Friday, August 07, 2009

Torchwood -- Thoughts

(WARNING: Spoilers galore in the following post. I figure I'm mostly safe now, since it's out on DVD already, but if you haven't watched Children of Earth and want to do so spoiler-free, don't read this.)

(WARNING #2: This is turning out to be one LOOOONG blog post. Sorry about that.)

I first discovered Torchwood via Twitter. Earlier this year, someone (Katiebabs, perhaps?) commented that the Captain Jack/Captain John snog was hot. That's it. That's all I had to go on. But I was curious.

Heading over to YouTube, I typed in "Captain Jack Captain John kiss" and watched the video that popped up.

For those of you familiar with the show, it's from the first ep of season two. For those who aren't, and are a little curious yourself, here's a link.

Okay, yeah. I was hooked. A friend sent me her extra copy of season 1, and I glommed my way through it in a matter of days. It took a little longer to finish season 2, just because I netflixed it and had to wait through the mail-it-back-and-get-the-next-one process.

But within a month, I'd say, I'd watched all available episodes of Torchwood, and was anxiously awaiting season 3.

Which brings me to Children of Earth. It would be an understatement to say that I was looking forward to the miniseries. I listened to the radio shows, I skimmed the fan magazines, I chatted about it with friends -- and I did my darnedest to avoid spoilers.

So imagine my horror when I clicked on a blog post about the radio plays to find a major, major spoiler in the comments, just a week prior to the US release. I clicked out immediately, but the damage was done.

I knew about Ianto and episode 4.

My enthusiasm for Season 3 became tinged with dread. Was it true? Was it permanent? They wouldn't really do that to us, would they?

See, Ianto had always been my favorite character. The quiet, competent one who held everything together, the cute one in the background who kept drawing the eye, the one who grew the most over the two seasons I'd watched in very close succession. I liked him. I liked him on his own, and even more with Captain Jack. Jack was more human with Ianto, and Ianto was more confident. I thought their pairing was a positive thing for both of them, and damn were they cute together!

Not only that, but I was already traumatized by the end of season two. Tosh and Owen's deaths had hit me hard, and with two of the five main characters gone, I was wary of how it would work with only three left -- and now, possibly two.

So I approached Season 3 with trepidation. The first episode? Loved it. Loved the premise, loved the fast pace and sense of danger. Especially loved the discussions between Jack and Ianto, and the delving into both their backstories. When Ianto confesses to his sister how he feels about Jack, I melted a little.

Then episode two came along, and I loved it. Watching the Torchwood team fight their way out of impossible situations is one of the reasons I adore the show. And Ianto as romantic hero, saving his man with the help of heavy equipment? Fabulous.

A little disappointed with the final scene of ep 2, though. Ianto SAVES JACK from being buried alive in concrete, and held captive by the shadowy government assassin team, and Jack can't even give him a hug or kiss afterward? Okay, yeah, he's naked, and there are other people around, but still. It didn't ring true for me, especially after he was the one to call Ianto out on his inability to admit that they were a couple.

Episode 3, more of the same. I was impatient for more couple-y moments, especially since I knew where the show was headed. I still really enjoyed the show, caught up in the growing threat to Earth and the children.

Then came episode 4. I watched with dread, knowing what was coming but unable to turn away. And then it happened. Jack and Ianto charged into the room holding the alien, made some high-minded but absurdly ridiculous threats, and brought down their doom.

I mean, really? We're not going to comply because we say so? Against an enemy they haven't even prepared for? Who then turns around and brushes them aside with as much effort as someone swatting a fly?

I cried buckets. It was a heart-wrenching, emotionally draining scene to watch, and I still get a little choked up thinking about it. Gareth David-Lloyd and John Barrowman knocked it out of the park.

I hated it. I hated that my favorite character had been killed off in such a senseless way. I hated that Jack's kiss didn't work this time, like it had back in season one during the fight with the cyberwoman. I hated that the episode ended on such a pessimistic, hopeless note. And I really, really hated that once again, Torchwood had cut short a relationship that was still finding its footing. (See: Owen and Tosh, end of season two.)

I know, logically, that Jack won't ever have a Happily Ever After. Someone who can't die will always be doomed to watching those around him pass away. But dammit, I wanted him to have at least a Happy For Now with Ianto.

I gave in to temptation and headed over to IMDB, just to see if -- yeah, it was true. Gareth David-Lloyd was listed for one less episode than Eve Myles and John Barrowman. He wasn't coming back in episode 5.

I almost didn't watch it. There seemed to be nothing to look forward to -- but I had so much time and energy invested in the show by then, it seemed a waste to leave it without finding out what happened in the end.

A side note: some people were horrified by Jack's decision regarding his grandson. To me, it wasn't outside his character. Remember the episode in season one with the fairies? He's always chosen the good of the many over the good of the individual, even when he, himself, isn't that individual. He's not always a selfless hero -- he can be cold and calculating.

Still, it was ugly.

Don't know what else to say about the end of the season, except it was dark, depressing, and ultimately left us with one character left standing -- and, no offense to Eve Myles, the one who had always interested me the least. Not that I dislike Gwen, but the character just doesn't speak to me the way the others always had.

So Torchwood: Children of Earth was well acted, well directed, intriguing -- and left us with almost nothing Torchwood to move on to in future seasons. Okay, Gwen's still around. And Jack could come back from his snit-fit (look, I get that he's depressed and needs to get away, but having his last line be "watch me" sent me right back to junior high school. And not in a good way.). But what will he be coming back for? And more to the point, what would *I* be coming back for? No Hub, no rift, no team, no love -- everything that made Torchwood one of my favorite shows has been damaged if not destroyed.

I believe that writers have the right to do whatever they want with their characters. But there is a risk in that as well. I remember reading a blog post a year or so ago about an author who took a couple from one of her early books, brought them back in a much later book, and killed off the hero so the heroine could be paired with someone else. The backlash against this book, and the author who chose to do it, was intense. Many believed that the author had betrayed the trust of her readers by this action.

In some ways, for me, the creators of Torchwood have done the same thing. I freely admit that I totally ship Jack/Ianto, and wanted them together. But my reaction to Children of Earth was about more than that. By taking away so much of what made Torchwood what it was, they've taken away my motivation to look forward to season four.

Will I watch it? Most likely. I love John Barrowman, and honestly I will probably be curious at that point to see how they bring Torchwood back. But I'll never wait with excited anticipation for another season again. And I certainly won't fall in love with any new characters again. I don't trust that they'll survive long enough to make it worthwhile. I won't let myself *love* the show again.

And that, to me, is the real disappointment of Torchwood season three.
If you've made it this far -- wow! Thanks for reading! And I'm curious -- if you watched Children of Earth, what did you think? And if not, have you ever felt let down by the creative choices of a TV show, movie, or book? What was your reaction?


Lynne Connolly said...

Jack has left Earth so he can hook up with the Doctor when he makes his next regeneration.

There is another series of Torchwood ready to go, but it depends on the US reception, from what I've heard.

I love the way it's darker than Doctor Who, which can't change, because its remit, to provide slightly edgy entertainment at the PG level has been in place for forty years (actually, closer to fifty now, but it had a ten-year or so hiatus, thanks to Michael Grade). So Torchwood deals with deeper, darker themes.
There are similar complaints about "Spooks" (MI5 in the USA) when a major character disappears,or is killed, but I love the edginess of all this, never being sure of any character.
Torchwood ran at 9 pm for consecutive days, so that was taken into account when writing it. Faster, more complex, more intense.
The next series might not be like that, it might be back to the twelve or thirteen episode format.

Christine d'Abo said...

I haven't posted anything on COE to date. I'm still not sure how I feel about it. Gareth and John were amazing in that scene. Like you, I'd clicked a wrong link and was spoiled for Ianto's death...which made the whole thing worse in a way.

There have been a lot of interviews with RTD saying Ianto had to die (I won't comment on his remarks to the fans of the show upset at the idea), and as a writer I get that. I've tried to look at what they did with my writer's eye and not the fangirl perspective. There were some things that didn't ring true.

It was great TV...I'm just not sure if it was great Torchwood.

I'm not sure if I'll watch season 4 if they make one. Not for any petty anger thing, but simply because I'm not sure what would be left. Gwen's character is okay, but I loved the group dynamic that is now gone. Gwen and Jack just bicker too much for it to be interesting to watch, and any new characters will feel like place holders. I related more to Ianto than Gwen (as I think a lot of people did), and will miss his character more than I'd like to admit. I've watched shows before when they've gotten rid of my fav characters, and I have a sneaking suspicion TW might go that way for me as well. That said, I'd consider giving it a try just to see how they try to rebuild Jack. My enthusiasm is certainly gone though.

Kate Davies said...

Argh! My comment totally disappeared.

Trying again...

Lynne, I agree with you that Torchwood's darkness is one of its strengths. I'd much rather it be "dangerous" than have it turn into an only-guest-stars-in-different-colored-uniforms-die show. Without all characters being at risk, the danger in the show is as meaningless as Jack's "deaths".

That said, I still feel it was too much too close together. At least for me.

I do hope that Jack's time with the Doctor gives him a chance to heal.

And no worries about its US reception. The series gave BBCAmerica its highest ratings EVER. By far.

Christine, as I said on Twitter, I agree with you that it was great TV, but maybe not great Torchwood.

Thanks for commenting, both of you! I appreciate it!

Anonymous said...

I agree with Lynne re: the darkness. I love that they don't do what is best for the audience. The good guys do die, the innocent die. I find it more realistic, in a futuristic sci-fi way! lol

I was so sad when Tosh and Owen died.
THEN to find out that Ianto died (via IMDB for me...oops!)?? Oh man. Both hubby and I had a tear or two, or many when we watched it. Such fantastic acting. You could feel it. My heart hurt so much!

I am curious as so to who will be in Torchwood now. Will Gwen stay on? I doubt it, but to have everyone gone? Yikes! It is a bit much, although I am sure the writers have some sort of plan!

Maia Strong said...

Thing is, I hate the way Ianto died more than the fact that he did. And I don't mean the airborn-alien-virus part. You're absolutely right that he and Jack busted into that conference room with no real plan and no way to back up their threats. That, to me, was the only failing of the mini-series.

Did I cry when Ianto died? No. Will I miss Ianto if/when there's a fourth season? Absolutely. Will I watch a fourth season without him? Hell yes! I learned from Doctor Who how to handle major cast changes. Torchwood's are just more horrific and violent than the ones on DW. (Remember, only one companion has truly *died* on Doctor Who.) To me, similar rules apply. Companions change. Doctors change. The Torchwood team changes. As long as the overall quality of the show remains high, I'm in for the duration.

Kate Davies said...

I think if I'd been a Doctor Who watcher, I might have been more prepared for the number of cast changes (or deletions, since we still don't know who, exactly, is going to be around during season 4).

I don't know, though, that we can really say no character is safe. I would be shocked if Gwen was ever seriously in danger of being killed off.

And I do have to say that my biggest fear is that they add Lois and the assassin woman to the team, and it becomes Charlie's Angels: Cardiff, with Jack pulling the strings from a distance.

(Side note: You didn't cry, Maia? Sheesh, woman, what does it take to make you wibbly?)

Maia Strong said...

(Side note: You didn't cry, Maia? Sheesh, woman, what does it take to make you wibbly?)
Um...really cute puppies and kittens in pet store ads.

I'd love to see Lois, but not the other chick. Beyond that, I'd want two all new characters. Much as I love Mickey and Martha, they're just not what I'd call Torchwood material. But what do I know? Martha works for UNIT and Mickey kicked Cyberman ass in the parallel universe, so who knows? They might rock the Hub--if the Hub was anything more than rubble.

Lauren said...

I came at the show from a slightly different angle. I was almost brand new to the show when I watched Children of Men with my husband (he'd already been watching the show), and I was just completely spellbound. I was caught up in Ianto and Jack's relationship right away. Really I thought, and continue to think, that it was some of the best tv I've ever seen. Then I immediately went back and started watching all the seasons to figure out how exactly Ianto and Jack came together. Now that I'm done with the episodes, if anything I'm a teeny bit disappointed. I wish there was more Janto between the Cyberwoman episode and the stopwatch comment. But then, there's so many possibilities left in the relationship between episodes that there's a whole treasure trove of possibilities for fan fiction, which I've been enjoying reading.

As much as I enjoyed CoE, I completely wish that Ianto was still alive. I mourned for him for days...silly as it sounds.