Last night's Torchwood had two things we love: Dystopian insanity, and a deep, ancient, pulsating horror. Check out this totally excellent clip, where Jilly Kitzinger travels deep into the heart of the mystery of the Blessing.
After a while in which Torchwood Miracle Day seemed to be in a holding pattern, last night's penultimate episode got things moving again, and at last we grew close to the center of the horror of worldwide immortality. Spoilers ahead...
Torchwood took a page from one of the final episodes of Dollhouse (and Doctor Who's "Last of the Time Lords," and jumped forward a couple months at the start of last night's episode. That was a pretty gutsy move, which enabled the show to display a more advanced stage of the world's slide into chaos. Now, instead of seeing a world where everybody is freaking out, we get a world where people have just sort of accepted that everything is fucked. It's a worldwide Depression, China has closed its borders, the insurance companies have gone under, and there are rumblings that the United States is going to be under some kind of martial law. And the Overflow Camps are still there, but nobody's fighting them any more.
The most sardonic moment in the episode is this scene between Rhys and Gwen. The cops keep showing up and trying to take Gwen's catatonic dad away, so they can put him in the ovens with all the other Category One people. And it's getting harder and harder to save Papa Cooper from immolation — Mama Cooper has to hold him down with all her strength and stop him making a sound. But then Rhys reveals that he's been offered a job driving people to the camps — not quite all the way to the ovens, just to the camps. And Gwen sort of agrees that they have to consider it, because they need money that badly. And then the power cuts out and they immediately switch from contemplating becoming complicit in mass murder to having a bit of blackout nookie. Because what else are they going to do? Hey, maybe they'll make another baby and help contribute to the world's fatal overpopulation.
Eventually, of course, the cops do find Gwen's dad and cart him off, and life goes on. For everybody else, anyway. Soon after Gwen's dad is carted off, everybody's back to figuring out how to get into China. (And it's slightly weird that Gwen faces no consequences herself for hiding her dad all that time, since she was warned over and over that she needed to "take care" if she was harboring a Category One person.)
Meanwhile, back at the CIA, Rex has been butting his head against a wall for two months, and the whole place is turning into a kind of nuthouse with piles of crap everywhere. I loved Rex casually harrassing his subordinates and generally being the lovable asswipe he always is. Rex cleverly figures out a new lead on the mysterious Three Families, which almost works out — except that he's stymied, yet again, by his coworker Charlotte, who's secretly a family member. I kind of like Charlotte, especially after she gave Rex the finger in this episode, so I'm looking forward to seeing the two of them have it out next week.
In general, the conspiracy-wrangling got kicked up a notch in this episode. The Three Families are revealed to have been responsible for the destruction of the Manhattan Central Repository, which could have held documents on their secrets. And meanwhile, Jilly Kitzinger has been busy filtering news reports for "Harry Bosco," which is an old intelligence term for censoring the news via slight mistranslation of foreign sources.
Oh, and even if you haven't been a fan of Rex up until now, as I have, you'd still have to enjoy the byplay between Rex and his new boss, Q. Like when Q says he wishes he was the mole, so Rex could shoot him and he could get some sleep. "I'd like that very much, sir," Rex says absolutely deadpan.
Also, the scene where Gwen and Jack deal with the guy who has been spying on Gwen's house is pretty awesome, what with Gwen calling and asking if he's seen her car keys, and then Jack getting the drop on him.
The plot really starts to move forward when Oswald Danes shows up at Gwen's house disguised as the food delivery guy, and wants to see Captain Jack — who's been off having all his blood siphoned off by Esther, because that's one of the few kinks Captain Jack hasn't tried yet. (Or maybe because she has some hunch that Jack's blood is important, and it might be a weapon, which seems a bit of a leap in logic.) Oswald has a lead on the causes of Miracle Day, because he's been spying on Jilly Kitzinger.
The scenes where our heroes confront Oswald are pretty fascinating. Gwen and Rhys nearly beat the tar out of him — Gwen pauses to clean and wipe off the saucepan before whacking Oswald in the head with it — and later, Gwen asks him about the thing he said at his trial, "She should have run faster." Oswald admits he said that, with a smile. And Gwen says that she's known other pedophiles, when she was a cop, and they were "alone and damned and wretched," and Oswald is nothing like that. He's a monster. (A side note: did anybody else find Rhys just unbearably obnoxious in this episode? Way more than usual?)
Which makes me wonder what will happen when, inevitably, Oswald looks into the same monstrous crack in the Earth that Jilly Kitzinger looks into in this episode. Supposedly the Blessing shows you yourself and you confront whatever terrible secrets you've been keeping — but Oswald has no secrets. He's completely open about who he is. Will the Blessing spare Oswald? Will Jack and Gwen and the rest be in more trouble from the Blessing, because they're more conflicted and more full of self-deception?
All along, Torchwood: Miracle Day has been about an event that transforms humanity — mostly by making us immortal, and thus prone to slow, horrible decay in massive numbers. But what if the ultimate meaning of Miracle Day has to do with changing the human race in another way? The people who've looked at the Blessing are the new rulers of the world, the new elite, and there's a weird selection process going on where only the people with no compunction are spared. At least, Jilly, who seems to have no conscience whatsoever, is shown that "I'm right." And from what we've seen of the surviving members of the Families, they seem like a pretty cold-hearted bunch as well.
The Families want Jilly — excuse me, Lucy — on board because she's a "storyteller," whose whole appearance and manner tells a story. And they want her to "write history," because as we've seen over and over again in this series, there's a great power in changing how people view the past. New human race, new history. And Jilly, the completely unscrupulous manipulator who relished selling us a pedophile as our new prophet, is going to be the one who writes the new human history.
So the Blessing is something deep underground, connected to two fissures on opposite sides of the globe, in Shanghai and Buenos Aires. And it's somehow alive, and trying to communicate via the feeling of great dread that it communicates to anyone who comes near. Somehow, activating the Miracle involved setting fire to two blood banks, one in each city. And Jack's blood is connected somehow — and it's drawn to the Blessing as if by a magnet.
It may have taken us a bit too long to get here, but Torchwood: Miracle Day is once again giving us a compelling story, and I can't wait to see how it ends.