Season one of Torchwood has been playing with a weighty running theme of death and resurrection. They Keep Killing Suzie tackles this straight on, and comes to an interesting conclusion (and effectively hints at where the season is going). There’s a gaping hole revealed in the final moments that unravels everything, leading to a laughable conclusion. Until then, this is good enough that I’m tempted to give it a good rating. Alas, the last three minutes go all to the blazes anyway. But still, almost is in the upper echelon of this season.
For one thing, it’s great to have the characters written and performed with some semblance of personality. (twice in a row, no less!) All of them seem a little bit more like actual people, and even somewhat likable. Ianto even comes across fairly well, so long as you forget everything he did in every previous episode. It's especially important in Gwen's case, of course, since most of the story concerns her taken hostage and forced to chauffeur a resurrected Suzie. With solid characterizations, the clever, twisty story is gripping without needing much in the way of outright violence.
But did Suzie seriously have a backup plan in case of her death? One that relied so totally on things going exactly her way? I mean, the plan itself is clever, but that goes beyond a stretch. That’s just ridiculous. Still, this would be at least somewhat forgivable, but she goes on and on about how she just had to get away from “the darkness.” It’s basically her primary motivation for coming back. Except she planned it all out before she died. Philosophically, the concept is interesting - there is life after death, but it's just emptiness only interrupted by some Lovecraftian horror. But wrapping it in such a contradictory story sucks a lot of the power out of the concept.
And the last few minutes are an awful conclusion. Early, Jack makes it very clear that Gwen has just gotten herself completely fired. After saving her, a slow-motion montage to a lousy (and obvious) song where he smiles at her, back at the job. It’s not quite as bad as Ianto still existing after Cyberwoman, but still, it suggests that nothing would get Jack to fire anyone... and gets at a larger problem with this season: there aren't any consequences. The rest of the season will push that idea to the limit, and then break that limit.
Speaking of which, we finally learn why Jack keeps Ianto around. It’s not exactly a shock (actually, pretty obvious), but still, now it’s explicitly stated. And makes no sense whatsoever. Before this episode, Ianto has failed to accomplish a single thing for Torchwood besides 1) nearly getting them all killed; 2) getting two innocent civilians brutally murdered; 3) making coffee; and 4) ceaselessly whining about whatever comes to mind. (Admittedly, both the coffee and the whine were pretty good as those things go.) So the idea that Jack has even the slightest interest is… well, it’s sort of believable, given that it is Jack, after all, but it’s not credible that Ianto stays in Torchwood for it. Plus, the dialogue? Is that seriously supposed to be innuendo-laced banter? Did Chibnol write the epilogue? He did, didn’t he? That would explain so much.
Nonetheless, it’s yet another episode that gets within spitting distance of being pretty good. There’s a good show hiding in here, if the lead writer would just get out of the way...
* * 1/2