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Concrete and Conspiracies: "Torchwood: Children of Earth" Day Two

"We are coming tomorrow."

Never before have just a few words held such terrible import as they did at the end of the second installment of Torchwood: Children of Earth ("Day Two"), written by John Fay, in which the Torchwood team dealt with the aftermath of the explosion which ripped apart the Hub, their Cardiff base of operations, and their leader, Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), and struggled to survive in the light of a massive political conspiracy that sought to silence them permanently.

But just why would PM Brian Green (Nicholas Farrell) and Permanent Secretary to the Home Office John Frobisher (Peter Capaldi) want to eliminate Torchwood from the playing field when they might just be the few people in the world who have any chance in hell at stopping The 456? Hmmm...

You've read my advance review of Torchwood: Children of Earth as a whole but now that "Day Two" has aired, we can discuss this installment in detail. (And, if you haven't yet watched the second episode of Torchwood: Children of Earth, beware: SPOILERS aplenty below here.)

"Day Two" had a lot to live up to, following so closely as it did on the heels of the killer opener to Torchwood: Children of Earth and I felt that it didn't quite match the level of tension and drama as the first installment. That said, the second act is always a tricky one and often compels characters to be more reactionary than they normally would.

It's no different here in "Day Two," where a separated Gwen (Eve Myles) and Ianto (David Gareth-Lloyd) must deal with the fallout from the destruction of the Hub and plot a course to safety on their own. For Gwen, it's a quick stop at home to grab her husband Rhys (Kai Owen) and head to London. But not before Gwen gets to kick ass on two separate occasions. The first: grabbed by some suspicious-looking EMT blokes, Gwen manages to pummel them into submission with a fire extinguisher in the back of the ambulance and then grabs their firearms. As a laser target hits her eye, Gwen jumps out of the ambulance and fires simultaneously with both her guns. (Fanboys everywhere must have leapt out of their seats as it was seriously hot.) The second: with Johnson's military strike force bearing down on her, Gwen calmly stands in the middle of her street and then fires right at their vehicle, taking out their wheels with a calculated air and without blinking an eyelash. Like I said, hot.

I'm loving that Rhys has a more integral role in the plot here and clearly seems to be along for the ride. Not only did he manage to secure them a ride to London (concealed in the back of a potato lorry) but Rhys also poses as an undertaker in order to gain access to the military facility where Jack is being kept. (More on that in a bit.) Throughout Torchwood's run, Rhys has often been painted as a bit of a liability for Gwen, a reminder of the fragile hold she has on normalcy and a target to be used against her. So it's only fitting then that Rhys has more to do here than just hold Gwen's bag (though he does that too in order to keep her trigger-finger handy); he's transformed from an outsider to a valuable member of the Torchwood team.

Ianto, meanwhile, kept on the low down and cautiously avoided making contact with anyone once he learned that Gwen was alive. With nowhere else to turn, he made contact with his sister Rhiannon (Katy Wix) via a letter secreted in their delivered newspaper and arranged a meet. While the objective was to obtain a laptop and a car, Ianto's meeting with Rhiannon revealed more of his own hidden backstory as they meet in a park where Ianto claims their father broke his leg as a boy. Was it an accident as Rhiannon claims? Or is Ianto accusing his dead father of assaulting him outright?

For a story about family bonds, it's interesting to see just how each of the main characters in Torchwood: Children of Earth reacts to the threat at hand. Ianto reconnects with his sister; Gwen tells Rhys about her pregnancy; Jack's daughter Alice (Lucy Cohu) nervously tries to reach Jack; Frobisher tells his daughters to keep their phones on all day even as he tries to tell his wife everything is fine.

But everything is not fine, not by a longshot. Besides for ordering Torchwood to be executed, Frobisher has a lot on his plate. Not least of which is new PA Lois Habiba (Cush Jumbo), who takes it upon herself to meet with Gwen and Rhys after they contact Frobisher's office. Given that it's only her second day, Lois is making some huge strides with treason, already breaking the Official Secrets Act after only 24 hours in Frobisher's employ. I have to give Lois credit: she's plucky. She not only meets with Gwen and Rhys but offers them valuable intel, maps to the facility where Jack is being held, and the knowledge that Frobisher wants them dead. All this plus a meal and tea and the very PA-like offering of salt and sugar. (Have I mentioned I already love Lois?)

And then there's the matter of the room which The 456 order constructed for their own purposes, sending the building instructions to Thames House via a concentrated burst of information over the 456 frequency. And, is just me or is the shady Mr. Dekker (Ian Gelder) way too into this entire process? The way that he blew on the glass as it filled up with poisonous gases made me very, very uncomfortable. While I don't think he's in league with The 456, his methods and behavior are not exactly on the up and up. I loved his speech to Frobisher about elected officials like the PM coming and going but the civil service, the "cockroaches of government" outlasting them, just like The 456.

Johnson (Liz May Bryce) proved herself even more cunning in "Day Two," realizing that even an internal blast couldn't kill Jack Harkness for good. The scene in which the body bag slowly filled as Jack's body regenerated itself was a thing of beauteous horror, even as it dawns on Johnson that, if killing Jack is no longer an option, containment will have to suffice. The look of horror on Jack's face as he realizes that Johnson is going to encase him in concrete was palpable and I actually squirmed in my seat as he was pelted with liquid concrete, a sentence of perpetual suffocation, death, and rebirth carried out. Stunning visual and a horrific testament to how far Johnson is willing to go to carry out her plans.

I loved that it was Ianto who managed to save Jack, using the nearby construction equipment to rip the concrete cell from the facility itself but the escape sequence after that seemed a little clunky and cheesy, a rare misstep in a mini-series that has been utterly grounded and believable. That they were able to outrace Johnson's goons in a slow-moving piece of equipment, move a lorry in front of the road and explode it, and drive off without fear of anyone catching them taxed my credibility a little. But still, it's a minor quibble for a story arc that has me on the edge of my seat and it enabled Ianto to free Jack from his prison by dropping the concrete chunk into a quarry.

I'm thrilled that the team is reunited by the end of "Day Two" (love that Jack fittingly just slings Rhys' coat over his shoulder rather than covering up his naked body) and it's just as well that they are, with The 456 promising their arrival tomorrow. Just what do The 456 want? What demands will they make when they arrive? How does it connect to their use of Earth's children as their unwitting spokespeople? And what exactly happened in 1965? Find out tonight...

On Day Three of Torchwood: Children of Earth, an ominous pillar of fire descends upon London; things get personal for the members of Torchwood when their loved ones are targeted.

Comments

Tempest said…
I agree -- this didn't have the same level of tension and drama as episode one. But that's ok. One thing I appreciate about Torchwood is that I KNOW there will be a payoff. Some sci-fi stories (series, minis, movies) build and build the tension until the climax and then, "phhht." Not Torchwood. We're going somewhere.

I also loved the enthusiasm with which Ianto's brother-in-law embraced fooling the authorities.
The CineManiac said…
Watched Day Two and 40 min of Day Three last night and I'm loving it. It's such a great run, I'm hoping it gets a 4th season (although I guess I should wait to see how it all ends before I assume there will be a Torchwood for a 4th season.)
And if there is a 4th season I hope will they be bringing in Lois and Gwen's police friend, I forget his name, into the fold.
Anelise said…
Not quite as amazing as the first episode but still pretty darn good. I was happy to see Rhys more involved and helping out the team, rather than being a liability. And I'm really liking Lois too. And Peter Capaldi is stealing the show as John Frobisher.
Unknown said…
It's definitely building up. There are a few places where the writers cut some corners. How did Ianto know where Jack's cell was kept? But I happily ignore that because the story's so gosh-darn good.
Anonymous said…
It would have been worth showing some of Ianto's computer wizardry tracking down Jack. What really bothered me is how easily they got Jack. It was like after Gwen and Rhys
were reunited with Ianto and Jack's concrete tomb, Johnson's group just gave up! Very much like she did when Ianto escaped that blast site. At least Gwen put up a rather sexy fight. I was very disappointed with that scene. They could have easily made it more believable by throwing in some alien torchwood tech to help them out.
My favorite part was Jack's look of absolute fear as the car came up to him. After being shot twice, blown up, and sealed in cement, he desperately needed to see a friendly face.
Of course that friendly face annoyed me too I mean after all that Gwen has to make way too big a deal about Jack's nakedness. I really wanted to smack her and tell her to Grow up! Everything she did at that point should have been about Jack's comfort not her own.
I just want to add and some may consider this a spoiler so look away if you must
I Imdb'd Torchwood to find out that Captain Jack is going to be back for the final 2 Dr Who specials.

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