Torchwood episode 41: The Blood Line (15/9/2011)

‘I’ve seen some crazy shit with Torchwood but now I’m at the limit.’ Miracle Day ends with a whisper, a breath that goes around the whole world, bringing back death to humankind. The lead-up to this is typical RTD (albeit co-written with Jane Espenson), with the lead characters trapped in a room, talking their way towards the resolution. It reminded me of nearly all of RTD’s Doctor Who finales – the verbal confrontation with the villains, the impossible choice (Esther’s life for humankind’s mortality), the tinge of magic, the soaring music, the last-minute reveal of the heroes’ secret plan. It’s Martha activating the Archangel Network as the tenth Doctor becomes Space Jesus, or the Bad Wolf / the Doctor-Donna emerging from the TARDIS.

Bits of it work as well as any of those RTD finales. Rex’s magic blood, thanks to a full transfusion of Jack’s, is a great moment. Gwen having to shoot Jack to save humanity is another. Other bits are a lot less effective: this series’ lack of one master villain on the one hand fits with the idea of systemic evil, but it does rob the final scenes of the sense of a satisfactory stand-off like the ninth Doctor versus the Dalek Emperor or the tenth Doctor versus Rassilon. I think a solution would have to have been building up a Family member into a bigger role earlier in the season and having them present at the end.

I’m also unconvinced by the Danes plot. Again, the show skirts with parallels to Jack as they discuss how much choice Danes’ victim Susie had – but for some reason shies away from Danes turning the question back on Jack, of asking how much choice Jack’s grandson Steven had when Jack used him as the means to defeat the 456. Instead, we have to be content with Danes recognising, ‘the smile of a man who’s done terrible things’ and the promise of hope and redemption for all humankind in the future. As such, this strand remains undeveloped, and Pullman seems thrown away in a suicide vest standing about waiting to detonate at the right moment.

This is a good episode which stays true to the spirit of Torchwood (and to Espenson’s Buffy) – connecting global events in Shanghai and Buenos Aires to Gwen’s domestic life in Wales, as Rhys and Andy sneak into the death camps to comfort Gwen’s father. I don’t think it’s necessarily the right finale to 10 weeks of story: plots end mostly quite logically, but in a more muted way than I might have expected. After starting strongly, Miracle Day fizzles out in (excuse the pun) the slow-burn conspiracies of small-minded people, and Gwen’s absurd Transatlantic back-and-forth when it would have been much more effective to have her storyline in Wales running in parallel to events in the USA. As a result of some of these structural choices, the back half of the season is left with nowhere to go but to replay some of the horrors of its first half, and once we get the reveal of the Blessing’s backstory in Immortal Sins it takes too long to move into the endgame.

The Blood Line ends with the set-up for a sequel that never came, with Rex as a plausible new Jack, Jilly starting again and many of the Family still at large. There’s definite potential for more, but equally I don’t feel short changed that Torchwood (at least as a TV property, pending any Disney revival) ended here. Killing off Esther removes at least half the fun of the new team, and after all they’ve been through in the past three series, I think this is as good a place to leave Jack and Gwen as any.

TW MD The Blood Line

Captain Jack will return in Fugitive of the Judoon

Next Time: The God Complex



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