TV A crack? Another crack? Nine weeks and The Blessing is a crack? As well as quoting from The Eleventh Hour, Torchwood’s Miracle Day actually has the temerity to borrow its macguffin as well? In the admittedly apprehensive few seconds before Kitzinger was introduced to this gaping maw I did consider a few other options, an Ood brain, the meat monster from Meat, son of the Mighty Jagrafess of the Holy Hadrojassic Maxarodenfoe and as usual Davros. But somehow given the aimless wanderings in search of a plot that have exemplified the rest of the series, a crack running through the Earth is about what we should have expected rather than something as imaginative as any of those three.
John Fay’s The Gathering exemplifies the twin frustrations of the series. On the one hand the concept is sound and given room to breath is capable of producing some tense moments, in this case the capture and carting off of Gwen’s Dad, which, because it is happening to a character we’ve been with for longer than a few episodes is genuinely moving. The inadvertent benevolent looting seems ill advised given recent events but as ever when the show returns to its geographic roots it regains a sense of unity. The retcon moment with the obligatory spy of no fixed employment opposite the house is entertaining and the sudden appearance of Danes in the domesticity of Gwen’s house holding the baby very creepy indeed (if given an explanation weaker than offered by the Master on a monthly basis).
Some of the US elements coalesce too. Alexa Havins finally looks like she understands how to underpin Esther’s inexperience. Lauren Ambrose has never been more radiant and funny and her visit to Shanghai beautifully photographed wherever it was really filmed. The scenes at the CIA, Rex’s literary investigation reminds us of the Torchwood of old and similar scenes with Owen. They're still no substitute for the boardroom scenes and slow burn moral ambiguity from CofE, but at least we're finally seeing some justification for eavesdropping inside he walls of power. Even the most liberal governments of the world, when faced with catastrophe, have become faceless totalitarian regimes.
But on the other hand, we’re presented with a “two months” later caption card and the impression that if the series had been five or six episode rather than the ten required by Starz this would have been a pretty good penultimate episode. Instead we’ve had to sit through wadded episodes full of wildly irrelevant exposition, lessening its impact. The same problems which have dogged the rest of the series still exist, and I know I’m repeating myself, again, the logic disconnects and just plain squiffy storytelling that might have been Paul Erickson’s stock in trade but you just can’t expect from what’s purporting to the adult television, blasting a hole in our sense of disbelief.
How are we meant to take the moment when Rex, having researched and found this long lost evidence, doesn't go straight down to the archive to retrieve it himself? When he says he’s undercover but that he had to book the case in through the embassy and that they should be ok if no one checks the list and in the next scene the anonymous blonde is doing just that then phoning the Channel 4 triangle so that they tell them where the gripping action sequence in episode ten is going to happen? We're back to wilful obliviousness and a disinterest in upturning the audience's expectations. Unless anonymous blonde is revealed to be a double agent. But let's face it, that's unlikely.
Similarly Rhys is now reduced to the bog-headed Welsh stereotype that the writers have previously fought against him becoming, spending much of the episode doing his best impression of Ianto’s brother-in-law until called upon to point out the bleeding obvious with a handy inflatable globe of the kind everyone has in their living room and threatening to kill Oswald, forcing the team to bring him along for no other reason than that he’ll most likely absolve his sins by throwing himself into the crack next episode. Sometimes this feels like we’re in the film Pleasantville, rolling our eyes at the antics of Rex and Rhys like they're characters in some 50s sitcom, until the television claims us for its own.
Yet, and yet, for the first time, I do want to know what happens next week. This is presumably a side effect of the fact that there is no more after next week and we’re finally being handed some kind of closure. Perhaps we’ll discover just why we’ve been watching such an oddball collection of characters and we’ll discover that the episodes with more padding around them than a print cartridge from Amazon were in fact entirely integral making the upcoming blu-ray release more enticing than it currently is. But based on previous form The Blessing will be a giant time-based reset switch the size of the Earth’s core powered by the Empress of the Racnoss' ship. Unless, of course, it’s simply that Torchwood’s Miracle Day is finally coming to an end.