Torchwood: Children of Earth – “Day Three”

TorchwoodTitle

“Day Three”

July 22nd, 2009

At the heart of “Day Three,” part three of five of this week’s Torchwood: Children of Earth miniseries, is the fate of the middleman (sadly, the fate of canceled ABC Family series The Middleman remains the same, just in case you were wondering). With a new (Read: old) extraterrestrial threat at Great Britain’s doorstep, what’s becoming clear is that everyone and their mother wants to distance themselves from the conflict at hand. However, for various reasons, there are people trapped in the middle of the conflict who make things easier for one side and far more difficult for those who find themselves middlemen (and middlewomen, for that matter) in the midst of a very complicated conflict.

It makes for a really intriguing glimpse into the first ambassadorial contact with the 4-5-6, however, as the cloud of poison continues to shroud their identity in mystery in a way that doesn’t feel like a budget-saving move and instead feels just as moody and atmospheric as it should. We have three separate vantage points at the inevitable conversation that everyone has been waiting for, and all of them point towards this being a situation that will not end well, and one where the middlemen and middlewomen are likely to find themselves held responsible for things they never really wanted any part of.

And good or bad, I feel for all of them.

I spoke in last night’s review about the fate of Frobisher, who is stuck in the middle of this conflict and has literally been labeled expendable by the Prime Minister, and it turns out that I was an episode early in terms of experiencing empathy for the guy. He’s in a very tough spot at the moment, and there really isn’t anything he can do about it: his experience with Torchwood makes him a particularly complicated figure when it comes to this alien stuff, and perhaps more importantly he is one of those who has knowledge of what happened in 1965. If he were to refuse to order Captain Jack and the other men and women involved in the offering of children dead, he would have been ordered dead himself, a fact that has been somewhat glossed over so as to not render him a tragic figure right off the bat. However, as he stands terrified as the 4-5-6 ambassador spews green liquid all over the cage and smashes into it with what look like giant claws, you realize that he is going to be hanged for whatever happens in this room.

And yet, what’s interesting here is that we learn that Captain Jack wasn’t being eliminated for his knowledge in the event but rather his involvement: he was amongst those who chose to help deliver the children to the aliens, which raises some serious questions about his own code of ethics. It was clear at the time that the 4-5-6 must have been particularly dangerous, and the the 12 children were a gift which could keep them at bay (why else would Jack or anyone else be willing to give them over?). Jack notes that they can’t be trusted since they have now returned, but I think it’s important to recognize that they didn’t get all of the children they requested: Clement MacDonald is the missing child, and one has to wonder if they’ve come back as a result of not having every one of them. However, why now? Why wait over forty years? There’s a lot of questions, and Jack is right to note that he’s capable of helping to answer them. The show isn’t quite willing to sell Captain Jack up the river: he refuses to kidnap Frobisher’s wife when given the chance, for example. But it still very much complicates his squeaky clean image, and raises some definite questions about what went down all those years ago that are not yet answered.

Caught in the middle of the battle between these two, of course, is Alice, as Captain Jack’s daugher does some damage with a cutting board but can’t avoid our Terrorist squad friends. She’s your traditional person stuck in the middle of a conflict she never wanted a part of, but unlike Ianto’s family (who were able to remove themselves from the madness by remaining pretty darn inconspicuous) Alice is going to be used as bait to lure him out. He’s the one who is usually out of their reach, being immortal and all, but Alice’s unfortunate use of someone else’s cell phone results in her identity being thrown into the open, and her relationship with her father being thrown into the spotlight. I don’t think she’ll mind, in the end, once she finds out he’s okay – however, she’ll then be pissed, and I think their dynamic will always be a bit strained.

Our other person trapped in the middle, of course, is Lois. Her ploy to get herself into the meeting (lying about Frobisher making a pass at her) was smart, but it’s clear she is still in over her head. I think Gwen is ultimately putting a bit too much pressure on her, especially having her move as she does to get a better view of things. It makes Lois into their eyes, which made for a well-staged way of handling the climax and the reactions to the demands being made. It makes for an interesting riff on translation, Lois having to transcribe everything to them, and the question about whether the translation speakers are doing their job, and then any barriers of language which could be involved, etc.

I think the message received was clear, though: they want 10% of the Children of the World. And just how the World is going to get out of this one, well, we’ll have to wait and see.

Cultural Observations

  • Enjoyed that they resisted the 4-5-6 saying “Children of Earth” in their demands.
  • A little bit less comedy this time around, but Captain Jack’s crankiness until he got a long coat back was quite clever, and I enjoy their crime spree (even if it was more than a bit dishonest – these are not morally clean people, that’s for sure).
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