Saturday, 11 July 2009

Day Five

Consequences. At last we have consequences.

First up, I should confess to my mistake. I had assumed Ianto's working-class clan would end up irritating me with some last minute implausible heroism, like usual, but in actual fact organising a riot against oncoming troops worked really well (plus, hooray for Andy). In fact, generally speaking the (for want of a better term) "heroic moments" went very well. Sure, Deadly Killer Evil Assassin Lady seemed to get persuaded of Jack's awesome stupidly quickly, but since she was being incredibly dumb for the whole serial, it's at least in character.

Besides, that's small potatoes. For once, Torchwood didn't attempt to shy away from the difficulty of decisions, and the consequences of actions. Using a child to reverse the polarity and kill the 456 might have been unbelievably stupid narratively, but the cost of it made it intensely thematically satisfying. In order to stop the world sacrificing it's children to save themselves, Jack sacrificed his child to save all the others. He weighed the options, and he made the choice. Big G pointed out after I'd gotten around to watching Day 4 that Jack's plan to essentially shout at the 456 Ambassador Plan was grade A fucking stupid, but that, I think, was the point. If anything was the overall theme of Children of Earth, it was Jack finally realising that playing adventurer was getting everyone else killed. And having realised that, and been devastated by it, he tries to face up to the responsibility he's been given, and all that does is upgrade the problem from accidental deaths to deliberate sacrifice.

Did Jack make the right choice? Is one dead child better than millions alive but apparently paralysed. Almost certainly. But then millions alive but apparently paralysed is better than a barren world, and hoping Torchwood can save your arse at the eleventh hour isn't exactly the best plan in the world. My point, I guess, is that Green's decision was right as well, from a certain perspective. And Idiot Killer-Savante Woman was right too in a way, I suppose, or at least she had valid motivation for what she was doing. In fact, if RTD had gone all the way and given the 456 a sympathetic motivation for wanting the children, it could have been perfect, everyone would have had understandable motivations for horrific actions. Well, Green was far to cavalier about the whole thing, but then that ties into the "banality of evil" idea I hinted at last time, which is even more easy to understand in a situation like this, in which there is a compelling case that we're talking about the "banality of the lesser evil." Maybe he crowed about being lucky because he's a twat (Davies really has something against PMs, doesn't he?) or maybe it was simply a coping mechanism.

Ultimately, though, the show followed through. Lesser evils, and sacrifice, and recognising what you can change, and what you have to accept. Jack didn't learn to accept, only to run. The same is true of Frobisher (poor, poor Frobisher, who I think deserved better). Gwen, though, worked it out. Accepted what she couldn't change. So did Rhys, I guess, judging by the precipitous drop in childish whingeing. For all the complaints lighting up the interweb right now about not explicitly outlining the effect the five days of the 456 had on the world, Gwen and Rhys demonstrated everything you really needed. Life, you suspect, goes on. It always does.

Poor Ianto.


Pause said...

Poor Ianto my arse. If they knew they might be attacking the 456's tank (and at that point had the government in their palms) then why didn't anyone think to first get the design specs for what was, after all, a human construction?

This was far and away the best Torchwood story I've ever seen (which is intended as far better praise than it actually is, all things considered, although I too would have been just as happy if they hadn't been in it at all), but as both you and others here have already commented, many of the narrative decisions were stupid as hell.

Or, as you suggested yourself a few months ago, RTD appears to think up some stuff he wants to happen then joins the dots in-between as quickly as possible. The fact that the "stuff" happened to be worthwhile for once sadly hasn't changed that.

SpaceSquid said...

See, I agree with you on the tank situation, but I don't think the story is nearly so afflicted by Planet of the Dead style lazy connections. There are holes in the story (though I'd argue again that the lameness of Jack's plan is precisely the point of his character arc for the serial), but this time round it felt that Davies had a strong story to tell that required the occasional patch, rather than just a couple of cool scenes that needed to be sellotaped together.

Pause said...

Which means he's getting better at it (or perhaps he's better suited to this kind of serial story-telling), but the root problem is still there. It was a huge improvement, but I think calling them "occasional patch[es]" is being a bit generous both in terms of frequency and severity.

(Or is that your teacher-sense talking, encouraging the pupil when he gets it right rather than the converse? :)

"though I'd argue again that the lameness of Jack's plan is precisely the point of his character arc for the serial"

I thought that might be so (well, you already said as much in the main posts) but I couldn't give a toss about any of these characters, so I'm pleading gross indifference on the matter.