Torchwood May Actually Be Growing Up

Here's yet another super-disturbing clip from Torchwood, which seems to be dipping into horror more and more. Two new episodes of Torchwood aired Wednesday night in the U.K., and they were both way above average, leading us to hope that the "grown-up" Doctor Who spinoff might actually be growing up. Click through for spoilers and another clip.

For most of season two, Torchwood has felt like a struggle between actual drama, with real emotions, and "drama," with shouting and manufactured tensions. (For example, the tail end of season one, where all the other characters suddenly turn on Jack, was full of "drama" but lacked actual drama.) So far, most of the real drama has come from guest stars, like the woman who finds out she's really an alien agent, or the World War I soldier who has to sacrifice himself.


But last night, we got actually great dramatic performances from some of the main cast members. In particular, Gwen's boyfriend Rhys was actually quite heart-breaking when Gwen forgets who he is, due to an alien that alters memories. And in the clip above, when Adam the memory-fucker makes Ianto think he's a serial killer, I totally bought Ianto's self-loathing and revulsion. It could have been horribly cheesy (and sort of was, a little) but Gareth David-Lloyd (who plays Ianto) made me buy into it. Even John Barrowman, who has a hard time doing anything other than cute and flirty, almost made me buy into Captain Jack's childhood trauma. Almost. (I don't have much to say about Captain Jack's childhood, except that the show really looked super low-budget for once.)

And then in the second episode of the night, Freema Agyeman showed up as Martha (from parent show Doctor Who.) And having her to bounce off seemed to make everybody else more interesting. The new version of Martha is hyper-competent and super-smart, with almost James Bondian levels of having-all-the-answers. (She suddenly knows all about the twin particle thingy.) And because Martha is mega-competent, she made all the Torchwoodies get their act together a bit more too. Suddenly everybody was good at their jobs.


And then at the end of the second episode, there was a Shocking Plot Twist. Alas, it looks as though this development will be undone in the following episode, and in the silliest possible fashion. (Read this morning's Morning Spoilers for the details.) Which is too bad, because letting it stick would have made me a mega-fan of Torchwood for life. Because it genuinely came out of nowhere and was startling. It would make the show's stakes feel a lot higher. Unfortunately, Torchwood is a show with a time rift and miracle tech, and timey whimey, flimsy whimsy, so anything bad that ever happens can be reversed with the press of a button.

So I'm abandoning my old Torchwood reviewing scale, because there were two episodes, and also because it doesn't seem to fit the new season as well. But in brief: yes, both episodes had plots. The one about Adam, the memory-faking monster, sort of made sense. The one about the insects that cure AIDS and then burst out of you really didn't, at least to me. Probably, when the BBC reruns the episodes during the family hour in kid-friendly edited versions, they'll still make about as much sense. There wasn't much naughtiness, although Rhys got naked again, and Toshiko wore a low-cut blouse. We had more hints of Captain Jack-Ianto raunchiness, but didn't get to see any. Captain Jack had some cute flirty moments. And here's Martha grilling Ianto about Captain Jack's lovemaking:

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This show continues to surprise me in a good way. I hope they try to take more risks with the plots and the characters. Nothing is more exciting than watching a show grow up and evolve from the ground up.