Escape Room

Posted in Audio by - May 23, 2018
Escape Room

Released February 2018
SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

With Yvonne Hartman fully in command of Torchwood and imposing her corporate vision for team-building and synergy upon her determined but unstructured group, Gwen and Rhys follow a recommendation to an escape room for a night out with the Colchester-Prices. These confined puzzle rooms are all the rage, and although not everyone who enters this particular game comes out, these Torchwood stalwarts and their beloved partners are sure that they’re up to the challenge in Helen Goldwyn’s ‘Escape Room’ as Aliens Among Us continues its tour of topical relevance.

‘Escape Room’ is certainly the most standalone affair of this third set so far, putting aside the momentum of the Yvonne and Sorvix storylines to focus on an intimate exploration of these four engaging characters put in incredibly heightened circumstances. Torchwood has always thrived when redefining the limits of its characters’ relationships even without a visually impressive alien threat before its members, and the series of dangerous challenges laid before these colleagues and lovers unquestionably challenges any preconceived notions of nicety and trust no matter how new or established their individual relationships are. As devotion to others battles against the innate and desperate desire for self-preservation in this literal death trap, the unexpected twists and cruel surprises ensure that the strengths and weaknesses of all four are boldly exposed for better or for worse.

The pairings of Colchester with Rhys and Gwen with Colin are a masterstroke and ensure that trust is anything but a given no matter how honourable and moral these characters may be in normal circumstances. Of course, Gwen is anything but herself in this series, and Alexandria Price continues to shine as this impostor who continues to find it harder and harder to keep her possession of Gwen a secret. She has proven that she’s willing to kill those who even suggest that she doesn’t seem like the proper Gwen, and that underlying threat proves to be just as viscerally dangerous as the very real traps in this room as emotions continue to intensify. Indeed, the times when she must work with Rhys are amongst the story’s strongest and further develop the troubled relationship between these two that has been fraying more and more as the series has progressed precisely because of this secret. Gwen may have traveled to some dark placed throughout her time in Torchwood, but Goldwyn takes full advantage of this unique situation by showcasing a truly indignant and selfish being. Contrasted with Colchester who continues to soften and become more personable as time goes on and with Rhys and Colin who find themselves in the similar situation of being on the outside of Torchwood looking in while their loved ones confront unimaginable horrors on a daily basis, this not-Gwen is utterly ruthless and continues to draw the more discerning attention of others that she has tried so hard to avoid to this point, culminating in a dramatic finale that nobody can ignore.

Paul Clayton, Kai Owen, and Ramon Tikaram all perform admirably with the full range of emotion required of them, and Terrence Hardiman gives a chillingly effective performance as the voice of Escape who speaks so directly to the inner sentiments of these contestants. The character studies of Colchester and Colin aren’t quite as effective as in ‘A Kill to a View,’ but the thrusting of the motivations and thoughts of this version of Gwen into the spotlight anchors the drama that the tense atmosphere and score help tobring to life expertly. ‘Escape Room’ is another strong and enjoyable addition to Aliens Among Us and continues to flesh out both lead and supporting characters alike with themes of selfishness and selflessness within different belief systems, but it also seems rather oddly placed given that this is the penultimate story of the series. Instead of amplifying the Sorvix menace and putting pieces into motion for a bombastic finale, this is a relatively small and standalone affair that marks a distinct departure from the momentum that the previous two stories had created. While there isn’t anywhere else that this story could have gone within this set and while it unquestionably has a great deal of definite strengths, ‘Escape Room’ simply seems too isolated given the many other ongoing plotlines in this series that are pushed to the background even as it foreshadows the one true faith to lead into the finale.

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