As this site is all about television, I figured it would be remiss of me not to do some actual television reviews while I’m here (also, I’m apparently a glutton for punishment and my work schedule isn’t crazy enough). So from here on in I’ll be doing a weekly review of a current TV show, hopefully picking apart how things work and what television can and can’t be and, hell, why I like it. We’ll laugh, we’ll cry, we might even learn a thing or two.
Reality can be confusing. The real world is full of contradictions, too much information, endless streams of people with different opinions on the same facts, and a sense that if you stop believing in something or take your eye off the ball for one second then the whole thing might slip away from you. Or maybe that’s just me.
But I always think it’s a testament to people – or maybe just a testament to what we call “escapism” – that we so readily dive into realities created by others, as if they would offer some release from our own. This isn’t to say that entertainment doesn’t provide this – it does, in delicately poised spades – but it wouldn’t seem the most logical of safe bets to guess a world created by someone else would offer a release, on top of the confusion of our own. And yet it does.
That said, these worlds are full of their own contradictions and confusion. When this reflects the familiar ebb and flow of the natural world, we call it verisimilitude; but when it doesn’t, things get shaky. Things get shaky and very much like every single fucking news piece that Torchwood is pumping out these days.
I’m a journalism graduate, so maybe I’m more sensitive to these things than the average Joe, but it seems like the most delicately created television show still approaches news pieces with all the subtlety of a baby with a nailgun.
“Today the story of Danes and the abandoned child truly went viral.” Really? Did it, random newscaster? Because it sounds not only like you’re not reading news, but that you’re not reading dialogue. Instead it sounds like a press release about the incident, and a poorly written one at that, has somehow wormed its way into the teleprompter and the newscaster was too busy visiting concussion land and its team of delicate fairies to deliver it with the level of detachment the news requires.
Every ounce of news may be a juicy morsel (also: it isn’t), but when the people reading the news make it out to be so it makes the whole news team look like deranged animals. And it makes Torchwood, once again, seem not real.
It’s unfortunate then, that episodes keep launching into these world-undermining clips, especially in an episode that managed to do some half-decent expansion of this world. Sure, it was a little bit of a fake-out to have the gang travel to (filming location) LA, but at least we got some outdoor shots – and some sense that this is happening in the real world, and not just inside the minds of a deranged team of poorly-trained anchormen and women.
Esther’s visit to her sister, while a little heavy-handed, also managed to sketch out some more of her character (though I still insist that a character shouldn’t have to have things happen to them to be a character) and expand the world that little bit more. I don’t know where it’s going, but at least it’s giving her something to hang onto.
It’s also giving Mekhi Phifer a continued chance to manage to portray one of the most angry, one-dimensional and unsympathetic characters on television right now. I understand you’re in constant pain, Rex, but we didn’t meet you before the Miracle so we’re just going to assume you were always this much of a dick. His rant against Esther in the back of the van was not only wildly unprofessional in the middle of a heist (and we’ll add Gwen’s nonsensical phone call to Rhys to that) but also entirely, hilariously unjustified. And I’m starting to like Esther merely because her and Rex are at loggerheads.
The heist itself, as it was, provided a nice bit of tension and an almost case-of-the-week element to the whole affair. It was done better (and weekly) on Alias ten years ago, but still it’s nice to see the show and the characters taking on a specific task and getting it done. It was also nice to see the MYSTERIOUS STRANGER following Esther and Gwen turn up proper by episode’s end as I couldn’t stand any more of him and his evil triangle friends.
Even if he did get shot in the throat conveniently just before he could reveal the names of his bosses. Why he would ever reveal these names at all is, of course, nonsense – but I’ll just add it to the pile of things I’m shoving in the nonsense closet.
Our parallel story this week – with Vera and the “overflow hospital” – started off interesting but had me throwing delicious biscuits at the screen by episode’s end. The presence of Ellis Hartley Monroe as a Tea Party-er would have been welcome, had she not been painted as some form of media-hungry cartoon. Vera was perfectly right to argue that these hospitals are essentially a modern-day segregation, and these patients will not be helped – but that doesn’t invalidate Mayor Monroe’s point.
Only a few episodes ago the medical boards were discussing the spread of infection due to undying bodies, and while it’s believable that Vera’s sympathetic nature would win out, it’s ridiculous to think she would completely ignore this point. As it was we got a cartoonish villain for Vera and Oswald, and a cartoonish – if cool – end for the now trash-compacted Mayor.
As for Oswald’s adventures in the death hospital, I just have the words “PEOPLE ARE NOT THIS STUPID” scrawled in my notes. Which pretty much sums it up. It might have seemed risque and daring to make him a paedophile back in the initial brainstorming session, but RTD and co have shot themselves in the foot story-wise. I don’t buy the media, and I especially don’t buy that group of patients watching him hold that baby, throwing their weight behind Oswald. It doesn’t make sense. And it’s not going to make sense.
And I’m running out of space in my nonsense closet.
– “It’s a woman… on a rampage. A mad woman.”
– Ellis Hartley Monroe even dressed like an awful right-wing politician.
– Evil Triangle Friends will definitely be a French indie band in the next three to five years.
– Jilly hates Oswald now. Where did that come from, exactly?
– Nice touch of Oswald de-fizzing the drinks in his hotel room. Half luxurious, half sinister.
– Jack’s dialogue – and John Barrowman’s winking delivery – remain awful.
– GAY BIKER LANDLORD. NONSENSE.
– I don’t know how or why that building had 66 flight of stairs. Wasn’t Gwen on floor 24?
– “The Families will rise.” Interesting.
– Also, obviously, Gwen’s Dad is now involved – but I’ll hold judgement on that until next week. Could be a chance for Rhys to be active, or could split the storyline annoyingly one more time.