CIA Agent Rex Matheson
The Men Who Sold the World
Played by: Mekhi Phifer
Rex Matheson is a field agent for the CIA. He’s hard working and the sort of guy who gives the impression that it’s everything by the book. He’s pretty much a Yes Man, and it’s his constant belief that everything within the CIA organisation is good and everyone outside of it is not to be trusted. Although we’ve seen that if there’s a world to save, then he is the man to do it, and nobody will sway him from that objective. But it’s him, Rex Matheson, who will save the day. Not Jack Harkness, not Torchwood, but CIA agent Matheson.
In the same respect as we’ve seen in previous episodes of Torchwood – if the world needs saving, it’s down to Torchwood, with Captain Jack at the helm. Not UNIT, not the US, no government body of any kind. After all, Torchwood is ‘outside the government, beyond the police.’ And Captain Jack, riding his Torchwood credentials above everyone else, feels that means it’s his responsibility, personally, no matter what the cost. If you want evidence of that, take a look at ‘Small Worlds’ and ‘Children of Earth.’ The risk of sacrificing one to save millions is his to take, he believes, because of the gift that Rose gave him, and in lieu of the Doctor’s return.
Rex saw the loss of his girlfriend Vera Juarez, when her involvement in finding the truth behind the camps cost her her life. Esther Drummond, who followed Rex till the very end, lost her life at the hands of the Family. Could he sacrifice the entire human race in order to save hers? Looking at the bigger picture, what should he have chosen?
Both Rex and Captain Jack have been utter bastards in their lifetime, and Jack’s lifetime has certainly been much longer than Rex’s, but this time we face a Jack who is no longer immortal because of the Miracle, and who does things very differently because of it. Whereas Rex is like Jack before he met with the Doctor, but with an even bigger stick up his butt.
At the end of the series, when Rex is shot by Charlotte Wells, it was as if all the bad things that had happened to Rex would finally bring him back to the dead man he should have been in the first episode, only…. he comes back to life. A shock for both Gwen and Jack, who had professed that his blood wasn’t what made him immortal.
For me personally, I wasn’t happy that Rex was now immortal, but this was an argument/rant for the writer of the series, the creator of Rex Matheson, and not the character himself.
Rex couldn’t help the fatal blow that was delivered. I’m sure it’s not something even Jack could come to terms with in the beginning. But given this purpose in life, and given his role within the CIA, he still had a job to do, and the Family would not simply disappear to never reappear again later. Rex would need to work with Torchwood to find them, and if both Rex and Jack are immortal, at least they’d stand a better chance of surviving through whatever strife the Family were to put them through.
Although Rex is a straight-laced field agent, he’s still only human, and there’s little in the imagination of what you could or would expect from him, character wise.
How he will fare in stories beyond Miracle Day and Exodus Code depends upon the writers. Will he remain as the a*hole we’ve come to regard him as, or will he mellow?
While thinking of the way Rex the character behaves, I was reminded of Series 1 & 2, with Toshiko and Owen, both in their own way, mirror Rex’s attitude to getting things done. Dr Owen Harper would often go against Torchwood Jack’s wishes to do a job, preferring to bulldoze his way through a case in his own formidable style, possibly more so when he was brought back to life after the fatal shooting at the hands of Professor Aaron Copley.
Quiet, timid Toshiko, who preferred to work out her equations from the comfort and safety of the Hub computers, and who would baffle the team with science, was an ‘everything by the book’ girl, in terms of her work at Torchwood. Perhaps her biggest fear was that if she didn’t play it that way, Jack would send her back to UNIT to serve out the rest of her sentence. Owen once commented about her strict regime that her ‘stick up the butt, had its own stick up the butt.’ Which we’ve come to discover is the same as Rex.
So, our groundings for disliking Rex can only be from his CIA credentials. We’ve learnt through Torchwood that the government, regardless of which side of the pond it’s on, cannot be trusted. Torchwood is above the law, beyond the government, so therefore, any military involvement against the Institute is going to be met with hostility, and I think from that, we’ve developed our own personal hatred of the character, purely because of who he works for.
So, from reading the comments from the fans on our Page recently, and researching the character, and broadening my own mind, it’s not Rex I’m annoyed with. I mean his exterior as a character, the gruff approach isn’t warming to the heart, but like Jack, Toshiko, Owen, Gwen and Ianto, he will approach the task head on, and deal with it the way he knows best. So therefore, my initial dislike of the character, is invalid.