Saturday, November 4, 2017

Torchwood - Killing Main Characters GoT Style Before That Was Even A Thing

I just finished watching Torchwood season 3/Children of Earth (mini series) last night, and while I know I've still got season 4/Miracle Day to watch, considering what I've heard about the BBC America/Starz production, I'm not expecting too much.
This isn't the first time I've tried to watch Torchwood. I started way back circa 2007 when it was actually still being produced and one of the larger TV networks here in Australia aired it. But Aussie TV channels are notoriously hopeless (unless we're talking reality TV shows. Those, they seem to be great at handling) and when the episodes were shown, I'm pretty sure they were out of order, plus the day and time kept changing so it was hard to keep track of when it was on. In the end I gave up.
But my recent Doctor Who binge (thanks Netflix) made me want to try again, because Captain Jack Harkness was one of those brash heroes you just know is going to do amazing things.
At the top of its game, Torchwood was a brilliant, shinning example of what a TV series can gift viewers with; brilliant writing and production, storylines that weren't bound or influenced by race, gender or sexuality. It was the heart and soul of people. People we could relate to. People we are. But it also gave us quirky humour, lots of tears, creepy scenes that made you think twice about watching it after dark, and never held back on the violence or sex. But none of it was gratuitous, it made you think about who we are as humans and what we're really capable of.
For a TV series that soared so high, maybe it shouldn't have been surprising that it came crashing down so spectacularly, the beginning of the end happening in Children of Earth.
The season 3 mini series got so much right. It was gripping, gritty, had the audience of the edge of their seats with each episode, building the tension like a rising crescendo. I felt every moment of angst over the children right along with the characters.
But then they made one fatal mistake. Its like a neon sign pointing straight to the pits of hell for the rest of the series. In a lot of ways, it looked like the creators were expecting Children of Earth to be the end, but even if it was, I still think they made some huge mistakes and went waaay too dark. Torchwood always had an element of darkness to it, but this plunged it into absolute despair that it was probably never coming back from.
And that simple, single, fatal mistake was killing off Ianto.
I've seen some statements certain people involved with making the show said about why they did it and how they didn't care what the few whinges on the internet thought, but those whinges are your commodity. They are what get shows made and keep them on the air. If you don't care about them, if you alienate them, then what have you got left? And while I don't mean to get on my high horse about it, if you don't care about your viewers, then what you end up producing smacks of ego and self indulgence. The most popular and successful TV series have huge fandoms. Those fandoms are a community. I'm not saying bow to their every whim because you can't make everyone happy and sometimes fans want things to happen that just aren't feasible. But you can have your cake and respect the fandom while you're eating it.
I'm all for killing off main characters. When they killed off Owen and Tosh, it was sad (I cried SO much) but I could accept it. However if a series is to endure after killing off main characters, then I believe there are two main elements to the show's continued survival.
One: some characters are like linchpins. If you kill them off, you risk completely destroying the very fabric of the show. Ianto was one of these characters, especially considering his character arc from the beginning, to his positioning at the end. At first, he was kind of in the background, but the growth he did became part of the heart and soul that kept the show grounded and vibrant. Same for Gwen, her being killed off would have undermined the overall path of the show. Obviously they're not going to kill Jack, especially since he can't actually die.
Second to this, the main characters you do kill need to eventually or gradually be replaced by new main characters to fill the void left. You can kill them as well in the long run if you want, but the audience will have grown to expect a certain kind of balance to the particular makeup of the world they're invested in, so if these characters aren't replaced, it never really has the same feel.
So to paraphrase, I think the two things that completely destroyed Torchwood in the end was the fact that two new main characters weren't introduced as part of the team to make it feel like things were evolving and would survive. And secondly, killing Ianto (especially the pointless, swiss cheese of a plot hole way he died) was like blowing up a support column on an unstable building.
Whatever form Torchwood took in series 4, I'm sure it was a shadow of its former self and can already see why it didn't last more than a season in the US. And honestly, I find all of this very sad, because some of the episodes of late season 1 and early season 2 are my favourite episodes of any TV show ever. Which, considering how much I love my TV shows and how many I've watched, is saying something big. Its always sad when a TV series ends, but seeing one completely destroy itself before that happens is so very disappointing. 

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