WELL, THEN. HERE WE ARE AT "DAY FOUR" OF TORCHWOOD: CHILDREN OF EARTH. IT AIRS TONIGHT (THURSDAY) ON BBC AMERICA, AND THE FOLLOWING REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS. SO STOP READING NOW IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS. AND THIS TIME ... SOMETHING REALLY REALLY BIG HAPPENS. AND I'M GONNA TALK ABOUT IT NEXT PARAGRAPH, SO YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
what becomes a casualty of captain jack harkness's hubris most? is it his fretful moue, his sadly unrequited love, or his own unerring grasp of the inevitable? maybe it's his way with a coffeemaker or his flair for finding just the right tie. ianto jones had all those things ... not to mention his share of secrets. yet it's not his secrets that get him killed in this episode, but his implacable faith in his boss/lover, who is fatally incapable of keeping his damn ego on a leash.
so yesterday we found out how jack's tied to the 1965 thing, and today the whole world finds out about that previous 456 visit. and torchwood: children of earth begins its inexorable slide off the rails. but at least now we understand better why jack was so blase about handing that little girl to the evil fairy creatures in "small worlds" -- he'd already done that sort of thing before.
in 1965, the 456 said a new strain of flu would kill multi-millions, then offered an antivirus in exchange for the "gift" of a dozen kids. jack may have been the decision-maker with the evil fairies -- giving them the girl so they wouldn't destroy the whole planet -- but he was just a middleman in 1965, like frobisher now. as jack's contact on that night explains, he got the job b/c he's the guy who doesn't care. in fact, he even says it's a pretty good deal.
gwen can't believe jack didn't see it was a protection racket. (well, darling, your fearless leader is many things, including not too bloody bright.) at once disappointed and self-righteous, ianto asks jack how come he never told him about this. "i tell you everything," ianto says. (hmm, really?) jack gets defensive and asks what he should have done, and ianto says that the jack he knew would have fought back.
yeah, well, be careful what you wish for, grasshopper.
meanwhile, after frobisher asks what the 456 will do with the children, the alien shows them ... via a terrified cameraman sent into the tank. amid the toxic muck and alien limbs, we see one of the children from 1965. wearing a sort of ventilator over its nose and mouth, he's kinda ... plugged into the multiheaded creature. still a child, in the same clothes even, and seemingly ... aware. everyone -- torchwood, frobisher, the PM and visitors -- recoils in horror.
hey, we don't hurt the kids, say the 456 (who look disturbingly like a cross between something out of doctor seuss and the aliens from alien), and they live a long time! frobisher loses it, and the creature flips out and plays a recording of froby asking to keep 1965 on the downlow. the cameraman gets out. and so does great britain's big secret. then the 456 give them one day to deliver the kids ... or else they'll annihilate the world.
the PM and his cabinet discuss what to do. exceptional weasel rick yates, played by voice of the daleks nicholas briggs, actually says they could maybe play on current fears about overpopulation and spin this as a good thing. nice! but the banality of evil is in full effect in these briefings (secretly recorded by lois's camera eyes), where they refer to children as "units." nothing like a little dehumanization to sanitize a dirty process.
all options exhausted, the PM tells his more squeamish underlings to save the hand-wringing for later: they've got 10 percent of their own children to sacrifice. well, not their children, of course -- the kids and grandkids of everyone at the table will be spared. but how do they pick the victims ... uh, units? denise riley (deborah finlay) has the genius idea to use the school
leadleague (EDIT: misheard that and misunderstood it too!) tables to identify the bottom 10 percent. hey, they'll just be a burden on society anyway. it's practically a win-win!
time for gwen to make stuff happen again. she sends rhys and a laptop full of video to an undisclosed location, ready to transmit everything to the media. she also shows the info to johnson and turns her to their side. via lois, she confronts the PM and makes him let jack and ianto into thames house. gwen can't save clem, though: the alien has had a vestigial connection to him all along, and kills him by remote. poor clem.
jack cowboys into thames house with ianto. he's going to confront the 456 and show ianto how he'll fight back. and then he kills ianto. he doesn't actually murder the lad, but when jack rashly threatens the 456 with war if they try to take earth's children, the alien responds by locking down thames house and releasing a deadly virus, killing all the panicked cockroaches of government trapped inside (except for dekker, who somehow makes it into a decon suit without breathing the air).
why didn't jack just do something more useful, like examine clem to find out how the 456 control the children? that's what the doctor would have done.
so maybe there's supposed to be something tragically romantic about ianto marching bright-eyed to his death by his lover's side. but mostly it's infuriatingly pointless. also, i knew it was coming, and not 'cause i was spoiled, b/c i wasn't. it was just ... obvious. so many references to TW agents dying young = someone's gonna get it. and RTD is the joss whedon of brit tv: if a couple is happy, one of them must die (or get trapped in an alternate universe or fly back to their own time or whatever).
after his starry-eyed convo with his sister about jack, i knew for sure we were going to lose our lovely ianto, he of the dry wit, sharp outfits, strong coffee, insane detail-mongering, and wickedly clever schemes. i mean, it's no doubt impossible for anyone to resist those 51st-century pheromones and that flashy immortality, but, although one of the things i've loved about torchwood is its delight in unapologetic boy love, it's clear that ianto did struggle with his feelings for jack. he seemed to have strictly liked girls up to that point and even had a fiancee when we first met him ... a fiancee who was turning into a cyberman and nearly destroyed everyone, but poor ianto still loved her.
so maybe ianto also had a fatal need to be needed. in any case, jack's willing playmate crumples to the floor while the captain cries that it's all his fault. ianto weeps and says, "i love you." jack moans, "don't." then he begs ianto to stay with him. (mixed messages to the mofugging end!) "don't forget me," pleads ianto. jack says he never could -- not even in 1,000 years' time. he promises! ianto dies, and jack begs, "don't leave me, please."
this is the part of loving humans that the doctor can't deal with: watching them die. but jack always plunges right in -- we know he had at least two serious relationships in the 20th century, and probably more -- the pain be damned. it is hard not to think that, on some level, the allegation that he doesn't care is true. people are shiny good fun, and adoration is fantastic, but ultimately they're just so much tissue paper to jack.
anyway. the 456 win. jack sobs and kisses ianto one last time. then he slumps dead beside his dead lover, his hand on ianto's shoulder.
the cabinet watch it all in horror. denise says they have to surrender. 35 million children, says the PM. or 6.7 billion people, counters denise. (the needs of the many, yada yada ... .) the PM tells red-eyed frobisher to put the plan into action.
in a makeshift morgue, gwen walks forward, alone, to ID the bodies. she uncovers jack and looks at him, the tiniest smile playing around her lips. then she steels herself and pulls back ianto's shroud. jack wakes up and remembers. gwen cries and tenderly straightens ianto's tie. (sob!) jack hugs her as she whispers words of sorrow and defeat.
"there's nothing we can do."