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Review: Torchwood S2 11 Adrift

Now that's the way I like Torchwood -- strong, hot, and dark.

Chris Chibnall turns in his best and most intricate plot yet, and maybe the most Torchwood intricate plot so far, in the vein of Things Are Not What They Seem.  In the process of a procedural investigation/coverup story we learn a lot about different characters in the series and see some relationships strengthen or crumble.

We start with Gwen and Andy.  Andy wants to talk about a strange missing persons case, Gwen wants to talk about why Andy wasn't at her wedding.  Seems like Andy is still nursing a crush on Gwen -- well that makes him a member of a fairly large cult  club.  Seems like Jack went right by the missing persons case later that night.

A bit of investigating by Tosh, Gwen, and Andy turns up that there are lots more missing persons in Cardiff than anywhere else, and that their disappearances seem to be connected to an inverted Rift spike.  Is the Rift eating them?  Kudos to first-time Torchwood director Mark Everest for nailing the scene at the support group and the one where Gwen assembles the clues in the interrogation room.  IMDB says he's directed nothing but 20 years of documentaries, but those shots and others are worthy of a feature film.

Gwen calls a meeting and wants Torchwood to "do something".  Jack is sympathetic, but points out there is nothing practical that Torchwood do.  Doing anything would jeopardize security, cause a panic, and not stop a single person from falling in.  Gwen pleads, while Ianto and possibly Owen shoot Significant Looks at Jack, but Jack doesn't back down.  Realistically, he can't.  There's nothing behind him but a wall.

(On second viewing it's even clearer Owen knows.  As a doctor, his services might well be required, but when did he find out?  After Dian?  Before Jack left?  What provisions had Jack made to keep the place going after his long-anticipated leave-taking with the Doctor?)

Everyone leaves, Gwen goes and argues with Rhys, then comes back to the Hub to argue some more with Jack.  That turns out to be a bad idea, as Jack and Ianto were availing themselves of the empty Hub for some hot and randy playtime.  You know all the kinky things you wondered if they did in the Hub while no one else was there?  Apparently they do them.

Undaunted, Gwen goes on arguing.

Gwen.  Dearest Gwen.  I realize that the Complete Book of Employee Relations For Dummies doesn't include coitus interruptus on it's list of "Times When You Shouldn't Approach Your Boss With an Unpopular Idea".  Do you know why?  They figure it's frikkin' obvious!

And so close to the payoff too.  Those boys are so high on endorphins it's a wonder their feet touch the ground.  Tsk, tsk.  Of course Jack was going to be grumpy.

I love how Jack's dismissal of Gwen and summoning of Ianto (while disrobing, mind you) ends with the same line that Captain John ends his summons to Jack in Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang, "Work to do."  Apparently it's Time Agent code for "Sex now".  That does give us some idea of the Time Agent definition of "work.

But let's get the chronology straight.  An hour ago Jack and Ianto were playing naked hide and seek.  An hour after that they were half-dressed with their  shirts nearby and disrobing again.  Why did they put their clothes on?  Lunch break?  And an hour after that Ianto is dressed and making coffee while Jack yells for him.  Why?

The boys are clearly having fun, but I wonder if all the sex is Jack's avoidance mechanism for dealing with his own helplessness in the face of the Rift.  He's certainly using it as an avoidance mechanism for dealing with Gwen.

But while Jack is playing hardball with Gwen, Ianto slips Gwen some evidence in the form of a technical McGuffin behind Jack's back.  I found myself agreeing with Ianto here for three reasons.  First, Gwen is Torchwood's terrier, she's going to keep at that trail until she finds something, it's best to go on and give it to her.  That way she'll get through it sooner and throw less of a fit at the end.  Second, her pestering is putting a strain on Jack, removing her reason to pester takes the strain off Jack, and keeping the strain off Jack is both Ianto's professional and personal concern.  Third, if she kept poking, what other secrets might she have stumbled on?

(It's also obvious Ianto knew approximately when Gwen would call to ask about the device and knew he had to do something to keep Jack occupied and out of the way while he talked to her privately.  The mind happily boggles at what he might have done.)

Gwen doesn't know what to do with the technical McGuffin, which Andy recognizes as a handheld GPS and pulls up the map of a local island.  He secures a boat for their trip out to it, and Gwen repays him by dissing him and leaving him on the shore.  This proves to be the final crack in Gwen and Andy's crumbling friendship.  I'm not really sure who to blame here:  Gwen, Andy, Torchwood, or if it turned out there wasn't much between them in the first place.  I tend toward the last one.

But Gwen doesn't want Andy in the middle of what she suspects is Torchwood business, and she's right.  The island houses a sanitarium Jack has set up for victims the Rift has stolen and brought back, too damaged by their wanderings to return to their homes.  Torchwood wasn't doing anything for the victims but sticking them in cells, so Jack established this place.  From the way he says it, it's not clear if Torchwood is picking up the tab or if Jack's paying for it out of his own pocket.

Gwen wants to let the families know, Jack axes the idea.  Gwen tries to press the idea home, unknowingly calling up memories of Grey, and Jack agrees to let missing boy's mother know he's there, forty years older and terribly injured.

It would be easy to call Jack a bastard, but he has a point.  What else can they do without compromising security?  As far as the families go, security needs have to be considered first.  You couldn't tell all the families without the secret leaking out.  I'm not happy about that either, but there you go.  The whole security issue needs to be rethought.

Jonah and Nikki's meeting is  rocky, especially because Gwen didn't bother to do her homework and find out that Jonah is now only lucid for a few hours of the day.  Nikki can't handle it, and lashes out at Gwen.

Now speaking as a mother who's had a child in die in ICU, I thought Nikki's reaction was pretty hopeful.  No woman who does all she has already done for her missing son is going to back down now.  Sure, she needs time to adjust, but  she's a fighter.  She'll be back there by the end of the month, tops.  As she folded up her son's belongings and wept I want to tell Nikki "it gets better from here" but she's not ready to hear that yet.  She's still dealing with the ashes of her dreams. 

Still, she's going to have an easier time facing Jonah again than she will facing the support group she's created again.  Now she knows, and she knows she can't tell, but she still has to face their needs. That's going to be a special kind of hell right there.

The funny thing is, Nikki, Ianto, Owen, and Tosh are now in a position to form their own support group:  People Who Have Lost Loved Ones to Extraordinary Means and Know It.  Now that would be an interesting meeting.

All in all, Ruth Jones does a wonderful job of portraying Nikki.  Kudos to her.

With the exception of a few really ropey moments in The End of Days, I've loved everything Chibnall has written for Torchwood.  Yes, I even loved Day One; it was the purest War of the Worlds homage I've ever seen.  ("Huh?" you say.  They're both stories where aliens treat Earth the way Westerners treat Third World nations.  In War of the Worlds Earth = Tasmania.  In Day One Earth = Thailand.)  But this was the first time I thought we saw him run on all cylinders, and he did a wonderful job.

Comments

( 79 comments — Leave a comment )
(Anonymous)
Mar. 22nd, 2008 05:51 pm (UTC)
You know all the kinky things you wondered if they did in the Hub while no one else was there? Apparently they do them.

Surely they do -- hee hee.

What I liked about it the most was the sheer joy of their play -- they are so absorbed they do not hear the door alarms or the wheel door slamming open; and then while they are talking to Gwen, they seem very at ease with everything. I mean Ianto is a little embarrassed about getting caught, but not about what he's doing, if you see the distinction. His smile when he says "he always cheats" -- talk about cats and canaries!

I also liked Gwen's reaction (yeah, me, go figure); she's embarrassed at walking in on them, but she's giggling and girly and amused by it all.
crabby_lioness
Mar. 22nd, 2008 07:30 pm (UTC)
"Captain Jack will get you high tonight."
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justinej
Mar. 22nd, 2008 06:12 pm (UTC)
She's a fangirl! Who can blame her. I'd have just sat down and asked them to carry on.

Great review of what was probably my favourite episode so far.
crabby_lioness
Mar. 22nd, 2008 07:31 pm (UTC)
Thank you. It was great to see the an episode without any major bumps in writing, production, or performance.
louiex
Mar. 22nd, 2008 06:27 pm (UTC)
Yay new meta from you! I have to run so this has to be quick, I was wondering -since you did that awesome meta on Ianto Mr "Step-Mom"- what you thought of Ianto literally having Gwen's back throughout the entire episode. In the office scene he makes eye contact with her and leaps after Jack to try to ease his anger/convince him to help her and then slips her the GPS.

Just thought it interesting that in one of the first eps where Jack's 'NO!' finally was a 'no' that Gwen couldn't squirm her way out of (see chasing Kieran in Countrycide and pursuing the case in Random Shoes and her actions all throughout Meat) that Ianto steps up to be the person who gives when Jack doesn't. :D
criccieth
Mar. 22nd, 2008 06:59 pm (UTC)
meta? She's done another meta? Where? I must have missed the post.
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love_jackianto
Mar. 22nd, 2008 06:51 pm (UTC)
'Apparently it's Time Agent code for 'Sex now'. That does give us some idea of the Time Agent definition of 'work.'
We all know what I hard worker Ianto is ;)

'And an hour after that Ianto is dressed and making coffee while Jack yells for him. Why?'
Maybe Ianto needed a break because he was tried from all his 'play'. Or maybe after Ianto wears Jack out he tries to get some actual work done(someone has to keep Torchwood running).

'I've loved everything Chibnall has written for Torchwood.'
Me too. It's a shame he's moving on.

'Third, if she kept poking, what other secrets might she have stumbled on?'
What is Ianto's special project, I wonder?

One point I would like to make is that some people have said that the 'naked hide-and-seek' line trivializes Jack and Ianto's relationship, but I thought it showed that their so comfortable that they could joke around. And Ianto didn't seem all that bothered, he was smiling when he said 'he cheats'.
criccieth
Mar. 22nd, 2008 07:00 pm (UTC)
he also seemed pretty happy with Jack's suggestion!
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(Anonymous)
Mar. 22nd, 2008 06:52 pm (UTC)
"Those boys are so high on endorphins it's a wonder their feet touch the ground" - tell me about it - Ianto especially is kind of blissed...

oh and I 100% agree with your suggested reasons for Ianto going behind Jack's back - matter of fact I was having a Plot Bunny Visit along those precise lines earlier today. After all, remember his line from "SLeeper" - no-one knows more about this place than I do. What other, even darker/harsher/more dangerous secrets does Ianto know?

Agree that Owen knows about the place. My reckoning is Jack funds it, Ianto keeps it running and Owen is the medic. The girls don't make it on the "need to know" list, so they didn't know. My bet would be Suzie didn't either.
criccieth
Mar. 22nd, 2008 06:53 pm (UTC)
whoops, sorry that anonymous above is me!
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catsfiction
Mar. 22nd, 2008 07:38 pm (UTC)
The funny thing is, Nikki, Ianto, Owen, and Tosh are now in a position to form their own support group: People Who Have Lost Loved Ones to Extraordinary Means and Know It. Now that would be an interesting meeting.

Interesting, too, that Jack would also be well-qualified to join. That leaves Gwen, and rumour has it she might soon be able to tick that box, too.

Great review. You really did justice to a haunting and wonderful episode. I agree Ruth Jones was magnificent and I'd very much like to see more of Nikki, though I don't suppose we will.
crabby_lioness
Mar. 22nd, 2008 07:51 pm (UTC)
We've had superb guest artists this series.
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crabby_lioness
Mar. 22nd, 2008 07:53 pm (UTC)
Jack is always toppy -- except when he chooses not to be.
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lehorin
Mar. 22nd, 2008 08:29 pm (UTC)
What I don't understand though is why Jack didn't just say in that first meeting "Yes, I am aware of this, this is how I'm dealing with it, and this is why they can't just go home.
antelope_writes
Mar. 22nd, 2008 08:40 pm (UTC)
Because then we wouldn't have had an episode.

Kind of like if Gwen had listened to reason in her wedding one, we wouldn't have had a funny story.
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lefaym
Mar. 22nd, 2008 09:07 pm (UTC)
As she folded up her son's belongings and wept I want to tell Nikki "it gets better from here" but she's not ready to hear that yet. She's still dealing with the ashes of her dreams.

Agreed. I was surprised by the number of people who thought it would have been kinder to retcon her, but I saw the fact that she was getting rid of the videos cleaning out Jonah's room as a step forward (although I did think that it would be nice if she sent some of his belongings on to him, even if she couldn't stand to visit). Nikki may have lost hope that she'd get Jonah back the way she wanted him, but there was no way that she was going to move on while she didn't know. The pain she felt at the end of the episode was like the pain of an amputation, as opposed to the pain of a slow death from gangrene.
crabby_lioness
Mar. 22nd, 2008 09:24 pm (UTC)
The first Pandora myth I ever read said that Hope was imprisoned in Pandora's box not to lesson humanity's pain, but because it was the cruelest demon of all.
antelope_writes
Mar. 22nd, 2008 09:39 pm (UTC)
Thanks again for your review; I always enjoy reading them.
crabby_lioness
Mar. 22nd, 2008 11:19 pm (UTC)
Thank you for reading.
criccieth
Mar. 22nd, 2008 10:17 pm (UTC)
by the way, is it me, or in Jack's "1999" flashback, does his grief seem to suddenly "up" when we glimpse one body? There's the two he finds before he sees Alex, but in one shot, we see Jack notice another body, a young man, lying on the railings behind Alex. Then we see Jsck's face and he looks even more horrified then he was a second ago.
crabby_lioness
Mar. 22nd, 2008 11:23 pm (UTC)
I couldn't tell if it was grief at a particular loss, of if he hoped someone else had survived.
katiebugs18
Mar. 22nd, 2008 11:54 pm (UTC)
Another great review for a great episode. This was a perfect time for this episode considering the listlessness of the last two.

Your explanation of Ianto's actions was such a relief because while I didn't blame him or "get angry" with him I was a bit confused. But you are absolutely correct. The line of reasoning I was using, which I think still applies, was his belief that Gwen needed to learn a lesson. That she needed to realize that while her compassion for others, her need to protect and help the innocent has as many consequences as anything else Torchwood does.

Because Gwen doesn't think about the larger picture she misses so much. She never once considered trusting Jack - her leader - when he told her to stop, she never once considered the possible negative consequences of revealing the truth to Nikki, she never once stopped to think that perhaps Jack knew what he was talking about or ask the nurse (blanking on her name) what was going on with Jonah...she gets so wrapped up in her vision and her "purpose" that she doesn't consider all the ramifications of her actions. Sometimes I don't think she realizes that Torchwood is secret and it's secret for a reason. She tends to be pretty cavalier with their need for secrecy. Just as I don't think, after all this time, that she really gets Torchwood or it's purpose. Sometimes she still behaves like she's just an upgraded PC. And while sometimes that's good, sometimes it's not and she just doesn't seem capable of figuring out which is which.

Perhaps I'm too much of a cynic (or a bit like Ianto) but I really did feel that Gwen needed to learn a lesson about her actions.

Oh...and thank you Chibnall for Jack/Ianto this episode. It was...*sigh* And is it me or did Ianto/Gareth look especially beautiful when he smiled and said Jack always cheats?

Thanks again for the great review. :-)
crabby_lioness
Mar. 23rd, 2008 12:23 am (UTC)
You can really tell how Gwen is the only ne who hasn't grieved in this Team.

is it me or did Ianto/Gareth look especially beautiful when he smiled and said Jack always cheats?

His face was pure gold. Of course it was also pure gold at the end of his segment of Fragments in the grip of a very different emotion.
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eumenidis
Mar. 23rd, 2008 12:18 am (UTC)
Yes, *excellent* ep. I particularly liked Gwen's growth during the ep; it always bugged me that she'd been a police officer, apparently for some while, in a town that was *not* Mayberry, & yet had managed not to learn that some things just can *not* be "made right", try as you might. Also liked getting a glimpse of the sheer size & complexity of the job Jack's carrying on his back; he puts up a damn good front, but I think I detected the tiniest hint of desperation in the conference scene when he told Gwen he really would like an better alternative to how he'd been handling the matter of the grabby Rift. (& I wonder, considering the other glimpses of Jack's past, if that facade is something he assumed at an early age.)

Rhys's good sense & (underrated) intelligence shone in this ep., so did Nikki, the entirely ordinary woman coping bravely & resourcefully with her trauma. The scenes of the people coming to the recently formed support group & those of the "nursing home" for the Rift-snatched were heartbreakingly realistic.
crabby_lioness
Mar. 23rd, 2008 12:59 am (UTC)
It's the emotional realism that really sells the show to me.
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crabby_lioness
Mar. 23rd, 2008 02:38 am (UTC)
Gwen is Torchwood's terrier. Terriers don't know when to quit, even when it's for their own good.
webeh
Mar. 26th, 2008 03:42 am (UTC)
And an hour after that Ianto is dressed and making coffee while Jack yells for him. Why?

I doubt the Hub is the warmest place to be hanging around naked if you're not currently sweating due to some physical activity. ;)

First, Gwen is Torchwood's terrier, she's going to keep at that trail until she finds something, it's best to go on and give it to her.

Also, it's probably better for her mentally if she finishes this quest sooner rather than later. It might distract her from more urgent issues at hand.
kakareen
Mar. 26th, 2008 11:40 pm (UTC)
Ah! Thats a very good reason to be clothed in-between sessions: It's just too damn cold to be naked.
anni_q
Mar. 30th, 2008 06:34 pm (UTC)
Chronology
Hmm...I think I've got an idea.

Let's suppose hide-and-seek ends, rather than begins, an hour ago. Then Ianto says, "All right Jack, we've got real work to do...No, REAL work." And then maybe Ianto bribes Jack to go back to work by saying he'll make it worth Jack's while to do so: he's going to give Jack a nice reward for finishing up his tasks. And supposing a little later Jack (being Jack) says "Hey, Ianto, I'm half-way done; can I have a sample of what I'm working toward?" Ianto figures Jack does deserve a little treat for working so hard ...and just as Jack is being rewarded thoroughly, Gwen walks in. They finish what they started, go back to the OTHER work, and Jack has just finished his tasks when Gwen calls on the phone. Oh, bad timing Gwen!

Actually, the tone of "Ianto! IANTO" when Jack is shouting sounds a lot more like my ex when he needed me to find his socks. But I like the steamier explanation better.
love_jackianto
Mar. 30th, 2008 06:47 pm (UTC)
Re: Chronology
Ohhh I like that theory. it's so Jack. Continuity thy name is Torchwood.
(Deleted comment)
crabby_lioness
Sep. 6th, 2008 11:49 pm (UTC)
My favorite part of that scene, though, is how by the time that 30 second conversation is over Ianto has not only got his shirt on, but it's buttoned up (even at the cuffs), tucked in, and belt is fastened.

It makes you wonder how much practice he's had at that....
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