To the Last Man

Posted in Episode by - July 10, 2018
To the Last Man

Aired 30 January 2008

‘To the LasT Man’ slows down the high-paced action that fueled ‘Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang’ and ‘Sleeper’ to open this second series of Torchwood, demonstrating the franchise’s inherent versatility while offering both a heartwarming and brutal look at the extremes of humanity when experiencing the fallout of war from different perspectives.

Opening the episode at Teilos Hospital in 1918 with Toshiko and a soldier named Tommy telling Torchwood operatives Gerald and Harriet to get the other Tommy may result in a sense of inevitability for the trajectory of the plot as events then flash forward to the Hub in the present, but it also sets up a neat temporal mystery and reaffirms just how long Torchwood has been around in its many forms. Indeed, the strong revelation that Tommy died in 1918 but has been cryogenically frozen and woken up for one day per year since to keep him alive and sustainable until his eventual time of need comes to help with the strengthening temporal rift linking these two eras further intensifies this motif and shows a more character-driven side of the team than that usually fueled by bombastic alien threats.

It’s sadly telling that Toshiko takes charge and takes Tommy out for the day, knowing deep down that Tommy is likely doomed but admitting that he is the only one she can be herself around and not hiding her apparent feelings for him from anyone, an element that surprisingly brings out a more caring sentiment to Owen when he asks that she be careful and not hurt herself. Tosh is a strong and independent woman who is so suited for love, and allaying her loneliness at least for one day with Tommy who points out that she does not live her life outside of the work that she so loves is a refreshing and incisive break for this character who often finds herself filling more of a background role. Naoko Mori excels with a dynamic range of emotions portrayed to exemplify the inner conflict and turmoil of Toshiko, and Anthony Lewis and she have an immense chemistry that brings this hopeless relationship to life wonderfully.

As the clock ticks down in the present, the pieces to this temporal mystery slowly slot into place as 1918 begins bleeding through into the present and a message from the past hints at what must be done. Unfortunately, though Tommy is unwittingly thrust into the role of hero to save 2008, doing so means that he will also fulfill his destiny of being killed for cowardice due to shellshock back in 1918, a fact that adds a strong moral nuance to the even-tempered but conflicting arguments that both Toshiko and Jack make. It’s in moments like these that the Torchwood team really feels like a team with members who genuinely do care about each other, something that was missing all too frequently in the first run of episodes, and the horrors of Jack’s own wartime past as well as Tommy’s fear of sacrifice add an immense amount of emotion to an already heightened situation.

That said, the final scene in which Toshiko must psychically contact Tommy in the past to use the rift manipulator is somewhat devoid of the intense emotions that had preceded it. It’s another sweet moment, but Tommy’s missing memories due to the shock don’t quite allow the immense emotional goodbye that could have otherwise resulted. Still, ‘To The Last Man’ is another strong episode for Toshiko and represents an incredible step forward for the emotional core of Torchwood Three as a whole, a dynamic that hopefully continues to develop as this second series progresses.

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