Exit Wounds

Posted in Episode by - July 18, 2018
Exit Wounds

Aired 04 April 2008

Picking up in the aftermath of ‘Fragments’ with the Torchwood Three team shaken but mostly unharmed, ‘Exit Wounds’ by Chris Chibnall offers an emotional and mostly successful finale to this current iteration of the organisation while boldly changing the trajectory for any future tales.

Captain John Hart returns and makes no secret of the fact that he is behind this harrowing event, though the later revelation that it was not intended to kill Torchwood is a nice touch that balances out his genuine upset about Jack tossing him aside to be with his team instead. Strangely, the rest of Torchwood don’t seem to really latch onto the fact that John has also revealed that Jack’s brother Gray is still alive, but their attention is quickly diverted as Jack sends Gwen and Rhys to the police station, Owen to the hospital, and Tosh and Ianto to the Central IT Server building that have all become local sites of rift activity. With John blowing up Cardiff in at least fifteen locations but giving just enough intimations to suggest that he is not wholly in control of his actions as monsters begin to roam the streets and establishments of the city, Chibnall wonderfully sets the scene for an explosive but intimate tale that looks to draw upon everything that has previously been established.

James Marsters instantly captured the roguish charm and danger of Captain John in ‘Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang,’ and he only further exemplifies the inherent unpredictability, menace, and undeniable congeniality of this man from Jack’s past here. This is perhaps no more evident than when he mercilessly and repeatedly shoots Jack in the chest and decrees that things are going to get messy after earnestly declaring his love for him. Marsters successfully plays up a degree of ambiguity regarding just how much he can be trusted throughout, and when a revived Jack quickly cuts through John’s anger at being disregarded to question just where his brother is, John’s withholding of information to simply proclaim that there was nothing Jack could do only infuriates Jack further. As John turns to the rift manipulator and begins torturing Jack anew, Jack’s insistence that he will stop him and John’s resulting claim that he hopes so are both brilliantly realised and typify the immense chemistry Barrowman and Marsters have even in this heightened and explosive situation.

In 27 AD away from an unknown trigger signal, John reveals to Jack that he has had a life generation detonator molecularly fused to his wrist, a device that Jack accepts has made John into a walking bomb. As Gray appears and John asks that Jack simply run, Jack instead runs to embrace his brother who has been lost for so long and apologises, his genuine attempts at compassion brutally met with a knife through the chest and a scoff that sorry is not good enough. Though Gray has not necessarily been a constant narrative thread through this second run of episodes, he has certainly been weighing on Jack’s mind, and having the reunion end with Gray forcing John to bury Jack alive so that he can die and revive over and over again for millennia is a shocking twist that once more proves just how dangerous the world in which Jack treads is. Lachlan Nieboer is an inspired choice for Jack’s brother given the similarities between his own voice and appearance with Barrowman’s, and though he doesn’t quite manage to pull off the menace that the character needed throughout the episode to be a truly memorable threat, he certainly commands attention and leaves a lasting impact on the mythology of the show in general.

Following an immense moment of support from Rhys, Gwen assertively takes control to explore the reported rift activity emanating from within the Hub while Tosh and Ianto try to prevent nuclear meltdown. Finding John in place of Jack, Gwen understandably does not implicitly trust him, but his story about rescuing who he assumed to be a hero instead of who Gray becomes is a harrowing one that seems to gain credence as his wrist detonator loosens as recompense for completing his assigned task. As a deafening shriek begins to blare through the Hub, Gray proves that he is not yet finished with Torchwood and Cardiff as his actions result in Weevils completely overrunning the streets, and only Owen as the self-proclaimed and referential king of the Weevils can reach the plant in imminent danger. With the Weevils swarming in the Hub as well, Ianto and Tosh arrive just in time to save Gwen and John, and Gray’s pointed statement that John chose to come back here with the entire universe open to him is perhaps the greatest badge of honour John could ever attain.

Consequences have never been so severe, however, and Gray shoots Tosh in the abdomen just as she proclaims that she can fix the reactor that has already gone critical in which Owen finds himself trapped. A pounding echoing through the Hub keeps Gray from following his cold impulses to completion, and a quick flashback to 1901 in which Jack inadvertently crosses his own timeline and implores that Torchwood freeze him until this designated time is a quick but efficient means of using Jack’s unique state to reintegrate him into the present. As Jack reinforces his forgiveness and asks for absolution, Gray proves that his singular strength is his unforgiving hatred for Jack, and Jack deciding to turn against his brother and to freeze him in stasis is a fitting conclusion that thankfully does not undo the character work already put in motion throughout the episode. However, with the only option to stop the reactor from going into meltdown being to vent internally to Owen’s location as Tosh refuses to disclose her injuries to him, the impending deaths of both of these characters are played rivetingly by Naoko Mori and Burn Gorman as Owen insists that he cannot go out in this manner and Tosh begs him to stop because it’s all her fault. This presents a wonderfully candid moment in which the two drop all pretenses and simply talk to each other, reminiscing about the past and their missed opportunities together, and this proves to be the perfect send-off for these two characters who have developed so much throughout Torchwood’s run.

Avoiding a reset button with Owen’s condition and Tosh’s injuries is a bold but brilliant decision and only further underscores that absolutely nobody is safe in this world with its many unexpected dangers. ‘Exit Wounds’ may not be completely flawless, but it’s a brave encapsulation of everything that has made this second series substantially more cohesive and impactful than the more disjointed first and sets an incredible precedent going forward, making the most of each of its core and returning characters to craft an immense finale in more ways than one.

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