5 December 2018: It Takes You Away review added.
26 November 2018: The Witchfinders review added.
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KISS KISS, BANG BANG
Look, even the BBC knows last year was rubbish. Before Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang started, the announcer said "It's punchier, pacier, funnier!". Translation: not as shit. Sadly, she was wrong. It's exactly the same shade of shit as before.
We're going to keep this short, because everything we said about Torchwood's first season still applies. Quick recap: Gwen = so-called caring one who tromps all over her partner's trust and clunkily pants after Jack. Owen = repulsiveness incarnate. Tosh = who? Ianto = tedious teaboy and inexplicable lust object. Jack = the most interesting of the lot, but frankly, that's not saying much. The team = a cross between useless and pathetic.
So what's different? Not much. All that's the same. The new, exciting variation is that in an attempt to derail the audience noticing how bad it is, they've thrown in some self-mockery. "Bloody Torchwood." "Look at you trying so hard to be all grown up." Et al. Unfortunately, all this does is underline the craptasticness.
Not that the fish is wrong. Trying so hard to be grown up. Trying so hard to have personalities. Trying so hard to be hip. Trying so hard in general. Trying so hard, in fact, that it's painful to watch. Yes, Torchwood's back.
We weren't exactly brimming with enthusiasm last year for Chris Chibnall's scripts, so we weren't expecting much from this one. And that's about what we got. A horrific As You Know, Bob start to get viewers who'd managed to escape last season up to speed, a silly plot which tries to cover its holes with eye-distracting toing and froing, and a truckload of leaden innuendo.
Like Chibnall's previous episodes, it's about as subtle as a Dalek in drag. It's all text and no subtext, which is what makes it so yawnsome. Hey, we have cerebral cortexes, y'know. We can probably join dots all by ourselves. But instead of that, it's spelled out oh so carefully in case we miss any of the supposed character development, and what's more, it's done in the hokiest way possible. So Gwen's missed Jack? Let's have her say "You left us, Jack!" and give Jack an angry shove! So Gwen's still carrying a torch for Jack despite her engagement to the hapless Rhys? Let's have her say "No-one else'll have me" and heave a big gooey sigh when Jack gives her a hug! So Jack has a conflicted relationship with John? Let's have them kiss, then fight to the most godawfully obvious music cue in the universe! Oh, Blur, what evil is done in your name.
And it's not just the character "development". It's the plot, too. Do a Princess Leia knockoff, then point it out. Set up a sub-Bondesque poisoned lipgloss plot, then point it out. Urgh. The plot stupidity levels, too, are awe-inspiring. How stupid are Gwen and Tosh and Owen, being effortlessly run over by a guy that makes them look about as coldly efficient as a pack of Brownies? And how stupid is Jack to let John anywhere near them? Very, which is exactly as stupid as they need to be to make this plot get off the ground.
Then there are the plot holes. You know a story's in trouble when they have to ADR over some of the most egregious (with an equally egregious solution: why the hell would cutting his hand off detonate the bomb?). And when Owen "disrupted" John's "DNA coding" by shaking some blood together like happy hour in the vampire bar then injecting it into John's heart, we had to press pause until we could stop laughing.
And the writing, dear God, the writing. Lucky for the blowfish that he was wearing all that latex, because a speech like the "all grown up" one could trash a career before it started. "Her cold devices"? Argh. And the rest's just as bad. "The Vegas galaxies"? Trite. "Hypersteel"? Uninventive. "But we keep coming back, stronger every time"? Excruciating.
And what about the Big Name Guest Star? We all know what a Buffy/Angel fan Russell T Davies is, so when he got Spike on his show, he must have been tingling in some very special places. As for us, we're as much Buffy and Angel fans as anyone, but we always had a problem with Spike. Great character and all, but we could never get past his terrible, terrible accent. When he first appeared on screen, we joined hands and prayed to the Great Goddess Bafta that this time they were going to let him speak with his own accent.
Then he opened his mouth, and we blew the votive candles out and scoffed the offering of chocolate ourselves. Yes. They actually made him do an English(ish) accent. In a British programme. He's had some dialect coaching since Buffy days, but his accent still wanders all over the map. As far as we're concerned, that completely gets in the way. He might be OK: we can't tell. Looks like Spike with a dye job to us. And what's with the mirthful Adam Ant outfit?
It's not all bad. PC Andy's in it, so yay! And you can make your own fun (in fact, you have to). Tosh: "Why didn't he just kill us?" Us: "Yeah, why?" Owen: "Maybe he just underestimated us." Us: "Is that even possible?"
Same dumb characters, same dumb writing. Not exactly a rocket out of the starting blocks.
"He shuts us out, we don't even know his real name." Still banging on about that, Gwen? Why does Jack owe them his life story, anyway? And what does it matter what his real name is?
How, exactly, does the bomb know who killed whatsername?
IANTO. JONES IANTO.
Why is that test tube labelled "Ianto, Jones"? Shouldn't it be "Jones, Ianto"? "Or even "Ianto Jones"?
TELL LAURA I LOVE HER
"Tell Jack I-" Yep, they really did make her say that. Only redeemable by making up your own ending. Tell Jack I want a pickled onion? Tell Jack I was the one who farted in the lift? Your turn.