Fragments

Posted in Episode by - July 18, 2018
Fragments

Aired 21 March 2008

With the Torchwood Three team lured to a bomb attack and trapped beneath the rubble, ‘Fragments’ by Chris Chibnall as the twenty-fifth episode of Torchwood and the penultimate episode of the second series finally explores just how the characters that Gwen has come to care for so much came to join the famed organisation.

Captioned with 1,392 deaths earlier that hints at just how tortured Jack’s existence has been and why he has come to be the way he is, the first flashback sequence begins to fill in the lengthy gap in Jack’s timeline following ‘The Parting of the Ways’ as he searches for the Doctor whom he wants to both kiss and kill but soon learns though the returning fortune teller from ‘Dead Man Walking’ that his wait will be an excessively long one. He understandably does not take well to initially being trapped in the 1800s, and his seeming inability to die as he drinks and gets in fights to fill his time naturally draws the attention of the Torchwood operatives of the time. Though these two women are distinctly unimpressed that Jack cannot lead them to the Doctor to fulfill their royal mandate, they have no qualms resorting to threats to ensure Jack completes missions on their behalf, and their lethal means of dealing with problems is an eye-opener for Jack that explains some of the hardness he will come to show in the future. As the narrative seamlessly transitions to New Year’s Eve of 1999, Jack’s Torchwood boss Alex speaks of imminent darkness and kills all of his team as well as himself in what he proclaims to be an act of mercy, giving Jack control and serving as a stark reminder of just how dangerous this life can be.

With Gwen, Rhys, and Jack trying to free Tosh, Naoko Mori gives a profoundly moving performance to bring her agony and struggle to life. Her flashback reveals that she has unsurprisingly always been a dedicated and loyal worker, but showing her stealing secret files from the Ministry of Defence and then furtively working on a sonic modulator is a surprising course of action that initially questions her morality before revealing that she is only doing what is necessary to ensure the safety of her mother who is being held hostage. Facing death at the hands of these nefarious individuals and then a life of imprisonment after UNIT storms in and arrests and confines her without any notion of due process, Tosh is all too eager to join Torchwood when Jack shows up as a beacon of light despite what essentially amounts to blackmail and offers her a five-year term on his team after recognising the technical genius that she is.

Unfortunately, Ianto’s own flashback falls somewhat flat following the immensely engaging preceding two, focusing on Ianto’s incessant attempts to be hired at Torchwood Three following the fall of Torchwood One. While Lisa’s fate is an inspiring motivational force for Ianto here as he continues to disregard Jack’s refusals, it’s clear that this sequence is more intended to highlight the immediate chemistry and attraction that these two have for each other, and the Weevil and pterodactyl sequences more than prove that Ianto can stand his own in a much greater capacity than the coffee maker position in which he was initially shown. Still, even though this sequence does a suitable job in its own right, it does seem like something of a missed opportunity to not explore Ianto before he became involved with Torchwood in the first place and how the character that has been developed initially came to be.

Owen’s flashback is perhaps the most enlightening and satisfying of the bunch and manages to put so much of Owen’s irrepressibly womanising and chauvinistic behaviour that featured so overtly at the beginning of Torchwood’s run in wholly new context. Due to be wed to Katie and reveling in the bliss of engagement, Owen’s world is increasingly shaken as Katie begins developing signs of rapidly-progressing memory loss. Andrea Lowe is superb in this role, and her continued apologies to Owen for forgetting crucial details is heartbreakingly effective and poignant, lending extra credence to Owen’s insistence that there is no reason to do his job if he cannot save the one he loves. Following a scan that reveals a mass that can be removed, Owen finds himself suddenly thrust into the world of Torchwood as the growth proves to be a lethal alien being and Jack appears to completely erase all evidence of anything associated with the event, leaving Owen alone and presumably suffering from the madness of grief in the eyes of those around him. It seems a bit improbable that Owen would so quickly accept Jack’s offer to join him following these events even with the promise of adventure and truth given that he knows the truth, but Burn Gorman excels throughout and shows a completely different side of his character that still meshes with everything that has come before, for better or for worse.

While it’s almost impossible that the entire team should escape from this ordeal with little more than scratches and a broken arm among them, especially given Owen’s condition, this framing device and engrossing vignettes allow for great insight into these engaging but flawed characters currently in charge of protecting Cardiff and Britain as a whole. With the holographic arrival of Captain John revealing his hand in events and promising further danger for Jack, the scene is set for a momentous and personal finale that looks to build on this momentum and send off this second series on a high.

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