Sunday, 21 February 2010

Surprised ...

... how good Torchwood is. I watched the first seven episodes and was slightly put off by the alien-of-the-week formula (althoug it happened to be the fairy of the week or the hillbilly of the week in some cases), but episodes 8 and 9 were totally different, challenging, occasionally brutal (both in terms of visuals and psychologically) and fun.

Ep. 8, "They keep killing Suzie" - Dark stuff. A grim story about ressurection and being absolutely terrified of death. I think most people will be able to connect to the notion experiencing a crippling, totally rational fear of death, but it's not often spelled with such force. The black humor of the whole thing is nearly overwhelmed by the sense of existencial dread.
However, I think they took the easy way out with their depiciton of Suzie. The final actions of Jack Harkness would have been much more disturbing if she hadn't been such a villain.

Ep. 9, "Random Shoes" - Beautiful. Also about death, but in the funny, humane, wistful way. Narrated from the perspective of a "failure", an unsuccesful geek who tries to sell an alien artifact on ebay. More accurately, from the perspective of his ghost, after his death. We never quite find out if this is only a narrative device or if his ghost is "really there". It's interesting because it follows the same basic notion about life and death as the previous episode ("life is all there is") but gives it a serene spin. Some parts of this episode are a little to sentimental, but overall, it succeeds wonderfully in telling the story of the loser-as-hero without doing anything to aggrandize the protagonist. Okay, it does so in the end - but that only shows how delightfully unafraid Torchwood is of breaking its own rules. You can't really take the last few minutes as the episode as something happening in the same universe as the rest of the series. Instead, it's a touching little comment on how stories are allowed to give us what we want (as opposed to the Whedon-ish "giving us what we need", which seems to be the more dominant mission statement in Torchwood).

It's a wonderful series, and although people tend to say that this is the wrong comparision, it still reminds me of Buffy-Spinoff Angel. It has another rhythm and approaches its characters differently, but the conflicts these series are about (living with a job that threatens the core of your humanity - but hey, is there a job that doesn't?, and trying to meaningfully connect to people within this job situation) are pretty similar.