When I said I’d give Chibnall a 50/50 chance at pulling off a strong finale, I would never have expected him to deliver. Exit Wounds is a hard episode to watch. It’s a powerful episode that will leave you shaking. It picks up with Hart (Sgt Pepper) ready to break Jack’s world down systematically but the villainy of this character, which seemed so pale last episode, finally makes sense. It’s not his doing, but Jack’s long lost brother Gray who wants to take everything from him. Lachlan Nieboer plays Gray with such hate, he’s an easy villain to appreciate.
The idea behind last week is brought from individual backstory to current events as the team has to be sent into different directions. Owen goes to fight a Hoix (Love and Monsters), a creature that lives to eat. This mindless animal sort of bothers me, because it’s clearly covered in tech, so it can’t be mindless, but it’s such a minor part of the episode, I can let it go. The main point is to separate the characters. Ianto and Tosh find themselves up against ghosts at a nuclear power station. Those ghosts are creepy, but not immune to bullets. And Rhys and Gwen have to face Weevils at a police station. (This gives us a fun, albeit brief, moment where Rhys tries to brag about knowing secrets that Andy doesn’t. When Andy asks for an example, he says “like a time agency based in Cardiff” to which Andy points out the folly of Rhys’s secret-keeping!) In fairness, I loved how supportive Rhys was of Gwen and I think we missed out on having him a major part of the cast up until now.
Once everyone is apart, Sgt Pepper takes Jack to a convenient rooftop and gets all of the Torchwood crew to the top of their own buildings to watch the complete and utter devastation of Cardiff. Then Jack is taken back to Cardiff in 27 AD so Hart can explain everything and reunite Jack with his brother. Gray wants to hurt Jack and he will but only after burying him alive. The writing brings us full circle with last episode when Jack becomes part of his own timeline, finds the earlier Torchwood crew and is asked to be put in cold storage until the very day this takes place. That creates some great continuity and adds a sense of the bigger world I love to see built on.
Jack returns and puts Gray down, chloroforming him and putting him in storage (though I don’t know why he’d do that) but not before things go bad for the team. Tosh is shot and Owen is left in a nuclear reactor going critical. For me, this is really at the heart of the episode. As Owen screams Tosh asks him to stop because he’s breaking her heart. And he does. He realizes, like Eugene Jones in season 1’s Random Shoes, that he and Tosh sort of “missed each other” and never got that date they should have had. They reminisce about how she always covered for him including the time she pretended to be a doctor when there was a space pig in London (thus continuity again comes full circle, bridging that gap with the parent series with Aliens of London). And this episode also had a moment to remind us that Owen was “king of the Weevils”. While it never amounted to much, at least it was not forgotten. In the end, Jack loses a lot and in turn, so do the viewers. Owen and Tosh die on the same day; not together, but close enough. They may have missed a date, but they shared a calendar date and it was the worst way to do it. But that heartbreak creates a deeply meaningful episode.
Where can they possibly go from here? Jack, Ianto, and Gwen. You realize how small the cast always was in that simple moment. These characters were big and losing two really hurts. Taking out Owen and Tosh hits like a bus. Will Gray’s cryo-storage mean something in the future? Will new members join the crew? All I know is, I was tricked one episode ago and I didn’t see this coming. And I find myself strangely melancholy at the loss of two people who I didn’t realize I cared about so much! Whatever they do next, it will be different. ML