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Friday, February 08, 2008
Torchwood: To The Last Man
The producers of Torchwood continue to change up the format to good effect. This time around we get a quiet, deeply personal romantic tragedy, with an apocalyptic rupture in the fabric of space-time standing in for the usual romantic complications. After the "comedy with action" episode and the "action with comedy" episode, it's nice to have an episode that pulls back a bit from the attempts to tell a "big" story and instead focuses on a more character driven story. Naoko Mori as Toshiko turns in a lovely performance, practically heart-breaking, convincingly moving from the thrill of the sweet moments of early love to the inevitable loss that the nature of her love affair demands. Another excellent guest performance is also on display with Anthony Lewis as Tommy, the thawed out World War One soldier whose destiny is tied into Torchwood and the complicated nature of the Rift in Cardiff. His performance nicely blends the youth of his character with the world-weariness of a man who has seen the better part of a century whirl by him in a matter of months, with cosmetic changes but human nature, depressingly, not developing.
There are a number of nice nods to the continuity obsessive here as well. The introduction of Torchwood Three circa 1918 is a nice reminder of the history of the organization, while the very slight dig at Doctor Who was another sly reminder of the wider "universe" Torchwood inhabits. There are, of course, the usual head-aches caused by attempting to logically unravel a story involving time-travel, time-loops, and apparent predestination. In keeping with the "light entertainment" mandate of the show, this is not dealt with, other than in the most broad possible terms in an effort to heighten the drama. In other words, you can't over-think the internal logic of the show too much or you'll just turn your brains to mush.
But again, worrying too much about the obligatory sci-fi babble is to miss the point of the episode. The grist of the story is the emotional lives and developments of the characters. We don't see much of Gwen or Owen in this episode; Gwen is essentially just Jack's right-hand man in the story, without much to do than run into echoes of people from the past, although Owen is allowed a few more moments of his "Owen is nice inexplicably a nice guy" arc. Ianto and Jack don't get terribly much to do in this episode either, even Ianto's one-liner count is down a bit, but they do share a beautiful scene that advances their relationship and sheds more light on what is bringing them together. There is a shared loneliness to the characters, and pain in their past, that seems to be developing as the primary mover in their relationship. However, none of that comes close to upstaging Toshiko's storyline, and the superlative performance Naoko Mori gives.