I have decided to spend more time on the Torchwood wrap up post, ie to re-watch all 3 seasons before weighing in on this seasons clear end to certain storylines, but thought since the series is starting tonight in the U.S. some readers might want to know what they are in for, so I’ll be posting a synopsis each day with a spoiler or too.
Torchwood Children of Earth: Episode 1
The new season of Torchwood starts off after an undetermined amount of time has passed from last season. What this means is that the season end cliffhanger involving Jack’s brother and the ongoing revelations/relationship with John (James Marster) are both “resolved” off screen. It is unfortunate for fans, as this story line was reaching a key crescendo that would likely have revealed at least some of Captain Jack’s origins. The first Episode of Children of Earth does however, promise us new insight into the pasts of both Jack and Ianto and soon we will find that neither is who we’ve come to think of them to be.
This episode opens with the team trying to replace Toshiko and Owen, whose positions remain unfilled. (Interestingly, the show pays a tiny homage to Owen, in the form of Gwen saying hello to his picture as she arrives for work that first morning, but no similar one to Tosh.) Martha Jones is unavailable for either position as she has chosen to remain with UNIT and is currently on her honeymoon. Enter, dashing doctor Rupesh who helps Ianto and Jack extract an alien from a dead man in the hospital and alerts them to men of color seemingly going missing in the hospital. After thinking over the paperwork involved, Jack and Ianto seemingly decline his invitation to investigate but are actually using the refusal to lure him to the hub for recruiting.
This recruiting tool, not only allows the series to revisit its recruiting techniques from Torchwood’s, rather than the recruit’s, vantage point but also to complicate the meaning of alien life on earth. Dr. Rupesh is well aware of aliens and says that the alien attacks thwarted by both Torchwood and Dr. Who have become big enough that everyone knows, “tho 1/2 the world still denies it.” And he also talks about the impact that has had on the world’s people, from suicides to loss of faith in their chosen Deity/ies.
Unfortunately, Rupesh’s recruitment and “mystery” are put on hold as the team tries to figure out why children around the world have all started chanting in unison “we are coming.” Flashbacks to the past in which a bus load of scared orphans ride alone into a rainy night and to the order to destroy Torchwood. It seems aliens, dubbed simply the 456 for the frequency on which they communicate, are using the world’s children to speak to the world’s governments; the children, speaking English, and the time in which they began chanting, also indicate their specific targeting of Britain for reasons that will also be revealed.
We are also introduced to Lois Habiba, a bi-racial temp, whose first day in the Home Office puts her in the exact right place to help the Torchwood team as the story of the children unfolds. Lois’ character will prove to be critical in the series and to saving Torchwood, and yet in the final days, the team leaves her behind in a prison cell with Captain Jack refusing to even say “hello” to her as she calls through the bars.
In the meantime, Jack and Ianto continue to have missed opportunities to talk about their now cemented relationship with Ianto asking for clarity about their commitment and Jack shrugging off Ianto’s need for definition. At one point he says
I hate the word couple.
To which Ianto can only pathetically, and unconvincingly, reply “me too.” Ianto clearly needs to hear Jack say they are a couple outloud and Jack, who we will see this season has loved and built families far too many times, believes living together is commitment enough. Before series end, he will regret that.
All three characters relationship to children are also tested in this series. Tonight’s episode reveals that Ianto has a working class family with nieces and nephews who see him more as a cash machine, while Jack has a grandson who knows him only as “uncle Jack.” And both men think to exploit these relationships and these children to sort out why the 456 is communicating through them. The condemnation that Jack’s daughter has for his attempt will come back with deadly consequences at series end.
The revelations about both men’s pasts are no less poignant than when Ianto’s sister asks him about his sexuality. While Ianto argues that he is not gay, he has simply fallen in love with Jack, he and his sister have a very open heart-to-heart about the meaning of love, attraction, and the Jack-Ianto relationship that is not only helpful to see in general but a pleasant contrast to the way working class communities are often depicted as “more homophobic” than middle class urban ones. Ianto’s sister’s openness and strength will also play a key role in this season.
The conclusion of this episode is exhilerating! It moves at the speed of some of the best action-based episodes of the series to date. And in those last few moments in the Torchwood hub, you will never believe what happens. (Tho the parallels between what is in Gwen’s belly and what is in Jack’s are more telling than you might think, and part of a problematic thread on the issue of parenting.)