Dead Man Walking
Dead Man Walking was the seventh episode in the second series of Torchwood. In the same vein as They Keep Killing Suzie, it saw the resurrection of a principal cast member. The story continued almost directly on from Reset.
This episode examined the nature of the afterlife. It revealed that one place where people can end up after death is an empty netherworld of darkness, inhabited by a demonic creature that expunges all life it comes into contact with.
Owen Harper lies dead of a gunshot wound, about to be opened up for autopsy by Martha Jones at the Hub. Jack orders the team to do nothing until he arrives. Jack enters a strange café where a girl, that appears twelve years old, reads tarot. She tells Jack he owes her a favor and where to find what he is looking for. As he leaves, she holds the Death card.
Jack goes to St Mary’s, an abandoned church where Weevils sleep and store collected bric-a-brac. He breaks into a safe and retrieves from it a box. When Jack returns to the Hub with the box, to the astonishment of the team, it holds a left-handed resurrection gauntlet. Gwen objects to what Jack is about to do, reminding him of what happened with Suzie. Jack ignores her. He hopes to bring Owen back for two minutes for everybody to say their goodbyes. He resurrects Owen, who is confused and scared. Tosh tells Owen that she loves him, and Jack — after initially upsetting Owen by asking for the morgue access code — tries to prepare Owen for death. The connection is lost, Owen stops breathing and Jack holds his hand, believing him dead. Then, Owen says that he will need his hand back.
The glove has brought Owen back from death permanently. Unlike Suzie, there is no obvious source of life energy. No energy is being drained from Jack as Suzie drained energy from Gwen, but Owen is getting energy from somewhere. Toshiko tells Owen she didn’t mean it when she told him that she loved him. Owen says that this is a textbook reaction to grief, but does not want to discuss it further. He changes the subject and leaves the room.
Owen has visions of himself in a place shrouded in darkness, full of eerie whispers. He temporarily loses control of his body. During this incident, his pupils turn black and he speaks in an unknown language. Although he has been put in quarantine, Owen escapes and goes to a bar in Cardiff. He finds he can no longer digest drinks or get an erection (which depends on blood flow), so he can no longer have sex. All his life processes have stopped. He is now the walking dead.
Jack catches him and they have a bar brawl. When Owen shouts that he belongs to Torchwood “special ops”, Jack assumes a fake English accent and denies it. This results in them both being put in a police cell. There, to Jack’s amused disgust, Owen intentionally vomits up the drinks that would have otherwise been stuck in his stomach (since his digestive processes have now stopped) and starts to panic. He and Jack bond. Jack says that he once dated Marcel Proust and that his immortality, which Owen covets in his position, is not the gift that Owen envies. They leave after Jack reveals his thoughts on immortality. Outside they encounter Weevils which chase Owen and Jack until they are cornered on a rooftop. Instead of killing them, the Weevils bow to Owen, who again temporarily loses control of his body and addresses the Weevils in the same unknown language.
At the Hub, the team learn that Owen’s cells are changing slowly. When complete, something will take over Owen’s body. Research shows a similar incident occurred in legend, at the town that predated Cardiff during the time of the Black Death: a little girl died, and the town priest (undoubtedly using the same resurrection gauntlet that has brought Owen back) subsequently performed a miracle to resurrect her, but Death itself came back with the revived girl. Death sought to kill thirteen victims, as doing so would allow it to enter the world permanently. But before Death could take more than twelve victims, what the story simply describes as “faith” stopped the entity.
Believing this legend is recurring, Owen suggests he must have his neural pathways closed by embalming to stop Death from using him as a gateway. As the team are getting Owen ready for the process, the resurrection gauntlet springs to life and attacks Martha. Owen destroys the gauntlet with a gunshot, but not before it has drained Martha’s life and reduced her to an old woman. Before the team can get Martha help or do anything about Owen, the cellular conversion completes, allowing Death to fully possess and then emerge from Owen.
Upon manifesting, Death kills Jack, and heads to a hospital, drawn to those close to death. It begins going after patients who are helpless or alone, sucking each one dry and adding their death to its count. As Jack resurrects, the Torchwood team rush Martha to the hospital in her greatly aged state, where a nurse says that as her red blood cell count is low and as she is over eighty, her chances of survival are slim. Upon realizing from the Weevils gathering outside that Death is here, the team evacuates everyone from the building, while Death, after taking twelve souls, chases after Jamie Burton; a young leukemia patient who has been left behind.
Owen saves Jamie and helps Tosh and him escape. Ianto, who is waiting with Martha, explains to the team that according to research he’s uncovered, the “faith” which defeated Death before was the resurrected child, whose name was Faith. Owen realizes that he is the only one who can fight Death; he is already dead and has nothing to lose. After kissing Tosh (and stealing her alien lockpick device), Owen locks the other team members out of the hospital and begins a brawl with Death, finally consuming its energy and forcing it back into the darkness.
On returning to the Hub, Martha explains to Owen that the energy keeping him “alive” is dissipating but it could take anywhere between thirty seconds and thirty years to die out completely and end Owen’s “life.” Owen asks Jack to let him work again, as by doing his job as a doctor, he can try to repay the twelve lives that have been lost as a consequence of his resurrection. Toshiko and Jack discuss Owen literally fighting off Death in the hospital; Jack gravely declares, “Ah, you can never really beat Death. Never escape it. It’s always in the shadows, waiting!”