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4.2 Rendition

— Nothing special overall, but I kind of do like the improvising-an-antidote plot, despite its silliness. It's so old school TW. Maybe not quite, but almost. I also do like the conversation between Gwen and Jack on the plane, even though it's essentially still exposition.

— From among the new characters Dr. Vera Juarez is the one I liked almost from the start, although I couldn't really give a reason why.

— Jilly Kitzinger and her handbag reminded me of Suzie fumbling for her gun at the end of Everything Changes — a deliberate nod to old school TW?

— What struck me upon rewatching is the parallel between Jack and Rex. At the beginning of the episode, on the plane, Rex locks himself into the toilet to swallow the aspirin and for a moment contemplate his state of undeadness and before he pulls himself back together again, while Gwen is asking Jack where he'd gone after he'd left, and whether it had helped, without getting an answer. Both Jack and Rex are hiding their wounds; only Rex's wound is physical, tangible, whereas Jack's is psychological. And then of course there's also the question of what will happen to both of them once the miracle is reversed... There's definitely a link there that might get explored eventually.

— Something else that might become important in the longer run: The poisoning served to drive home the point that Jack is well and truly mortal now, but as far as Jack is concerned, this implicitly also raises the question of what he wants, what he's going to do with his new-found mortality now. Right then, caught up in the whirlwind of events, purely by instinct, he wanted to live, or at least didn't visibly protest when everyone was running around and tearing up the plane in an effort to save him. But early in the episode one of the newscasters asked, 'Does suicide even exit anymore?' and at least for one man it has suddenly become an option again after a very long time. In OoT Jack said 'It's just bearable. It has to be'. In Utopia his answer when the Doctor asked him whether he wanted to die was ambivalent at best. In CoE Frobisher shot himself after he killed his family, while Jack had to live on with the pain and with what he'd done. And at the end of the third episode, when Jack tells Oswald that he is in fact searching for the execution he miraculously escaped, this comes from the same place of understanding that made Jack realise that Oswald wasn't sincere about his regret, since guilt like that, if one truly feels it, doesn't go away so quickly and easily. It may not even be true as far as Oswald is concerned, but it says a lot about Jack's state of mind. So, what now, Jack? It doesn't have to be borne any longer.

4.3 Dead of Night

— The best episode of the four aired so far, IMO. One of my biggest fears about American TW was how they'd handle Jack's character after CoE, that they'd either simply reset him, or that his arc would stagnate and repeat itself, but this episode dispelled my apprehensions in this respect pretty thoroughly and made me look forward to Jane Espenson's other episodes, because it shows a very good grasp of character, adding something new and a bit unexpected (Jack's drunk midnight call to Gwen), pushing him further, while keeping the characterisation intact, because the potential for this scene has definitely been there.

— I really like the way the episode is constructed, and the central part of the story, starting with Rex accusing Jack of getting his staff killed (Jack can argue that they were friends, not staff, but that doesn't make them any less dead) and culminating in Jack's desperate, heartbreaking call to Gwen, is pretty damn genius. I also like the fact that it's the human moments that are — quite literally — central in this episode; I always thought that was TW's real strength.

When Gwen returns from her shopping trip, there is once again the contrast between the very visible hole in Rex's chest, and the hints at what torments Jack; more elusive, but noticeable enough at least if you know the backstory. I don't know if Gwen throwing the bag with the clothes to Jack is supposed to deliberately recall CoE, but it's hard not to see it that way. It's impossible to be certain, but there's a look on Jack's face that I think maybe suggests that he remembers perfectly well who brought the clothes last time, and with a better chance of them fitting. And really, how could he not? Then there's Jack talking about the miracle ('They weren't even allowed to be unconscious. [...] Each and every individual, forced into life'), and while the rules have changed and it's Rex who says, 'That was me', Jack clearly also recognised himself in this, just as he recognised himself in the unageing children in CoE, because he certainly has lived with the experience of being constantly forced back into life for a lot longer than Rex. What happens to the dead in MD is even worse than Jack's resurrection after the explosion in CoE, but it probably brings up unpleasant memories regardless.

After the fight with Jack, Rex drives to Vera, his wound once again bleeding through his shirt, collapses (physically) in her flat, asks to be patched up, and ends up sleeping with her. Jack, on the other hand, is also looking for some temporary... healing would probably be taking it too far, distraction, rather, from Rex's accusations, which clearly hit a sore spot, more so since his criticism of Torchwood and Jack's usual modus operandi isn't all that unfounded, and ends up fucking — not quite the next best person, but the next best person who likes his coat. (I actually missed that part the first time. Oh, Jack.) Jack's wounds reopen and he comes the closest to collapsing (mentally, in his case) we've seen so far when he calls Gwen in the middle of the night to get at least some reassurance that he hasn't fucked up completely from the one person who survived Torchwood, because the man sleeping beside him doesn't know him and can't give him that, and doesn't make him feel any less alone in the long run. 'I wish he was here now', is a lot more loaded than Gwen is aware of.

And there's something else. When Jack says to Gwen, 'I was thinking about how you're immortal and I'm dying'... He isn't dying, though, unless there's something we don't know yet. Pre-miracle, most people would have called that being alive. So either this is Jack being melodramatic, which I think the situation is a bit too serious for, or — more likely, IMO — this is Jack simply applying the rules he's lived by for more than a hundred years to the new situation, only with the signs now reversed. Has he become this used to thinking of everyone mortal as 'dying', not-dead-yet, that the thought comes this naturally? In that case, 'the whole world is a graveyard', indeed.

— The other brilliant bit of characterisation, continuity-wise, is Jack's realisation that Oswald must by lying about being sorry for having killed the girl, because either you genuinely regret doing it, and then forgiveness doesn't come that easily and conveniently with pretty catchphrases, a 'cure', and it certainly doesn't come from random people who saw you on TV — or you never felt regret to begin with. Of course the tragic implication is also that Jack expects no forgiveness for himself at all, ever.

What I also found interesting is the different quality of this scene has compared to the way Jack talked about Ianto earlier. However painful that might still be, I think Ianto's words eventually got through to Jack, and he realised that Ianto was a grown man who walked in there of his own free will, even if the whole thing could have been handled better. Stephen's death, though, is clearly on a different scale entirely.

— It's also the episode where I really started to like Esther. I actually like normal characters who aren't über-competent and kickass 24/7, who have doubts and insecurities, who fuck up and sometimes just want to be safe. Loved Esther and Gwen bonding.

— Not so fond of all the British vs. American jokes, though. IMO they draw too much attention to the cracks, instead of papering over them.

4.4 Escape to L.A.

— Not bad, with some very good parts. The way people react to the MD situation, segregating the 'dead', isn't completely unexpected after CoE, but effective enough, and if it's already like this in the fourth episode, how bad is it going to get until the end?

— The strongest part of the episode is definitely Oswald in the hospital, the juxtaposition between him and Ellis Monroe, and how it complicates the situation. What Ellis Munroe suggests is undoubtedly inhuman, but at the same time the 'miracle' is an unnatural state of things that without doubt will eventually get reversed. We've heard 'everything has its time and everything dies' at least once per series on DW. OTOH, there's Oswald playing the messianic saviour figure for no other reason that to avoid falling back into obscurity and poverty, but he still gives these abandoned, cast-out people hope. It's a fascinating dilemma really. I have to admit that I have absolutely no idea right now where they're going with the character. He doesn't even regret what he did, so redemption doesn't seem to be an option; Jack is probably projecting his own issues on him when he says that Oswald is looking for his execution. At the same time, he's too central to be nothing but a one dimensional villain. He needs some sort of an arc, but what is it going to be? Why create a character like that at all?

— The other strong storyline of the episode IMO is Esther and her sister, and I really liked the scene in the van in the end, Esther trying to doing her best even though the tears are running down her face, the way it shows both her strength and weakness at once.

(On that note, I have no problem with Ester doing what she did; yes, it was stupid, yes, she should have known better, but it was also very understandable. What I have more of a problem with is Jack falling right into the trap when he sees Gwen tied up, because he used to be a lot colder and clearer-thinking in situations like that, if you look (e.g.) at Meat, but I guess after CoE, with Gwen the only one left, his reaction is also at least somewhat understandable. In fact, in some respects the whole MD scenario must feel to Jack like he's come back and stepped right into some sort of nightmarish déjà vu...)

— So, the mysterious villains/aliens? I've seen various speculations, but I don't think it'll be anyone we know from DW or TW canon, not even the aliens from Sleeper.

— What makes me sad is that all the new main female characters have the kind of supermodel figure that makes Gwen almost stand out. I miss all the normal looking people from British TW. I miss the fact that Jack's daughter could be played by an actress who wasn't completely thin. And what it is it with those ridiculously high heels everyone's wearing? Kudos to Gwen for remarking on that and stuffing the shoes into her handbag, continuing barefoot, but even that was a bit strange, considering that pretty much every single female character seems to be wearing shoes like that as a matter of fact, however impractical and/or uncomfortable they may be in the given situation. When Esther ran from Jack in the first episode, it apparently didn't even occur to her to take them off, never mind she was slipping and stumbling up the stairs.

(— What MD does prove with its worldwide 'dead man walking' scenario, is, I think, that the death theme was never coincidental in TW, but always central, right from the first episode with the dead body in the rain and the resurrection glove and Jack's question about what happens after death...)

[Still need to listen to the radio plays (& hopefully will finally find the time over the weekend); no spoilers please.]


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 5th, 2011 09:15 pm (UTC)
Re. your first point — well, at least I hope the rest of the series isn't going to prove me completely, embarrassingly wrong. But the parallel really was quite obvious in ep.3...

And re. your last point — it's amazing to what an extent one simply takes things for granted without really questioning them or consciously thinking about them. For me TW has always been a dark show, but it still took a while to consciously notice what actually was happening in the first episode, and that this was a choice, whether it was a conscious or unconscious one. Because once you stop and think about it, 'resurrection' isn't exactly the first thing that comes to mind when you hear 'alien hunters'...
Aug. 5th, 2011 08:51 pm (UTC)
V. good thoughts. Am too tired to reply right now, plus there's stuff I want to discuss which ties in with the radio plays, so I'll be back once you've listened to them if that's OK?
Aug. 5th, 2011 09:15 pm (UTC)
Of course! :)
Aug. 6th, 2011 03:52 pm (UTC)
Just a quick note because I gotta run out in a few minutes. We're definitely meant to draw the parallels between both Jack and Rex, and Jack and Oswald. Jack and Rex were, figuratively and literally, pierced through the heart. And Oswald makes a fantastic mirror to Jack: Oswald killed a child because he wanted to, while Jack killed Stephen because he had no choice. The emotional continuity with CoE is staggering.

I was so glad Gwen commented on the ridiculousness of wearing such high heels! There's so much subtle commentary about British vs. American TV, it's like MD is a satire of American productions.

I would love to read your thoughts about episode 5 ("The Categories of Life"). I watched it last night, and--wow. Let's just say it's a game-changer.
Aug. 6th, 2011 11:58 pm (UTC)
I watched it today, and yes, the end was really something. Through most of the episode I still thought that MD and CoE are simply too close, and that this might be a problem, but at the end it felt like MD was really going to take a different direction now, although I have absolutely no idea what that might be. Who profits by killing these people? What's the point? Why stage the miracle in the first place if you end up killing those people who would have died without it?
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )


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