"That's what Torchwood does, you see: it ruins your life." -GwenSo who's feeling upbeat right about now? Anyone? Ready to party? No?
I have to applaud Russell T. Davies and company for having the courage of their convictions. While I took issue with a few things in the finale, overall it felt very much of a piece with the thrilling, squirm-inducing four hours that preceded it. There was no attempt at false uplift. Yes, The 4-5-6 are killed(*), and the British Prime Minister is basically stripped of his power, but his replacement is the equally odious Denise. John Frobisher kills his family and himself for what turns out to be a solveable problem. Many are still dead, many others are still traumatized, and in the end, our hero -- smiling Captain Jack, the man who's supposed to be perfect at everything, who can conjure a solution to any problem out of thin air, who lets the world wash off his back -- is left with the image not only of his dead lover, but of the grandson he chose to kill in order to save millions of other children. In that moment, he has to make a similar decision to the one Denise was proposing last night -- needs of the many outweighing the needs of the few (or the one) -- but he does it in a very different way. Where Denise and the rest of the British government were all about protecting their own kin at all costs, Jack has to sacrifice his grandson, because there isn't any time to find someone to take Steven's place.
(*) Or, at least, their Earth-bound representative is; I wasn't entirely clear on whether the rest were also slaughtered, or simply turned tail and ran once it became clear they weren't going to win.
And it's with the matter of timing that I take my biggest issue with the finale. I realize that Davies wanted to create a scenario where Jack had no choice but to use Steven to save the world, and it feels like much of the episode was structured to lead us to that point. Jack is kept on the sidelines, brooding over Ianto's death, for much of the hour, so that when he finally takes action and comes up with a solution, there just isn't time to look for another sacrificial lamb. And that doesn't track with the Jack we know, even after Jack tried to tell Ianto (and us) last night that we don't know him nearly as well as we think we do. Even in mourning, Jack would have taken action, would have fought to make sure Ianto's death wasn't completely in vain, rather than throwing in the towel until Agent Johnson goaded him into saving the day.
I know Jack being useless ties into the general apocalyptic feeling of the first two-thirds of the episode, with Frobisher's murder-suicide and Gwen and Rhys frantically trying to protect the "bad kids" from the neighborhood of Ianto's family from the army, but it was so out of character that it felt like a cheat to get the desired result. And what I think could have made Steven's death even more powerful -- and, admittedly, it was plenty powerful -- would be if he wasn't Jack's only choice. What if Jack is working on this plan all along, does have time to get access to some other random kid, but realizes in the end that he can't be a monster like the PM or Denise -- that if he's going to do this monstrous thing, then he has to suffer personally for it?
Or maybe I should stop trying to rewrite Davies, who, as I've written all week, really delivered the goods throughout "Children of Earth," with the help of a great cast (and I again want to praise the work of Peter Capaldi as the doomed Frobisher, who wasn't quite the unfeeling bastard the PM took him for), director Euros Lyn, and everyone else. Just a superb week of television, and a quantum leap forward for "Torchwood." Assuming the show's going to be back -- and based on the ratings in the UK, it almost has to -- I think the miniseries format is the way to go.
Now Davies just needs to find a way to bring Jack back to Earth, and maybe deputize Rhys and Lois Habiba (and, if he can be found, Mickey Smith) so that Gwen isn't a one-woman agency.
What did everybody else think?