Torchwood 1.08 — They Keep Killing Suzie

The coolest team since those kids who played D&D in the cafeteria in middle school.

To a sting of theme music, Torchwood pulls up to a crime scene while Detective Inspector Kathy Swanson gives them a deeply unimpressed look. They pile out and walk in dramatic slow-motion to the police tape, extra cool in their sun glasses, except that Jack will never be cool. Introductions are passed around; Kathy’s team complains about them all the time, and now she knows why. “Tell me something, are you always this dressy for a murder investigation?” “Would you rather me naked?” Jack asks. “God help me,” Kathy says. “The stories are true.” She explains that there have now been three murders: yesterday, Alex Arwyn, and today Mark and Sarah Briscoe. There are a few smears of blood in the crime scene photos of Alex Arwyn; they look like writing, and Kathy invites them inside to look at the finished product. Inside, they’re shocked by the scene: two dead bodies in a bed, throats slit, and above them, written on the wall over their heads in their blood: TORCHWOOD.

As Jack asks Kathy to clear the room, she says that it was only a matter of time before something like this happened. “Torchwood walks all over this city, like you own it. From where I’m standing, you did this, Captain Jack Harkness. You did it.” Then she leaves. Owen points out that at least they have a head start: their list of enemies can only be a few million names long. The report comes back from a few hairs found at the scene of the crime; the killer is a white male in his forties who smokes and drinks tequila, plus has imbibed a compound that they have never heard of: compound B67. Uh-oh, says Torchwood. That’s retcon. The killer has retcon in his blood.

Back at the Hub, in the conference room, the team discusses retcon. Whoever the killer is, it’s someone that they gave the amnesia pill to. They don’t know if he’s remembering that he’s a serial killer, or if he’s a serial killer because of the retcon. They’ve given the pill to 2008 people. Jack sets them on tasks to narrow down the list, but Gwen stops them as they all start to peel off, and suggests that they ask the victims themselves, using the glove that Suzie was testing before she died. Owen argues that Suzie died because of that thing, but Gwen insists that those people died because of Torchwood, so Torchwood has to do something.

In his office, as he takes it out of secure storage, Jack explains where the glove came from: It fell through the Rift forty years previous; Jack figures that it wasn’t just lost – whoever made it wanted to get rid of it. As you would, if you created something so tacky and destructive (but mostly tacky). They never gave it a cool name, says Owen – I think that Tosh’s suggestion of the “Ressurection Gauntlet” is supremely cool, but Owen begs to differ, and Ianto offers his own: “How about – the Risen Mitten?” Well. He thinks it’s catchy.

Jack is also dubious about the nickname.

In what is not the first or last Terrible Decision made by Torchwood, they all stand in the autopsy bay around the body of the first victim, Alex Arwyn. Ianto holds a stopwatch, and Jack puts on the glove, telling them that the maximum resurrection time is two minutes. Jack makes his attempt to use the glove to bring Alex back, with — odd facial expressions, but of course fails. Gwen volunteers, as she’s the only one who never tried it when they first got it. Jack thinks it might rely on some kind of empathy, or compassion, so he thinks that she’ll do well with it, and she does! Alex gasps into life, crying for help, and Ianto starts the stopwatch. All Alex can do is keep panicking, and after twenty-four seconds, he’s dead again. Gwen insists that she can bring him back, but the glove only works once, and has to give up. Ianto says that she’s a natural, Owen says, “Give Ianto a stopwatch and he’s happy.” (Ianto: “It’s the button on the top.”) And then they’re trying again, this time with Mark Briscoe. He comes back more quietly, but still frightened. When Jack asks who attacked him, he says that it was “that man, the one from Pilgrim.” His name was Max. He can’t give any more details, but there was someone who knew him better, who was always talking to him: a woman. Named Suzie. General shock. Then Mark dies again. Owen insists that it can’t be their Suzie, but she is the only one connected to this case by the Retcon. “We’ve been talking to the wrong corpse.”

After yet another overhead shot of the Millennium Centre at night, the team sits in the conference room, while Tosh passes out flyers Pilgrim, which she explains is a little religious support/discussion group. Sarah Briscoe ran it out of their house as a hobby; the flyers were in a drawer. “She wasn’t even online.” The absolute horror. Owen is dismissive of the idea of Suzie buying into “that support group bollocks,” but Gwen says it makes sense: no one in Torchwood was very close to her, so she might have found refuge in a group of complete strangers.

They end up at a storage unit in the rain. When Torchwood operatives die, all of their belongings are seized and stored away; Gwen asks about what happens if she leaves it all to Rhys. “We’ll stash him away, too.” They search through towers of boxes wrapped in plastic and stamped with the Torchwood hive logo. Gwen finds pictures of Suzie and her dad. (Tosh says that she couldn’t get ahold of him when Suzie died, because she wiped all of her records, so he doesn’t know that Suzie is dead.) Jack picks up a book, Emily Dickinson’s complete works. Tosh finds the useful thing: a Pilgrim flyer, among Suzie’s stuff. So the woman Mark mentioned was definitely their Suzie. Jack says, “That proves it then. No choice. It’s time Suzie came back.”

Jack pulls Suzie’s body out of cold storage (where dead Torchwood employees are kept forever), and they all stand in awkward silence around her in the autopsy bay, until Tosh runs away to her workstation because she doesn’t want to look her in the eye. Everyone else stays, and Gwen makes her first attempt, but it doesn’t work; all that comes up is memories of what happened the night Suzie died. She’s too far gone – but Owen suggests using the knife; it’s made out of the same metal as the glove, and Suzie always used the two together, killing people with the knife to bring them back with the glove. Jack pulls it out of the secure archives in his office; Owen, acquiescing to the inevitable, allows Ianto to name it. “Life Knife.” Ianto, why is this your job?

Suzie’s body was kept among the frozen vegetables and the Pizza Rolls.

They cut Suzie with the knife while using the glove, but it doesn’t work, so: in for a penny, in for a pound – Jack plunges it into Suzie chest, and Suzie gasps awake. She’s terrified, panicking, and angry at Jack for bringing her back. He asks about Max, and she says, “You brought me all the way back just for Max? He was just some – loser–” She’s fading, but Gwen is doing all she can to force Suzie to stay. She gets a huge shock and falls back. They think Suzie is gone, but Ianto says that he’s still counting: the machinery says that Suzie is only unconscious. She’s not dead again. Jack takes the knife out of her chest, but it doesn’t work. Still breathing.

When she’s awake, they put her down in the interrogation room to question her about the case. She still has all of the wounds from shooting herself through the head. It’s actually awful to look at. They don’t know how long this is going to last; she asks to see her father, but she can’t. They tell her that they know that she was giving retcon to Max, now they need to know why. She tells that that he was “just an ordinary bloke,” but they think the Retcon triggered a psychosis, because he’s killed three people. Owen, over a speaker, asks how much Retcon she gave him. Suzie accuses him of being scared to face her; “You frighten the shit out of me, yeah.” She tells them that she gave Max one pill a week every week for two years. Jack asks what the hell she did that for. “I wanted someone to talk to. About this place. It was driving me mad. He just listened. Every week as soon as I was finished talking I’d give him the pill.” Suzie gets all passive-aggressively self-blaming. She is not a person you would  like to hang out with, not just because she has a large gunshot wound. Jack makes her look at the pictures they have of the victims/the other members of Pilgrim. She says that there’s one woman missing, Lucy. Lucy works at a club, but Suzie goes all limp and whiney before she’ll stutter out the name of it.

So the team ends up at the worst club ever, filled with people in skimpy leather and loud, shrieky music. They comb the place, looking for Lucy or Max, while Suzie and Tosh sit back at the Hub, watching via cameras with which Gwen, Owen and Jack are wired. Jack is the worst at blending in, and does this little grandpa shoulder dance. They spot Lucy, and Owen tackles the wrong guy. Jack tazes the right guy, and twists his arm with terribly Foley that sounds like someone sitting on Rice Krispy Treats. They take him back to the Hub, where Owen shows Jack that Max is totally unresponsive until someone says “Torchwood,” at which point he flips out and attacks the glass of his cell for ten seconds before going catatonic again. If that’s caused by Retcon, they have some problems coming.

Down in the interrogation room, Suzie asks again if she can see her father; Gwen tells her to give them his address, and they’ll bring him in, but Suzie won’t let them bring him anywhere near Torchwood – if he’s still alive. He has cancer. Suzie asks if Gwen has been enjoying working there, and she says she has – they connect for a moment, over how nuts it is, best and worst job they’ve ever had, until Suzie brings right back to Awkward Town: “Funny things is, you always imagine when you’re dead, ‘oh, they’re gonna miss me at work. Indispensible.’ But look what happened. I got replaced. By someone better… They others, they prefer you… It’s almost like you planned it.” Gwen, a little pissed, argues that she didn’t, and she has her own function at Torchwood, much more than just being a replacement for Suzie. Suzie asks if she’s slept with Owen yet. Ouch. “There you go, replace me completely.”

Every awkward silence is filled with very British polite sips of coffee.

Gwen goes up to yell at Jack. He gave Suzie the glove without knowing that she had a father with cancer; “You give her the one device that could bring him back to life. Is it any wonder she got obsessed? Did you ever stop and think? Did you ever think what that glove would do to her?” Jack yells that they’re both responsible; she’s blamed herself for Suzie’s death from the beginning, and she brought her back all the way because she wanted it so bad. (I don’t know where he pulled that from, but I’m betting it’s from his ass.) Gwen asks what happens if Suzie never dies. “Undying forever, just you and her.” Jack would sooner kill her right now; Gwen asks if he really could — he’s quite certain. Owen calls him down to the autopsy bay, and he goes.

Owen shows him footage of Gwen bringing Mark Briscoe back to life, run through a Convenient Plot Device Filter. It shows energy going from him to Gwen, and then cutting off when he dies again. Then he shows Suzie’s footage – the connection never ends. They are still connected, and Suzie is getting stronger by draining the life out of Gwen. Meanwhile, Gwen is bringing Suzie cookies as a clever cover for passing her a note that says “Road trip?” Upstairs, Jack decides to kill Suzie to save Gwen. He goes down to the interrogation room with his gun drawn, but Gwen and Suzie are gone. The team finds them on the CCTV in the parking lot, Gwen wheeling Suzie out to her car. And just as they are about to go after them – all of the lights in the Hub shut down, all of the doors lock, and they are in total lockdown. Jack tells Ianto to reverse it, but he can’t; it’s 100%. They’re locked in. Gwen buckles Suzie into her car and tells her that they’re going to see her dad, and that’s it. “I must be mad. Jack isn’t stupid, he’s going to catch us.” Suzie says they might get lucky. …Yep.

The team is panicking in the Hub. They have no way to get out and no connection to the outside world, and Gwen has two hours to live, tops, before Suzie drains her completely. They try to figure out how she triggered the lockdown. She couldn’t have done it physically – but they have a guest in the cells. Max is sitting on the floor rocking back and forth, muttering to himself. “Because I could not stop for Death, he kindly stopped for me; the carriage held but just ourselves and Immortality.” It’s a verbal trigger (a line from Emily Dickinson) that Suzie must have conditioned into him; he repeats the lines a few hundred times, and the Hub goes into a lockdown that Suzie programmed into the system before she died. This has been something Suzie was planning from the beginning: installing a vocal command program, instilling the verbal trigger in Max, conditioning him to start killing other members of Pilgrim if Suzie didn’t show up to meetings in three months. He was just a Trojan horse, forcing them to bring Suzie back, and then letting her escape unhindered. Tosh knows she must have installed a way to reverse the process just in case.

In Gwen’s car, Suzie and Gwen talk about how Jack died and came back to life when Suzie shot him. Gwen says that he won’t explain it properly. “Do you ever wonder? Who is he?” Suzie asks. Gwen says, “All the time.”

Back at the Hub, Ianto is The Most Useful Team Member, and gets reception on a cell phone via Convenient Plot Device. Jack has no idea who the hell to call – but they end up calling Kathy Swanson, the Detective Inspector, much to her amusement. “You’re locked into your own base? And how am I supposed to help you?” Jack tells her that they need a book of poetry. “And it’s not funny.”

In the car, Gwen is getting tired, and turns on the radio. Suzie reacts to the song, saying that her mother sang it when she was young. “Before I died.” She cries, but probably not genuinely, glancing at Gwen. Back with the team, Kathy Swanson makes Jack repeat one more time what’s going on, to a huge group of giggling police officers. Jack tells her that they’ve had their fun, but one of their team is in danger. The book Kathy sent someone for arrives, and Jack tells her to read out the rest of “I could not stop for death”; if that doesn’t work, “read out the whole book.” Could take a while.

Kathy Swanson does not find Emily Dickinson to be appropriate bedtime story material.

In the car, Gwen and Suzie get into a conversation about what it’s like after you die. Suzie says that Gwen’s belief in a white light and seeing her grandmother again is childish. Gwen asks what’s really there, and Suzie says, “Nothing. Just nothing.” Gwen is taken aback. “But if there’s nothing, then what’s the point of it all?” Suzie says it’s just this. Life. We’re all basically animals, clinging together in the cold. Gwen asks if it’s just darkness, then are we all alone there? Suzie says that she didn’t say that. “Why do you think I was so desperate to come back? There’s something out there, in the dark. And it’s moving.”

Back at the Hub, Kathy is still reading through the book, with Jack repeating the lines out loud. Kathy Swanson has no respect for American renaissance poets – but Tosh has an idea. If words made it happen, maybe numbers will reverse it. She tells Kathy to read the ISBN number, and she plugs it into the computer, hoping for another Convenient Plot Device to let the computer still register the input. And it does! The Hub is back up and running, and they’re off to save Gwen with forty minutes to go before she’s dead.

Meanwhile, Gwen and Suzie have made it to the hospital where her father is being treated, then to his room. Gwen isn’t feeling well – she has an unbearable headache, and when she takes her hand away from her hair, it’s covered in blood. Suzie apologizes, and tells her that she’s being shot in the head, very slowly. She takes off the handkerchief that was hiding her wounds, and reveals that they are almost completely gone. Gwen is developing them now. Gwen collapses, crying. Suzie gets out of her wheelchair and goes to her father’s bedside. She tells him to wake up, and when he opens his eyes, he’s suddenly terrified. “Hello, dad.” She smiles vindictively, then goes blank and pulls the breathing tube out of his mouth. “And goodbye.” He starts struggling to breathe. Gwen asks what she’s doing, and Suzie says, “That’s worth coming back for. Sending him into the dark. Just what the bastard deserves.” Then she gets Gwen into the wheelchair and wheels her out of the room, back to the car.

Jack and Owen are catching up to them, but Suzie calls Jack. Jack tells her that if Gwen dies, he’s going to kill Suzie. “I promise. I’m gonna kill you for the last and final time.” Last AND final, huh? Suzie, if it isn’t obvious yet, is completely unstable, and starts crying. “Could you really? If I’m the only thing left of her?” Jack asks why she’s doing this, and she says that life is all. “You should know! I’d do anything to stay. Anything.” She says that Gwen is better than her, so much better. “I was never any good. Jack, I’m sorry.” And she hangs up. Jack ineffectually shrieks her name at the dead line. Tosh tells him that she’s heading for a ferry on the coastline. Owen says that they have minutes.

Suzie is my favorite villain character in this entire show. She is so crazy. It’s the best.

Suzie gets to the docks and pulls Gwen out of the car, telling her that they’ll take the ferry out as far as they can and keep on running, just the two of them. God, she’s crazy, and I love it. Gwen finally collapses for good, and Suzie kneels next to her as Jack and Owen pull up. She tells her “safe journey,” kisses her, and runs. Owen runs to Gwen, and Jack chases Suzie. Owen says that they might be too late, and Jack asks if killing Suzie will save her. Suzie says that he can’t, because she’s the last thing left of Gwen Cooper. “Can’t you see it?” “Not a bit,” Jack says, and shoots her. She goes down, but doesn’t die, and Gwen isn’t any better. Suzie is delighted. “I can’t die! Never gonna die!” Jack keeps shooting her. Then it hits him: the glove. He tells Tosh to destroy the glove. As Ianto tosses Tosh a gun in true badass fashion, Suzie quotes Walt Whitman and tells Jack a secret: “There’s something moving in the dark. And it’s coming, Jack Harkness. It’s coming for you.” Then Tosh shoots the glove into shrapnel, and Suzie dies, letting Gwen gasp back to life. Then they’re just sort of there on a dock as dawn rolls in.

Later, there is a little bit of everything-is-okay establishment in the Hub, with slow-motion laughing and a shared significant look between Gwen and Jack to the weirdly effective use of “Gorecki” by Lamb, and finally there’s Jack, walking into cold storage as Ianto puts Suzie’s body away for hopefully the last time. Jack is obviously feeling down on himself. He looks around at the morgue cabinets, saying, “One day, we’re gonna run out of space.” Ianto glances at him, and says only a tiny bit hesitantly, “If you’re interested, I’ve still got that stop watch.” Jack isn’t following, until Ianto smirks and says, “Well. Think about it. Lots of things you can do with a stopwatch.” Then Jack gets it. “I can think of a few.” Ianto says there’s quite a list, still with the flirty smirk, and Jack says that he’ll send the others home early, and to meet him in his office in ten minutes. Ianto pulls out the stopwatch and starts it. You know. To be precise. And with that, the weirdest main couple to appear on a television show is born.

As Jack starts to walk away, visions of a very pleasant evening probably dancing in his head, it’s business time again for a second: Ianto asks what cause of death he should write on Suzie’s death certificate. “She had quite a few deaths in the end.” Jack says to put “death by Torchwood.” Ianto tells him that he’ll put a lock on the cabinet door, just in case, but Jack says that there’s no chance of that, with the glove destroyed, but Ianto isn’t too sure. “That’s the thing about gloves, sir,” he says. “They come in pairs.” Jack turns back and looks at him. This hasn’t occurred to him. He does not look happy about it.

“I suspect that this might come up later, but I’m going to forget about it for twelve episodes.”

Next time, on Torchwood: There is always an episode of any science fiction show where no one in the actual cast shows up much, and this next episode is that. No one has ever liked this episode but me. Banana milkshakes and random shoes.