Posted in Episode by - June 13, 2018

Aired 24 December 2006

The second half of the first series of Torchwood has increasingly relied on human emotion to fuel its stories with science fiction elements incorporated more as framing or background devices rather than as the main narrative centrepiece, and the episodes have certainly been all the stronger for it. Doctor Who companion actor Noel Clarke continues that trend to some extent in ‘Combat’ as Owen once more takes to the spotlight, in the process expanding the mythos behind the mysterious and fearsome Weevils.

Before focusing on Owen, ‘Combat’ takes the time to show the continued fracturing of the relationship between Gwen and Rhys, Rhys knowing implicitly that she is slipping away from him as her attention continues to stray. When Jack runs up demanding help with his pursuit of a stray Weevil, Rhys’s emotions reach a boiling point and come flying out in one succinct phrase, and it seems difficult to imagine that this sequence and Gwen’s abrupt decision to leave with Jack will not have a lasting impact going forward. The scene itself is quite brief, but Eve Myles and Rhys Davis play it perfectly to emphasise the raw anger and emotion that has begun to set in with both since Torchwood has unknowingly upended their established relationship by changing Gwen’s priorities so drastically. This is especially intriguing since Jack was so keen to have her on the team precisely because of her healthy relationship outside of work, and it’s refreshing to see that Gwen’s attempts at leaving a message do not reset everything that has occurred.

Following the previous episode in which Owen learned of and lost what he considered to be true love, the more sarcastic and harsh man from early on is back, and he’s all too keen to get into a tussle with others in a bar with little provocation and to be quite harsh to both of his female colleagues, accepting with no hesitation the insult that Gwen gives him when he breaks off their own furtive relationship. After an investigation in Weevil attacks leaves an empty warehouse as the only lead, Jack sends Owen to talk with and investigate the agent behind the building, and his detailed cover story linking him to a jellied eel business looking to expand is actually quite believable and possibly a reflection of Tosh’s own views about Owen at this particular moment in time. To his credit, Owen hits it off with the agent Mark almost straight away, and Mark’s respect for Owen who he seems to connect with as a rich and successful but emotionally devoid individual only further increases after the two must again dispatch of the aggressor from the bar.

While it’s quite frightening to think of someone chaining a Weevil up to use as a personal punching bag, a fact that quite rightly shakes Owen out of his depressed funk, Mark reveals the true extent of the Weevil situation in Cardiff when he takes Owen to another abandoned location where many more people like him have gathered to create a fight club of sorts where people can fight each other and Weevils if the price is right. Strangely enough, it’s when Owen finds himself confronting a Weevil with his life at stake that he finally seems at ease, and his Torchwood associates breaking in to save him and halt this ordeal is tense and well-realised on screen even if it is a bit rushed. While the episode as a whole isn’t quite as intimate and introspective as some of the preceding ones, and although Mark’s philosophy remains rather shallow throughout, the overall character development of the leads on display is amongst the franchise’s finest so far, and Owen revealing some sort of connection with the Weevils only hinted at before and Gwen telling Rhys about her affair before using Torchwood’s Retcon amnesia drug in a move that she would have never considered before joining the organisation are exciting culminating points that should continue to pay tremendous dividends going forward.

  • Release Date: 12/24/2006
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