First of all, on a personal note, I need to make an apology to beccatoria. I am sincerely sorry for having convinced you, in any way, to watch 'Children of Earth'. Honestly, I thought we might be pleasantly surprised by how good it was or at least be able mock the parts we didn't care for. In the future, if there is anything you think I need to give a chance, no matter what reservations I may have, I will watch it/listen to it/read it. I owe you.
Part of me debated even posting about the finale. I was sickened and angry at the end, but did I have a right to rant along with the die hard fans who adore the show? Especially when I haven't even seen every episode. But then I read simplystars excellent post and she commented that the fans who felt gutted were already drawing criticism from the people who loved it. Putting aside I started having BSG finale flashbacks, I thought perhaps the opinion of someone who wasn't overly invested in the show might be appreciated.
Let me begin with my issues with the plot before we get into the character debacles. I'm not sure CoE is great writing, but it is better than what has come before on the series. To have the government do what it did, to be willing to sacrifice 10% of their children, forces us to look at the kind of people we are and want to be. Is humanity worthy of survival if we are willing to sacrifice our children and our consciences? It's a topic that played out over four seasons of Battlestar Galactica and being condensed into five hours perhaps even makes the subject more powerful.
However, I don't see the plan to accept the alien's terms succeeding. As soon as Ianto made that phone call, the information would have spread. People would have fought back. If by some chance the plan did succeed, the world would have gone to war with itself and society would have collapsed. Likely it would have collapsed anyway, regardless of the outcome, once the people learned of the betrayal of their trust.
I don't have a rosy picture of my government, any government. And I do believe that our leaders do despicable things, lie to us, and worry about their political survival at the expense of others. Yet, I think it's overkill to depict the prime minister as one of the most bastardly people to ever walk the face of the earth. And how much more powerful would have his decision been had he been shown to be torn or regretful. Over 350,000 of Britain's children were to be taken and made to live a hellish existences and he was pretty much worried about how he'd do in a poll the next morning.
I also have to say I'm rather shocked RTD made his government look that bad. Couldn't at least one of the cabinet have stood up and refused to participate?
There were also plot holes galore. How in 1965 did the 456 know the children could be used as a drug? Why wait forty years to come back for more? Why was Clem rejected by them in 1965? Why did he have a connection to them that no other adult had? Why did he die? Whatever the chemical was in the children that made the 456 'high' couldn't it have been synthesized? They waited forty years, they couldn't wait a few days for tests?
But I can deal with the plot holes, it's the character stuff that really gutted me. I've been critical of the show throughout it's run. I hated Owen. Gwen I've gone back and forth on. Jack, I have issues with. But there was always one aspect of the show I felt was successful and that was Jack and Ianto's relationship. Here were two men in a romantic/sexual relationship that felt real and natural. They were comfortable with who they were and what they meant to each other. That they were a couple was never seen as a big deal to the people around them and, therefore, it was never seen as a big deal to us. As it should be. And I was really enjoying the relationship development in CoE. I was looking forward to the scene we'd get where Ianto introduces Jack to his sister and, God help him, his brother-in-law. It would be funny and would serve as a relief after what I was sure would be some very serious moments before the world was saved. Because that's what the show does, it mixes the heavy moments with the light moments and, yeah, I think it succeeded in doing that more often than not. But the last hour of CoE was unrelentingly bleak.
For a moment I felt odd thinking that CoE had gone too far, that it was too dark. I watched Battlestar Galactica after all. The key differnce is BSG started with an apocolypse. Twelve colonies irradiated, billions of people murdered, a handful of survivors were left to float in space on decaying ships chased by a race that wanted to see them dead as well. I knew what I was getting myself into and that the series would be grim. And even though there were moments that were hard to watch, I never really felt completely gutted. This was their life, it was terrible, and it wouldn't get better for a long, long time, if ever.
But as I mentioned, Torchwood always had humor and much of the time Jack and the team saved the day without anyone knowing or without the world being thrown into chaos. Perhaps Jack would have a moment to reflect on how he could have done better. But how does Jack and the audience come back from this?
Ianto is dead. Pointlessly. Seriously, what was the point? Was it to make Jack a carbon copy of the The Doctor? Did RTD think we were too stupid to draw comparisons between them before? Now were pounded over the head with how both men lose everyone they care about, how it's all their fault, and, oh, how they are incapable of saying, "I love you". Accept The Doctor hasn't left the body count behind that Jack has. I should have realized that Ianto's words to Jack about Jack watching him grow old and die and making the most of the time they have was a big honking clue as to what was going to happen. RTD might as well have put Ianto in a red shirt and have Jack ask if it's new.
Worse than Ianto's death, because at least Ianto chose to be at Jack's side, was Jack's murder of his grandson. Again, I was looking forward to the possibility of Jack interacting with his family. It would have added a new facet to his character. But, no, Jack must always be alone. Even if it means the audience must endure the brutal, torturous killing of a child (this while we are still reeling from Frobinger murdering his two children and wife). Again, for what purpose? The reversing the frequency and using a child as a conduit was pulled out of thin air.
To make matters worse (if that;s possible), not only are we unable to ever look at Jack the same way again (seriously, how can we deal with fun loving, flirty, quipy Jack in a fourth series?), we're left to wonder how his daughter deals with her guilt. To her mind, at least, she's culpable in her son's death since she begged anyone who would listen to her to bring Jack into this to save the day.
Though there were many big, glaring WTFs, it was a small moment that drove home to me RTD's cluelessness. Frobisher has just murdered his family and committed suicide. We cut to Gwen, Rhys, and Andy walking up to Ianto's sister's home to inform her her brother is dead. And Andy asks if she knew Ianto was gay, which was then made light of. Not only was it a shockingly callous moment, the sudden shift in tone was inconceivable to me.
This turned out to be a much longer write up than I anticipated. Imagine if I was a fan! If there is another series, no, I'm not watching. Well, unless I need to invoke the Jamie Bamber rule - he guest stars in anything, I'm watching. Or if RTD pulls his head out of his ass and does a massive reset. Maybe the Doctor can fix this mess. Sorry, Gwen, I have to disagree with you when it comes to the Doctor. He would have been there. He has faith in us, even at our worst. More faith in us than than your creator does.