*** Spoiler Warning ***
What follows is a review of Torchwood: Children of Earth Day Four. It contains spoilers about the Day Four episode so only proceed if you want to know what happened.
Torchwood: Children of Earth – Day Four
By Kevin Bachelder
We find out straight away that Jack was basically the government’s delivery boy back in 1965. He thinks the reason why they picked him was because he can’t be killed but they only wanted him because, as they put it, “He didn’t care”. Ouch! It turns out that in exchange for the twelve orphaned children the 456 gave us an anti-virus formula that could potentially save 25 million lives. This scenario sets things up nicely for what we see play out later in the episode. The idea that we’re willing to make a small sacrifice in exchange for the welfare of a larger group is something the 456 will use against us again many years later.
The events that take place at the end of this excellent episode are probably what we’re all most interested in so I hope you’ll excuse the following very basic recap of what happens in the middle of the episode just so we have more time at the end to discuss the BIG stuff.
We get a glimpse inside the alien guest box when the 456 allows a cameraman to come in and record video that shows that a child is alive in there and s/he is somehow physically connected to the 456. They tell us “We do not harm the children…they feel no pain…they live long beyond their years”. So I guess that makes it OK then? Either way they threaten to “Wipe out your entire species” if we don’t give them exactly what they want. Even after seeing all of this the government types try to play hard ball with the 456 in the negotiations regarding how many children…excuse me…how many ‘units’ we will give them. Folks will probably be appalled at the way the government representatives are more concerned about protecting their own loved ones and covering their own rear ends rather than serving the public at large. Because of this behavior the Torchwood team realizes they can use the video recordings of these negotiations to blackmail the government types. They threaten to release the recordings to the general public unless they are allowed to step in and take over the negotiations with the 456. It’s a well thought out plan involving everyone. I really enjoyed watching this plan play out.
Once the government types realize that Torchwood has them ‘over a barrel’ they let Jack and Ianto into the throne room to confront the 456. Jack starts things off by threatening to release the video of all of these back room negotiations saying that this will cause millions of people all around the world to rise up against the 456. At first the 456 seems quite surprised by this development. They say “You yielded in the past…you will do so again”. Jack tells them that “An injury to one is an injury to all”. However, the 456 appears to be adjusting to this situation as they tell Jack “Based on the human infant mortality rate a child dies every 3 seconds…the human response to this is to accept and adapt”. Jack says “We’re adapting right now and we’re making this a war.” On the one hand this statement made me think Yea, you tell him Jack but on the other hand I thought Wow he’s coming on pretty strong here. Rather than backing down or trying to negotiate this stalemate the 456 says very emphatically “Then the fight begins…action has been taken…you wanted a demonstration of war…a virus has been released…it will kill everyone in the building”. As Thames house goes into lockdown mode, with no one getting in or out, panic naturally ensues with people running for the exits. The 456 then starts to make a sound that I don’t think we’ve heard before. This sound is obviously being broadcast and while my initial fear was that this might affect the children in some way it actually affects just Clem who’s back at the Torchwood warehouse with Gwen and Johnson. He starts to writhe in terrible pain with blood coming out of his ears and nose. He quickly dies in Gwen’s arms. This must have been a horrible way to die. The 456 states “The remnant has been disconnected”. So, it turns out that Clem was right along in that the 456 were somehow ‘tuned in’ to him. Jack tells Ianto “We’ve got to get you out of here…I can survive anything but you can’t”. Ianto calmly states “Too late…I breathed the air”. Jack pleads to the 456 “No…not him” but it’s too late for either of them to escape and they are powerless to stop the virus. As Ianto lies dying in his arms Jack says to him “It’s all my fault”. Ianto says “Don’t forget me”. Since the two of them have had several discussions about their future over the past four days it makes this scene even harder to watch. Jack obviously feels like he caused Ianto’s death.
As viewers we went from the high of thinking that the Torchwood team was on the verge of ‘saving the day’ to the low of losing another beloved member of the Torchwood team. I realized too late, much like Jack, that this plan was seriously flawed from the start. The 456 have shown how powerful they are. Our previous encounter with them back in 1965 showed that they were experienced with deadly viruses. Mr. Dekker told us back in day two that the atmosphere they requested for their alien guest box was a poisonous concoction. After watching the 456 consistently overpower the government types in their negotiating sessions why did the Torchwood team think that doing something similar would work for them? Did Jack and the team just get too cocky? All these thoughts and questions ran through my head as I witnessed the end of this episode. You may recall from my day one review that I said I wasn’t sure I wanted more ‘dark’ Torchwood episodes but here I was totally enthralled in this story even though it went to a very dark place. While you may or may not agree with the direction our story just took you can’t help but appreciate the way they were able to emotionally draw us in.
As we close out the episode Gwen goes to the temporary morgue area where she pulls back the sheets from Jack and Ianto’s bodies. Naturally Jack jumps back to life but that won’t be happening to Ianto. It’s fitting that as the episode fades out we hear Gwen’s voiceover say “There’s nothing we can do”. Can it get any darker that this?
Be sure to check out our Torchwood bonus discussion podcasts being released each night after the Torchwood: Children of Earth episode airs on BBC America. You can find our Day Four discussion here.