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Torchwood: Countrycide

Owen: "I hate the countryside. It's dirty. It's unhygienic. And what is that smell?"
Gwen: "That would be grass."

You really get to know your work mates when you go camping together and get kidnapped by cannibals.

Yes, I'm being sarcastic, but in fact, this was the first episode with some real character meat in it, pardon the pun. Take our cast, remove them from the city they know so well, have them rely totally on each other in a gruesome life and death situation. It's character development 101. And it worked for me.

The "last person you snogged" scene was inspired, because it told us a choice bit about each of them. For Ianto, it was Lisa, tragic love affair ending with death and a lot of overacting. For Gwen, it was Rhys, of course. We learned that Owen is the type who kisses and tells, and now everyone knows what he and Gwen did on that slab in the Torchwood morgue. Sadly, for Tosh, it was an offhand Christmas kiss from Owen. If she's that fixated on a casual kiss from a workmate, and hasn't kissed anyone else in the meantime, she is way too alone, and Owen means a lot to her. Jack didn't say who (or what) he'd kissed last, although at one point he looked rather intently at Ianto. Maybe he was thinking of that prolonged mouth-to-mouth that Ianto doesn't remember.

When Gwen got shot, we finally saw a different side of Owen: he has an excellent bedside manner. He got her calmed and relaxed as he tended to her; it even became oddly intimate, the way she had her hand on his neck as he was removing the bullet fragments from her side. It made me like him. Well, no. Okay, maybe just a little. And it made sense of the two of them starting an affair. Gwen is feeling alienated from her old life and from Rhys, and Owen knows what she's going through.

There were some other intriguing character tidbits. Tosh told Ianto that there wasn't a cell she couldn't get out of, so Tosh was a prisoner at some point. Jack told the guy he trapped that he'd been a torturer once, his job had demanded it. And Ianto knew he was out of his element. He was very aware that the other four all get high on danger, while he does not. And yet, he was able to distract those, um, people, so Tosh could escape. Ianto thinks of himself as outside of the group, and yet he did his job bravely and quite well.

Jack was the most distant, and his behavior the most puzzling. He kept insisting that Tosh and Ianto were fine when he must have realized that they weren't. Was he in denial? Trying to keep Gwen and Owen focused when there was nothing they could do for the others? In the end, he literally crashed to everyone's rescue in a tractor, guns blazing, shooting nearly all the bad guys; he wanted to kill them all.

Unlike Jack, Gwen didn't want to kill them all. Gwen wanted to know *why* they did what they did; she wanted to understand them. Gwen cares too much, which is probably why she went for Owen after he showed her his more sensitive side. That guy asking if he could whisper the truth into Gwen's ear was outright shuddery. I was expecting him to pull a Hannibal Lector and take her ear off. Good actor. Very creepy.

The character interaction was the highlight for me, but I should probably discuss the plot, too. The vicious cannibals living in the sticks has been done before; I can (again), without trying hard, come up with two other series who have done the same plot, and of course, there are movies. But (again), it's the execution that counts, and this episode was tense and frightening from beginning to end. We didn't actually see the bad guys until more than halfway through the episode, and as I've probably said a thousand times, what we make up in our own minds is always scarier. And when they arrived, it actually got worse. Bravo.

Bits and pieces:

-- The problem wasn't aliens, for the second episode in a row. Although I've always thought that people who can kill without conscience aren't really human.

-- Every ten years? How could an entire village contain people with no consciences? And how could those who were really into it wait ten years to do it again?

-- The hanging carcasses of dead animals behind the pub and the closet full of shoes were both impressively creepy. So was the extreme isolation.

-- I really liked Eve Myles' performance in this episode.

-- Jack didn't die this time, even though the body count was exceptionally high.


Jack: "No other race in the universe goes camping. Celebrate your own uniqueness."

Tosh: "Need a hand getting it up, Owen?"
Owen: "If I did, I wouldn't ask you."

Owen: "Jack?"
Jack: "Are we including non-human life forms?"

Owen: "Do you want a quip about feeling a small prick?"
Gwen: "No. But thanks for offering."

Owen: "Lie back and think of Torchwood."

Tosh: "It's worth the risk to protect people."
Ianto: "And who protects us?"

Icky, but pretty darned good. Three stars,

Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.


  1. I loved this one. The best from the first half of the season.

    The cannibal plot has been done to death a million times but it was the characterisation that made the episode.

    Ianto and Toshiko had fantastic moments together as did Owen, Gwen and Jack.

    I think it's also the only episode from the first two seasons that doesn't feature the Hub and has Ianto in civvies as well.

    Maybe it's a sci-fi thing but humans are more noticeably scarier in this genre than anything that can be put in latex or needs CGI assistance.

  2. Awesome picture! :D

    Your reviews make me want to watch the series again. It took me a while to like the characters, so maybe I can appreciate these early episodes more then. I'll schedule it in after Babylon 5. (Yes, I'm crazy, I have a TV schedule...)

    I can tell you like the show by the way, you're blindingly fast with the reviews! ;)

  3. I do love Torchwood. It speaks to me more than Doctor Who does. (I hope that's not sacrilege.)

    It's not that fast, actually. I'm a few ahead.

  4. This was good--I'm starting to be impressed. But Gwen and Owen? That's all wrong.

  5. I'm re-watching this in 2020.
    I grew up with Doctor Who and hiding behind the sofa, it's a very English thing.
    Using an actor who you know but not an A lister (like the head cannibal) was a throwback to Old Skool Dr Who lol x


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