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Dec 04, 2006

Torchwood and Costello (Deceased)

Complete tosh, obviously. But for once entertaining tosh.

So, perhaps the most predictable turn in Torchwood yet sees Psycho Suzie - wearer of the resurrection glove (or should that be ‘magic mitten’) - brought back from the great beyond some three months after blowing her own brains out in the pilot episode. How - and indeed how - has her body been kept in near perfect preservation is of course something that this episode deems unnecessary to address (three months and no cellular decay) as are a great many things in this script from a pair of newcomers whose names I failed to take note of.

So, in a nutshell. Someone is killing Cardiff residents, leaving them brutally butchered and with the word ‘Torchwood’ daubed in their blood at the murder scene. The Jack Pack - complete with gratuitous slo-mo - are called in by Detective Swanson (played by Jabe herself, Yasmine Bannerman from Season One’s ‘End of the World’) who pretty much sums up the whole of this rag-tag bag of oversexed, over-confident orifices as the bunch of twats they clearly are. But seeing as Torchwood themselves seem to be the catalyst of the murders, then it’s only right that they solve the case. So far, so good.

Then the team take turns to use the glove on each of the victims so they can get a heads-up about what happened. Jack can’t do it, as he doesn’t seem to have the life-force mojo required (I’m telling ya, M Night Shyamalan is watching and poised to ring his lawyer on this one) so Gwen - as Suzie’s replacement - takes a turn and, following one or two false starts, the team decide to bring back Suzie as one of the victims appears to be her late husband. ‘Cept that once she’s back she’s now as difficult to get rid of as ol’ Captain Indestructible himself. And - surprise, surprise - she’s sucking all the life-force out of Gwen in order to keep herself going. So far, so huh?

‘They Keep Killing Suzie’ has all the faults of most of the other Torchwood episodes so far - unrelatable characters, hackneyed plots, shouting in the place of tension building - but for once I’m gonna put my critic’s hat on hold and suggest that this is the best episode, at least conceptually, since ‘Everything Changes’. There’s something really sinister about the concept of bringing someone back from the dead with all the memories of their demise intact and it’s this that keeps the somewhat more unstable elements of the script in check. Such as the whole Usual Suspects inspired plotting of having Suzie plan her own resurrection (ahem) from beyond the grave and the totally padded out sequence in which Jack and co - finding themselves trapped inside the Hub once again - ring the local police to help them out. And as for the ISBN of a book being the get-out clause, I mean…

But for the first half-hour this was almost compelling. Quick-paced, grisly and adult in a way that Torchwood simply hasn’t been even nearly enough. It touches on questions about the after-life and whether we live on after death (such use of subtext also being common to director James Strong’s Who entries this year) and the idea of linking Suzie with Gwen (both literally and metaphysically) is really quite clever. As is Suzie’s plan to infiltrate Torchwood with a programmed plant whose recitation of an Emily Dickinson poem is enough to paralyse the entire base (though the likewise effect that the word ‘Torchwood’ has on him will only gain sympathy with a number of contributors to this blog).

Then, inevitably, it all goes a bit tits up. Suddenly Suzie’s drawing Gwen’s life-force out of her, despite the glove not showing any previous such capability. And we’re into race-against-time mode as gullible Gwen takes Suzie for a ride; reducing her survival time to some arbitrary amount of minutes as though the Eye of Harmony has just been re-opened. And what exactly is Suzie’s motive in all this, beyond the obvious of getting her life back? Some half-arsed revenge plot against her terminally ill father suggests an under-developed child-abuse plot-line. But surely her long-term hopes aren’t to get her job back amongst colleagues she has either betrayed or tried to murder. We all know that every single member of this organisation is fucked up, but this would be something else.

In fact there’s such a whole shed-load of stuff that doesn’t make sense that it seems churlish to even bring them up. Oh, go on then - just a couple. Whatever happened to the glove resurrecting only the recently dead (Suzie, perfectly preserved visage notwithstanding, has been dead three months after all)? And was it really necessary to make such a big deal out of the murder sub-plot when it’s just a McGuffin anyway? How about the fact that Suzie starts to wear a headscarf only once the hole in the back of her head starts to heal up (before would have been better, no?). And where - given that Gwen almost buys it in this episode - has her boyo boyfriend got to; isn’t this now four straight episodes since his last appearance? I mean, just where is the domestic agenda?

And I’m guessing that the title is some kind of riff on the similarly monikered Avengers episode, but why? They only 'keep' killing Suzie right at the end, so why bother at all. Unless Ianto was responsible, seeing as he’s got bugger all to do these days than name the Torchwood treasure chest in between brewing up.

Yet another episode which promised much, but delivered little. For once the sex and swearing are almost noticeable by their absence, so at least I can’t be accused of finding fault for these and nothing else. But there’s no getting away from the fact that Torchwood has been an unmitigated failure in carving itself a niche as intelligent, original sci-fi for a post-watershed audience. Too many good ideas have been squandered now for me to be left with any hope; and this episode illustrates this failing concisely. Even the ending’s trite: being Torchwood we get a nice little coda set to a musical montage, as Gwen and Jack smirk at each other like a pair of coffee commercial c*nts. Maybe it’s because I’m long past caring but I actually smiled at this point.

Next week

: frankly, who cares?

(The ‘Torchwood’ Book of yadda, yadda, yadda has this to say about They Keep Killing Suzie

:

director James Strong re-watched the climax of ‘Arc of Infinity’ for inspiration for this episode).

Comments

Can I ask at the end of this episode what Ianto and Jack were going on about? The stopwatch and other uses for it? Why was Jack going to send the others home early and then meet Ianto in ten minutes in his office?

Am I missing something here? Is it mere Torchwood business or something a lot ruder? Can someone clear this up, am I being dense?

" The stopwatch and other uses for it? "

I took that to refer to a activity similar to Christopher Walken & Bruce Willis Dad in Pulp Fiction.

Armagedden!!!!

If they believed that a Dickinson poem was needed, why didn't they ask someone to google for them? They're on line for free...

I suppose they had to lead up to the RIDICULOUS ISBN solution, but even then they could have pulled off a dozen arbitrary ISBNs from various editions off Amazon, or a bibliography.

A show about alien technology where the characters have barely come to grips with human technology.

I'm becoming a little weary of the whole thing. I might just rewatch my DVDs of The Omega Factor.

Ah, but the ISBN came from SUZIE'S copy of Dickinson.

Still a stretch, mind you, but one I can see myself desperately clutching at, in Tosh's position.

I may have missed something, but didn't they just ask the cop to *buy* a copy of Dickinson, in which case it could have been any edition.

Crumbs -- you could drive a 4x4 through that plot hole...

Yes it's a least hummer-width. Oh heck, you could turn an aircraft-carrier in that space.


Erh..they pulled the ISBN off of the copy of Dickinson that TOSH was holding. Suzie's copy.

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