Friday, July 03, 2009

My Review of Torchwood's 1x13: "End Of Days"

Written by Chris Chibnall
Directed by Ashley Way

Gwen (to Andy): “Do you think the world is going to end on your shift?”

Well I don’t know about you but to answer that question for poor Andy, I would say that no, the world isn’t going to end and that Andy’s shift will be long and somewhat boring for him.

You don’t have to be a genius to realise that the events of “Captain Jack Harkness” were destined to play a much bigger role in our first season finale, so the chance of nursing a hangover from all the New Year Celebrations were out of the question when sitting down to watch this and the previous episode back to back.

Things open up rather routinely with the relieving confirmation that Gwen’s Retcon antics with Rhys haven’t done any permanent damage to the latter. In fact they’re blissfully happy and I would be too if I knew their happiness wasn’t built on a lie due to Gwen’s recklessness.

News has spread as major attention to a lot of strange activities in various places that the media are spinning as terrorist attacks and religious groups the sign of the apocalypse. These are due to Owen opening The Rift and suffice to say, Captain Jack isn’t exactly impressed given now that Torchwood are under scrutiny by other chains of command.

I realise that when you’re in the middle of having a pretty soldier snog you in front of repressed 1941 dance hall, you may not be in the biggest of hurries to return to your own timeline but given that there was no actual other way of returning and that opening The Rift was an inevitability, did Jack really think that no-one on his payroll wasn’t going to use it?

We’ve had enough hints all the season about the dangers of The Rift, whether it was Suzie or Mark Lynch talking about things moving in the darkness or even going back to Doctor Who, the debacle with The Gelth in “The Unquiet Dead” or Margaret Slitheen attempts of ripping the world asunder in “Boom Town” but a lot of what we’ve seen monster wise has also been hints.

Hints are well and good and great for actually pulling a viewer in and getting them to care but for once, we did need to actually see what dangers The Rift could really do when fully opened. This episode gave us a very good taste of that but not before we had to go through many character dynamics first.

Since “Everything Changes” the gang have only been drip-fed information about not only The Rift but Captain Jack as well. Recent episodes have shown Jack reveal small bit about himself to certain people, whether it was his own accord (telling Toshiko he was a conman) or not (Gwen learning that he couldn’t die) but given that they’ve been working with Jack for a reasonable long enough time in a dangerous job where it appears they don’t know everything they need to know, you can understand the doubts that become more vocal.

I have to admit that as much as I love Captain Jack, the team have every right to question his authority when the stakes are high and they feel that they don’t know everything and it doesn’t really matter if parts of their own individual motivations are selfish because at the end of the day, it’s their lives as well as innocent bystanders that are also on the line.

For once Owen is the most vocal about challenging Jack on decisions and what to do about the influx of things that are being spit out of The Rift and into Cardiff with varying consequences and to be honest, he isn’t alone because I can see his point.

He may have opened The Rift when getting Jack and Toshiko back with the added hope of Diane coming back to him but was this that rescued his friends even if this decision is now biting him and everyone else in the behind and you know that Owen must have some kind of point when even Gwen of all people is backing his corner.

Jack might not have been pleased with how Owen handled things but as I pointed out before, Jack knew The Rift was going to have to opened for him and Toshiko to come back to the present and trying to make an example of Owen when the usually snarky medic mentioned the fruitlessness of ensnaring every single thing that comes out of The Rift because logically even that isn’t going to solve all their problems either.

Diane issues aside and momentarily seeing her at a bar after one too many, Owen’s reaction to a hospital doctor, whose intent on Torchwood only fixing things when a plague victim comes through the door is pretty restrained. Granted Torchwood are responsible but hospitals are supposed to treat the sick and this doctor could treat his olden patient but chose to have a go at Owen after the latter did something helpful.

Of course, Owen’s hospital experience is nothing compared to what happened back at the Hub when him and Captain Jack finally had it out with each other and Jack decides to fire Owen for disobeying him. Normally I’d side with Jack but damn, Owen was right for what he said and for pointing out that everyone else was thinking the same thing. Even I nearly choked up when he expressed his fears of being retconned by Jack in the near future.

But Owen wasn’t the only one who given reasons to doubt Jack’s authorities. He isn’t the only person who could possibly benefit from getting someone they love back if The Rift is opened and learning something else about Toshiko, there’s a brief interaction between her and her dead mother who warns Toshiko to open The Rift before things become worse.

Then there’s Ianto and we all knew who he was going to see and out of her S&M style Cyberwoman outfit, a more comfortable Lisa warns her very living boyfriend to open The Rift so more people won’t die as well. I wonder if it was Bilis playing trick on Owen, Toshiko and Ianto even if he isn’t there to be seen.

However if there ever a reason or a character who would be cause to The Rift actually getting opened then suffice to say that very person must be Gwen. I want to believe that Our Miss Cooper in 2007 was related to “The Unquiet Dead” chambermaid in some way and that somehow Gwen is connected to The Rift in a way that will shock people next season.

Gwen isn’t always the most perceptive of self-aware of people but if Bilis’ string of events could persuade the others, then getting Gwen onside into opening The Rift wouldn’t prove to be a hard stretch either. All he had to do was show Gwen the worst thing that could happen to her if The Rift wasn’t opened and the death of Rhys in a pretty gruesome manner proved to be enough.

The way Bilis showed Gwen that vision of a violent future in his shop felt akin to anything involving magic on either Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Angel but in honesty, if Bilis could bounce back and forth in two different time zones (which he tells Jack and Gwen is a curse when they visit his shop), then why was Toshiko so surprised that he could show Gwen the future? Assuming that it was the real future that is!

Once again when Gwen attempts to do something right, she decides to use extreme methods in order to achieve her goal. Retconning Rhys back in “Combat” so she could alleviate her conscience was bad enough but storming into their flat, hitting him with a stun gun and getting Jack and Ianto to lock in the Hub’s cells without even giving him some kind of an explanation, well put this way Gwen won’t be winning girlfriend of the year anytime soon.

It’s also interesting to see that while Gwen may have Rhys the amnesia pill, the issues that inspired her to take that particular course haven’t entirely disappeared. Rhys expressed his annoyance of how Gwen’s job has affected their relationship and her behaviour and being locked in a cell doesn’t help matters.

Bilis on the other hand proves that he’s every bit as nasty as his posture suggests and playing with the Hub’s security, he’s able to sneak down into the cells, let Rhys out and kill the poor man in cold blood and believe me, Gwen’s instinct for Rhys may have kicked at the wrong moment but it’s this episode that does convince me that she loves him a lot.

Eve Myles really gets to showcase her abilities as an actress and while like many people, I have my up and down moments with Gwen, we’re really shown what she’s capable of as a performer.

Gwen’s reaction to Rhys’ death is powerful. Not for one second does anything that Gwen either says or does feel remotely over the top or false. She goes through all the emotions of losing a loved one, even in circumstances as horrifying as this and once again she has no qualms in pointing out the bleeding obvious factors about Torchwood, including the not so subtle fact that everyone in this job is alone in one way or another and for Gwen she refuses to continue that trend.

Owen’s return to the Hub for reasons unexplained (maybe it was to get his things?) intensifies the situation even further because it’s Rhys’ death that has become the last straw for the gang with Jack’s refusal to open The Rift.
He doesn’t give them an incentive to listen and their own personal feelings may not be for the good of humanity but at this time Jack had a perfect reason to be really honest and he baulked big time.

Laying into each and everyone of the gang did him no favours. It’s never smart to allude to a grieving as a cheat even if she is and Gwen can certainly smack pretty damn hard when provoked. It also doesn’t help goading the same bloke you fired less than a day ago, especially when said bloke can’t take anymore and retaliates by shooting you point blank in the head.

At any moment Gwen could’ve turned around and told Owen that bullets are useless with Jack but seeing as she was so busy opening The Rift she probably forgot but seeing as Owen was suspicious when Lisa was unable to kill Jack in “Cyberwoman”, he did end up learning about Jack’s immortality the most interesting way.

Another thing we learned was that despite his terrible behaviour and method of trying to keep his crew in control, Jack was actually right about not opening The Rift and thanks to the gang getting deceived by Bilis, the consequences of their misguided actions has more than just the Hub getting nearly destroyed.

That nasty consequence being a dark satanic looking creature named Abbadon, otherwise known as The Devourer whom roams over Cardiff and whose shadow kills everything in sight. I can’t help but wonder why Bilis would only be a minion to this creature that the extreme measure he took to bringing Abbadon out of The Rift would suggest that he has a bigger potential as a villain.

Of course given that Abbadon feeds on life so much, it’s only fair that his defeat should be at the hands of receiving an all you can eat buffet and who better to chew on than Captain Jack? It’s a great way of stopping the beast given the fact that this apocalypse isn’t spitting out fires and blotting out the sun and while Jack screams in agony, he is the successor but of course there is a price of sorts.

The Rift may be closed along with everything sent back with it and Rhys alive and well but it’s Jack who lies stone cold and although you find yourself doubting that he’s really dead, hats off to everyone involved for getting you to believe that he might be gone after all.

Gwen however didn’t believe he was dead and although days passed before she was proved right, it’s rather sweet she took care of him for the days he was dead. Having more lives than a cat, Jack proves him to have survived and his reunion scenes with everyone truly rock. Whether it’s simple hugs with Toshiko, a snog with Ianto or forgiving Owen, doubts aside everyone in this gang does care about Jack.

The last scene is wonderful as Gwen tries to find out what would’ve tempted Jack into opening The Rift, especially as he wasn’t given a lure like everyone else. The first moment of sheer fan pleasing came with the suggestion of The Doctor while the second was Jack hearing the sound of the TARDIS, grabbing The Doctor’s hand and disappearing. We may not see it materialise but its damn good moment as Gwen tells the others that Jack is missing. Like you could keep Captain Jack Harkness tied down if you wanted to.

Also in “End Of Days”

I’m guessing because there was about a second worth of a break in between this episode and the last one, we didn’t a Previously On. By the way can the writers alter Jack’s opening monologue for Season Two?

Captain Jack (to everyone): “This is not the end of the world. I’m certain of that.”

Things that fell through The Rift included a Roman soldier, an ancient set of warriors, 14th Century woman with the Black Plague and more Weevils.

Gwen: “All your staff have feelings Jack, even Owen.”
Captain Jack: “Well you would know.”

Lisa (to Ianto): “People will die thousands of people unless you open The Rift.”

Was it really necessary to show flashbacks to “Cyberwoman” and “Out Of Time” when Lisa and Diane appeared in the episode?

Owen (to Gwen): “Good luck with the end of the world. I would say thanks for the memories.”

Bilis (to Gwen): “Sometimes it’s best to live in ignorance. Do you really want to know?”

Bilis’ shop is called A Stitch In Time, which suits him to a tee and yes, now I’ve seen this episode twice I do think he’s channelling Doc from Buffy’s fifth season.

Toshiko (re Rhys): “I’m so sorry.”
Gwen: “You never even met him.”

Ianto read from Daniel 12 verse 10 from the Bible before reading about Abbadon. The Sarah Jane Adventures also had something from the Bible as well.

Captain Jack (re Owen): “Stop him.”
Ianto: “No.”

Captain Jack: “You were so in love with Rhys, you spent half your time jumping into Owen’s bed.”
Gwen: “Fuck you.”

To activate The Rift, Gwen typed in Rhea Silva and got retinal scans of everyone including Jack.

Bilis (re Abbadon): “From out of the darkness, he will come.”

Did anyone else think the Abbadon looked a little like The Beast in “The Satan Pit”? What happened to Bilis in the end anyway and how come we didn’t get Suzie if things were coming out of The Rift?

Gwen: “You’re here.”
Rhys: “I was just here a minute ago.”

Things Jack used against his gang was Gwen bonking Owen, Ianto keeping Lisa a secret, Toshiko’s relationship with Mary and the pendant and of course Owen allowing himself to be mauled by a Weevil.

Gwen (re Captain Jack): “I wanna sit with him.”
Owen: “Gwen.”
Gwen: “I wanna sit with him.”

Toshiko (re Captain Jack): “We have to face up to it, he’s not coming back.”
Gwen: “I believe in him.”

The BBC2 airing of this finale confirmed that Season Two will air on terrestrial television first later on in the year.

Owen: “I’m ...”
Captain Jack: “I forgive you.”

Chronology: About a day or two since “Captain Jack Harkness”.

Gwen: “What would’ve tempted you to open The Rift?”
Captain Jack: “The right kind of Doctor.”

Standout music: Some impressive score for both Murray Gold and Ben Foster once again.

As season finales go, “End Of Days” may not win points for complete innovation nor does it beat the first two season finales to Doctor Who but ending the season on an ambiguous and fan pleasing cliff hanger works a whole lot better knowing that this show is coming back for a much deserved second season. Now we have to wait another while to see what Jack gets up to with The Doctor and Martha Jones.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

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