The twist reveal back in the pilot Everything Changes, that Suzie Costello was actually a treacherous serial killer, was quite a shock (or it would have been had the BBC not blown it by airing the second episode immediately afterwards) that served to wrongfoot the audience by killing off someone who we’d been lead to believe was in the main cast. It set up Torchwood’s “anything can happen” premise in a nice and memorable way. But it did have one downside: We lost Indira Varma. Step forward writers Paul Tomalin and Dan McCulloch to find a way to bring her back!
So how do they do this then? It begins with that age-old trope of writing on the wall in blood, though to be fair it is very effective and hooks you in. The word Torchwood is there and naturally the team show up to investigate the murder. After finding traces of retcon they resurrect the victim, as you do. Turns out, the killer is a man named Max who is somehow connected to Suzie, and because they have no other leads they decide to go right back to her.
“We’re talking to the wrong corpse.”Apparently Torchwood’s HR department gets to keep not only your corpse but also all your stuff, this is a new revelation that Gwen seems uncharacteristically okay with, and so out they bring Suzie’s lifeless body. The team go against their better judgement and bring her back to life. Why? Because they’re all incompetents now since they think that bringing back a manipulative lying serial killer is in any way a good idea. Just go with it, okay?
Once they resurrect Suzie she proves me right that bringing her back was stupid because she immediately tricks Gwen into going off with her for a long car ride. Isn’t Gwen a former police officer? Has she learnt nothing from all her years there? This is how you get yourself killed! But no, off she goes anyway because she reached out to Suzie, found herself caught in her lies and now she’s going to pay the price. But then it turns out Suzie’s story of wanting to visit her dying father was true… at which point she unplugs his life support. We had seen Suzie’s murderous intent coming from a mile off so the fact that Gwen isn’t her victim comes as a surprise, another example of Torchwood wrong-footing the viewers, and then the double-bluff comes that she’s still going to let Gwen die anyway. She’s done SCI-FI STUFF with the resurrection gauntlet so that when Gwen brought her back she was permanently stealing Gwen’s energy from her.
So while the plot makes not a lot of sense, the thing that makes this episode stand out is one particular moment: The scenes between Gwen and Suzie in the car as the two simply talk. The symbolism is heavy here with Gwen and Suzie representing life and death, a concept reaching right back to the scenes between them in the pilot. And as Gwen is dying and Suzie stealing her life we see them begin to trade places. As well as that there’s the way Gwen and Suzie are polar opposites in ideals. Both held the same role in Torchwood but both do it differently. Suzie is cold, cruel and calculating and will do whatever it takes in the name of Torchwood’s research whatever the cost, get in her way at your peril. She represents the old Torchwood ideals of Yvonne Hartmann while Gwen is the new version of Torchwood under Jack Harkness, with her more optimistic and compassionate approach. In fact it was her compassion that got the gauntlet working so that would suggest Suzie used to be like that but Torchwood made her change. And now Gwen’s compassion for Suzie is slowly taking her life. Director James Strong deserves a mention here for how beautifully shot this is with the car on an empty road with nothing but space outside it and letting the two actresses talk to each other without any needless gimmicks.
Suzie is nothing like Gwen. If Gwen loses any of her kind and caring nature then she will become like her; she’s not there yet but what if she was? What would Jack do? Would he kill her as he does Suzie here? Could he ever bring himself to do that?
Because you get the impression that Jack and Gwen have something unspoken going on between them. It’s been there since the start of Torchwood, the chemistry between Eve Myles and John Barrowman highlighting it well, but by this point there’s something more to it, they like each other. In the end when they are staring at each other, Jack having just recently saved Gwen’s life by killing for her, you know there’s something more going on here. This is immediately contrasted by the infamous stopwatch exchange between Jack and Ianto to end the episode. Jack’s always up for anything with anyone (“so many species, so little time”) but the implied romp with Ianto he’s about to have doesn’t seem as meaningful as his unspoken thing with Gwen. But look where things go as the series progresses and see how we’re being lead down one path before being sent down another. Torchwood is a show that keeps its audience on their toes and here it is at it again!
They Keep Killing Suzie is an episode full of characters making illogical choices but despite that it’s so well written and well acted that I can give it a pass. Not perfect by anyone’s reckoning but far and away one of the better episodes of the first season. While it is, in my opinion, the inferior of the two this is still a worthy sequel to Everything Changes. With some stronger, more sensical motivations for the characters’ actions this could’ve been better, as is it just falls short of achieving its full potential. Still good though, and well worth another watch.
When he's not obsessing about Doctor Who whilst having I Am The Doctor play in his head, Dr. Moo can usually be found reading up on the latest in Quantum Physics. As you do when you're a physicist.