So this season was definitely the best-written Torchwood we've had so far, hands down. The premise wasn't ridiculous, there were no metal Cyberbikinis, and other people assure me the pacing was good. The first three episodes in particular were the sort of Torchwood I like to watch--basically, crisis causes people we like to be awesome. (The last two episodes, crisis causes people we like to DIE, I am not so in favor of as a Torchwood episode type.) Lois was awesome, Alice was awesome, Rhiannon was awesome, Rhys was awesome, Andy was awesome (except, um, no taking off your Kevlar next time you go up against armed forces, okay?), Johnny was awesome, even amoral spy woman was awesome in her amorality. I'm not really feeling the Frobisher love, but he was at least interesting and believable, which is sometimes more than can be said for the members of Torchwood in other episodes. And of course the members of Torchwood were all awesome, especially in the first three or so episodes when they hadn't given up yet. I wasn't ever bored (although there were several moments of inappropriate hilarity) and several times when I was thinking "if this happened in real life, that person would do X" that person went on to do X within a couple of minutes. And I thought that they handled both themes of Humanity Sucks Because It's Willing To Sacrifice The Few For The Good Of The Many and Sometimes Sacrificing The Few For The Good Of The Many Is Necessary well enough...
...although I thought that as contradictory morals, they really undermined each other by appearing in the same "episode". So earlier, Torchwood is awesome because its members refuse to accept that the sacrifice of the children to save the world is necessary (although they notably have absolutely no alternative plan...), and later, Torchwood (or rather, Jack, since as copperbadge pointed out there's not so much Torchwood in Day Five as there is Eve Myles and John Barrowman happening to costar in the same thriller) is awesome because he is willing to sacrifice a child to save the world? Which is what Alice pointed out--basically, the difference is that the numbers turn out better for the latter calculation. I'm willing to accept that, given the ideas Jack had had at that point and the timing, sacrificing Stephen was morally right; but then I'd argue that that means if there really was no way to fight the 456 (as everyone had thought when making the decision earlier), the sacrifice of 10% of the prepubescent population was morally right as well. Torchwood doesn't get to have its cake of being morally right when it's sneering down its nose at the government for agreeing to do it (not that the government officials didn't go about the selection in a particularly repugnant--albeit realistic--way) and eat the cake of moral righteousness when it's Making The Necessary Sacrifice too.
Also, I think the Sometimes Sacrificing The Few For The Good Of The Many Is Necessary theme was better-done in Small Worlds (and, tangentially, the Humanity Sucks Because It's Willing To Sacrifice, &c., theme was done better in Turn Left and even, heavy-handed as the episode was, Midnight), mostly because it was creepier when we didn't know what the aliens wanted the children for. (And why is it always children? Can't our heartstrings be tugged on by things other than children? It's such a cheap way of scoring angst points.)
The whole drug-use aspect was pretty ridiculous, like the only way they could think of to make the aliens worse was to make them druggies. (Moment of unintentional hilarity: the reaction shots of the government officials. You're drug users? Oh, now that crosses the line.) I understand that they would have found the whole situation more tolerable if they thought the aliens needed the children to survive, but surely there are better ways to go about that than deliberately picking as un-nuanced an evil (not that drug use is necessarily evil, but eating children to use is) as the reason? Like in the Animorphs, how the Yeerks could live in their natural state without taking over any other creature, but that would severely limit their life experience (slugs. In a pool of slugs. With all the sensory acuity of slugs.), as would, to a lesser extent, only taking over Taxxons (who are willing hosts--they have poorer senses than humans or Hork-Bajir and a tendency towards feeding frenzies which include cannibalism, so it's a little less-cut-and-dry)--that's a situation where you can have some sympathy toward the aliens while at the same time you can consider taking over humans to be absolutely not O.K.
Plus, the fact that it was simply chemicals the children produced that gave the aliens their high makes the whole child-sacrifice thing a little silly. They can't, you know, synthesize chemicals? Maybe not in the real world, but this is the Whoniverse--technology is wildly ahead of our own whenever Torchwood or UNIT gets involved. Not to mention, are there any chemicals that are uniquely produced by human prepubescents? --Well, first, the prepubescents, I'm genuinely curious about that, but mostly the human. Sacrificing a lot of monkeys at worst and sheep or cows or something at best wouldn't be great, but it would be a damn sight better than human children. Why did no one think of this?
Why did Ianto go with Jack to be all defiant to begin with? Surely the idea that the 456 would retaliate against the people standing there being (pointlessly) defiant crossed somebody's mind, and last time I checked, Jack was the only member of the team who was immortal. What's the worst that could happen? Aside from alien possession, I mean, since that would last for eternity (or possibly whenever Jack got killed next, which is more cheering). But that could've happened with Ianto there too. All this risk for, ultimately, no contribution. (I'm pretty sure Jack could've managed to tell the 456 to look him up in their records to see what a badass he was; the Doctor does his own PR just fine.)
Also, what exactly was Torchwood planning on doing to defy the aliens aside from shouting at them, posing dramatically, and shooting at the bulletproof glass? I know that shouting, posing dramatically, and shooting at aliens are three of Torchwood's strong points (I notice that Jack did not attempt to use the fourth, having sex, despite countless extortion!sex fanfics out there positing Jack's sexiness as a useful line of defense for Earth), but really, that's not always sufficient.
I'm also getting tired of the utter lack of interdepartmental cooperation in the Whoniverse. O.K., so they handwaved that they couldn't contact the Doctor (and thus the Shadow Proclamation, which I imagine can't approve too much of harvesting a sentient race's children in order to get high, considering the Doctor's invocation of the Proclamation when the Adipose weren't harming anyone--actively giving people what they wanted, in fact--to bear their children, in Partners in Crime) because Martha wasn't answering her phone because she was on her honeymoon. (Although one would expect that, when her honeymoon was interrupted by sudden mass alien possession of all of the children on Earth and subsequent government "inoculations" with no medical basis behind them whatsoever, she would start answering her phone, honeymoon or not.)
But they couldn't contact Sarah Jane? If she'd had the concrete information of what the 456 wanted and of Clem's death, she could've figured out a way to take out the 456 using the channel that Mr. Smith no doubt noticed was sending massive amounts of information (somehow encoded in such a way that it was easily understandable to Dekker and Co.). Probably a way that didn't involve killing a kid, because she would've had more lead time than Jack's five minutes because she wouldn't waste any time on hand-wringing, making videos of hand-wringing and melodrama (moment of unintentional hilarity!), and giving up. Or shooting at bulletproof glass (which contained poisonous gases, no less), because Sarah Jane disapproves of guns.
So...where was Sarah Jane during all of this? For that matter, where was UNIT? It's kinda frustrating to see the writing staff invent yet another government entity for dealing with aliens, when they already under-utilize the ones they've got. And on a Watsonian level, it's frustrating to see the British government invent yet another entity for dealing with aliens when they already under-utilize the ones they've got. So they didn't want to bring UNIT in in 1965; why weren't the 456 Torchwood jurisdiction? "If it's alien, it's ours" and all that?
Two other major WTF moments before ending this section (there were probably more, but I can't think of them at the moment): Frobisher's triple-murder-suicide and Jack leaving at the end. Last first: Jack leaving at the end seriously made me want him dead (permanently, that is). He just killed his grandson, stood there and watched him die while his daughter, the boy's mother, was kept from doing anything to save him. Didn't even explain to Stephen what was going on, which, pretty crappy, Stephen deserved a chance to at least choose to die to save the other children, or at least to know what was happening. And now he's taking a vacation? When the rest of Torchwood is down to no Hub, no equipment, no armory, no van, and one pregnant woman who surely has better things to do with her time than single-handedly control the Weevil population (assuming no other Rift activity for the whole time Jack is gone, which is of course completely implausible)? BAD TIMING, JACKASS. Contrary to the Doctor's belief, angst over hurting the people you love should not be cured by wandering the universe trying to have fun; for that matter, at least the Doctor helps people when he does it, while there's no indication Jack is walking away from his permanent helping-people job to help people off-Earth. If Jack really feels so bad, staying put and working harder is at least a penance; vacation? Is not.
Frobisher killing his family and himself pissed me off to no end on so many levels. First, it was completely contrived; the PM's reasoning didn't really make sense and certainly wasn't naturally arrived at. I don't mind being fucked with--well, I do, but I mind less if there's some kind of reasonable narrative justification for the fucking-with. Second, Frobisher's older daughter was completely freaking awesome (I wanted her to join the Sarah Jane team and later Torchwood!), so this was just another example of RTD making someone awesome and then killing them. NOT ON, RTD. Third, it was a completely jerky thing of Frobisher to do--make a last stand against the soldiers (with all the cameras running! Which would help save other people's kids!), sure, but don't go and kill your kids without even telling them or your wife why and then kill your wife for no reason and then yourself. Are we actually supposed to sympathize with this guy? He has less moral turpitude than Jack Harkness, and that is saying something. Fourth, what our society really needs is more portrayals of how sometimes when guys kill their families and then themselves because they think the family is better off dead, they're right and the killing is totally justified! Wow, why don't you narratively justify rape and genocide next, RTD! (I swear I was thinking this while watching the scene and did not crib off of giandujakiss, who at any rate has a better way of looking at the gender politics of the child sacrifice in these episodes.)
Oh wait, I just remembered another thing. How on Earth is it more feasible, especially given time constraints, to send soldiers (who, like all soldiers in the Whoniverse, are completely incapable of questioning orders or rebelling) to the houses of those in the lowest-performing decile of schools to pick up children than to simply start collecting children from the next-lowest decile? They're never going to get 100% of that population anyway.
So we've seen every member of the original Torchwood team (as we were first introduced to them along with Gwen in the first episode) die (or be presumed dead) at least once. And now Jack is the only one of those still alive, if you believe that Ianto is dead, which of course I don't. (I perfected my death-denial abilities while in Snape fandom.)
If Ianto is dead, it's not permanent--there's still another resurrection glove out there (maybe improved on by Suzie in secret so we don't end up with a resurrected Ianto who can do nothing useful, including CPR which is totally possible if you can move air through your lungs to speak by the way Owen, but sits around angsting all the time about how he can't eat or sleep or drink or have sex [which is bull, you don't need to have erections to have sex]), the Tarot Card Girl Who May Be Faith can pull something out of her plot-generating ass, alternate universe, time travel, nanites, Kiss of Life, there are a lot of options here.
Because if Ianto were to be dead permanently, Torchwood would pretty much have to bring in Lois (what happened to her?) and (reformed!fanon!)John Hart and Martha and Mickey and Donna and Andy and Jenny and, why not, Sally Sparrow, to keep me watching. I am not watching the Gwen and Jack Show, especially since I would be worried they would kill Rhys off to force the 'ship. And Rhys is too awesome for that; I'm not used to shipping canon het (or canon at all, really), but Gwen/Rhys is too great to deny. Or kill off.
Basically, with the way Torchwood was left at the end of this season, it felt like a bit "fuck you!" to the fans, and they're going to have to do something really good to keep me watching next season. I'm not watching Torchwood for darkness or edginess or, gods forbid, its morality, or even for plot; I'm watching to see characters I like be awesome. Give me that, writers, O.K.?