End of Days

Posted in Episode by - June 15, 2018
End of Days

Aired 01 January 2007

With the Rift open because of Owen’s actions and all of time and space cascading into Cardiff at once, Chris Chibnall looks to close out the first series of Torchwood on a high with ‘End of Days, opening with the spectacularly impressive sights of Roman soldiers in the streets and UFOs hovering over the Taj Mahal. Naturally, the public believe this to be a publicity stunt or joke, and even Owen plays it off as nothing to be concerned about as Ianto reads out various tales about the apocalypse. Unfortunately, as people and organisations from around the world begin asking Torchwood if it is to blame, it’s all too clear that all of these events are stemming from the Rift itself and that it will only get worse getting forward.

Jack has had self-doubts about his management style before, and his actions here as he tries to reassure his team that everything will be okay but ends up fighting with and alienating just about everyone in short order as tension rise is hardly likely to endear him to anyone. There’s a strange tonal disconnect as the Torchwood team begins falling apart just as the world itself does, and emotions reach a boiling point when Jack places all blame squarely on Owen and Owen forcefully demands to know just who Jack really is before promptly being let go from Torchwood permanently. Owen has never truly been held accountable for his actions before, and Burn Gorman is able to convincingly portray a man slowly coming to terms with the consequences of his actions even if he refuses to fully accept blame while Jack insists that the team follow his lead even after admitting he does not know how to fix the problem, and the scene in which Owen gets up to leave the Hub for the final time is very well-realised on screen.

Before that point, though, Owen is at his best when he is called to a hospital to assist with a mysterious outbreak and promptly diagnoses that the plague has reached Cardiff. With the ominous warning that every disease from throughout history and possibly from the future as well could be imminent, ‘End of Days’ certainly pulls no punches with setting up its impressive threat as time continues to fracture and Gwen’s old partner Andy calls her in to help explain what is happening. Unfortunately, this is a case of too many ideas with too little exploration, and while the prospects of Roman soldiers in the streets or the black plague spreading and claiming countless lives are quite fascinating in their own right, nothing is ever really done with either or the myriad other time anomalies around to give them any real meaning besides simple window dressing. With Toshiko’s dead mother appearing simply to warn her that something is coming without further explanation and Lisa manifesting in front of Ianto without adding anything to the plot besides heightened emotions, this sadly applies to the guest characters as well.

Possibly the most intriguing aspect of this episode is the quick return of the enigmatic Bilis Manger who reveals that he can step through time with ease and suggests to Jack that the answer to all of the problems is to open the Rift further so that everything that has come through can return. Bilis had earlier appeared in front of Gwen to simply apologise, and when she presses him here to explain why, he shows her a vision of a horribly murdered Rhys in their apartment. Rushing home to find Rhys alive, Gwen forcibly brings him to Torchwood and locks him in a cell to keep him safe, a fact that garners a few odd looks from her coworkers. Unfortunately, there is a security breach and Manger appears in the chaos to stab Rhys multiple times, disappearing as the alarms subside and leaving Gwen to discover what she already knows to be true, and Myles is quite convincing during Gwen’s moments of understandably panicked menace.

With Owen returning to open the Rift following his own brief encounter with Diane during an attempt to drown out his emotions with alcohol, Jack realises that this has all been part of Bilis’s trap that they have all too eagerly walked into without second thought. His team uniting to try to stop further carnage, Jack quickly tears down everyone under his command, taking his statements to very personal levels and causing the already-heightened Owen to shoot him in the head and chest as his taunts persist. Bilis appears again to warn that the time has come, but the ultimate evil of Abbadon presented here fails to live up to everything that has preceded it. The visuals of those in its shadow falling dead are superb, but the CGI doesn’t quite accomplish what it wants to for this hulking monstrosity, and it’s defeated far too easily with the revived Jack giving it the feast of his own life force from which it can’t break away. This ultimately leads to the much-maligned use of a reset button, and all of the problems stemming from the Rift are resolved, including the death of Rhys. ‘The End of Days’ tries to write the Torchwood team members as fueled only by emotion, but this doesn’t quite gel with what has been shown before, and there are far too many loose ends regarding the fates of the other people who died, who and what Bilis is, and what happens to Torchwood now given the team uniting against Jack as he goes running off to chase the Doctor who has arrived in Cardiff. There are some strong moments, but this is ultimately an episode that tries to do far too much without giving adequate time to explore anything in any great detail and thus faltering under the weight of its own potential.

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