Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

Posted in Episode by - June 27, 2018
Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

Aired 16 January 2008

Over a year after the broadcast of the finale of its first series in which Captain Jack Harkness saved the world and then left his team to pursue the Tenth Doctor to the very end of the universe, Torchwood returns for its second series with ‘Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang’ by Chris Chibnall, a story that aptly tries to deliver a kiss to the past as well as a bang with a confident new direction and purpose.

It’s no secret that Jack isn’t exactly the best and most organized boss, and it should come as no surprise that Torchwood Three seems at least slightly less dysfunctional and more professional with Gwen in charge during Jack’s absence as the action picks up with the team chasing an alien through the streets of Cardiff in a scene that seems to suggest the show is not shying away from its more outlandish moments after a fair share in the previous run. Of course, Gwen’s lead of the team takes place off screen given Jack’s triumphant return to save the day in the bombastic manner only he can deliver, but even though the dysfunction is part of what makes this team unique given how well-run other iterations of Torchwood and similar organisations are within this universe, it will be interesting to see if some sort of structure and command makes its way into the fabric of the show as it continues to progress or if the group members ever meaningfully and earnestly discusses how they do and should function given their recent experiences.

For a team still searching for its true identity, then, the arrival of James Marsters’s charismatic Captain John Hart is anything but desirable given how much he further upturns any semblance of a status quo and shows just how messed up these individuals truly are. Fortunately, this enigmatic figure who comes from Jack’s days in the Time Agency fits within this universe perfectly, and he is summed up wonderfully in the introductory scene that sees Jack and he switch between loving and murderous intent. It’s often difficult for Torchwood to find a character colourful and grandiose enough to go up against the profound presence of Jack without either going over the top to overcompensate or else going too serious which then makes Jack a focal outlier, but Marsters here is the perfect foil for Barrowman and the two absolutely sparkle when together while filling in some of Jack’s backstory and providing a tantalising hint about the mysterious Grey and what is yet to come.

Interestingly, though probably not for the best given this is a series opener, the actual plot concerning John does not actually necessitate the Torchwood team at all. Instead, this truly is a story about John and what he brings both in the presence of Jack and not, but putting so much focus on a guest star in a premiere is nonetheless an odd choice regardless of how spectacular that guest star is. Whether they ultimately worked or not, the first series was certainly not afraid of introducing strong character moments and arcs for its leads, and ‘Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang’ is a step backwards in that regard, though there is obviously plenty of time for that aspect of the scripts to reassert itself in the future. So while the episode is immense fun as a whole and arguably makes the best use of Barrowman’s unique energy yet with his own quasi-Master to combat, the portions of the story without the two Captains fail to really capitalise on the momentum and feel rather unbalanced and mixed as a result. Still, the stylised confidence, charm, and vigour on display combine to provide a strong sense of hope for this second run of Torchwood episodes.

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