What then of the second episode of Torchwood? The first obvious question is: where’s the humour gone? One episode (by one of the creator’s admittedly) does not a vision make, but one would hope that there would be a consistence approach to the episodes by all writers.
Or was this left over from last season? Certainly, this story could fit into the first season, with its grim and gritty team, and the focus on one human going through emotional problems and identified with by Gwen. She (Gwen) is the easy link for the writers and has been set up as the “human element” among the more emotionless crew. When in doubt, go to Gwen pointing out that the human view is the good one.
(And let’s be in no doubt that the alien view is the wrong one. Once again Encyclopaedia Jack knows exactly what’s going on and that the alien menace is indeed an alien menace. No wonder that the old woman in episode was complaining about Torchwood, how did they ever manage to do anything properly without Jack explaining everything they had to know?)
Unfortunately, the main story itself isn’t at all original. A sleeper agent that wakes up but the cover element dominates their thinking… (for some reason, I want to make a Total Recall reference here, but mentioning Arnie isn’t a sufficient excuse). Frankly, you could eliminate the second half of the episode, and go straight from Beth finding out she was an evil alien to her dealing with it in the only sensible way. But we needs our action sequences, and so we get an entire Declassified episode dedicated to blowing up a Cardiff high-street in one shot.
There is a hint that this might speak to a bigger arc, but given the speed with which the cell moves in this episode, I would think the other cell members around the world would have taken over everything before anyone had time to react. Torchwood does follow up on past episodes, but usually from a character arc point of view, not a plot-element perspective. More likely the writer threw in “there are more cell members out there” to allow for future call-backs, but not with any definite plan in mind.
The focus of this episode is on Beth, with the Torchwood crew taking a background role to allow her story to be played out (and, frankly, her story could be told in nearly any series). Unless this story proves to be vitally important to the development of Torchwood, this episode ranks as unexciting filler material.