Everything that I loved about the first series of Torchwood just got even better in the second series. Admittedly adding James Marsden in as an antagonist works for quite a lot of things (check him out in Warehouse 13 too), but it wasn’t just the cameos. The tv show on its own just had a better grasp of what it was and what it was trying to do.
I adore the second series because it’s less about establishing the characters and more about taking the characters and ripping out their hearts. That makes me sound like an awful person, but really its great television. The danger but also the joy and fulfilment they can find their lives as they work at Torchwood is explored a lot more deeply. They also confront themselves and the other characters as well.
It was also great to see Martha Jones, a companion of the Doctor make an appearance as well. I didn’t appreciate her very much as a companion and I suspect a lot of that comes from the fact the Doctor himself underrates her, so it was great to see her holding her own and making a brilliant impression of what she as a character is capable of doing without the restraints of being part of a family tv show.
It’s hard to do a set of series highlights for series two because there are so many great episodes to choose from. Owen goes from being the angry man of series 1 to the angry and now reincarnated man of series two, who learns humility in death. His episodes in the middle of the series show his development as a character as he learns to deal with the new condition of his life. Toshiko is changed by his death, because she’s in love with him, but she has turmoil of her own. Her relationship with Tommy in ‘Last Man Standing’ is tragic and heart-aching beautiful.
Gwen develops her relationship with Rhys further from Meat, to Something Borrowed to Adrift, as she copes with the turmoil of maintaining her relationship with him and the strain of her job. Admittedly I understood her relationship with Owen in series 1, certainly a lot more than I do her relationship with Rhys in season 2. The way he follows her and gets mixed up in the mess in ‘Meat’ show signs of a jealous stalker, and his complete lack of compassion in Adrift just screams at me of a toxic relationship.
He knows at that point that she has a hard job, that she is going to have bad days at work and all he expects her to do is shut it off and be a womb for his future. As lovely as the character can be and as great as he drives the plot forward, I can’t stand the fact they got married in ‘Something Borrowed’ because I feel Gwen deserves better and I was glad their wedding day was screwed up. The brilliant thing is though is that as strong and as confident a woman as Gwen is, she doesn’t believe she deserves better. She’s flawed and human and it’s great television.
And then there is Jack. James Marsden turning up as an associate from his past makes for great character interaction. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang was a great series opener, and Exit Wounds was a great finale to redeem the character (but not too much). What really troubles Jack through the entire series though is the haunting remark about Gray, his brother. ‘Adam’ is easily one of the best episodes of Torchwood ever made, because Adam just messes with all of the characters and turns them completely inside out.
Part of it is delving into Jack’s childhood and pulling out why he feels such regret. Fragments though is the origin story of how Jack brought everyone to Torchwood, and how he ended up there himself, all instigated as they are blown up by Gray. It is a touching and heart-warming episode. It doesn’t mean much unless you know the characters, but as the penultimate episode of the series I think I have to admit it is my favourite.