Sunday, July 05, 2009

My Review of Torchwood's 2x10: "From Out Of The Rain"

Written by PJ Hammond
Directed by Jonathan Fox Bassett

Gwen: “It’s the same picture over and over again.”
Owen: “Yeah, come on let’s go.”

And here’s myself thinking ‘damn, I should really go and see a decent movie’. I like the cinema, it’s just that I don’t go as much as I should and thanks to this episode, I’d drag the first person off the street just so I wouldn’t be alone.

With last week being more farcical than usual, this episode is back to creepy territory that this show has become quite adept to. The first thing we see is a travelling carnival and a young girl being scooped up while her devastated mother looks on. It’s a good way of setting the mood.

The previews for this episode showed that Jack some travelling circus connections and the first sign of this was having him listen to a faint tune that Toshiko couldn’t hear. I know I should find the faint tune thing intrigue but I couldn’t help but notice that this might be the first time this season Jack and Toshiko have had a scene alone together. Pity a bit of small talk couldn’t have been added between them.

Ianto on the other hand gets to drag Owen and Gwen to the Electro cinema. Giving Ianto scenes outside of Jack does work. He has a great dynamic with both Owen and Gwen (Owen more so) and having him open up about a love of old movies in fitting for the character. In fact having any character on this show display some kind of passion, pastime or hobby is something that needs to be encouraged.

Owen is his usual sarcastic self but thankfully doesn’t overdo it. Maybe it’s the inability to screw any girl he wants that fuels his motive for spending outside time with Ianto and Gwen but either way, I applaud it. Gwen also comes off rather well being in a scene with Ianto that has no bearing on either of their feelings for Jack.

Electro is one of the old cinemas that seems determined not to crumble to pieces and having a movie depicting the history of the place and its progress/change in society is interesting. Of course it was always going to be interesting with the creepy stuff surrounding Jonathan’s difficulty in getting the film simply for public viewing.

Seeing some old stuff is great but it’s seeing Jack that immediately grabs Ianto’s attention. Owen and Gwen are clearly not the refined and spend most of the time looking bored out of their brains. Again congrats to Eve and Burn for not overplaying those kind of scenes.

The funny thing is that neither Owen or Gwen really believe Ianto when he claims to see Jack. It’s hardly the most improbable of things Ianto could’ve come out with but then again, Toshiko didn’t really believe that Jack heard a tune in the background either. That might be something the gang should work on – listening to their team mates hunches, even if they do sound a little out there.

Ianto also had to deal with seeing various shadows in the background as well. This really did add to the creepy factor of the episode. This is certainly one movie you wouldn’t want to see without someone there to hold your hand.

As for the circus folk, you’ve got a ringleader called the Ghost Maker and his beautiful accomplice named Pearl. Julian Bleach is suitably nasty in the role and seeing the pair of them dehydrate a girl before taking her soul is definitely enough to give you chills.

The question then becomes – why are they doing it? There’s an ongoing commentary about how cinema killed the demand for travelling shows and the Ghost Maker and Pearl are combating this by getting unwilling audiences. So technically it’s worse than having Louis Walsh snatch an entire school and have one of his more dire acts perform for a lengthy session.

Jack mentions this most and it is actually quite crucial to the episode but what is more interesting is that he is quick to also mention his past with the travelling folk. If this was Season One, the gang would practically have to torture it out of him but here after Ianto simply mentions seeing him in the film, Jack is pretty forthcoming with the information.

He might not tell them why he was with a travelling circus but it poses no shock that his role entailed using his immortality to an advantage. I was kinda hoping he was more of a Houdini type of attraction with more chains on him. Gwen and Owen make some pretty funny little jests as well. This episode might be creepy but it’s certainly not devoid of humour.

It’s also not devoid of surprise either when Ianto realises that the film he viewed at Electro and then at the hub with Jack and the gang is different. To be honest I really didn’t notice the difference myself but I’m glad Ianto did point that out. Ianto is pretty amazing in this episode but he’s been amazing since “Everything Changes”, so why change a successful part of the series?

As for the Ghost Maker and Pearl, those two are certainly a busy bunch. They go from a girl at the bus station, to a waitress to an entire family pretty damn fast. I guess when you want to survive as much as them you really can’t afford to be slow, huh?

More interesting was Pearl. She caused every victim to be dehydrated and look how quickly she drained an entire pool? She also came across as being a bit more loopy than the Ghost Maker, almost as if she was channelling Cassie from Skins or Drusilla from Buffy. The actress pulled it off well in my opinion.

It was also Pearl who came up with the idea that it shouldn’t be just her and the Ghost Maker. Sure the two of them are a good threat but an entire gang of these travelling folk pose an even bigger threat and it was pretty obvious that bringing more of them would be the plan. It didn’t help that the trailer kinda gave that away too.

At least the gang were kind of efficient on this one too. Toshiko got all the readings about where certain victims were and thanks to a random nurse, Jack and Ianto were able to talk to one person lucky enough to actually escape having to travel with that freaky circus.

Jack and Ianto seem to do well interrogating old ladies even when they are in a psychiatric hospital. Christina helped give a name to the creepy Ghost Maker and she was perceptive enough to figure out that Jack doesn’t belong here. However everytime someone says that, it feels like the writers are trying to justify the way Jack can isolate himself from others.

Now that we know about the Ghost Maker, his travelling shows and how he wants to stay alive, the only thing really left to do is solve the mystery. Bringing back Jonathan to have a non fatal encounter with Pearl is a nice way of speeding up things. Heck, Jack even realises that filming Pearl and company is the best way of stopping them too.

Once the gang are in the cinema and Jonathan’s parents have become the latest victims, it’s here where things get a little disappointing. Sure this lot are still terrifying but it’s like the last few minutes and their ‘defeat’ is rushed. Perhaps we shouldn’t have had some much exposition stuff or maybe the episode should’ve been a bit longer.

Really what we get here is Owen trying to stop the Ghost Maker and being called useless. Then there’s both Gwen and Ianto getting physically hurt before Jack’s film technique actually work and the Ghost Maker and his creepy lot are gone. Even then you just know that there might be a repeat performance.

Jack even states that to Ianto despite the hunky office boy admitting to burning the reels. Jack and Ianto do have a good rapport in this episode. It’s nice to see Ianto’s more emotional side and Jack works better as a character too when his fear actually comes into play. Jack might be immortal but he’s not impervious to being vulnerable and seeing that helps me care more for him too.

It’s also interesting that besides one of the children, pretty much all of the victims in this episode died. I guess PJ Hammond likes his bittersweet twists but it’s one that works pretty well too. Jack holding onto the Ghost Maker’s soul flask could have a potential use either later on this season or perhaps next season.

In the end though, not much really is really forwarded from last week. There’s no Jack/Gwen lust crap to deal with and Jack/Ianto while getting some nice scenes, they don’t really do as much as you want. Toshiko is also once again surplus to requirements while Owen’s status is still being used in fun ways. There’s advantages to being dead after all.

Also in “From Out Of The Rain”

Isn’t it rather strange that none of the flashbacks were given specific time dates, although one of the papers put events as far back as 1898.

Ianto: “It’s more than just a cinema, it’s the Electro.”
Gwen: “Oh wow.”
This is the second episode in a row that Ianto has mentioned his father. Both times, his father has been mentioned in a good light, so any chance we’ll be meeting him?

Pearl (re Nelly): “Perhaps she could join the show instead.”
Ghost Maker: “Why not? She could travel with us forever.”

Gwen: “You did stand up?”
Captain Jack: “I never did stand up.”
Gwen: “Okay you did ‘song and dance’?”
Captain Jack: “And I was sensational.”

Jack was in a soldier when he was with the travelling circus. But who sent him there – the Time Agency or early Torchwood?

Captain Jack: “Ianto, with me. I need your local knowledge.”
Gwen: “Oh is that what we’re calling it now?”

Ianto (to Captain Jack): “It was beautiful in its own way and haunting. All those people no longer with us but trapped on film forever.”

The cinema vibe in this episode worked a lot better than it did in the Doctor Who episodes “Daleks In Manhattan” and “Evolution Of The Daleks”.

Pearl: “How many now?”
Ghost Maker: “Six.”
Pearl: “I wish I could see the air they last breathed.”

Captain Jack (re travelling folk): “They came from out of the rain.”
Nurse: “What did you say?”

PJ Hammond admitted that part of his inspiration for scribing this episode was being terrified of the character Stromboni from Pinocchio. That’s a pretty good comparison to the Ghost Maker.

Christina: “Your eyes are older than your face.”
Captain Jack: “Is that a bad thing?”
Christina: “Yes. It means you don’t belong. You come from nowhere.”

Ghost Maker (to Owen): “Who are you? There’s not a breath in your poor, sad body. You’re no use to me.”

I wonder was this episode filmed earlier on in the series because there’s really no references to any of the antics of the previous episode.

Nurse (re silver flask): “What’s in that?”
Captain Jack: “Something that belongs to him. His last breath, his life.”

Chronology: Well seeing as Gwen is back from her honeymoon with Rhys, I’d say a few weeks since “Something Borrowed”.

Fun, creepy, atmospheric and a definite improvement on the last episode, “From Out Of The Rain” is one of those episodes that will appeal to many viewers. PJ Hammond has a flair for the supernatural and his second effort for Torchwood is definitely better than his first. Although there have been better episodes this season, this was still a great one if not a perfect one.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

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