LadyGhosts of TV Past

Retro Recap: Torchwood 2.12 “Fragments”

Here we are, the beginning of the end; the penultimate episode of a roller-coaster season. The viewers get the set-up to the season finale and backstory on how the team ended up working for Torchwood, including Jack. Instead of dropping bits and pieces throughout the season, we get it dropped in our laps all at once. No matter, I’ll take it however I can get it. The ending has a twist I didn’t see coming the first time around and I am frankly dreading what’s coming next. All the feels.

The team has gathered outside an abandoned warehouse to investigate what they suspect are four alien lifeforms inside. Well, the whole team except for Gwen who overslept and is getting dropped off by Rhys. According to the heat signatures on Tosh’s scanner, it’s no alien they’ve ever encountered before. The team moves in, ready for whatever greets them. What greets them are four separate explosive devices on a countdown from five seconds. As Owen says, “Snap,” (is that a codeword for shit?) the devices explode.

Torchwood (and Rhys) looking rough
This is the start of something bad…

The team is buried underneath the rubble. I suppose the writers decided to take the belief that in life or death situations, your life flashes before your eyes, literally. As the team lies wounded in different locations in the building, possibly dying (or in Jack’s case dead), it seems that they think back to what got them there in the first place and why they all joined Torchwood. Of course, it’s convenient for Gwen to be late since her joining Torchwood is the catalyst for the series.


Jack with sideburns, soaking wet and looking FINE
Hmmmm. Okay, I can forgive the sideburns.

It seems odd to start off by revealing facts about the most enigmatic figure of them all, but as the episode progresses, it becomes clearer why the story unfolds as it does. We start with Jack 1,392 deaths earlier in 19th century Cardiff and sporting some interesting sideburns. Also, there’s a bottle in his gut. As he pulls it out, he sees two women watching him looking unimpressed, even after his quip about his “torso of steel.” It’s not clear how long after the events of Bad Wolf this moment is, but Jack still isn’t really used to the whole resurrection bit. He’s knocked down, chloroformed and awoken by a bucketful of water in what looks like the hub’s basement. The two women proceed to keep killing Jack multiple times with the same results. They question him about the Doctor, demanding to know where he’s located. Jack doesn’t know; that’s why he came to Cardiff, knowing the Doctor would stop and refuel the Tardis via the rift. They’ll let him go under one condition, he helps Torchwood. His first assignment is tracking down a familiar looking blowfish alien (who’s also engaging in some 19th century-style joyriding). After the fun-loving alien is shot in cold blood, Jack refuses to work with them again. Jack’s drinking his sorrows away when a girl approaches him. She’s familiar too; she is the one Jack consulted in the episode, “Dead Man Walking,” delivering the ominous tarot reading about future events. She reads his tarot despite his protests, telling Jack that he’ll find the one he’s looking for, he just has to wait 100 years. In the meantime, might as well join Torchwood.

We flash forward to 1999 and Jack’s still working for Torchwood, trying to stop the Millenium bug (it’s really a big, gross bug) when he returns to the hub to find his team shot dead and the leader holding a gun and clutching a locket. He says he killed the team as a mercy. He’s seen the future and the 21st century is when everything changes and Torchwood isn’t ready. He then kills himself, leaving leadership in Jack’s hands. Jack needs to assemble a new team. Jack awakens in the present day to Gwen and Rhys pulling him from the rubble and they go to find Tosh.


Five years earlier, Tosh is working for the Ministry of Defense, working too hard and staying too late. She breaks into a top secret room one night and steals the blueprints for a Sonic Modulator. After constructing a basic version herself, she meets with a woman and tries to trade the Modulator for her mother’s life. Tosh has fallen into a trap, though; the nefarious woman will only agree to release Tosh’s mother if Tosh works for them. When she refuses, the woman activates the Modulator, nearly killing them both until soldiers from UNIT burst in and arrest everyone, including Tosh.

They throw her into solitary confinement where a woman informs her via loudspeaker that all her rights have been terminated, she has no hope of appeal and she will be held indefinitely. I swear to God, Tosh can just not catch a break. She’s in prison for some time when the door opens one day and Jack is standing there. He assures her that her mother is safe and he offers her a job at Torchwood; five years of service for her freedom. Otherwise, she’ll stay in prison forever. Jack recognized her talent from constructing the Sonic Modulator from faulty plans. Coming to work for Torchwood is her only way out.

I have to say that I love Tosh and the actress who plays her. It become easy to understand the reasons for Tosh’s awkwardness and hesitancy. Take her God-given nature and then throw her into solitary confinement; that’ll mess with a person’s head very well. Working for Torchwood gave her a sense of purpose and confidence and boosted in Jack’s confidence in her abilities. Back in the present day, Gwen and Rhys try to move the pillar Tosh is trapped under, but it’s making it worse. They need more manpower. Gwen goes after Jack to help find Ianto and Owen while Rhys stays with Tosh.


Ianto lying on top of Jack after the pterodactyl attackJack’s hunting a Weevil almost two years prior when Ianto comes to his aid. After sedating the alien and engaging in some flirting, Jack leaves, only to find Ianto waiting for him the next morning, buttering him up with some coffee. Ianto wants a job, but Jack quickly rejects the idea. He knows Ianto worked for Torchwood London and was there during the Battle of Canary Wharf. Jack refuses to work with anyone from Torchwood One and bids Ianto goodbye. Not taking no for an answer, Ianto steps in front of the SUV later that night and tells Jack he needs help with a pterodactyl. After wrangling the creature and learning Jack may or may not have survived the Cretaceous”“Paleogene extinction event (because is it really so implausible), the pair find themselves on top of one another. So, the attraction began fairly early, it seems. As Ianto leaves, Jack tells him to report in the next morning. From the events of “Cyberwoman,” the devastated look on Ianto’s face makes perfect sense.


Owen is trapped underneath a broken window pane that looks like it will fall and cut the good doctor in two. Since he’s technically already dead, I’m not sure how missing his lower half is gonna work for him. In his flashback, the resident Lothario is actually happily domestic with his fiancée, Katie, four years in the past. Everything looks blissful until we learn that Katie may have early onset Alzheimer’s; the youngest known case in history. Owen is adamant they run more tests and here, Owen is caring and warm and desperate to save the woman he loves. It’s heartbreaking to see the contrast from then till now.

Owen’s persistence pays off when it’s discovered Katie has a brain tumor that may be causing the symptoms.  She goes into surgery to have it removed while Owen waits anxiously outside. Jack suddenly appears at his side, apologizes and walks into the operating room. The surgical team all lie dead on the floor and a strange looking creature is attached to Katie’s brain. Jack tells him it’s a parasitic alien life form that uses a human host. When it’s threatened, it emits a poisonous gas. Katie is dead and there is nothing to be done. Jack moves to take Katie’s brain, but Owen tries to stop him. Jack knocks him out and when he comes to, there is no record of Jack or the events in the operating room have been covered up.  It’s concluded that Owen is in need of three months’ rest since he is apparently overwhelmed by grief and imagining things. At Katie’s grave site, Jack reappears and Owen in his anger and grief starts beating Jack. Jack, for his part, is sincere when he tells Owen he couldn’t save his fiancée. He offers Owen a place at Torchwood after observing his talent, his passion and care for people. Despite what he saw, Owen still doesn’t believe in aliens until Jack brings him to the hub. He accepts Jack’s offer to not just save one life, but possibly hundreds each day.

Captain John Hart and Gray in a holographic message
Oh look, here comes trouble.

Everyone manages to get out safely (and they are remarkably mobile for being in such close proximity to exploding devices), but the SUV is gone. Jack receives a message via his time-traveling wrist band and it’s a holographic message from our second favorite captain, John Hart. Unfortunately, there’s no hot make-out scene in the near future. John claims to have Jack’s brother, Gray (who we learned about earlier in the episode, “Adam”). Hart vows to tear Jack’s world apart piece by piece. Maybe then, Jack will find some time for him.

Ahhhhh. It’s the finale next week. Gird your loins, prepare your supplies and make sure you have tissues handy.

By Stephens

Florida girl, would-be world traveler and semi-permanent expat. Her main strategy of life is to throw out the nets and hope something useful comes back, but many times it's just an old shoe. She also really, really hates winter and people who are consistently late.

3 replies on “Retro Recap: Torchwood 2.12 “Fragments””

Agreed. I think what was shocking for me is that it was such a dramatic turn. Not like, Oh he’s prickly, but has a heart of gold.” No he is an absolute prick. I loved Tosh’s story even though it broke my heart.

And something I didn’t get a chance to mention in the recap, I know we got Gwen’s story in the pilot, but I’d really would have liked a flashback of how she met Rhys or why she decided to join the police.

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