Friday, July 03, 2009

My Review of Torchwood's 1x08: "They Keep Killing Suzie"

Written by Paul Tomalin And Daniel McCulloch
Directed by James Strong

Suzie: “This is sick.”
Captain Jack: “You started it.”

Indeed she did but the old tit for tat aside, the long awaited, hoped for and in recent weeks spoiled return of Suzie Costello is finally here and man; it certainly wasn’t a waste of time either. Rarely do you get a compelling second outing for a dead character (besides Buffy/Angel) but this was enigmatic. Textbook enigmatic even!

In fact, this may be the best episode of the entire series, which is weird considering I already threw similar platitudes on the dark and creepy “Countrycide” and we have five episodes left to go but hey, when standards are this good, then praise deserves to be heaped on the series at any opportunity and especially when it’s warranted.

This week starts off like a regular day for Torchwood – investigating the brutal slaying of a suburban married couple that sees consequences and old patterns surfacing for the ever morally ambiguous Torchwood team, because, hey shit often hits the fan and this fan has been turned on to full blast.

At our crime scene of the slain couple, Jack and company quickly realise that they’re not flavour of the month with the actual authorities when the delightful Detective Swanson gives the former Time Agent a short shrift on how Torchwood act like they own Cardiff despite no-one being totally aware of their purpose and intentions are.

It’s nice that after eight episodes, a complete outsider mentions this and it’s even better that within only one scene, not only do I like Swanson but I also want her to pop up in more episodes. I think there’s great potential with this character and if Russell has enough self-awareness, he’ll find other ways of bringing her back in. Go on, Russell, I’m sure there are plenty of viewers out there who wouldn’t object.

Anyway the somewhat caustic Detective Swanson not only isn’t happy to see Jack and his crew but she also holds them responsible for the couple and a previous victim – Alex Arwyn deaths because the killer made sure to write “Torchwood” in blood over the bodies. You could accuse the writers of ripping The Carver off on Nip/Tuck but it does prove the crime scene element of the series nicely.

Owen makes a good point of noting the amount of people who Torchwood have managed to rightly piss off in how many amount of years they’ve been in operation and Ianto also makes notes of the same amount of people they’ve slipped the old amnesia pill when a suspect of the murders is discovered to have retcon in his blood stream.

Yeah, the issues of episode one “Everything Changes” are back in style and the nagging problem of the retcon is a welcome return. Finding out that a killer out there has taken the amnesia pill makes Gwen concerned for herself as Captain Jack drugged her back then. There’s a joke about her not going near sharp objects but overall you do wonder what other side effects that pill could potentially have when in someone’s bloodstream and whether or not traces of it are still in Gwen’s. I’d wonder too given the circumstances.

In an attempt to actually do some detective work and stop the killings, Gwen comes up with the notion of using the resurrection glove from the first episode to briefly interrogate the victims. Everyone else is pretty vocal about not using the glove due to what it did to Suzie (I have a feeling the glove can only blamed to a certain extent) but given the lack of resources and options out there, amongst Ianto and Toshiko coming with names for the glove, it’s Gwen who ultimately wins.

The funny thing about the glove is that everyone has had a try of it beforehand and Suzie was the only who could actually work it. Neither Owen, Toshiko nor Ianto are keen on using it and Jack is pretty damn useless with it as well because he can’t muster enough empathy/compassion for the glove to work. He nearly gets electrocuted for his efforts as well.

In a case of seeing the writing on the wall and because Suzie is dead, the only person who can use the glove successfully is newcomer Gwen who channels enough empathy/compassion (and here was me hoping it was because she was connected to Gwyneth/The Rift) to gets two victims talking. It’s further proof that the writers really do view Gwen as the heart of the team and that she’s in it until the bitter end.

Alex Arwyn provides no real information and begs for his mother but Mark Briscoe is kept long enough to ask for his wife Sarah, identify his killer as a man named Max, mention a group called Pilgrim and the ultimate bombshell – saying that Max mostly talked to a woman named Suzie? The surname wouldn’t be Costello by any chance?

We all know well and proper that it is Miss Costello but some odd reason it’s like everyone except Gwen (and possibly Ianto) don’t want it be her or acknowledge her in any way. Maybe they’re feeling raw that she betrayed them or maybe it’s that they really don’t want to have any responsibility or connection in any way to the killings but when Gwen questions them about Suzie, there isn’t a single person who can actually say they know her or anything about her.

Sure Suzie was brilliant at her job, if she wasn’t she wouldn’t have lasted as long as she did but any outsider can come to that conclusion. It really goes to show how little Jack really knows about his crew and how little the crew know about each other outside of work. Over the past seven episodes Suzie betrayed the group in a big way, Ianto went to insane lengths to bring his girlfriend back to life, Owen and Gwen starting screwing each other and Toshiko withheld a valuable piece of alien artefact until the very last moment. You do wonder how Torchwood actually survives with these kinds of deception and occasional mutinies being a risk.

Suzie’s involvement with both Max and Pilgrim though is confirmed when after raiding through all her belongings they find a leaflet for the harmless group. It seems all Pilgrim did was discuss the nature of God but with this information, the group have no choice but to raise Suzie from the dead. No need for Osiris urns with your own resurrection glove and the very knife Suzie used on her victims but it’s not like anyone is actually enthusiastic over the idea and when the do, they are some very interesting consequences in store for them.

Instead of the usual two minutes in which most people to get live for, Suzie seems to have been permanently raised from the dead and she’s isn’t best pleased about either. Not only does she have to face her old workers, but her learning of Gwen’s placement in Torchwood has struck a mean streak of jealousy when she accuses the former policewoman of replacing her in every single way.

Seeing as Gwen’s role is allegedly the heart and mostly unspecified, I find that a little hard to believe. If ever there were two women on opposite sides of the spectrum, then Gwen and Suzie are those very women. Suzie was the second in command and a whiz with computers that makes Toshiko look like an amateur. Personality wise, she’s ten times more private than either Ianto or Toshiko and she’s a lot colder and abrasive than Gwen or Owen.

I can understand her not being a big Gwen fan but besides shameless “isn’t Gwen just brilliant” plugging, I can’t see it. Suzie gave up her job by betraying the group and shooting herself. Did she really think that Jack wouldn’t have hired someone else down the line? Is that really why she tried to kill Gwen in “Everything Changes”?

If Gwen is on her hit list of people she’d rather not interact with, then so is Jack as he quizzes her about Max and Pilgrim and showed no emotional empathy to her whatsoever. Even when she pleads with him to visit her father, he flat out refuses. It seems Jack really can hold a grudge.

Suzie may not like being helpful but she’s self-aware enough to realise that she really doesn’t have much of an option so she tells Jack that Max is in a nightclub where one of the Pilgrim members – a student called Lucy McKenzie is working. It’s a pretty noisy nightclub and it takes for Gwen to nearly get stabbed for the gang to catch Max and haul him back to Torchwood. This is all while Ianto gets a shout out and Toshiko chooses to be abrasive to Suzie, even if she isn’t totally in a position to ultimately judge her. Out of everyone, I was a little curious that Ianto didn’t show empathy or even interact with Suzie.

We learn that Max was a friend of Suzie’s while they attended Pilgrim. To deal with the pressure of her other life, Suzie would tell Max about Torchwood and then retcon him and then tell him again. If that isn’t suspect, then what is? Either that or Suzie really was lonely/slightly self-obsessed?

Indira Varma definitely deserves some kind of an award for her role in this series because hey, while I didn’t hate her as Niobe in Rome, Torchwood has definitely shown her versatility a lot more as there are moment when you do find yourself sympathising with Suzie in spite of yourself. Her baiting Gwen about the latter’s role in Torchwood and Owen showed a darker motive and spinning a line about her father having cancer. A part of me thought bullshit when she said that but I can see how it would work enough for Gwen to break protocol and spring Suzie out of there for a road trip. Plus Jack wasn’t especially helpful with his attitude towards Suzie when talking to her.

Proving that Suzie is far from dense in any real way, her little Trojan Horse Max starts reciting Emily Dickenson in a pretty creepy manner and soon enough the Hub goes into complete lockdown much to Jack’s total annoyance. Even former staff can dupe you more than once. Owen was right for seeing the pros in Suzie’s dastardly plans. The girl deserves some kind of medal. Having some random bloke commit enough and arouse enough trouble that your former colleagues would have no choice but to bring you back is a stroke of genius. But you do wonder why? Being alive is great but Suzie is more or less a fugitive now so that’s not so great.

It’s also good that some employees are really resourceful in a crisis and thankfully for the team, Ianto is able to make a connection with the water tower for Jack to call Detective Swanson for help. For a detective sick of Torchwood’s constant interference, it’s a pretty sweet moment for Cathy when she get Jack to admit to her whole force that they’re stuck in their own office but jokes aside, she does actually help them by reading the ISB number of the Emily Dickenson book (Toshiko’s idea), which successfully breaks the lockdown. After that, Cathy Swanson needs to return again. It’s great that she dislikes Torchwood but will help them when it’s important.

Meanwhile in the most interesting road trip between two women since Thelma and Louise, Suzie really gets to lay her feelings on Gwen when upon being asked about there being an after life; Suzie makes a point of noting that when you die, nothing more or less happens to you. There’s darkness, even aliens clinging to Earth out of instinct but not necessarily an afterlife and as someone who isn’t deeply religious, I wouldn’t dismiss Suzie’s claim either. It’s here where you see the real sinister side to Suzie as Gwen begins to show some physical changes but it’s upon arriving at the hospital, when Suzie kills her father that the consequences of her resurrection are brought to light.

It seems people don’t come back for free. In order for one person to live, the person who brought them back has to die and sadly for Gwen, that means the same way as Suzie did when she starts feeling a bullet being lodged in her head and although not the easiest thing to act out, Eve Myles sells it brilliantly. You’d be pretty heartless to not feel for Gwen here, although Suzie’s slight bit of compassion for Gwen is far less than the satisfaction of being alive again.

Having to come back to kill a man you hate must be satisfying but Suzie knows she can’t stay in Cardiff and takes Gwen hostage to get away from Jack as fast as she can, though calling him on the phone and baiting him about her mortality and being replaced by Gwen was sloppy for a woman who seems pretty damn smart.

Her desperation to live is quite staggering and the lengths she took see her going from desperate to downright evil as she leaves Gwen behind on Hedley Quay and tries to catch a boat while Jack gets all gun happy and shoots her a good few times. Being smug does suit Suzie as bullets prove useless this time to her but it isn’t long before Jack figures out that by destroying the glove, Suzie will die and Gwen will live, so the ever likeable duo of Toshiko and Ianto attend to that matter in hand.

Destroying the glove is great but if you’re going to exit a character again, you need to make it more memorable than before and Suzie’s dire warning of there being something in the dark coming after Captain Jack Harkness more than fills that quota. One good exit for Indira Varma was lucky, two however is amazing.

However just because Suzie met her maker yet again, it doesn’t have to mean she can’t come back in other ways or even be the thing that’s after Jack in upcoming episodes. Ianto also throws in a good pointer about gloves coming in pairs which means another one could exist but whether or not another glove would do the opposite of the first is unclear.

Besides Suzie, Ianto was another strong point of this episode. Whether it was coming up with names for the glove and the knife, getting a phone to work or bringing the sexy to a stopwatch, the wonderful homoerotic moment between him and Jack was quite a delight to behold. You do wonder whether or now if him and Jack are really at it (I think most of us would like that) or whether or not he’s out to get even for Lisa (let’s not go there please) but either way, they should get Jack and Ianto to end every episode together.

Also in “They Keep Killing Suzie”

There was actually a “Previously On” in this episode, although it mostly contained clips of “Everything Changes”.

Captain Jack: “You’d rather see me naked?”
Detective Swanson: “God help me, the stories are true.”

Gwen: “I’ve taken retcon.”
Captain Jack: “Then better stay away from sharp objects.”

Victims: Alex Arwyn, 28, Estate Agent, Mark Briscoe, 33, Surveyor and Sarah Briscoe, 33, Education. Does Suzie have a thing about the number three?

Owen: “Give Ianto a stopwatch and he’s happy.”
Ianto: “It’s the button on the top.”

Ianto came up with “The Risen Mitten” (resurrection glove) and “Life Knife” (Suzie’s weapon of choice). Anyway you slice it, it’s better than Toshiko’s “Resurrection Gauntlet”.

Gwen: “What if I leave my stuff to Rhys?”
Captain Jack: “Then we’ll stash him too.”

Toshiko (re Suzie): “She’s good at everything.”
Owen: “She’s good at murder too.”

Why doesn’t Jack just bury former employees instead of storing them in reefers? Why does Torchwood want every single possession of their former employees as well?

Gwen (re Suzie): “I know, empathy. Even if she did try to kill me.”
Captain Jack: “You and me both.”

New things we’ve learned included 2008 people being retconned by Torchwood and Suzie sleeping with Owen during her conversation with Gwen.

Suzie: “Can’t you just let me die?”
Captain Jack: “You don’t get off that easy.”

Suzie (re Torchwood): “Best job I ever had.”
Gwen: “Me too.”
Suzie: “And the worst.”
Gwen: “Oh yeah.”

Did you notice that Torchwood label their boxes where Suzie’s personal belongings were being kept? Plus they never removed the bullet from Suzie’s head.

Suzie (re Captain Jack): “So he can survive being shot in the head?”
Gwen: “Yeah.”

Gwen: “But if there’s nothing, what is the point?”
Suzie: “This is. Driving through the dark at night.”

Suzie made a point of dismissing Gwen’s idea of heaven before the writers threw in an indication that she was privy about the rift or something coming.

Captain Jack: “Read out the whole book.”
Swanson: “This is going to be a long night.”

Swanson was played by Yasmin Bannerman from Doctor Who’s “The End Of The World”. I really want to see more of her character.

Captain Jack: “Why are you doing this?”
Suzie: “Because life is all. You of all people should know that. I’d do anything to stay. Anything!”

Chronology: Three months since “Everything Changes”.

Suzie (re Gwen): “Can’t you see just the smallest bit of her?”
Captain Jack: “Not one bit.”

Does Ianto actually live in Torchwood with Jack? Eight episodes we haven’t seen his digs so I’m assuming that he does.

Ianto: “Lot of things you can do with a stopwatch.”
Captain Jack: “I can think of a few things.”

Ianto (to Captain Jack): “That’s the thing about gloves, sir. They come in pairs.”

Standout music: This was the first episode in which we got interesting music but ultimately Lamb’s “Gorecki” was the most harrowing.

Easily the best episode of the season “They Keep Killing Suzie”, had darkness, suspense, sheer brilliance, fantastic performances from Indira Varma, John Barrowman, Eve Myles and even Gareth David Lloyd, delightful Ho Yay, sublime twists and more powerful foreshadowing for the final five episodes. We’re past the initial clunk and Torchwood is now a serious player. Damaging ratings for Lost on Sky One also proves that.

Rating: 10 out of 10.

No comments: