Sunday, July 05, 2009

My Review of Torchwood's 2x01: "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang"

Written by Chris Chibnall
Directed by Ashley Way

Captain Jack: “Captain Jack Harkness, note the stripes.”
Captain John: “Captain John Hart, note the sarcasm.”

Okay it’s been a year and fifteen days since we’ve seen “End Of Days”. As viewers we’ve had to through months of knowing nothing whatsoever followed by wall to wall trailers and press coverage since the start of Christmas. I knew this was going to be a brilliant episode but even I didn’t think it was going to be that good.

We get some light hearted comedy as a Blowfish in a sports car goes tearing down the road. On a show like Angel, this works perfectly and now on Torchwood, it also works perfectly. The Blowfish might be polite in terms of letting old ladies cross the road but it certainly has no problems with holding a family hostage when Gwen, Owen, Toshiko and Ianto are on its tail.

The opening scene is fabulous. With Captain Jack not being there, this lot have had to step up to the plate and become more assertive. The Blowfish knows to an extent that without Jack, they’re a bit out of their depth and even has fun goading Ianto on whether or not he would be successful in shooting him or the innocent woman he’s holding as leverage.

Sadly we don’t get to see whether Ianto might have been able to pull the trigger because Jack makes his reappearance by shooting the Blowfish dead. It’s a great way of reintroducing him but cheekiness aside; he’s got some major explaining to do. Of course, the main person who’s pissed at him is Gwen and the girl ain’t shy in letting that be known.

In the latter of half of Season One, I would’ve been tempted for Jack to tell her to shut the hell up but much as Gwen has her head wrecking moments, the girl does have a right to pissed. After all they did stop super lame Abbadon and then Jack took off without a word. Things have changed but even Jack seems pretty impressed with the gang’s newfound assertiveness.

However that doesn’t mean he’s ready to talk about being held hostage by The Master for over a year, even though he does give Gwen a brief synopsis on his ordeal after which he spots that herself and Rhys have become engaged.

Well Eve Myles did boast about Gwen entering the world of monogamy but there are way too many scenes where Gwen comes across as a jealous girlfriend. Just as long as the writers have the sense to not go there with Jack and Gwen, I’ll be a happy boy. Seriously Gwen wasn’t universally loved in Season One so if they hook her up with Captain Jack in Season Two, I’m sure there’ll be some pretty annoyed viewers.

Of course Jack’s return is only one small speck compared to the trouble that the season premiere offers. Instead of Weevils and treacherous Suzie, we get Captain John Hart, a man from Jack’s past and more than a great source of enjoyment throughout the entire 50 minutes.

If like me you couldn’t get enough of the homoeroticism between The Doctor and The Master, then with both Captain Jack and Captain John, it goes beyond that. Not only are both men Time Agents (well not Jack anymore) but they’re also ex-lovers and John creates enough havoc in order to get Jack’s attention.

Played by Buffy’s James Marsters, John is quite likely to become every bit as charismatic as Spike ever was and the lads first reunion in an emptied out nightclub is delicious for lack of a better word. Given how much Torchwood models itself on Angel, it’s been a shame that we’ve never had a physical scrap. I know Doctor Who doesn’t really lend itself out to it but Torchwood does and this episode really exploits that to perfection.

Both old lovers greet each other with some pretty man on man snogging (remember this is coming from a guy who doesn’t fancy James Marsters) before beating the every holy daylights out of one another. The use of music to that scene only adds to the sheer joy. Seriously 15 minutes into this episode and I’m squeeing like the biggest nerd in existence. That’s how cool this episode was for me.

With John around as a thorn in Jack’s side, having the gang interrupt their drinking session (sex, violence, drinking – maybe Torchwood is becoming like a Joss Whedon show) meant that Jack was put in another awkward position. It took the guy ages to tell Gwen one tiny bit of info when he went AWOL so having John blab about him being a Time Agent was the last thing he needed.

John’s way of dealing with the gang was also fun. Both Owen and Ianto couldn’t stand him. If Gwen’s jealousy regarding Jack wasn’t enough, we also had Ianto’s too. The dirty looks he gave John as the shifty Time Agent explained his relationship to Jack was telling. Ianto has got it bad for Jack and that’s something that will please a lot of viewers. After all, Ianto is the only one I want to see Jack with.

There is a good reason for John actually being here. Apparently he and some lady friend were looking for canisters that contain a dangerous radiation and although Jack doesn’t trust him, he’s willing to help John out. It feels funny as Jack also seems determined not to tell his gang about being a Time Agent.

The gang spent a few choice moments in this episode wondering about Jack’s past and Gwen being Gwen did have to ask. Actually Gwen is pretty awesome in this episode. She agrees to go with John to find one canister by the docks in the hopes of getting more information out of him. Jack’s list of precautions in how to deal with John was nothing short of hilarious.

Sadly while Gwen might have had the best intentions, John is far from stupid. Not only is he able to get behind her more than once but he also manages to paralyse her by kissing her. Though in fairness Gwen did slightly get off lightly compared to the nastiness that John had in store for everyone else.

As Owen and Toshiko went on about their virtually non existence love lives, John was able to severely wound Owen and even got Ianto to rescue his friends while he went to get the last canister off Jack.

The interesting thing is that as Toshiko pointed out, John could’ve killed any of them at any point. He might have been weapon less but he is physically stronger and far wilier than any of them. If Ianto, Toshiko and Owen hadn’t gotten to Gwen in time, then she would’ve been dead.

The other interesting thing is how John’s attitudes with the gang alternate. He’s flirtatious with both Toshiko and Gwen, treats Owen like an idiot and is purely jealous of Ianto. In the elevator, John came across as a stalker ex (which in all fairness he really is). Deep down Ianto must’ve been delighted that Jack prefers him over a stuck in the past time like John.

However John’s method of dealing with Jack was temptation. He tried to lay it on thick the joys of galaxy travelling and Jack more or less ridiculed him for it. I think I would’ve too but I did find the scene a little too amusing for my liking. Except for the part when John threw Jack off the building. I know Jack can’t die but it doesn’t mean every bad guy has to try and kill in order to emphasise that point.

Then again the good part of Jack not dying and Ianto rescuing the others is the stand the gang make against John. Admittedly in Season One, there were times when Team Torchwood looked like they could barely tolerate each other, let alone work together. Here they come across as being firm friends and having each others backs and it feels completely natural. Then again, nothing about this episode reeks of contrivance as far as I’m concerned.

John’s look of embarrassment when he realises that he underestimated the gang is priceless but Gwen’s quote seems to solidify Torchwood’s stance. Could this lot really be an effective team? It’s looking that way and we also discover that John actually the woman just for an Arcadian Diamond. Like anything else he hasn’t done in this episode is underhanded.

John does seem to have a problem despite his cleverness. He thinks nobody else is capable of being smarter than him and twice he’s proved wrong. First by Torchwood surviving and secondly by his dead partner having a bomb strap itself to John. The gang only decide to help out when John takes Gwen but even then Gwen figures that going into the rift where John came out of would be a help.

The fact that Gwen is willing to sacrifice herself adds to the tension so having Jack and Owen come up with the idea of confusing the bomb by injecting John with blood from all the team is a clever twist. John and Gwen are pretty hilarious during their moments of being chained together. He’s looking at everything worth shagging and Gwen gets to be disgusted by his behaviour.

Still while John survives, manages to get punched by Gwen and rejected by Jack, he does drop a bombshell before he goes. So who the hell is Gray and how is he connected to Jack and John? I have a theory that Gray is either the soldier Jack enlisted that got tortured (the one he told Toshiko about in “Captain Jack Harkness”) or that Gray has a biological relation to him (brother or father). He could also be in a long list of Jack’s former lovers.

This gets to the best part – Jack asking Ianto out on a date. Yes I got slightly reminded of “The Sound Of Drums” phone sex scene with The Doctor/The Master but the scene is played with total cuteness from Gareth David Lloyd and John Barrowman. Could Jack settle with Ianto? Having a realised gay relationship instead of occasional same sex snogging would help in Torchwood’s quest for depth and the homophobes can just watch something else.

Also in “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang”

I noticed that the “Opening Credits” haven’t changed. Given how long it’s taken this to air, I’m surprised there wasn’t a brief recap on the first season at the start.

Gwen: “All I’m saying is you are speeding and they are children.”
Owen: “If they’re out at Midnight, they’ve got it coming.”

I wonder if the title for this episode is named after the movie with Robert Downey Jr and Val Kilmer. That had some homoerotic moments in it.

Captain Jack (to the gang): “Hey guys. Did you miss me?”

Captain Jack: “You got pretty organised without me.”
Gwen: “Yeah we had to.”

Rhys has become a manager of a firm named Howard’s and Andy threw in a joke about Gwen’s case.

Gwen: “Where were you?”
Captain Jack: “I found a Doctor.”
Owen: “Did he fix you?”

Captain John (re himself/Captain Jack): “We were partners.”
Ianto: “In what way?”
Captain John: “In every way.”

I laughed when Toshiko said out loud that Captain John was cute. She would’ve never done that in Season One.

Captain Jack: “This is the entrance for tourists.”
Captain John: “I remember the last time you said that.”

Captain John (to Gwen, re Captain Jack): “Has he got to the ‘no kissing’ rule yet? He only invented that one because he wants me all to himself.”

Anyone think that Captain Jack and Captain John’s fight/snog scene in the club was like the Buffy/Spike scenes from “Smashed”? I can’t be the only one who thought that, right?

Owen: “Got someone on the horizon?”
Toshiko: “Like you said, it’s difficult to meet anyone who I have anything in common with.”

Captain Jack: “How are you, Ianto?”
Ianto: “All the better for seeing you Sir.”

Is it me or was there some kind of flirtation with Owen and Toshiko? He seemed more open with her than usual. Plus I’ve heard rumours.

Ianto: “Are you asking me out on a date?”
Captain Jack: “Interested?”
Ianto: “As long as it isn’t in an office. Some fetishes should just be kept to themselves.”

Captain John: “It’s not spiel, it’s fact.”
Captain Jack: “Move on.”

Captain John called the team “dolly birds” (sexist much?) and Ianto “eye candy”. I’m not going to argue with the latter one.

Captain Jack: “I can’t die.”
Captain John: “No but really.”
Captain Jack: “I can’t die. No matter how many times you try to kill me.”

Gwen: “You are unbelievable.”
Captain John: “And yet you still find me strangely attractive.”

Okay, I hate the idea of edited versions but that trailer for the rest of Season Two. The amount of goodness coming our way and then Doctor Who Season Four afterwards. Well I’m gonna be spoiled for quality over a six month period.

Gwen: “Don’t you ever stop?”
Captain John: “We have five minutes to live and you want me to behave?”

Standout music: Blur’s “Song 2” during the Captain Jack/Captain John fight scene was pure genius.

Captain John: “If you need a new team member.”
Captain Jack: “No.”

Chronology: Not a year but not straight after “End Of Days”/“Last Of The Time Lords”.

“Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang” was superb. This show came back in defiant force and every single flaw of the first season was rectified in the space of 50 minutes. If the rest of the season is as good as this single episode, we are so lucky as viewers. Welcome back gang, you have been missed.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

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