13 December 2021: not really a review of Flux added.
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This isn't actually very good. So why did we find it quite watchable?
It's not because of the bog-standard Soap Wedding From Hell. (Phil Ford's churned out plenty of these in his time, and boy, can we tell.) From beginning to end, it's one long cliché, with the full complement of battling mothers-in-law, annoying best man, tippling bridesmaids et al.
It's not because of the silly shapeshifter plot, either. The shapeshifter breeding isn't a bad idea, but it's worked out with the usual infuriating lack of attention to detail that Torchwood makes its own. Where do we start? What about with Gwen going through with the wedding without taking two seconds to think about the impact her sudden pregnancy and subsequent lack of offspring is going to have on everybody who knows her? Springing the "baby" on her parents is stretching credibility to the limit, even if she hasn't seen them for nine months, but expecting her bridesmaids to swallow the story when the night before she was out with them with a flat stomach getting drunk is just taking the piss. And the feeble attempt to retcon this via the bridesmaids' conversation at the wedding only makes it worse. Yes, we know Gwen's upset and not thinking clearly, but to figure out that "My mum and dad think that they are getting a grandchild" (Ya think?) only after the big announcement makes her look several slices of cheese short of a Welsh rarebit.
Then there's the way they deal with the threat. Why in God's name don't they just bundle Gwen into the Torchwoodmobile as soon as they arrive and whisk her off back to the Hub? Nope, too easy. Instead, they keep huddling together in little groups in different hotel rooms, thus making it totally impossible to keep track of the shapeshifter. And if that weren't bad enough, despite the fact that they know the shapeshifter can impersonate anyone they also keep merrily flinging open the door to anybody who knocks. Gah.
You'd think, wouldn't you, that once the shapeshifter's actually had a go at Gwen they'd have learned their lesson? But no. Instead of finally getting their act together and doing a bunk, they leave Gwen on her own. Surely then, after Jack's done his really, really bad Hammer Horror bit, they're finally going to form a ring around Gwen, Glocks rampant, and get her to the SUV and safety? Nuh-uh. Instead, we get some stupid and pointless vague fleeage. It's completely maddening.
But wait, there's more. How come Gwen can pound through the streets of Cardiff with her gun out and none of the locals even blink an eyelid? (Cardiff's certainly got well 'ard since the last time we were there.) Why did it take them nineteen minutes to think of using the zappy thing when we thought of it straight away? We know they say they're undertaking a major mopping-up operation, which we guess will deal with the death somehow, but hello? Isn't it going to strike anyone as the teensiest bit suspicious that nobody can remember Gwen's wedding? And about that death: isn't the guy a close mate of Rhys's? Rhys doesn't seem terribly cut up about the fact that he's been crunched up and spat out by a shapeshifter, and he hasn't even been retconned.
So why did we quite like it (at least by Torchwood standards)? It's because amongst all the dross it manages to hit some very nice character notes. The beginning, with the obvious-but-effective contrasting of Gwen's job with her hen night culminating in the shock horror pregnancy, is one of the best we've seen on Torchwood. (We particularly like the little touches like the way she wakes up, sees her wedding dress and grins. Despite all the cow-eyed pining after Jack, she's pretty damned happy to be marrying Rhys, and after what she's put him through that's nice to see.) And, Jack again notwithstanding, we actually sniffled a bit at the "all I want to do is marry you" scene. For once in Torchwood, it actually had the feel of genuine emotion.
While the disapproving in-laws is a well-worn theme, again it's done in a way that feels very real (we're especially fond of Rhys's dad observing "You loved Carys Morgan once" and Rhys expostulating "I was twelve years old!"). And we like the lightly handled Ianto Love Triangle thing too: it's Torchwood, after all, so it could have been a great deal less subtle than that.
Torchwood never feels real. Toss out the supernatural trappings, and this sometimes does. Despite all the dumb stuff, that's a big tick from us.
So Gwen sleeps in her bra? Weird. Too drunk to get undressed, or kind of like the way Carrie never took her bra off? (Straight men, it's OK, you're not expected to understand what we're talking about.)
We're as feminist as it comes, but we can't approve of the way Tosh treats that harmless (if annoying) best man. That's not girl power; it's just being a bitch.
"An American with no sense of timing or fashion"? Amen, Nerys! Guess she clocked the hideously wrong braces and belt combo.
And following Owen's resurrection, this week we get immaculate conception and an almost-birth in a stable.