I realized something while watching the Torchwood second season finale: I'm a Torchwood fan. Not just a Doctor Who fan who watches Torchwood, but an actual fan of the BBC's spin-off series. I can't actually think of any other reason why I would have enjoyed the last episode as much as I did. Click through for a full review, including spoilers.
First of all, I'm sorry this recap is so late. I didn't want to post it over the weekend, because we'd already had the BSG liveblog on Friday night. And then I didn't want to post the Torchwood and Doctor Who recaps on the same day. And then today has been a tad hectic. So here it is, at last. At least the episode hasn't aired in the U.S. yet.
Anyway, Torchwood's finale wasn't nearly as strong as the two episodes that preceded it. "Exit Wounds" had a plot that didn't quite hang together. The campy James Marsters character, Captain John, felt like he didn't quite belong in such a serious episode. The scenes between Captain Jack and his long-lost brother were weirdly fan-filmy, partly because of the way they were filmed and partly because guest star Lachlan Nieboer didn't quite bring the acting chops.
And yet, I really enjoyed this episode, for purely fannish reasons. I loved getting another glimpse of the Torchwood of 100 years ago, which I would gladly watch every week. I actually got misty when Tosh and Owen died at the same time, but apart, because I'd gotten invested in those characters and they got a decent send-off. I even felt for Jack, remeeting the brother he'd been seeking for so long, even though those scenes fell so flat in practice. I was really stoked to see Gwen showing leadership skills and taking charge at the police station, because a take-charge Gwen is much more interesting than the doe-eyed Gwen we've seen too much of.
I found myself feeling quite sad that this version of Torchwood is going away forever. Whatever form Torchwood season three takes, it'll be very different from what we're seeing now. As much as the show has underwhelmed me at least half the time, I'm going to miss it.
The biggest problem I had with the episode's plot was that the huge escalation of the threat level, with explosions going off all over the place and weevils swarming the streets and the nuclear reactor going critical — and then it somehow all goes back in the box. The weevils are "recalled" way too easily, just by making the right sound. (Why doesn't Torchwood use that technique to round up all the stray weevils in every episode?) Half the city's destroyed, but then we're shown it looking nice and pristine again in the final moments. And James Marster's Captain John suddenly turns into an ally, and all is forgiven. Was he under the control of Gray when he nearly killed Gwen in the season opener?
The main problem with the episode, though, was that it opened up too many boxes and didn't have a chance to explore them properly. The situation of Gray — who went insane after being tortured by aliens for years and years — makes an interesting parallel with the institutionalized rift victims in "Adrift," the episode a few weeks ago. How was Jack able to stay sane after 2,000 years buried alive, when comparable ordeals drove Gray and the missing people of Cardiff insane? A more character-based episode reintroducing Gray, with a better actor, might have been a better bet. It could have set up a slam-bang finale that would have felt a bit more satisfying.
But yeah, I did actually enjoy this episode a lot, mostly in spite of my critical judgment. Somewhere along the line, I started feeling emotionally invested in this show, and I'm sad that it's sort of going away.