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Torchwood Recap Season 2, Episode 13: "Exit Wounds"

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Torchwood Recap: Season 2, Episode 13: “Exit Wounds”
Torchwood Recap: Season 2, Episode 13: “Exit Wounds”

Given its ratings success, there’s every indication that Torchwood will be returning for a third season. But writer-producer Chris Chibnall’s superlative “Exit Wounds” is something unexpected: a wholly complete and satisfying episode that could just as easily serve as a series finale as a bridge to the third season.

The events of this episode are relentlessly paced, but it never seems rushed. It just keeps driving towards its inevitable conclusion, thoroughly engaging the viewer. Chibnall is a master manipulator; just when I thought I was thoroughly sick of undead Owen (Burn Gorman) and dithering Toshiko (Naoko Mori), “Fragments” re-humanized them, and “Exit Wounds” made them fully real, noble, and tragic.

We open directly after the closing scene of “Fragments,” with the team bruised but still alive (except for Owen, of course) and mostly all right after the explosion. Everyone’s working their gadgets, and Ianto (Gareth David-Lloyd) determines that Captain John Hart (James Marsters), the author of their current misery, has driven the stolen SUV straight back to the Hub. Tosh detects major Rift activity all over the city. Just then Gwen (Eve Myles) gets a panicked call from her old partner, PC Andy (Tom Price), saying they need her right away at the police station. Andy’s a pretty steady guy, but he seems very upset.

Torchwood Recap Season 2, Episode 12: "Fragments"

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Torchwood Recap: Season 2, Episode 12: “Fragments”
Torchwood Recap: Season 2, Episode 12: “Fragments”

Chris Chibnall puts that old chestnut, your life flashing before your eyes just before you die, to good use in “Fragments,” managing to avoid most of the clumsiness inherent in the typical origin story. It doesn’t sit well that we’re finally learning how Jack (John Barrowman) built his team just as it appears we’re about to lose them all. “Fragments” is satisfying in that it answers many questions about our Torchwood Team, but ultimately it suffers from being nothing more than an extended setup for Chibnall’s pull-out-the-stops season finale.

The episode opens with the team, sans the over-sleeping Gwen (Eve Myles), arriving in the SUV to round up the four or five aliens that Toshiko (Naoko Mori) has detected during routine scans. Ianto (Gareth David-Lloyd) calls Gwen to meet them ASAP; the other four enter the deserted warehouse to take the aliens into custody. The warehouse is completely still, leading to speculation that the aliens are sleeping; Ianto thinks they may be hatching, which would explain the silence. Jack rounds a corner and sees a small, blinking device, and realizes that there are no aliens. The whole thing was a set-up, and the readings Tosh registered were in fact being emitted by explosive devices. The timers count down to zero, and an impressive explosion blows out all the windows. How could anyone survive that? We have to wait until after the credits to find out.

Torchwood Recap Season 2, Episode 11: "Adrift"

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Torchwood Recap: Season 2, Episode 11: “Adrift”
Torchwood Recap: Season 2, Episode 11: “Adrift”

His mother laughs and calls him cheeky; she turns away from the window, expecting him at the door in the next moment. But the boy never reaches home. Within the next step or two, a wind has kicked up, and we hear the sound of electrical discharges. The boy looks up, and the camera spirals around him, circling closer. His cellphone clatters to the grating in the sudden silence.

Torchwood Recap Season 2, Episode 10: "From Out of the Rain"

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Torchwood Recap: Season 2, Episode 10: “From Out of the Rain”
Torchwood Recap: Season 2, Episode 10: “From Out of the Rain”

“From Out of the Rain” was so reminiscent of Season One’s “Small Worlds” that it came as no surprise that it, too, was written by Peter Hammond. Like Hammond’s inaugural episode, “From Out of the Rain” is atmospheric and creepy, and reaches back into history both personal and cultural. But where “Small Worlds” grappled with a well-known archetype, here we’re dealing with something almost unrecognizable: a traveling sideshow that appears out of nowhere to abduct and murder. It was OK that we never got much of an explanation about the fairy elementals, but it’s frustrating here that we never learn anything about the creatures that terrorize Cardiff. Well, not quite; even worse than the lack explanation is the curious lack of menace. “Small Worlds” worked, in part, because we knew that the elementals had the power to destroy everything. Both urgency and momentum are lacking, here; without that existential threat, there’s little to engage beyond nostalgia.

Torchwood Recap Season 2, Episode 8: "A Day in the Death"

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Torchwood Recap: Season 2, Episode 8: “A Day in the Death”
Torchwood Recap: Season 2, Episode 8: “A Day in the Death”

Nothing has really changed by the end of “A Day in the Death,” but at least Owen (Burn Gorman)—still dead—has found a reason to hope. “A Day in the Death” is the circuitous story of Owen’s journey from despair, and the two strangers he meets along the way. It all feels comfortably familiar, but the performances elevate it above cliché, most of the time.

We open with a montage, “I’m Dr. Owen Harper, and this is my life.” It’s a nicely-constructed clip show of Owen’s greatest hits, plus a few images we haven’t seen before. Most striking: Owen underwater, completely relaxed. Suddenly he opens his eyes and realizes he should be drowning, but he’s not. The image of Gorman screaming underwater is intense, accompanied as it is by the voice over, “Three days ago I died. They think I’m fine, but they’re wrong.”

Torchwood Recap Season 2, Episode 7: "Dead Man Walking"

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Torchwood Recap: Season 2, Episode 7: “Dead Man Walking”
Torchwood Recap: Season 2, Episode 7: “Dead Man Walking”

How fondly I recall last week’s “Reset,” the episode which brought Dr. Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman) to Cardiff and unexpectedly killed off Torchwood’s resident medical officer, Owen Harper (Burn Gorman). I was worried about whether or not Owen would stay dead, and I was right to be. “Dead Man Walking” oscillates between creepy and campy, and even occasional side jaunts into seriousness can’t save it.

It’s almost reassuring when the episode opens with Martha dictating the preliminaries to Owen’s autopsy. She selects a bone saw, and just as she’s poised to crack Owen’s chest, Jack (John Barrowman) bursts dramatically through the curtains and shouts, “Stop!” Uh-oh. “Nobody touches him until I get back! Is that clear?” he demands, then spins on his heel and takes off. The rest of the team is speechless. Scenery chewing so early in an episode is rarely a good sign.

Torchwood Recap Season 2, Episode 6: "Reset"

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Torchwood Recap: Season 2, Episode 6: “Reset”
Torchwood Recap: Season 2, Episode 6: “Reset”

Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) first met then-medical student Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman) in Doctor Who’s third season pre-finale “Utopia,” when Jack clung to the exterior of the TARDIS as it raced to the end of time. Luckily, Jack was uniquely qualified to solve the technical problems that were keeping the remnants of humanity from reaching their final home, and it was Jack’s wrist jump-unit that got the Doctor and his two companions away in the nick of time in “The Sound of Drums.” But it was in “The Last of the Time Lords” that Martha Jones saved the world, and Jack Harkness is one of very few people alive who remembers it. It’s a great pleasure, then, when Dr. Jones arrives at Torchwood, where aliens may shuffle in and out, but the monster of the week is nearly always human.

Torchwood Recap Season 2, Episode 5: "Adam"

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Torchwood Recap: Season 2, Episode 5: “Adam”
Torchwood Recap: Season 2, Episode 5: “Adam”

Torchwood enters Bizarro World when an alien reprograms the team’s memories—and personalities—in “Adam.” We’re short on science fiction and long on character again this week, as is usual for writer Catherine Tregenna, but we get a big juicy chunk of Captain Jack’s backstory. It’s up to you whether or not it’s a worthy trade. I was happy to hear Gray’s story only four episodes after John Hart dropped that bombshell (“I found Gray”) on Jack.

We open on a scene of cozy domestic silliness, as Rhys (Kai Owen) refuses to give Gwen (Eve Myles) her other sneaker; the ensuing wrestling match and its follow-up make her late for work. This couple works for me because they laugh so easily together. After fighting so hard for Rhys in “Meat”, Gwen is more relaxed and confident of their relationship than ever.

The title character is slyly introduced (did you catch his picture with the team in the opening credit images?), already in place at a terminal in the Hub, joking about the audits he has done for the past three years. Since financial audits are periodic events, at first I thought Adam (Bryan Dick) was some accounting-office flunky come to check on Torchwood’s books. For all their “outside the police” rhetoric, they must have some oversight. Gwen has only been around about a year, so it’s not inconceivable that she wouldn’t have met him before when everyone else knows who he is. She walks in, sees the new guy, and immediately asks, “Who the hell are you?”

Torchwood Recap Season 2, Episode 4: "Meat"

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Torchwood Recap: Season 2, Episode 4: “Meat”
Torchwood Recap: Season 2, Episode 4: “Meat”

From the beginning, we all knew that former police constable Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) would someday be forced to choose between her sweetheart Rhys (Kai Owen) and her dashing Torchwood boss Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman). In Catherine Tregenna’s “Meat,” Gwen makes her choice.

I faulted Tregenna’s characterizations in season one’s “Out of Time”, but I have no such complaints here. The slimmest of plots provides enough structure to support the character face-offs that make up the heart of the story. This episode is not so much about smuggling alien meat into the food supply as it is about the relationships between Gwen and Rhys, and Gwen and Jack. To a lesser extent—and far more painful to watch—it’s also about the non-relationship between Tosh (Naoko Mori) and Owen (Burn Gorman). Ianto (Gareth David-Lloyd) contributes more quips and a couple of super spy moves, but the last shot we see of him saves him from being comic relief.

Torchwood Recap Season 2, Episode 3: "To the Last Man"

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Torchwood Recap: Season 2, Episode 3: “To the Last Man”
Torchwood Recap: Season 2, Episode 3: “To the Last Man”

Helen Raynor, writer of the solid first season episode “Ghost Machine,” teams up with Torchwood series creator Russell T Davies to bring us another kind of ghost story in “To the Last Man.” Here, we’re haunted by the omnipresent shadow of war, and the vagaries that forge unwitting young men into heroes, and sometimes martyrs to the greater good.

We open in flashback, at St. Teilo’s Military Hospital in 1918. (There really is a St. Teilo’s in Cardiff, but it’s a high school.) A man and a woman, obviously not medical personnel, are using a device, something like a Geiger counter, as they wander through the building; they surprise a nurse in the hallway. “I thought you were a ghost!” she exclaims; there’s a bit of friendly back and forth before the pair get down to it: have you seen any ghosts? “Three today,” comes the matter-of-fact reply; they follow the nurse into the ward full of wounded soldiers, where the ghosts have been popping up.