Imitating the onscreen title from Doctor Who‘s Series 3 finale ‘The Last of the Time Lords’ (which itself was a BSG nod), the latest installment of its Earthbound spin’-off begins with the words ‘Two Months Later’.
With an opening voice-over (presumably a radio or television news piece) from show supremo Russell T Davies, we find a very different kind of Torchwood. Gwen has become a Robin Hood-esque figure (sans green and merry men), stealing drugs from pharmacies (or chemists as they’re known in Blighty) and caring for her ‘Category One’ father in a dank basement.
Jack is also being cared for, but by Esther in a remote (not to mention fictional) Scottish location as he recovers from being shot in the previous episode (nerdoids may want to note Jack’s Scottish connection in Children of Earth).
The situation is grim for our heroes as they have become nobodies and the downbeat tone of the last episode continues as Gwen’s father has been noticed by the authorities who are keen on locating the ‘dead’ man.
In keeping with a number of familiar RTD tropes, administration and bureaucracy are the biggest villains here, providing some deeply unsettling scenes reminiscent of the Torchwood‘s 2009 mini-series and Doctor Who‘s seminal ‘Turn Left’. The analogies with fascism are quite clear.
To buoy our spirits, however, are the antics of Rex and his chums at the CIA who have stumbled upon a lead and, despite the intentions of the Family spy in their midst, they begin to make some headway (albeit in quite a convoluted style, though highly entertaining).
Beautiful PR bod Jilly Kitzinger, played with sublime style by Lauren Ambrose, has found herself promoted, moving to Shanghai (fans may note the significance of the location from some weeks ago) in the process to meet another mystery man (and not so Aryan), a woman who is in charge of one of the Families and The Blessing… but more of that next week.
Ambrose, as has proven throughout, is an utter delight and it’s most interesting to see how important her character has become. Even more fascinating is that Kitzinger doesn’t quite understand why she’s been picked for her grand task.
Of course, Kitzinger had a ‘spat’ with former BFF Oswald Danes last week and we find the kiddy-killer popping up in the most unusual of locations delivering some violent laughs (courtesy of Gwen) and yet more disturbing scenes. Enter Rhys (Kai Owen). There are some odd choices for his character here and he comes off as an idiotic, lynch mob-hungry goon. Most certainly not the loveable Mr Gwen Cooper we’ve come to enjoy so much over the past few series.
As always, the denouement smacks you over the head preparing you for the final episode with another revelation, on a global scale – but also on a personal scale too as we find out the source of The Miracle. ‘The Gathering’ manages the difficult job of setting up the finale but also keeping the interest engaged successfully. Not quite pedestrian but by the time the episode ends, you’ll be clamouring for next week’s resolution.
Airs at 9pm on Thursday 8th September 2011 on BBC One (UK) and at 10pm on Friday 2nd September 2011 on Starz (US).