I think it’s fair to say that will all the time-jumping and emotional roller coasters of the previous episode, viewers of Torchwood could be forgiven any emotional fatigue going into the series 1 finale. However, the action doesn’t let up and the stakes are raised and no one comes out of this unscathed.
Odd things are afoot in Cardiff (but that’s really nothing new). Gwen and Rhys are enjoying a rare morning off, lying in bed and doing cute couple things when Gwen gets a call from Jack to turn on the news. Reports of strange happenings are coming in from abroad; a UFO over the Taj Mahal, men in historical costumes causing shenanigans. You know, the usual. Religious groups are claiming it’s the end times and back at the hub, Ianto is wondering if they’re right, reading a passage from the Book of Daniel that references Abaddon, a demon said to be the harbinger of the apocalypse. Jack dismisses this as superstition and his opinion is validated when Tosh’s data shows all the cracks in time have originated from the hub with Jack placing the blame squarely on Owen’s shoulders. The cracks never would have happened if Owen hadn’t opened the rift to pull Jack and Tosh from the 1940s. In any case, Jack has a plan and phase one involves getting everything that’s slipped through the cracks back to the hub where they can keep them in the vaults. Jack is still working on phase two, but he assures everyone that this is not, in fact, the end of the world.
At that time, they get an alert from the local hospitals; mortality rates have gone through the roof and they’re sealing off the areas around the hospitals. Owen volunteers to check it out and in a fit of mistrust, Jack insists Tosh go with him. After they leave, Gwen calls Jack out on being an asshole and pointing out that everyone on the team has feelings. He makes a frankly slut-shaming remark in regards to Gwen’s own affair with Owen. As she points out that Owen saved Jack, she gets a call from PC Andy. A Roman soldier has killed two civilians and Andy didn’t know who else to call. The two go to pick up the soldier and are discussing the rifts in time in front of a baffled Andy. As they take the soldier off his hands, Andy muses about this being the end of the world and seems less than convinced of Gwen’s reassurances to the contrary.
At the hospital, a doctor tells Tosh and Owen about a woman suddenly appearing and coughing up blood, obviously dying. A short time later, others began showing symptoms. Owen quickly deduces that the woman is from the 14th century and is infected with the Black Death; and it’s all his fault. He gives the presiding doctor the antidote who proceeds to berate Owen about Torchwood’s response. Owen tells him he better be ready for whatever comes through his door and storms off. The doctor questions how much worse can things possibly get? Tosh doesn’t answer him. As Tosh heads after Owen, she sees the figure of her dead mother in the corridor. She tells Tosh “It’s coming… out of the darkness.” Before Tosh can get clarification; however, she disappears.
Jack and Gwen are still dealing with the Roman soldier at the jail. Gwen asks why can’t they just use the Rift Manipulator to send everyone back, but Jack insists it’s too complicated. Jack senses Gwen’s doubts and asks her if he’s ever let her down. Unable to answer, she walk away only to see Bilis Manger in one of the cells. He says telepathically, “I’m so sorry.” He disappears as Jack interrupts Gwen’s trance. Back at the hub, Gwen’s telling Jack about the sighting when Ianto enters the vaults with a Weevil. Reports of the creatures are on the increase, along with everything else and all the vaults are now full. Jack hypothesizes that they’re time sensitive and suggests they look into the enigmatic dance hall manager. After they leave, Ianto is visited by Lisa. She tells him that thousands of people will die unless he opens the Rift.
Tosh and Owen arrive back at the hub and give their report, though Tosh looks a bit shell shocked. Owen asks Jack what happens when some other disease that may not be treatable comes through the Rift? Owen challenges Jack to lead them; give them orders and a plan. He’s calling out the blind obedience Jack expects, while offering nothing in return. So Jack lets them in on his secret; there is nothing they can do. This cannot be fixed. It wasn’t supposed to happen and Jack continues to blame Owen. He relieves Owen of his duties and tells him to get out. When Gwen tries to reason with him, he says he needs everyone’s complete trust or they can follow Owen. Realizing he’ll forget about Torchwood in a few hours, Owen bids farewell to them all.
With the mood tense, Gwen and Jack go to check out Bilis’ clock store, “A Stitch in Time.” Jack figures that Bilis goes back in time, scavenges rare pieces and brings them back to sell (sounds like a business plan Jack once used). The mysterious owner makes his appearance, looking the same as he did in 1941. Bilis admits he can step between eras like stepping between rooms. What once was a gift is now a curse. He says the only way to repair the damage is to open the Rift again and let it suck everything back through. Jack doesn’t buy this and when he tries to force Bilis to return with them to Torchwood, he disappears. Gwen stays behind as Jack races out of the shop and Bilis reappears. When asked why he had apologized earlier, Bilis “reluctantly” shows Gwen a vision of a murdered Rhys in their apartment. In a panic, Gwen races to her flat and does find Rhys; cleaning the oven. Gwen insists they leave immediately, but Rhys refuses so Gwen tases him (that’s love) and puts him in a holding cell in Torchwood.
Bilis Manger: Sometimes it’s better to live in ignorance.
Owen’s at a bar drowning his sorrows when he gets a visit from Diane. Her brash confidence is gone as she tells Owen she’s lost and needs him to open the Rift to bring her back (there’s a pattern here somewhere). Then she’s gone.
Rhys wakes up in Torchwood, understandably pissed. Gwen tries to reassure him, but must go back to work though she’s got a security camera on Rhys just in case. There’s a breach in security and Rhys’ cell door opens. He sees Bilis at the end of the corridor and walks towards him, asking what’s going on. Bilis then stabs him, fulfilling the vision even though the location has changed. Gwen races to the vaults but it’s too late. Rhys is dead and Gwen wails in grief and babbles as only someone whose lost everything does. Eve Myles plays strong emotions like grief and rage well, even when she’s silent like when they have Rhys laid out in the lab. In another great small moment, Jack takes Gwen’s hand and cleans off the blood. Gwen won’t take his or anyone else’s comfort though. She wants Jack to bring him back.
Owen, who has amazing timing, shows up in that moment. Owen is determined to open the Rift. The others follow after, not to stop him, but to help him. All the pieces are in place, the emotions of the team have been played with and the hope of seeing their loved ones again is too much for them to resist. Jack sees this for what it is; Bilis has manipulated all of them, but the others continue on. The scene is tense with Jack pulling a gun on all of them and calling out all their weaknesses, mocking them. Tosh loving anyone who’s kind to her. Ianto hiding his cyber girlfriend and not having the balls to kill her. Owen, who lets himself be torn up by a Weevil and Gwen, who loves Rhys so much she shagged Owen. Having heard enough, Owen shoots Jack in the head and the chest and then uses his glassy eye for the retina scan needed to open the rift. Jack comes back to life just as the Rift opens, shooting life into the sky. Everyone who was brought through the Rift disappears as the hub falls apart around the team. The team races into the street, thinking maybe they’re in the clear. Except they find Bilis declaring, “He is come.” Turns out, the creepy thin man is a servant of the demon Abaddon who’s been imprisoned underneath the Rift and has now come to feast on life. As the beast rises and begins walking across Cardiff, his shadow falls on hundreds of people who drop dead on the spot.
At a loss of what to do, the team turns back to their leader. Jack has Gwen take him just outside the city. If Abaddon feeds on life, he can feed off the man who can’t die.
Jack: I’m an all you can eat buffet.
He stands before the beast, giving up his life force in agony until both he and the creature collapse, the beast dying from over eating and Jack, presumably dead from giving all his life force. Gwen holds him and weeps. After bringing his body back to the hub, Gwen races back to her flat and finds Rhys safe and alive and wondering why she’s back so soon. After establishing that everything is back to (relative) normal and the Rift is closed, Gwen stands vigil by Jack’s bed, despite every indication that Jack is dead for good. She still holds firm to what Jack told her when they first met; he can’t die. The rest of the team leaves her be and she stays by him for days, asking him to wake up and doing bits of cleaning. The team is already grieving as we see Ianto holding Jack’s coat and breathing in the scent. Finally, Tosh tells her what the rest have been thinking; she has to let him go. Seeming to face the facts, Gwen kisses Jack goodbye and walks away, only to stop when she hears Jack say, “Thank you.” He’s back.
When he walks into the main hub, Tosh runs immediately to embrace him, followed by Ianto and the two share a kiss. Then it’s Owen’s turn. Owen starts to blubber out an apology, but before he can Jack tells Owen he forgives him and takes him into his arms as he breaks down.
Later in his office, Jack confirms the Rift is closed, but that it’s going to be more volatile than ever. Gwen muses about what would have made Jack open the Rift and he responds, “The right kind of doctor.” Before Gwen can question further he walks into the hub, asking after coffee. It’s then he notices the severed hand start to glow and he hears the familiar whoosh and wind that announces the appearance of a blue police box. Gwen comes out of Jack’s office to find him gone. The rest of the team arrives back and Gwen realizes something has taken Jack and they are once again, without their leader.
So, that’s it for season 1. If you haven’t already, I recommend watching the last three episodes of Doctor Who season 3: “Utopia“, “The Sound of Drums”and “The Last of the Time Lords”,which explains where Jack disappeared to and what happened to him between season 1 and 2. Also, Sara Habein is going to do an overall recap of the season with a closer look at some of the overarching themes. Then it’s onward to season 2. Hope you’ve enjoyed the ride so far.