Series two of Torchwood is lucky enough to have had the bar for series finales set absurdly low by that giant demon thing in series one. They could have had the team chasing a single weevil and it would have beaten it. So it was rather wonderful to see the programme make an almighty effort to do out on a high.
That high was driven by the wonderful return of Captain John, which like his last appearance, has ironically resulted in one of the rare occasions when the programme isn’t derived by Buffy. Although did anyone else notice that James Marsters at one point ended a scene with what was, without a shadow of a doubt, the ‘in peril’ music they used to use at the of Buffy episodes? Watch it again. It was definitely there.
Anyway, he’s the Big Bad, except he’s not, because he’s actually in love with Jack and being used by Jack’s brother Gray to do his bidding. This involves blowing up large sections of Cardiff (insert a ‘how will they know the difference’ joke here). Once again, the Torchwood staff seem utterly flummoxed by something they should really be taking in their stride, seeing as they are Earth’s protection force against aliens. Instead, all the team get scared, and Gwen (bloody Gwen) has to boss them around. Foolish Torchwood!
The whole John on a rampage thing was dealt with by burying Jack for two thousand years, who was awoken in the surprisingly unlesbian Victorian Torchwood. He then comes back to life to deal with Gray in an underwhelming way I wasn’t really paying attention to, because
DEATH IS HAPPENING!
The most exciting part of any programme: killing off a regular character. Or in this case, two. Or in this case, one non-annoying member of Torchwood (Tosh) and one also-there-and-I’m-largely-indifferent-to-him member (Owen). It’s always difficult to ‘do’ deaths in this kind of programme without swaddling it to death in mawkish idiocy. (That did admittedly come later with Ianto deleting their computer profiles. They could have lightened it by showing him recording a new answerphone message without them on it.) But their separated deaths, both trying to save the other in their last moments, was handled with a deft touch.
It does, though, leave a rather sizeable problem, and I’m not just referring to the size of Gwen’s hands. They’ve only got Ianto on staff who doesn’t deserve to drown in Cardiff Bay. Captain John is around, but I suspect he’ll be nipping in and out throughout series three without sticking around. If both he and Martha came on board, then they would be on to something. Series two has definitely been a marked improvement on what came before it. Can the programme do it again?