"If Abaddon is the bringer of death, let's see how he does with me. If he feeds on life, then I'm an all-you-can-eat buffet."
IN THIS ONE... Time splits apart, and visions leak through telling Torchwood to "open the rift". This brings Abaddon the Devourer to Cardiff.
REVIEW: In "Captain Jack Harkness", Bilis Manger manipulated the Torchwood team into fiddling with the Rift, and now his master Abaddon wants them to finish the job and open it wide. For that purpose, the demon has sent visions to each of them save Jack to sow discord and convince them to do the unthinkable. Toshiko sees her injured mother (a mystery for another day), Ianto his girlfriend Lisa, Owen Diane, and Gwen a dark prophecy that Rhys will be violently killed, which Bilis personally makes sure happens. Distraught, they turn against Jack and release the Son of the Beast from the Void. (Abaddon was one of the Beast's names in The Satan Pit, but it appears here that he's the other monster's offspring; they are at least the same type of entity, sharing a modus operandi and basic look and size.) The actors make this turn believable by making the tension, anxiety and terror palpable. Owen's reaction to witnessing an outbreak of the plague. His fear of being retconned after being dismissed from Torchwood. His shooting Jack in the head. Gwen's primal screams when Rhys is killed. And how numb and destroyed they all are afterward.
Not to say End of Days is all darkness and gloom. It starts with a charming scene in bed with Gwen and Rhys, whose relationship has bounced back from her illicit affair. The time-shuffled apocalypse includes a Beatles reunion, according to the news scroll on TV. And PC Andy is back! As the other funny man in Gwen's life, he was missed, and I can't wait to see more of him in Series 2. If there's any doubt, there's a scene where he calls Gwen out on her "reassuring smile". He knows her too well not to be included in the cast as a semi-regular. That's one of the things I find myself liking about Gwen's character. How her empathy can be used for darker intents. She manipulates people, with a smile, with a tone of voice, by repeating a line a second time in a way that makes everyone shut up and do as she says (as in the "funeral" scene). Her loss of Rhys is a gut punch (and given this was a season finale, believable as a change in status quo at the time), but it reaffirms her love for him, and from now on, he'll be her romantic focus. And for all that, she stays with Jack's body waiting for it to resurrect for days (the time lapse device is a nice touch, especially in a story about disjointed time), the one person who believes he can come back even from his battle with a kaiju-sized demon.
You know, Jack actually beat the 10th Doctor as the Whoniverse's resident Christ figure (what is this, American lit?!). He fights the personification of evil, sacrifices himself in the cause, dies and is resurrected "days" later thanks to the one person who "believes" in him, and follows it up by forgiving Owen's sins. It's a bit on the nose, but nowhere near as obvious as Last of the Time Lords or Voyage of the Damned. Actually, I just noticed it was Gwen's kiss that woke him up, something that happens again (for laughs) in his next appearance, Doctor Who Series 3's Utopia. Owen's breakdown is a strong dramatic moment giving voice to the idea that the characters just went through hell, and of Jack's still their rock after all that, it's because he's been through hell before. The series ends on a high though, with Jack racing off to meet up with the Doctor after waiting more than a century. The moment itself doesn't QUITE connect with Utopia (or even with the bird's eye view of Jack racing to the TARDIS), strongly suggesting the TARDIS appeared in the Hub itself, but there was enough time between broadcasts for us to forget. But for Doctor Who fans, it hardly matters, we're just happy to see the reunion.
In the final analysis, the plot's not too airtight however, so the disappearance of all the bad (from rampaging Romans to Rhys' murder) is undone and a rather easy way, though I guess people dropping dead in the street still happened. Or did it? Bilis Manger disappears too, at least, from the plot. Did he ever get his comeuppance? We care about the team first and foremost and may not care, but that's still a lot of deus ex machinae and/or dangling plot threads (the novel The Twilight Streets at least brings back Manger).
THEORIES: If you'll allow me to bring the Bad Wolf back into this... One question that pops up when discussing Torchwood is why its end-of-the-world events are never mentioned in Who proper, in the list that usually mentions the Battle of Canary Wharf, spaceships on Christmas, etc. Why didn't the incident-drawn TARDIS not bring the Doctor to Earth to stop these moments, and isn't it convenient somebody was there to sort things out because the last of the Time Lords didn't show? But what if the Bad Wolf (which is connected to both the Vortex and the TARDIS) made Jack immortal for this very task? The entity inhabiting Rose could see everything past and future, remember, and she would have seen Abaddon's release. Is there a version of the timeline where the Doctor fights the monster and loses all his lives to feed it, dying in the process? Could the Bad Wolf have robbed Jack of his ability to die so he would be present at those events instead, and not only defeat Abaddon (in a way no one on Earth could have), but have him survive the attack as well? The same may go with Children of Earth and Miracle Day, two other worldwide events that never score a mention in the rest of the Whoniverse. The theory would work better if it could cover the Sarah Jane Adventures (nobody mentions the moon crashing towards the planet either), but for Jack at least, it means his permanent resurrection isn't some weird accident.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - It's the end of the world as we know it, and no, dammit, we DON'T feel fine. A harrowing, emotional journey for the characters, and well worth your time.