As the government moves ahead on its plan to round up children, Ianto’s sister, Gwen, and Rhys fight to protect Ianto’s niece and nephew and the working class children they have gathered from the community. The men of the area take up makeshift arms to fight off the military and the police as they arrive for the children. Meanwhile, middle class and upper class families start to return their children to school, assuming that the government can be trusted and their children are safe; working class families without child care or misguided loyalty to the system do the same, and soon their children are loaded on buses headed to the aliens.
Frobershire, who has done nothing but his job from the beginning of the series is told he will have to make one more sacrifice: his own children. The PM tells him that the only way to save the rest of the government’s children and pull off the plan to convince the British people that it is the aliens and not the government that double-crossed them, is to show at least one high profile government official gladly handing over their own children.
Horrified, Frobershire returns home to find the press have already arrived to document his children boarding the bus. What happens next rings extremely inappropriate, at least from a N. American perspective where far too many cases of men making similar decisions as a result of the economic downturn warn against any media making those men out to be sympathetic victims. Frobershire pays for his complicity in the killing of Jack and the others from 1965 and for taking Jack’s family hostage, but so do his wife and two young girls. Women and children as “collateral damage” is one of the unspoken themes of this final episode and I think it is one worth thinking quite a bit about.
Jack too is not finished paying for 1965. After the devastating loss of episode 4, Jack gives himself over to despair, allowing himself to be arrested. He then discovers the solution to the 456 problem, but not in enough time to sacrifice another child “who won’t be missed.” (Barrowman’s performance on the final episode is spot on from beginning to end. He infuses the character with pain, regret, internal struggle, and the complex heroism we have all come to expect. It was brilliant!)
Despite being thrown in jail for spying, Louis Habiba continues to be a key player to the end. Torchwood has seemingly abandoned her, Gwen is off saving the children which means she cannot save Louis and Captian Jack gives up after he is told she’s been arrested for espionage marking her down as one more person he has failed. He is so caught up in his own stuff by the time he reaches the jail that he does not even answer her cries through the wall. And still, Louis comes through. When she is asked to hand over the contact lenses for one last recording mission, Louis explains how they work willingly and for all the right reasons. Her actions ensure that the PM, who has put everything off on “the middle men” and the U.S., will pay with his career and possible prosecution.
While this final episode sees two black men taking charge of the handover of the children, one from the U.S. and one from UNIT, the Prime Minister and his aids are all party to the process. And while the visual narrative shows him relegated to the background, something he himself cherishes by episode end, Louis and her supervisor know better. Thus the way he pays is a testament to the women at the “bottom” of the government hierarchy: admin assistants. While much of the commentary about the season with regards to the government has been about the higher ups vs. the “middle men” civil servants, female admin have been a constant background. They make sure the work gets done, both good and bad, and their near invisibility ensures that they are perfectly placed to bring the corrupt down. The multiple ways that women are pivotal in these roles is a critical example of engendered marginalization and the power that women take for themselves and exert despite it. (Bravo!)
Another woman also takes power here. The woman who came up with the entire selection plan and justified it through an apalling eugenicist narrative, is the only present at the meetings that does not pay for her complicity. She tries to exert power first with the U.S., then passively by taking unofficial charge of the office and the dismissing of junior staff, and then actively by claiming control over the government. One can only hope that the first video that Louis shot will reach the airwaves and she too will pay for her part. She does however commit to letting Louis out, so that is a good thing.
The good news is that despite being blown up, riding on her stomach on sacks of potatoes for miles, being shot at, falling down, and running on little to no food and adrenaline for days, Gwen is still pregnant at episode end. As a fan, the image of Gwen, with a swelling belly, flanked by Rhys and clearly rebuilding Torchwood while admonishing those who would “run away” is a powerful and satisfying ending for the character. As an academic, the heterosexist narrative surrounding motherhood, parental rights, and overt sexuality running through this season is problematic at best. (My thoughts on sexuality from the first exciting exploration of multiple versions of bi-sexuality and/or same sex attraction in the first season to the “family romance narrative” ending of season/series 3 is forthcoming.)
I’ll wait to see the verdict on what people think of Jack’s ultimate decision. While he is initial decline into self-pity will be off putting to most, I think his final decision is fitting with his character going back to the Dr. Who days. However, I do wish he would have ended in his newly built office looking at a photo of Ianto and reiterating his promise to never forget. Perhaps Jack explains it best when he says, “I began to like it [playing the hero] and look what I became.”
I don’t really know how they can come back for a fourth season, but the groundwork is certainly laid if they do. Like most fans, I hope that the ending does not pave the way for predicted Tweenified sexually sanitized Torchwood Tubbies, but it certainly could.