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Lots of speculation this time...

4.5 The Categories of Life

— Strangely enough I actually liked the episode better on rewatching, although I still think it's a bit clunky and heavy-handed at least in parts. The first time I watched it I kept wondering whether MD's biggest problem might not be that if follows immediately after CoE, and whether it wouldn't have been wiser to pick a story that wasn't so similar in many respects. And I wondered how I'd perceive and react to MD if I hadn't seen CoE. The genius of CoE was (among other things) that despite the worldwide implications, the focus always remained on that small group of people in the prime minister's office, and allowed the audience to follow every step of the process through which they arrived at their eventual solution, starting out as perfectly ordinary people and slowly descended into inhumanity. The horror was much more tangible in CoE, because it was so real, so believable, so chillingly matter-of-fact. The banality of evil, indeed. I'm not really getting this now, even though they raised the stakes. Perhaps because of what happens here is so utterly monstrous that even though they tried to make it personal by killing Vera, it's hard to grasp, to connect to, or maybe because we never saw who is behind this, who exactly thought it was a good solution to burn people, or why. Presumable not some random person on one of the medical panels?

And there's something else... Tosh and Owen and Ianto were characters that had been there since the beginning, and their deaths were shocking. Jack killing Steven was beyond horrible, and I don't think anyone who's seen that scene was unmoved, or will forget it anytime soon. Now I'm watching Gwen's father have a heart attack, and I watch Vera die, and intellectually I know this is terrible and sad and tragic, but I don't really feel much. I liked Vera a lot, but I knew her for all of five episodes. I think CoE emotionally exhausted me, as far as character deaths are concerned.

The last last ten minutes changed a lot, though, and to me it feels like this is where the story really departs from CoE, and I'm interested to see how it'll continue now.

— Liked that Gwen went back to Cardiff, that it wasn't just going to be America with barely a pro forma nod to Wales, Gwen's family over the phone for the rest of the series and a reunion (presumably?) in the last episode. Loved Gwen's mother dressing Anwen in cutsy pink bows and at the same time making detailed plans, charts and everything, for Gwen to get her father out of the camp.

— Loved Jack and Esther on the beach, bonding. That Jack can be serious when he needs to be. It's such a completely unimportant scene, really, but still. The smile they shared when Jack embarrassed Rex about Vera. The fact that at the meeting Jack deliberately startled Esther when he suddenly asked her specifically after a vague 'Okay, let's figure out how this categories work', and she fumbled for a split second, but of course had it all ready, like he knew she would, and his tiny 'I knew it' smile, when she started talking about how she'd been comparing the photographs of the overflow camps. And the fact that despite everything she isn't overawed and still makes fun of him. (God help me, I might actually be shipping them the tiniest little bit... *facepalm*) On a more serious note, though, I do wonder if Esther might not be playing some sort of more central part in Jack's story, although not necessarily, or even likely, in a romantic way. She was there in the beginning in the first episode, and he saved her life. Is she going to save his, in the end? *scratches head* I'm 99% convinced MD isn't going to have anything even close to a romance plot for Jack, but on some level this episode did make me wonder whether the fact that Jack has been presented as pretty much exclusively gay so far is a set-up for some kind of involvement with Esther. Not really likely, though.

— Oswald and Jack: I was wondering about Oswald's arc in my last post, and going by this episode I think that out of his fear of going back to being despised and poor again, he manoeuvred himself in a situation where he will end up as powerless as his victim was, a puppet of Phicorp and whoever is behind them. I think he sealed his fate, refusing Jack's offer. That might have been redemption, of a sort, his last chance, and he'll come to regret not having taken it. And will probably wish he'd run faster when he met Jilly Kitzinger the first time.

So, no redemption for Oswald; what about Jack? Rex uses his wound to get into the overflow camp, Jack continues to project his pain and regret on Oswald and thinks that'll help him get Oswald on their side. The scene is brilliant, and at the same time it was so obvious from the start Jack's plan was going to backfire. Jack wants death, not Oswald. He could have had Oswald, if he'd pursued the hero angle, throwing fame and money into the bargain. He lost him when he started promising death. Jack the conman would probably have had no difficulty successfully manipulating Oswald, but the Jack who lives with all the regret and guilt he can't get rid of isn't that person any longer. He's too personally involved, and misjudges. Although just maybe Oswald's refusal will finally make Jack look at all the differences between them, rather than the one thing that connects them.

Between the Submission audioplay and Jack's conversation with Oswald in this episode I'm more than a bit worried though, that Jack is effectively only waiting for a chance to heroically sacrifice himself, biding his time until the right moment. He's got to be thinking about what this miracle means for him, and what he's going to do with this chance at mortality, even while he's working to reverse it. When Oswald asks the question of what he really wants at the beginning of his speech, that is a question that Jack will also have to ask himself before the miracle ends.

(Personally, what I'd love to see is for Jack to actually find a reason to live at the end of the story. I doubt they're going to actually kill him, although this is an option now, and besides that, he already heroically sacrificed himself once in TPoW, it'd be too easy. What in my opinion would be more important for Jack is to find a modicum of peace in life, not in death. Or as Lorien said to Sheridan, 't's easy to find something worth dying for. Do you have anything worth living for?'

— The reveal in the end that changed a lot of things. Most of all I think it begs the question, cui bono? Why stage the 'miracle' only to kill the people who would have died if it hadn't happened in the first place? Who profits from this, and how? The episode proved that despite the team's earlier speculation, the 'category 1' patients are not what this is about. Which leaves the 'category 2' people, but at the same time I have a feeling that it isn't going to be about them, either, they're not going to be the equivalent of the children used as drugs by the 456. Too easy, too obvious. They're the unfortunate victims of the situation, tragic collateral damage, but I don't think they're what who ever is behind this is after. Maybe they're Phicorp's 'share', their part of the deal, where they make money. All those patients with chronic illnesses that need pain medication and whatever else. And will get it, if they can afford it.

But, as Rex said in the beginning, 'It's gotta be bigger than that'. Whoever is behind that, is, I think, interested in the remaining people, category 3, although it's still completely unclear what they want, or why. The people behind Jilly Kitzinger and Phicorp are clearly interested in the religious angle. Even if some of Oswald's speech was improvisation, Jilly wanted him to mention the world 'revelation'. 'The keyword is revelation.' Why? Someone mentioned a new world order at one point, I think, and iirc MD was originally supposed to be called 'New World'. If one goes as far back in RTD's writing as The Second Coming, and all through his DW, mortality always defined what it means to be human, so, this new immortality would indeed change things massively in this respect, and that ties in with Oswald/Phicorp's speech about humans having evolved into angels. So, say, the aim is to completely reconstruct society, humanity, and change it into, if we go by the quasi-'eugenics'/'euthanasia'/selection/death camp parallels, a genocidal fascist regime, only with theocratic/religious trappings? Maybe MD effectively starts at that point in CoE where they came to the conclusion that it was actually a good idea to get rid of the unwanted people, and takes it from there?

Still doesn't feel right, though. Why? Who profits? What do these mysterious families the assassin in ep. 4 mentioned want?

Last but not least, where does Jack come in, who is now ironically the last true human? Did they effectively use his immortality to turn humanity immortal? Is he also collateral damage, so to speak? Or more central to the plot?


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 7th, 2011 05:44 pm (UTC)
I found Vera's death even more shocking than Steven's for some reason, I don't know if it's because the mere idea of being burned alive is such an horrific one. I warmed to Vera faster than I did Esther and I'm a bit sad that she's gone, although the last 10 minutes of episode 5 certainly got me hooked more than episodes 1-4 did.

I wonder if Rex and Jack have another arguement about losing friends and lovers in episode 6, which might bring them closer together in the end? And of course, Esther might raise her game a bit now.

I think you're right about MD lacking any real 'personal stories' about what's happening to the world and that too much is going on during any one episode to be able to follow what's going on clearly. And Gwen and Rhys are definately better together than talking over a phone.
Aug. 7th, 2011 08:55 pm (UTC)
I guess Jack killing Steven shocked me more and hit me harder because of the circumstances. It wasn't just Steven's death, it wasn't just what Jack did, but also what this was going to do to him... Vera eventually being burned alive was horrible and shocking, but that guy set off my warning bells right from the start, he was so obviously the kind of misogynist creep who would immediately resort to violence in a situation like that. I was afraid for her from the moment she went into that room with him and started yelling at him, and actually more surprised that it took him so long to pull out the gun, than that he shot her.

I wonder if Rex and Jack have another arguement about losing friends and lovers in episode 6, which might bring them closer together in the end?

Possibly, now that Rex also lost someone, although it really wasn't his fault.
Aug. 7th, 2011 06:24 pm (UTC)
I wondered, after re-watching the episode, whether the ashes were still alive somehow? They showed how even the horribly burned bomber from the first episode was still conscious and aware. And if so, we might see the Resurrection Glove, or something similar, make a return? Since the Resurrection Glove drew on a person's life force, maybe the Big Bads behind PhiCorp need that life force from incinerated patients to sustain themselves. There seems to be so much subtle continuity between MD and previous seasons that I wouldn't be surprised if something like this was in store.

I was dismayed at Vera's fate. I adore Vera. She wasn't part of the team for long, but IMHO she'd established herself as far back as "Rendition." I loved that they addressed the revelation of the health care system perverting her new triage guidelines. It made a good example of "the road to hell is paved with good intentions." I wish they could have explored it further before she was incinerated.

Also I wonder if the show will address Rhys' role in transporting the Category 1 patients to the "burn centres." People not knowing what they're really doing, or looking the other way... I hope Ralph will do the right thing and reveal what happened to Vera.

I think the Category 2 patients are indirectly needed--why on earth quarantine them at all, if their illness/injuries are chronic but manageable? It makes me sick to think about it--but given the conditions of the uninsured (therefore "undesirable") Category 2 patients (and one was even tagged Category 1!), I think Category 2 patients will eventually become the supply of new Category 1s, via epidemics or something. That's beyond horrible, but again, I wouldn't be surprised if that was the case. (Also, I think I heard Rhys say the government was closing the hospitals?)

RTD is certainly delivering on the dark and disturbing this season.
Aug. 7th, 2011 08:39 pm (UTC)
I wondered, after re-watching the episode, whether the ashes were still alive somehow?

Good point, that's of course entirely possible. Maybe I'm just hoping we might not get yet another variation of the 'aliens use humans for [insert gruesome purpose of choice]' plot... I don't know. There's Oswald, there's the entire religious angle, there's the question of what the whole point of the miracle, which someone apparently planned carefully and for a long time, is... Is it the dead who are important? Or the living? Somehow I have the feeling that the story is going to take an unexpected turn yet, but it's of course impossible to tell.

Vera's death shocked me too, she was the first of the American characters I liked, but I didn't really feel it as a loss, if that makes any sense.

Also I wonder if the show will address Rhys' role in transporting the Category 1 patients to the "burn centres."

I also noticed that, and I think they'll address it. It also made me (probably irrationally) worried for Rhys. Until now, he's been somewhat involved, but not really as autonomous figure with a plot of his own, more as a part of Gwen's arc, and I can't say that at any point of CoE I was particularly afraid for him. Now, though, it looks like he's going to be a bit more directly involved than helping Gwen and taking care of Anwen, and somehow it feels as if that puts him more on the front line.

I think Category 2 patients will eventually become the supply of new Category 1s, via epidemics or something. That's beyond horrible, but again, I wouldn't be surprised if that was the case.

I don't know if they'll be needed for anything, but I agree that their survival probably isn't the priority of whoever is behind this. Phicorp clearly intends to make a profit off those that can pay, but as for those who can't... If RTD follows through with the eugenics/death camp analogy, then, yes, the ultimate goal is for them to die one way or the other.

RTD is certainly delivering on the dark and disturbing this season.

Indeed. And that was only the fifth episode...
Aug. 14th, 2011 01:58 pm (UTC)
I wondered, after re-watching the episode, whether the ashes were still alive somehow?
Apparently Jane Espenson tweeted that those who get burned are truly dead. Which is nice, I suppose - well, nicer than the alternative.

/random driveby comment
Aug. 14th, 2011 08:43 pm (UTC)
This really raises the question though, why make people immortal in the first place, if you're just going to substitute natural death with burning them? It's not even real immortality then, more like a privilege that can be taken away. Is that the point? Except that people still age, so it's hardly a privilege either...
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )


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