Sunday, July 05, 2009

My Review of Torchwood's 2x08: "A Day In The Death"

Written by Joseph Lidster
Directed by Andy Goddard

Owen: “Sorry, are you an expert?”
Maggie: “Sorry, are you an idiot?”
Owen: “Yeah, I’m a dead idiot.”

Life sucks when you’re alive and it turns out that it blows just as much as being dead. Sadly for Owen he doesn’t get a Georgia Lass fate and ends up a Grim Reaper. Nope instead it turns out that he’s still trying to keep other people alive.

Opening the episode up differently than usual, Owen gives the audiences a recap of his 27 years of existence and of course the nasty moment when Copley shot him for no good reason. What’s interesting about this is that the gang don’t ask him how he’s coping but Owen doesn’t exactly tell them either.

Spotting Maggie on a rooftop, it’s clear from the start that she wants to end her own life. Now there are plenty of usual responses Owen could use to keep her from jumping but his tactic is to show her the bullet wound that Copley left him with. A reminder that Owen is dead despite not actually going away.

Maggie’s first reaction is to think he’s making it up but she soon realises that he’s actually telling the truth and freaks a little. She’s about to kill herself and now’s she met a bloke who’s dead and trying to persuade her not to end it all. I can only imagine what’s going through her mind during those moments.

However as much as Maggie factors into the episodes, there’s actually a lot of cutting back to events before Owen found her. The first one being Jack firing him for his own good. It means that Martha gets to have his job and it also means that Owen has a reason to be pissed off with Jack. I can understand where Jack is coming from but as someone who can’t abide boredom, I sided more with Owen.

I don’t doubt that Owen needs more medical testing and can’t play an active role but reducing him to coffee boy isn’t the most constructive thing to do either. It does give Owen a moment to snark at Ianto’s sudden rise in the ranks, though I like the fact Ianto actually defends himself.

Ianto might be sleeping with Jack and getting more action in the field but that’s because it’s actually useful for him to back up the gang and also we know that Ianto can handle himself. I do wonder whether or not Owen is jealous of Ianto. Not because of Jack as such but perhaps other reasons? He wasn’t thrilled about Martha getting his job either.

Owen’s not the type of guy who likes to be excluded from activities (then again, who does?) and he does pry when Martha is giving him a physical examination. Once again the show goes with the idea of them flirting. Like with the previous two episodes, it’s harmless but I did dread that something might have happened. Martha didn’t seem too concerned about her mysterious boyfriend, did she?

As for Maggie, two things are quickly established. The first is that Owen wastes no time in informing that there’s nothing beyond death. I know that we’re supposed to believe there’s an element of truth behind that due to the likes of Suzie also saying that but I was also hoping that Owen was saying to further stop her from taking her own life.

The second thing is that Maggie lost her husband less than an hour after marrying the poor fella. Owen doesn’t get much of a chance to genuinely sympathise because Maggie is quick to shoot down any moments of sincerity he tends to offer. The more this episode goes on, the more I’m drawn to Maggie.

In some ways she’d be a perfect woman for Owen. She can read him like an open book and has no qualms in calling him out on his crap whenever the mood takes her fancy. It also helps tremendously that actress Christine Bottomley has wonderful chemistry with Burn Gorman as well.

Maggie is caught up in her own problems that Owen really does have to work hard in order to reach out to her. I liked that she believed everyone at first about things getting better even if she found that time wasn’t a healer for her. Owen’s interest in why she waited for her anniversary to try and kill herself was a nice way of highlighting that point.

Another point of Owen’s life that piques interest is his relationships with both Martha and Toshiko. At both times Maggie could tell that there was more to each of them than Owen was letting on even if she got angry during a moment when he tried to explain about Toshiko.

Before meeting Maggie, Owen continued to flirt with Martha. While I’m glad that Martha has no interest in him, I get why Owen’s drawn to her. Martha’s got a lot of confidence in her abilities and while I love Toshiko to bits, her insecurities must ring as a red flag for a bloke like Owen.

Even when she came round to see him, all Toshiko did was make pointless small talk because she couldn’t really face up to what she was thinking. Owen’s always known that she loves him and he uses his despair of being virtually nonexistent to actually blast Toshiko for being damaged in her own way.

If it hadn’t been for his current predicament, I would’ve hated him for those remarks. That being said, Toshiko needs to grow a spine because it doesn’t look like Owen is ever going to see her the way she wants him to. Perhaps Martha could give her advice on how to get over an unrequited crush.

If Toshiko wasn’t particularly head wrecking for Owen, then Jack must’ve been a right pain in the arse. Owen pointed that both of them have been altered in ways neither chose but Jack was pretty unhelpful with Owen. Jack knows the implications of being caught in the middle but he acts like Owen doesn’t have the right to be freaked out by what’s happening to him.

There are times when Jack’s jesting is great but there are also times when it’s not so much and telling Owen to chill definitely falls into the latter. Watching Owen mentally climb the walls in his own flat almost made me want to do the same thing and that’s something I’ve done enough of without the excuse of Owen’s predicament.

Still being dead has its advantages and one of those being the ability to pas through heat sensors. This comes in handy when the gang need someone to break into the home of Henry Parker in order to retrieve an alien artefact that’s giving off some serious bad vibes.

Owen wasted no time in trying to assert his usefulness and there’s no amount of warnings from Martha that would’ve made a difference. Because I’m siding too much with Owen throughout this episode, I’m not gonna stop here. He’s the best guy for the job and he’s the only character who could really face Parker as well.

Getting past the entire security crowd was brilliant. The fake call about Taylor’s wife being in a crash made me feel for Taylor but seeing Owen scaring the other security guard with sticking his hand in electricity gave me the creeps too. Burn Gorman can certainly pull off scary a little too well if you get my drift.

One thing that did surprise me was the last security guard in the house. Maybe it was to help build up the Parker confrontation but it’s a brilliant little scene because of ho graphically Owen describes being shot. This episode is largely wordy and it’s brilliant that all the extremely talky scenes are laced with such intense dialogue.

The guard could’ve shot Owen there and then but Owen was so convincing and so creepy it’s easy to see how he got the upper hand. Did I mention how brilliant Burn Gorman is here? Seriously this guy is knocking this stuff out of the ball park and Owen’s still my least favourite character out of this series.

As for Parker, what can I say – he was another great surprise. I was expecting a nasty old man hell bent on destruction but really he was a sad soul who didn’t want to die. He knew a lot about Torchwood, has some nice one liners regarding them (in particular Toshiko) and he thought the alien artefact was keeping him alive.

Owen does appeal to his better nature and while it’s an obvious attempt to make both Owen and Parker connect on the issues of dying and nothingness after death, it makes for some effective acting between Gorman and Richard Briers. The parallels between Owen and Parker are neat, especially when the reveal is the Pulse offers hope and not mortality.

That’s the big thing about this arc. There were two assumptions with this episode. One is that Owen could’ve died completely and the gang could bury him or that he could’ve been completely restored and live a life of boozing, shagging and sleeping to his hearts content. Neither happened and for the time being that could be okay, though I do wonder how long Owen might have to “live” like this.

It’s knowing what the Pulse can do that has Owen saving the gang from destruction and it’s sharing that information that stops Maggie from killing herself. Owen only spotted Maggie by coincidence and that’s also something that I can deal with. The fact that he alludes to being a doctor a lot in their conversations does remind you of a certain someone, don’t you think?

As for the gang, well Owen managed to save the day and score his job back so result for him. If there’s one complaint I could have about this episode, it’s just that Martha could’ve had a few more scenes. She did have less to do here than in either “Reset” or “Dead Man Walking”.

Still at least she gets a nice farewell scene with all of the gang and she also got to snog Jack as well. Depending on her future in Doctor Who, I actually want Freema Agyeman on Torchwood for more episodes. Maybe next season we’ll get some more Martha action again. That wouldn’t be asking for too much, would it?

The last scene between Owen and Toshiko is decent enough. It would be better if there was some resolution but aside from Owen admitting to Toshiko that he was scared, their relationship hasn’t significantly changed at all. There’s the likelihood that it won’t either. Owen already did admit that he has nothing to give Toshiko.

Also in “A Day In The Death”

Did anyone think that Owen’s opening narration sound a little like Sam Tyler from Life On Mars? The dialogue had certain similarities.

Maggie (noticing his wound): “What’s that?”
Owen: “I got shot.”
Maggie: “Yeah right. Oh my God. What the hell are you?”
Owen: “I’m dead.”

Martha’s analysis shows that Owen is unable to age. Both him and Jack get to retain their looks.

Martha: “What about you?”
Owen: “Cappuccino with chocolate sprinklers.”

Maggie: “What are you, some suicidal geek?”
Owen: “No, I’m a doctor.”

The howling from The Pulse sounded a bit like that alien from “Meat” or was that just me?

Owen (to Captain Jack): “You know you get to live forever. I get to die forever. Funny that.”

Owen: “You waited until your wedding anniversary to kill yourself. Why?”
Maggie: “Does it matter?”

We got flashbacks to Diane from “Out Of Time”. Also the gang still don’t remember the events of “Adam”.

Toshiko: “Stop it. What’s wrong with you?”
Owen: “I’m broken Tosh.”

Owen: “You were watching?”
Captain Jack: “Any guy with tight jeans that runs into the water. I was taking pictures.”

Parker had a Dogan Eye although not the same one from “Random Shoes” and he fancied Toshiko.

Owen: “You’re too scared.”
Maggie: “Aren’t you? How did you get from that to here? What happened?”

Parker: “You’re young. You don’t understand what dying feels like.”
Owen: “Believe me I do. I really do.”

Although Gwen wasn’t vocalised, it was interesting that she was handing out all the assignments for everyone while Jack watched.

Parker: “Do you know what I want?”
Owen: “Clean sheets?”

Maggie: “What happened?”
Owen: “We all assume that life is going to be shit, that it’s all darkness but you know what, sometimes it’s not.”

Owen has a hatred for Tintin and used it to tease Ianto (before Jack gave him a Tintin T-Shirt) and he’s gotten a bigger apartment.

Captain Jack: “You can so come back.”
Martha: “Maybe I will someday.”

Maggie: “I thought you came here because you were drunk.”
Owen: “No I came here to help.”

Chronology: Three days since the end of “Reset”.

“A Day In The Death” ends the best arc this series has had so well. This episode was wonderful, dark but character driven and scribe Joseph Lidster needs to be commissioned another script ASAP. His history with the Doctor Who universe might be an obvious advantage but this was an excellent showcase no less.

Rating: 10 out of 10.

No comments: