Sunday, July 05, 2009

My Review of Torchwood's 2x11: "Adrift"

Written by Chris Chibnall
Directed by Mark Everest

Andy: “You’ve got hard.”
Gwen: “Yeah, maybe I’ve had to.”

After a spooky affair last week, the supernatural is given the heave ho in favour of a traditional type of episode. Okay its episode 11, so you get the feeling that this one is going to a standard bottle episode but it’s something more.

Things starts off with single mum Nikki Bevin waiting for her son Jonah to arrive home. Despite the fact she’s able to see him from her window, that doesn’t stop Jonah from disappearing. One minute he’s there and then after some light flashes he’s gone.

We then take a jump seven months later and Gwen is brought on the case by her old pal Andy. Yes, this is the same guy who has only appeared in four episodes (this one being his fifth) prior and even though Andy has good reason to involve Gwen, she’s more preoccupied with something else.

Remember that I thought it was funny that Andy didn’t attend Gwen and Rhys’ nearly not a wedding in “Something Borrowed”? Well even Gwen noticed Andy’s absence and she doesn’t waste time in trying to get an explanation from him. Sadly it’s not a great one.

Not only does Andy have issues with Rhys but it also turns out that he fancied/still fancies Gwen. I don’t mean to sound like a kill joy but with the exception of Ianto, why does every bloke on this show fancy Gwen? Yes I will admit that she isn’t ugly but it’s still trite. Couldn’t Andy’s reason for not showing up to the wedding solely have been because he didn’t like Rhys?

Then again, it’s not exactly a revelation that diminishes Andy as a character. Gwen clearly has made it crystal clear that he stands no chance with her and throughout the episode she does enough things to irritate Andy that his crush really doesn’t get a chance to get a look in.

So what could Gwen possibly do to annoy Andy? Well there’s the fact since she has joined Torchwood, Andy now thinks Gwen has really become harder as a character. Clearly he didn’t watch during episodes like “Day One”, “Random Shoes” and “Sleeper” when he came to that deduction.

In the twenty four episodes that we’ve seen with Gwen, there’s nothing to really suggest that she has hardened as a person. If the writers are constantly banging on about how Gwen is supposed to be the heart of Torchwood, then her less than cerebral way at dealing with certain cases more or less would contradict Andy’s theory.

That being said it does take some persuading from Andy for Gwen to actually pay Nikki a visit. In Season One, Gwen probably would’ve done off her own bat but here she does need that little nudge. Maybe spending too much time in Torchwood has hardened just a tiny bit.

Casting the role of distraught mum Nikki is a testament to the series on the other hand. The excellent Ruth Jones from Saxondale and Gavin And Stacy is perfect. Its human cases like this where Gwen does get to excel and her scenes with Nikki are something that work only too well.

Nikki’s optimism about Jonah, despite the gnawing possibility of him actually being dead is believable. She wants for her son to be alive and it’s this hope that probably kept her physically going all the more. There are plenty of parents who lose children who adopt this dynamic and it’s completely plausible.

The little things she would do to keep Jonah’s memory were interesting. I liked that she questioned her ability as a mother. From what we briefly saw of their relationship, Nikki seemed like a great mum to Jonah. Then there’s also the support group, which again is a completely believable course of action.

It’s amazing that some towns don’t seem to have certain important kind of groups and I also liked that Andy has an emotional involvement to. He cares about the way Jonah’s disappearance has affected Nikki and thanks to his persistence, Gwen also cares too.

If Nikki’s plight didn’t convince Gwen (which it did), then seeing over forty different people showing during that meeting really nailed a point home. The best thing about Andy is that he can give Gwen the reality she needs and believe me, he’s not the only one who can do.

There’s also Rhys, who has got the issue of babies on his mind. He wants to be a father and in a surprising moment, Gwen lashes out the impracticalities of them being parents given her vocation. However Rhys has been so great this season and it doesn’t stop here when he brilliantly tells her to sort herself out and keep her work separate from home. Gwen might have had a point but I did enjoy Rhys laying into her.

The thing about Jonah’s disappearance is that Andy got footage of Jack at the scene of the crime, which makes you really think that something isn’t right. It doesn’t help that once again Jack chooses to be evasive. I just knew he was lying at the start and even Gwen wasn’t convinced with the way he casually dismissed his presence after a big event. See, Gwen isn’t really stupid – she only acts it at times.

Because Gwen doesn’t believe Jack, she decides to rope in Toshiko’s technical skills to prove a point. Although Toshiko still doesn’t get much to do in this episode, there are two positives about her presence here.

The obvious one is her not mooning after Owen but the other is the joy of her and Gwen as a team. Pity it’s only a rarity with the two of them because a part of me would like to see Gwen and Toshiko have an actual friendship. That shouldn’t be too much to ask for, right?

Toshiko also points out something interesting about the rift too. All this time, it’s been assumed that the rift only drops things but because of the plethora of disappearances in recent times, it’s now obvious that it can take things too. Does that also mean the rift is going to cause more trouble in the next two episodes?

Even though these two are genius, Jack still makes an ass out of himself by telling Gwen to let go. No offence Jack, you may be leader but you’re not exactly proficient in getting any of your team to drop something just because you want them to. Just be glad Gwen didn’t decide to go postal on you like Owen in “End Of Days”.

However the best part of Gwen trying to get evidence is her walking in on Jack and Ianto. After all the prick teasing we actually something that comes close to resembling sex session (both men are near naked), is actually both alluring and funny and also has some passionate man on man snogging with John Barrowman and Gareth David Lloyd. It certainly took Season Two long enough to deliver on that one.

Of course Gwen would have to interrupt this little scene (damn that woman has crap timing) but what’s more interesting is that Ianto openly betrays Jack to help Gwen by giving her a GPS device. If I didn’t actually side with Gwen anyway, I’d be a little peeved with Ianto but what the hey?

However that other thing Gwen does to piss off Andy would be to leave him behind when she wanted to go the island. I don’t really see why Gwen didn’t take Andy with her. He has a fair idea of what Torchwood does (he even asks for a vacancy) and it was him who helped her out for most of the episode too. You can’t blame him for being resentful of Gwen’s behaviour when she does things like this.

Clearly Gwen has never watched Lost or The Island Of Doctor Moreau because she’s only too happy to go into potential danger without backup. So far visiting an island is actually the closest we’ve had to getting away from Cardiff if not Wales itself on the show and it’s an island full of surprises.

Okay so there are no polar bears or grade A irritants like Locke or Ben but its creepy enough and the underground hospital where Gwen heads to after spotting Jack could easily be mistaken for one of the may hatches owned by The Others on Lost. Heck, there’s even a little community out there that could be like The Others when Gwen discovers all her missing people, including Jonah are there.

So why would Jack lie? Well it wasn’t going to be for malevolent reasons. Witnessing an aged and disfigured Jonah, it turns out that some people who fall into the rift are damaged and need protecting from the outside world. Both Jack and Gwen come up with equally convincing arguments as to why Nikki should or shouldn’t see her son but its Gwen who wins out.

It’s moments like this I actually feel for Gwen. She might be infuriating in her own right but she does mean well and she thought that Nikki seeing her son would be cathartic. Sadly it wasn’t as Jonah also suffers from madness and Nikki’s so distressed by the truth that not even her illusions are enough to get her through things.

More telling is the end scene where she begins to pack up Jonah’s things. I guess to Nikki, Jonah might as well be dead. It’s also fantastic that Rhys allows Gwen to tell him about Nikki and Jonah when he sees that it’s affecting her so much. It’s been a while since a case has actually affected Gwen.

Also in “Adrift”

BBC3 put a warning about the swearing in this episode. Apart from maybe one incident, there wasn’t exactly a lot of swearing here.

Gwen: “Anything strange on the case.”
Andy: “Like you don’t know.”

This is the last episode that airing on a Wednesday. The remaining two episodes are destined for Fridays. What’s up with the days being changed?

Nikki: “Do you think I’m mad?”
Gwen: “No. I think you’d make a great policewoman.”

Rhys (re Andy): “Poor sod.”
Gwen: “Oi. I’m a very sexy lady and you’re very lucky to have me so don’t you forget it.”

If certain rumours about next season are true, then can we please have Andy maybe join Torchwood after all? I wouldn’t mind seeing more of him.

Toshiko (regarding the missing people): “Oh my God. There are really this many?”
Gwen: “Now we tell Jack.”

Owen: “For a lovely girl, you’ve got a very dirty mouth.”
Gwen: “Yes.”
Owen: “I’m with Jack.”

Owen really does seem to be accepting of his dead status. I was kind of hoping he would side with Gwen but Ianto and Toshiko did have her back.

Captain Jack (to Gwen): “We could’ve used you an hour ago for naked hide and seek.”
Ianto: “He cheats. He always cheats.”

How exactly do you cheat at naked ‘hide and seek’? Also Jack was pretty accepting when he realised that Ianto helped Gwen out.

Helen (re Captain Jack): “He’s supposed to warn us about visitors.”
Gwen: “Law unto himself, isn’t he?”
Helen: “He knows we’ll always forgive him.”

Gwen: “I am so sorry for what’s happened to you.”
Jonah: “I trust you to tell the truth. Am I really whole?”
Gwen: “Yes, you are really whole.”

Other patients that Gwen found were – Earl, Saeed, Alice and Caroline. Jonah also looked into the heart of darkness and it’s why he howls so erratically.

Andy: “You’d never recommend me for Torchwood, would you?”
Gwen: “No.”

Gwen (regarding Jonah): “I thought you wanted to know what happened to him.”
Nikki: “I did. I was wrong. It was better when I didn’t know.”

Standout music: KT Tunstall’s “Otherside Of The World” and Hard-Fi’s “Hard To Beat”.

Rhys: “Apology, is it?”
Gwen: “Tonight we talk about what you want. Kids. The future. Anything you want.”

Chronology: Well it’s definitely 2008, given Jonah’s birth date but when isn’t really specified.

There was something rather apt about “Adrift” as an episode. At it’s heart, it’s an emotional episode and given the recent rise in missing people, particularly children, I did wonder if this episode was intentionally trying to be topical or not. Definitely one of the strongest and engaging episodes this season, no doubt.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

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