Day 4 illustrates the power of the 456 and leaves the audience breathless. The episode offers backstory to dull the shock of Jack’s day 3 revelation and then it kicks us while we’re down. Kicks us, punches us, spits on us, and leaves us a bloody pulp on the floor waiting to see how on earth Torchwood can save the day.
Jack reveals his reasons for being involved in giving the children to the 456 in 1965: it was an exchange for a cure for an unspecified virus. 12 children and the virus gets a cure. Imagine that during Covid-19. It would almost sound like a mercy. But the 456 are not content with another 12 children. Now they want 10% of the child population of the planet; 325,000 from the UK alone. If humanity doesn’t comply, the 456 will wipe out the entire planet. Surely Torchwood has a plan?
In classic action/thriller style, they do have a plan and it involves Lois Habiba, still the best new character of the season. She announces to Thames house that every conversation has been recorded; conversations that entailed the dire selection criteria that would keep certain children safe, while others could be sacrificed. All will be shared with the world at large unless they allow Jack Harkness to enter and negotiate. Jack and Ianto get to enter and the triumph is palpable. Gwen even gets the upper hand on her assailants. The audience gets a moment to be excited… until things go very, very wrong. Not only does it leave Lois in the unenviable position of being held accountable for treason, but Ianto Jones dies. By this season, I had come to like Ianto immensely and felt he was one of the strongest characters in the show. His departure is truly soul destroying. Jack watches him die in his arms. Clem also is killed remotely by the 456 who give him a horrendously painful death by “disconnecting” him. When Gwen comes to see the bodies of Jack and Ianto, Jack comes back (as expected) but it’s what Gwen says through tears that lets the audience really know where we stand. The episode ends with her barely audible words, “there’s nothing we can do!”
When my friend said this was one of the most amazing 5 hours of TV he’d ever seen, it was hard to deny. It’s raw and its emotional and its terrifying. It still maintains that cinematic feel that we’ve seen all season long and the music is outstanding hitting a marvelous, melancholy choral piece that lets us know exactly where we stand. It’s hard to find humor in an episode so charged, but I did enjoy Rhys trying to give Clem a boost when he learns why he was left behind, “saved by hormones!” Also a light chuckle after Jack springs back to life after Clem shot him; Gwen says, “this is normal, this is what he does!” And in the most powerful moment of the season so far, as Jack offers some philosophy to the 456, Ianto stops it. Jack replies, “I liked the philosophy.” I do admit, I too liked the philosophy, especially since Jack’s friend, from who he picked up the quote, was undoubtedly the Doctor: “An injury to one is an injury to all.” A good reminder in today’s polarized society. But the humor is so outmatched against the darkness of the episode that it barely works to keep the terror at bay.
It was a nice touch having Ianto tell the 456 to look back through their records 150 years to see who Jack really is, but it pales by comparison to the Doctor and I almost wish that came up because the 456 don’t pay any attention to Jack’s history and they even ignore the threat of war. Nick Briggs has a chilling moment too, when planning how they could spin the problem of giving away 10% of the Earth’s children. He says if done right it could be perceived as “good”. Wow…
Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be an easy solution. 10% of the children of earth… but it does appear that the Prime Minister is having second thoughts about agreeing to the ultimatum. It’s hard to tell by the end if he has come around or is still planning to agree to the “giveaway”. All I know is that I’m left feeling the heartache as Jack watches Ianto die and pleads with the 456, “Not him!” Gwen may be right: maybe there is nothing they can do. But I am willing to bet Jack will try anything to save all of the Children of Earth. And that will make him a hero! (…Right?) ML