So, episode two of Russell T Davies’s latest thought experiment rolls on.
There’s plenty of serious consideration given to the consequences of the global miracle this week – brilliant Dr Vera Juarez (Arlene Tur in ridiculous-for-any-woman-but especially-an-ER-doctor high heels) realises that the old system of triage is useless (they need to treat minor injuries first and get beds free for the seriously injured who have all the time in the world to wait for treatment), not to mention that humans are going to become incubators for infection and that bacteria are going to become seriously resistant to antibiotics if they keep treating the living dead with them. It’s all very thoughtful, but it can’t make up for the fact that there isn’t nearly enough Torchwood humour and sexiness going on right now.
We do have jeopardy and plenty of emotions though – Eve Myles giving it her all as she’s torn apart from Rhys and Anwen at Heathrow, and conveying the perfect mix of anger and pleasure at having Jack back to mess up her life. Their relationship continues to be real-life-complicated (one part attraction, two parts annoyance, three parts loyalty etc) and subtly played by Myles and John Barrowman.
Jack is still clearly troubled by his past. A quick dip into the first three episodes of series 1 of Torchwood at the weekend – I needed my fix okay? – brought home how much his character’s changed. He takes responsibility and really feels its consequences. In dramatic terms that’s great, but it had better not be at the expense of the cheeky Jack we all know and love.
Which brings us to the jeopardy. In Children of Earth, the writers stretched his immortality to the limit, here we’re having to get used to worrying about whether Jack will make it through to episode ten. (I’m guessing he will, but Torchwood has killed off four team members since it started so nothing’s a given here).
Nasty Lyn is getting instructions from Brian Friedkin (Wayne Knight, aka Dennis from Jurassic Park) at the CIA who appears to be in contact with this series’ Big Bad. Unfortunately his instructions include killing Jack (who may be on to something with his knowledge of morphic fields apparently) and setting up Rex and Esther to look like corrupt agents. (I love the fact that Esther is able to get out of the building simply by displaying concern for the guy pulling back-to-back double shifts on the car park gate – SEE? Niceness is good.)
Luckily Jack is able to recognise arsenic by its consistency (he had a boyfriend in the 17th Century who took arsenic for better skin) and so begins a frantic Gwen-driven scramble to concoct an antidote for the last mortal man on earth. It’s the adrenaline-rush of 24 meets the ingenuity of Burn Notice – and I hope to god I never need anything injecting into me that includes aeroplane degreaser and cyanide…
I had to laugh at Gwen telling the stewards to be careful removing Jack’s coat for her to inject the antidote (although you have to assume that its magical regenerative powers have also been damaged by Miracle Day so perhaps she has a point). And I felt a distinct surge of misplaced pride as Gwen replies to Lyn’s taunt “If you’re the best England’s got to offer then god help you” with a knockout blow and two words: “I’m Welsh”. (Misplaced, because I’m not Welsh – though god knows Torchwood makes me wish I was.)
There are some other hints of humour though. An echo of a line spoken by David Tennant’s Doctor in The Impossible Planet (“Oh, did you have to? No turning back? That’s almost as bad as “nothing could possibly go wrong” or “this is going to be the best Christmas Walford’s ever had”.) as Rex tells his fellow CIA agent, Lyn, that the “next six hours are going to be filled with boredom, followed by monotony.” I don’t need to tell you that this is uttered before Lyn spikes Jack’s drink.
And come to that, the exchange between Jack and Not-Gay-Danny the air steward. Jack: “Hey, can we have something to drink?” Danny: “I am not allowed to talk to you.” Jack: “Give it to us silently.”
And while all this unfolds, we have Oswald Danes – as clever as he is unpleasant – appearing on a news programme to say sorry for his crimes for the first time and break down in tears. It’s a hell of a performance (both from Danes and Bill Pullman) and gets him noticed by Jilly Kitzinger (the brilliant Lauren Ambrose – or Claire from Six Feet Under) who offers him her help with PR. He doesn’t need it at the moment though – he’s got Oprah on the phone offering him a spot… (Personally I’m with the CIA dude who says “If we had any human dignity, we’d turn this thing [Danes crying on TV] off right now.”) NB You have to love the line that if the devil himself were walking the earth, he surely be working in PR.
And anyway Jilly’s not what she seems, because now she’s in Washington telling Dr Juarez that she’s a drugs rep… I’m hoping the gorgeous red coat she’s wearing is only because it makes her look fabulous – and is not some unsubtle devil clue.
We’ve also learnt that humans are still aging, just very slowly (as Jack was – we’ve been teased before about what his ultimate fate is – ie becoming the Face of Boe – [highlight for the spoiler]). Although why they don’t have his miraculous healing powers is still unknown. (Beyond cheating us of the frankly freaky sight of Lyn with her head twisted through 180 degrees trying to stop Rex and Esther escaping with Jack and Gwen that is.)
I’m hoping that with the pieces properly in place now – a Torchwood team of four on the run with back-up from Dr Juarez, Danes turning a corner of sorts, and hints of who’s helping the Big Bad – we can get on with some serious flirting, one-liners and snogging next week.
Posted by Jo the Hat