Because, last season, as well as inconsistant plots and people, they had an overwhelming sense of despair and betrayal. And I think that works if you are already fond of those characters, but it was difficult for me to love any of them myself - I didn't know them (apart from Jack). This season, OTOH, they appear to be bonding them a bit more first. Which makes sense. You've got to put them up there, before you can knock them down, yes?
Anyway, things I loved:
* Jack/Ianto - the date, the office, the squee :) The fact that Ianto had more to do in this one episode than in the whole of the previous season. (I worry that Gareth David-Lloyd is not going to prove to be a good enough actor to pull it off...)
* Jack/John - oh, that was what was missing! Jack's past, come back to haunt him! OMG wasn't John the mad bad stalker ex! So lovely to see James Marsters looking so fine, and cool!
* The References - 'Help me, Obi-wan Kenobi' - fantastic! Although the Buffy gratuitous blond reference made me roll my eyes a bit - but while smiling.
* Owen - even Owen wasn't as annoying this time round. And is it me, or is Burn Gorman cuter this year? The stupid leaning and shooting things from the car window was Owen-ish, but that was about it. This bodes well, I feel.