Sunday, July 05, 2009

My Review of Torchwood's 2x05: "Adam"

Written by Catherine Tregenna
Directed by Andy Goddard

Adam: “You can’t shoot me. You make me live and you always remember what you killed, don’t you Jack?”

Here’s an innovative idea, let’s have an episode where something plays havoc with the gangs’ memories and brings out something different in them. Okay, it’s been done before but after the good but tame “Meat”, this is very episode that highlights why this show is becoming unmissable.

Things opened up nicely with Gwen and Rhys back from a trip to Paris and while they seem blissfully happy, Gwen ends up not remembering her boyfriend the second she heads back to work. Thankfully it’s not the contrived obsession with the writers go ahead with the Gwen/Jack sexual tension but more to do with Adam.

Adam has apparently been working in Torchwood for the past three years and once he touches Gwen on the shoulder she believes. Well Gwen is a little susceptible to anything, right? To be fair, it’s established that Adam is playing with Torchwood’s memories so it’s trying to figure out why he’s doing that provides the bones of the episode.

Gwen getting hit with Adam’s whammy has the side effect of forgetting Rhys and she freaks out upon returning home. Poor Rhys has been through so much with Gwen that it sucks to see her point a gun to his head. The thing is that everyone else remembers Rhys and Adam even tries to persuade Gwen that he really is her fiancé.

I don’t why that surprised me but it does for some reason. I mean Adam clearly isn’t up to any good but he’s also keen to make sure that Gwen does remember being engaged to Rhys. Maybe like most viewers Adam isn’t keen on Gwen following Jack around like a love sick puppy. If so, that is one thing I can respect him for.

The fun part of Gwen’s little amnesia is that she is almost excluded for a large part of the episode. Instead of concentrating on a mysterious artefact that everyone else is preoccupied with, she’s stuck with Rhys trying to remember being in love with him.

I don’t blame Rhys for automatically assuming the worst in Torchwood. He’s seen their negative sides and there is a little rivalry between him and Jack for Gwen’s affections, so it’s pretty believable for him to go there. What’s touching however is listening to Rhys tell Jack how much he loves. Seriously Kai Owen really excels during those moments.

Having Gwen with Rhys also gives Eve Myles some great material too. She tries to remember Rhys as her fiancé but it’s only when he loses his patience at a supermarket does things begin to come back to her. Their bedroom conversation is frank and delightful and in all fairness, I love Rhys being more vocalised. Thank God last week wasn’t a fluke on that score.

Unfortunately there is one thing I could’ve done without and that having Gwen also admit that she is in love with Jack. I don’t think I’m as horrified about this as other viewers but I seriously do not want the writers to go there. I hope that Rhys’ fears about Gwen merely settling for him are wrong but her admission does suggest some truth in them. At least Jack did us all a favour by pushing Gwen and Rhys together in this episode.

Speaking of togetherness, Adam’s manipulation of Toshiko and Owen is also suitably interesting. If Gwen could forget Rhys being her fiancé then surely other members of the team would have similar side effects.

With Toshiko and Owen, there’s a reverse of personality. On one hand you’ve got a shy, socially inept Owen and on the other you’ve got an incredibly confident if somewhat abrasive Toshiko. This also means that it’s Owen who has a crush on Toshiko, much to her disdain.

Now I loved this side of the fake memories. Toshiko is quite pithy in her attitude towards Owen and Adam even goes one further by taking her as a lover. I mean I get it, Toshiko is one beautiful lady and we didn’t need Gwen falling for Adam. Bizarrely I almost get the impression that Adam actually cares about Toshiko.

Seeing a geeky Owen is quite the delight. I always thought a bloke like him might have started off being nerdy and inept and Burn Gorman pulls in a great comical performance as Owen struggles with his feelings for Toshiko and failing to realise that he didn’t stand a chance with her. Even Gwen and Ianto had fun in pointing that out to each other.

Why is that when Owen gets turned into a major nerd I end up feeling bad for him? I know that he hasn’t done anything particularly annoying this season but I felt bad for him when Toshiko rejected him. In another universe he would’ve deserved that but here, I felt pity for him.

This confident Toshiko was fun but seeing her wax lyrical about Adam was a little on the pathetic side too. She said half that stuff to goad Owen and it bugged me. However when she was forced to forget Adam, Naoko Mori played the fear of losing another lover so well, it bordered on heartbreaking.

Adam’s dealing with Ianto was strange. So far he seemed to be only member of the gang unaffected by Adam bar the obvious. It was Ianto who actually figured out that Adam was a fraud and Adam’s method of dealing with him certainly gave the episode a nasty twist.

There’s no doubt that this episode was a tour de force for every character and actor and Gareth David Lloyd is particularly superb when Ianto is driven to the brink of madness and ends up believing that he’s a killer. I literally screamed “bastard” when Adam pulled that little trick.

However because I’m such an inherent slash bunny, I loved that the spoiler of Jack’s love for Ianto saving him actually came true in this episode. Even before Jack found the incriminating CCTV footage of Adam manipulating everyone, Jack’s refusal to entertain the idea of Ianto being a killer was glorious. This is where the writers need to focus on. Leave the Jack/Gwen rubbish alone and focus on Jack/Ianto. It’s more believable.

Jack’s method of defeating Adam was interesting. Adam exits because the Torchwood team have enough interesting memories to sustain them. Taking a retcon pill of sorts helps to dispel Adam’s abilities but not before Owen, Gwen, Toshiko and Ianto are forced to make some admission they’d rather not.

Some of them are predictable, one or two of them aren’t but each of them in particular Toshiko’s desperation for love and Ianto getting a sense of purpose by being in Torchwood are significant. Without a doubt it’s the best scene of the entire episode as well.

Of course Adam is a smart cookie and even if his powers of persuasion to be kept alive isn’t met, he’s able to get one up on Jack by taking away the only good memory left that Jack has of his family. As parting shots go, that’s goddamn shitty.

Because of Adam’s abilities we finally get something on Jack. When Captain John mentioned Grey in “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang” I did fear that Jack might have lost a child so the reveal of Grey being his brother was better. I seriously don’t a parent Jack story on this series, especially not right now.

Even better was getting to see what the Boeshane Peninsula actually looked like. Jack explained about an attack that resulted him losing Grey as a child and finding his father’s corpse. His mother lived but for how long wasn’t revealed. Either way these flashbacks were gorgeously shot.

However if you were wondering whether or not there would’ve been definite confirmation that Jack is in fact the Face Of Boe, then this is where the flashbacks disappoint. I was hoping we might have gotten a little glimpse of Jack during his Time Agency days but I have a feeling that might happen later in the season. Well fingers crossed.

Another reason is why this episode is laced in undeniable awesomeness is because it’s the first one in the season that forces John Barrowman to do some emotive acting. Luckily he more than excels himself here, particularly when he opens up to Adam about losing Grey and his frustration with Adam stripping away his last good memory. And his scenes with Ianto and the lie detector test.

Getting this kind of an insight to Jack has been a while coming. We’ve had episodes like “Small Worlds” and “Captain Jack Harkness” provide nice bits but this one is by far the best in terms of the Jack stuff we’ve gotten. The reset of memories is likely to come back and bite the gang though. I can’t see how there can’t be a consequence for what Jack did to get rid of Adam.

As villains go Adam was the best by far. You got the impression that despite his need to survive he might have actually cared about the Torchwood gang. He was also the reason for providing us with the Jack material and that alone is a reason to want a rematch, maybe even one with Captain John in tow.

Also in “Adam”

The Opening Monologue had some images of Adam before we actually saw him. I think this was done in “Meat” too.

Adam: “A year ago.”
Toshiko: “First kiss.”
Adam: “You remembered?”

Adam put down his birthday as being November 16th 1982, making him a Scorpio. I’ve got a thing about star signs right now.

Gwen (re Owen’s feelings for Toshiko): “When’s he gonna realise that he has no chance.”
Ianto: “Love is blind apparently.”

Gwen (to Rhys): “You have picked the wrong girl to stalk mate.”

We learned that Gwen and Rhys met in college. Going by the actor’s ages that would mean that Gwen and Rhys have been together for over a decade.

Ianto: “I could come with you. It’s been a while since we went hunting together.”
Captain Jack: “I’ll be fine.”

Adam: “Jack, what did you see?”
Captain Jack: “My past.”

We never actually found out what type of alien or creature Adam happened to be. Plus he was stupid not to wipe the cameras.

Adam: “It’s not your fault.”
Captain Jack (re Grey): “I let go of his hand. It was the worst day of my life. That’s the last thing I’d want to remember.”

Ianto (re fake memory): “I didn’t do that.”
Adam: “Oh you did and she wasn’t your first.”

Ianto keeps a diary and it’s not just one for artefacts as Jack’s brief reading suggests. That feels consistent for Ianto’s character. Oh and Adam snogged Ianto.

Adam (to Ianto): “You know, I forgot what a rush it is feeding in the bad stuff.”

Adam: “How far would you go for me, I need to know. Would you die for me?”
Toshiko: “Yes.”

Did Gwen says Rhys’ nickname was Rhys a rants? I sort of zoned during that one. She did say it twice though.

Ianto: “Something in me wants to kill.”
Captain Jack: “No that’s not you. Something’s changed you, it’s a lie.”

Toshiko (re Adam): “I’m going to lose so much.”
Captain Jack: “None of it’s real.”
Toshiko: “He loved me and I loved him. It felt real.”
Captain Jack: “He forced it on you.”

Standout music: I liked the song that was playing during Toshiko/Adam scene and the score music was exceptional in this episode.

Captain Jack: “Who’s Adam?”
Ianto: “No idea.”

Chronology: A couple of weeks after “Meat”?

“Adam” was quite the mind bending experience. Between this and the next episode, I knew one of them was going to reign supreme and honestly, this wins hands down. The psychological insight into the gang, much needed flashbacks on Jack’s life and great villain in Adam, this is by far Catherine Tregenna’s best script to the series, which is ironic given how the previous episode was her weakest one.

Rating: 10 out of 10.

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