Thursday, 27 June 2013

Review: Torchwood 2.11: Adrift

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Jonah Bevan, having returned from the other side of the Rift.
Torchwood - Series Two, Episode Eleven - Adrift
Written between 13th and 14th April 2013

Chris Chibnall is quite possibly one of the most inconsistent writers that I've ever encountered. Not, of course, that this is an inherantly bad thing; while we may get abominations like Dinosaurs on a Spaceship over on the parent program, sometimes the dice fall in the right arrangement and we get a piece of television as heart-wrenchingly sad as Adrift, a Gwen-centric story that has me and the vast majority of viewers in tears by the end. And that's a good thing. Generally.
      Andy calls Gwen to tell her about a suspicious disappearance - 15-year-old Jonah Bevan has gone missing, seemingly in a flash of light, and Jack can be seen on CCTV that night. Jack skirts around the issue, leading Gwen and Tosh to launch an investigation. They find that Cardiff has a Missing Persons epidemic - and all of the disappearances match up with "negative rift spikes", showing that the Rift is taking people and scattering them through space and time. Following the trail, Gwen is led to Flatholme Island, where Jack fills her in on the fact that sometimes the people taken are brought back, but they are allways mad, aged and/or physically scarred. Undeterred, Gwen brings Jonah's mum Nikki (Ruth Jones) to see an aged Jonah. She tells Gwen to never do the same for anyone else, as seeing her son transformed in such a way has robbed her of her hope.
     The episode does what Torchwood does best - taking a supernatural phenomenon and transforming it into a more human issue. Chibnall doesn't give himself too much technobabble or mad aliens to work with, and the result is a story that is primed to blow on the tear ducts. Ruth Jones imbues Nikki Bevan with a simple normality that underscores her discoveries at the end of the episode, and the juxtaposed shots of Gwen filing away the investigation while Nikki throws away all of Jonah's old things is just god-damn heart-breaking. It was a central dilemma that had no easy answers, and that I think sums up what Torchwood should be about.
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What was happening with Rhys this week?
     There was also some focus on the Gwen-Rhys relationship, but I really didn't like the way that was handled. Rhys felt a bit like an abusive husband, forbidding Gwen from talking about the problems she'd been having at work and shouting at her for even mentioning it, before eventually conceding when Gwen's just been to Heartbreak Hotel and breaks down in tears in front of a candle-lit supper. It's a characterisation that comes out of nowhere - both in the theme of the series, where Rhys ends up being pretty cool with the whole Torchwood thing and is pretty much onnipresent come Children of Earth and Miracle Day, and within the flow of the episode, where he begins in the morning saying how lucky he is to have her.
     Adrift is, if not my favourite episode of this series (which is A Day In The Death), certainly the best written. It's what Chibnall does best - human dilemmas, secrets, basic dramas that we can all relate to. I'm probably repeating myself by this point, but that's all there really is to say. Adrift managed to explore a side of Torchwood that we haven't seen before, not only evoking an emotional response but giving deveopment to Jack and Gwen in a thorough and fascinating way.

Thanks.

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