Sunday, July 05, 2009

My Review of Torchwood's 2x03: "To The Last Man"

Written by Helen Raynor
Directed by Andy Goddard

In the first two episodes we’ve had rogue Time Agents and Sleeper Agents, so it makes for a change to have an episode that is practically devoid of alien threats. Okay this isn’t a first on Torchwood but its still fun.

Given this show’s apparent love of playing with time, it’s pretty apt to see the episode open up in Teilos hospital in 1918 where both Toshiko and a soldier named Tommy are telling two mysterious people to go get the other Tommy. Nice ploy but what does it all mean?

Well the two operatives reveal themselves to be Gerald and Harriet and they’re Torchwood members. Their motives for visiting the crappy looking in hospital aren’t clear but suffice to say, it’s a good way to open the episode. After all this is a much welcome episode focusing on Toshiko.

You can tell because we also cut to her making an extra effort in her workplace. Not that Toshiko usually looks dishelmed but she does go all out to the acknowledgement of her team mates and it’s all because of Tommy.

It seems that while Tommy may have died in 1918, the gang have had him cryogenically frozen and for one day a year they wake him up. Being 2008, Tommy has certainly got a few adjustments to make but it seems with the exception of Gwen, he’s more than familiar with the team and their methods. I suppose its better Torchwood be famed for predictability rather than their lack of subtlety.

After all, Torchwood don’t have the best of reputations but their relationship with Tommy is on fairly interesting ground. Toshiko is the one who is able to calm Tommy down when he freaks out after being frozen for so long. Plus he punches Owen but not in a malicious way. I’ll try to be generous regarding Owen this season.

Already it’s established that Tommy and Toshiko have a connection and unlike a certain dangerous alien, it’s not one that feels automatically contrived. Toshiko is the one who takes him out for the day and as she later reveals, Tommy is the only person she can be herself around. That’s nice but given that he’s more or less doomed it also rather sucks too.

Still getting to see Toshiko just swoop in and tell the gang that she and Tommy are leaving is interesting. There’s no shyness and Toshiko almost doesn’t care that her feelings for Tommy are practically there for everyone to see. What was in Gwen said back in “Greeks Bearing Gifts”? Oh yes, it was that love suited Toshiko. She had a point with that statement.

Okay so maybe Tommy isn’t the love of Toshiko’s life but you don’t have to be a genius to see that the woman’s incredibly lonely and if she’s able to connect with him, then why not? Tommy seems to enjoy her company quite a bit and chides her for not living her life outside of work.
Once again Toshiko’s career oriented mind got challenged. Why does she limit herself so much? Her work at Torchwood may be complex, terrifying, and wonderful and on occasion, rather dangerous but the girl seriously needs to enjoy herself just that bit more. For that alone, Tommy is great to have around.

It also helps a great deal that there’s good chemistry between Naoko Mori and guest star Anthony Lewis. Buildings might not collapse when they kiss and later fornicate but you don’t have too much of a hard time buying into them as would be lovers either.

Tommy did make the first move at the pier and although Toshiko looked a little taken aback, she was flattered by it. Every other time they kissed however, it was both of them being in the exact moment as such. Poor Toshiko – she does fall for the wrong or doomed of folk.

Tommy being frozen had a reason. He was needed for a specific purpose. With the rift causing a time shift between 1918 and 2008 at that damn hospital, Tommy was undoubtedly the very tonic to solving that little headache. It’s also why Harriet and Gerald were so eager to get to him.

With only twelve hours to live, Tommy had to figure out how to spend though last moments. Gwen came up with the smart idea to ask him what he wanted to and even Owen and Ianto showed some generosity in this department. It was Toshiko and her request that he come home with her that Tommy accepted.

We learned from Jack that it’s Toshiko and Tommy contacting Harriet and Gerald that was key to stopping the time shifts. Tommy would then go back to his own time and be killed for cowardice due to suffering from shellshock. Poor guy – he gets to save the world and be killed for a dumb reason.

I liked that when Toshiko and Jack were arguing about this, neither got nasty or forceful with each other. It felt that while both of them were sticking to their guns, they could also see the point of the other. I’ve said it before but I love the fact that Torchwood do actually feel like a real team who care for one another this season. It’s great that this dynamic wasn’t a fluke in “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang”.

Jack’s experiences as a soldier are also touched upon. While he knows there’s no other option but for Tommy to sacrifice himself, I felt that Jack did care about Tommy’s predicament. Jack has seen some truly horrific aspects of war so it’s nice for that to be alluded to in the story relating to Tommy’s plight.

Spending the night with a beautiful woman might be a good moment for a condemned man but Tommy’s fear of having to sacrifice himself felt real. I don’t really blame him and I did understand his anger at Torchwood to a slight degree. Not even soldiers want to think of themselves as a means to an end. Tommy clearly didn’t and even Toshiko had a hard time persuading him to do so.

In the end though Tommy had to die and the fact that a large chunk of the episode focused on him with Toshiko, the disappointment is that his death could’ve gotten a bit more of a focus too.
We saw him slip back into 1918 and then Toshiko psychically contact him in order to get Tommy to use the rift manipulator. It’s a sweet scene between both Toshiko and Tommy but damn it, I wanted more. Even if Tommy wasn’t the love of Toshiko’s life, it still sucked for Toshiko to lose another chance at love. Here’s hoping that she does get lucky this season in that area.

With Tommy being a constant presence and Toshiko being a much deserved lead in this episode, it’s also nice that the others weren’t entirely in the background either. Owen, Gwen, Ianto and Jack all had their own stuff to deal with as well.

First off there’s Gwen. We had her reading a letter from the former Torchwood member Harriet and she took part in searching the hospital. It was her after all who figured that the place was going to be demolished and her interaction with the 1918 nurse was creepy to put it mildly.

More interestingly was her reaction to Toshiko and Tommy. Was Gwen slightly jealous that the soldier was more interested in Toshiko than her? Somehow I doubt it but it was amusing having Jack to tell her to keep her mitts to herself in a friendly way. There’s also a really good scene between Gwen and Ianto which seems to indicate a friendship between them. Gwen and Ianto didn’t interact a lot in Season One, so it’s nice that they are now.

Speaking of Ianto, so far we’ve had him discounting Jack’s fetishes and turning his eyes at the idea of an orgy involving Owen. This week however he tackles his feelings for Jack head on and gives him a rather passionate kiss. Those disappointed with the brief one in “End Of Days” should enjoy this.

The more interesting thing though is Ianto’s motives behind the idea. If the premiere was anything to go by, then Ianto really does want a serious relationship with Jack. Whether or not Jack is capable of giving himself emotionally to Ianto remains to be seen but I did love his response to Ianto’s question about whether or not he’s go back to his own time given the opportunity. With Tommy’s plight sticking out, I’m glad that someone asked that question.

Aside from showing his soldier experiences and being level headed with Toshiko’s angst, Jack doesn’t express much else. His scenes with Gwen, Toshiko and Ianto are meaningful and that’s good. He only has a brief exchange with Owen and it’s more work focused than emotional. Owen seems to be in more or less a good place here. Maybe he’s finally let go of his Diane angst.

Then again, maybe he hasn’t entirely. While everyone else could see that Toshiko was falling for Tommy, Owen was the only who actually said something about it. When he told her to be careful and not to get attached, it felt like he had her best interests at hearts as he should. The writers seem almost willing to completely rewrite Owen this season. Then again he could be biding his time to act like a super dick again.

I liked that it was him at the pier who tried to get Toshiko that sacrificing Tommy was the right thing to do. Jack or Gwen would’ve been too obvious so Owen was perfect. Again a spark seems to be there with Toshiko and Owen. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about that. Maybe I should let the events of later episodes decide for me.

Also in “To The Last Man”

I like the new monologue that opens these episodes now. The Season One one did drive me crazy.

Gerald: “Well you’re a very brave girl.”
Nurse: “Thank you.”

In the Torchwood magazine, writer Helen Raynor described this episode in one word as “heart”.

Owen: “Is that a dress Tosh?”
Toshiko: “I do believe it is, Owen.”

Owen (re unfreezing Tommy): “It’s harder every year.”
Ianto: “Good left hook though.”

The original title for this episode was “Soldier’s Heart” but Helen ditched it because it sounded too Catherine Cookson.

Gwen: “Jack, have we got any other pretty boys in the freezer?”
Captain Jack: “Hands off Missy. Toshiko got there first.”

Ianto: “And where are you going?”
Gwen: “St Teilos hospital and bloody cheer up.”

Toshiko’s apartment looked different than the one we’ve seen in “Everything Changes” and “Greeks Bearing Gifts”.

Nurse: “You shouldn’t be here.”
Gwen: “I don’t mean you any harm.”
Nurse: “You shouldn’t be here.”

Tommy (to Toshiko): “So I’m old enough to die for my country but not to give you a kiss. You daft lass. What goes on in that head of yours?”

When referring to World War Two, did Tommy actually say three weeks and not twenty years?

Tommy (to Ianto): “So I’ll be saving the world in my pyjamas. How daft is that?”

Toshiko (re Tommy): “He can come home with me. He’s not our prisoner and he doesn’t have to stay here if he doesn’t want to, does he?”
Captain Jack: “No. If that’s what you both want.”

With the Rift Manipulator and Owen joking about Jack being stuck in 1918, I kinda wished we had gotten a Bilis mention.

Ianto: “Would you go back to your own time if you could?”
Captain Jack: “Why? Would you miss me?”
Ianto: “Yep.”

Toshiko (to Tommy): “You’re the only one who could stop this. If you don’t then it’s the end of everything.”

No Rhys in this episode although Kai Owen is still credited at the end of it.

Tommy: “Then what am I fighting for?”
Toshiko: “For the future, for me.”

Toshiko (re Tommy): “He trusted me to the very end.”
Owen: “Because you were strong. All of this is right here because of you.”

Standout music: I think I heard the original version of the song “Squares” here. Oh and Moby’s “One Of These Morning” as well.

Okay this isn’t my favourite episode so far despite being rather lovely and Toshiko being one of my favourite characters. In some ways the themes behind “To The Last Man” were handled better in episodes like “Out Of Time” and “Captain Jack Harkness” but it still shows how much this show is trying to progress and let’s face it, they’re doing a decent job in all fairness.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

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