Torchwood Season Two
Season Two of Torchwood is a step up from the previous season; mostly because it puts just as much emphasis on exploring its protagonists as it does alien incidents.
We finally start to learn something about Captain Jack Harkness, beginning with the arrival of a past co-worker / lover, Captain John Hart (James Marsters). Both of them are time agents; which begs the question; what exactly is the time agency? The only two representative we’ve seen of it were engaged in criminal activity.
Jack feels responsible for John’s reign of destruction. His sense of responsibility for others is a central theme of the season, which we learn came out of a failing to protect someone in the past. The season long story arc is based on this past incident, and this time around, it’s much better integrated into the season (not just a few random lines in previous episodes). It comes to a climax rather too quickly (there could have been a lot more done with the antagonist at the end), but the ground work and back story are laid out at a nice pace and don’t feel tacked on. Of particular note is the episode ‘Adam,’ in which an alien integrates itself into the team by manipulating their memories, which gives the writers the chance to have Jack talk bout his past without violating his character.
Owen Harper has a large secondary arc this season. In season one, he was portrayed as someone living only for today, and eschewing long term plans or commitments. Midway through the season he dies, and yet he continues on; alive, but without biological function. He becomes the physical manifestation of his character, someone who moves through life merely existing, but permanently unable to grow or connect.
In Jack’s absence between seasons (during which time he was reunited with Doctor Who), Ianto became a stronger contributor in the team. Now, in addition to getting tea, he also carries a gun and participates in investigations. This promotion comes with a stronger sense of self, and Ianto commits more fully to his relationship with Jack, apparently seeing himself as more than just a FWB.
Gwen becomes the de facto leader while Jack’s away, and this seems to scare her a little, because she fights to strengthen her life outside of Torchwood by marrying Rhys. In the episode ‘Meat,’ Gwen takes a serious stand to protect herself from suffering the same jaded, lonely lives the other Torchwood members do, by combining the two sides of her life.
Toshiko Sato doesn’t grow much this season. Her starring episode is ‘To The Last Man,’ about a WWI soldier who is stored in cryogenic stasis at the Torchwood Hub. One day a year, he’s thawed out for a checkup, during which time Toshiko flirts with him. It’s the perfect relationship for her. She has a captive audience, being the only available girl he ever sees, and with only one day a year to see each other, she never has to worry about it progressing.
When Owen dies, the crush Toshiko has been nursing for him takes a step up, perhaps because now that he’s flawed, she considers him to be down to her level.
The best episode of the season is ‘Fragments,’ in which the team is trapped in a collapsed building and flashback to how they joined Torchwood in the first place. Jack’s story is someone more plotty than the others, seeing as it covers a wide expanse of time. Toshiko and Owen are deeply fleshed out in this episode, as we see some of the pivotal moments that made them what they are today.
Torchwood Season Two is still an episodic series, like the season before it; but now it’s an episodic series with a bigger perspective. All of the characters are developed considerably more this time around, and the story takes some very daring twists along the way.