Torchwood: Miracle Day Episode 5 – The Categories of Life

Created by: Russell T. Davies

Cast: John Barrowman, Eve Myles, Mekhi Phifer, Alexa Havins, Kai Owen, Arlene Tur, Bill Pullman, Lauren Ambrose

Synopsis: The medical panels are disbanded after recommending every person get place in one of three categories of life.   1 represents brain-dead or unconscious, 2 is mortally wounded or infected but healing, and 3 is perfectly healthy.   Categories 1 and 2 get sent to the overflow camps, with category 1 getting sent to mysterious “modules”.   Gwen has returned to Wales in an effort to get her father out of the overflow camp into which he has been placed, fearing PhiCorp’s hidden agenda.   Vera joins Torchwood, and goes undercover to investigate an overflow camp with both Esther and Rex.   Jack has another meeting with Danes, trying to use his celebrity to transmit the truth to the world.

It is almost predictable, but as the end of this episodes marks the half-way point of the Miracle Day serial, there are some big reveals, or, more fittingly, revelations, and the bar is certainly raised with a few unexpected shock moments.   Think of this point in the Children of Earth saga.   It was around the half-way point there that [SPOILER WARNING if you have not seen Torchwood before Miracle Day] we lost fan favourite Ianto Jones (Gareth-David Lloyd) after all.   Though it is impossible to match the level of shock and gravitas that came with that moment, nonetheless this is perhaps the best episode of Miracle Day to date.

A big element of that is the fact that with this episode I finally find myself warming to the new recruits.   Caring for the plight of your protagonists is the key to any good drama, and in this episode to a certain degree Rex’s brashness is addressed, and he has some very humanising moments.   Also, Esther acknowledges her field agent deficiencies and does start to address them.   Adding Juarez to the Torchwood team proper though was great, as she has consistently remained a very strong character.   This is once again on display in her undercover operation, where she discovers that there is a distinct LACK of the care promised occurring in the overflow centres.

Gwen’s story arc is a more emotional one this episode, as she attempts to rescue her father.   Her return to Wales is certainly refreshing, and as this is Torchwood, to a degree it feels a bit like coming back home, back to a comfort zone.   Also, having Rhys and Gwen reunited and working together provides Gwen’s character with a better rhythm, and I would say also gives her a better counterpoint for her acting to really shine.   Her work on this episode is a lot more convincing compared to anything of her work in the US.   Meanwhile, Jack is a bit sidelined in this episode, but the mission he gives himself leads to a moment of great importance.   His interaction with Danes indicates that there is a certain level of understanding between them (also with reference to the events in Children of Earth, the connection here is not so mysterious).   Their ideologies differ greatly though, making it difficult for Jack to garner for himself a potentially powerful ally.

To say more is to talk about the cliffhanger moments in this episode, which I shy away from doing.   As I will be discussing the aftermath in my review for the next episode though, please stay tuned for that to get my thoughts on the big events.

4.5 stars out of 5

 

Torchwood Miracle Day Episode 5 on IMDB

Torchwood Miracle Day Episode 5 trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPVxdNdWyQA]

Torchwood: Miracle Day Episode 4 – Escape to LA

Created by: Russell T. Davies

Cast: John Barrowman, Eve Myles, Mekhi Phifer, Alexa Havins, Kai Owen, Arlene Tur, Bill Pullman, Lauren Ambrose, C. Thomas Howell, Mare Winningham

Synopsis: Given their base of operations in Washington D.C. was compromised, the new look Torchwood team shift their locale to Los Angeles.   There they hope to break into Phicorp to steal a sensitive hard-drive that may hold the key to a few of the as yet unanswered questions.   Meanwhile, Danes popularity wanes as a new politician starts a “Dead is Dead” campaign, promoting that those that should have died should be ignored to prevent their drain on the system.

After the last episodes misplaced steps, Escape to LA went a long way to restore my favour in the series.   Though the series certainly feels more Americanised by the collaboration with US cable network Starz, more elements of the first three Torchwood seasons were allowed to peek through on this occasion.   This was especially clear given the fact that there was a genuine mission requiring high-tech that was run by Jack and Gwen, and the simple fact these two characters got more interaction without resorting to the unresolved romantic path.

The tone also got the right mix of drama and humour back.   I am starting to pick up that almost every episode has a Doctor Who reference, whether it be last episodes reference to a warehouse being “bigger on the inside”, or Jack using the Alias John Smith in the episode currently being discussed.   The latter reference was more surreptitious, and as such, more clever, a mark of the increased quality of this episode.   The guest stars for this episode are also of high quality.   Thomas C. Howell is “The Gentleman”, a mysterious figure working for the big bad that tracks down the Torchwood gang to their new base of operations, and manages to throw a spanner in the works on this weeks big operation.   He adds to the mystery of Miracle Day specifically too, indicating he and Jack have a history, that thew latter at this stage cannot recall.   It seems that Jack is very closely linked to whatever is happening however.   The other introduced character is Mare Winningham’s Ellis Hartley Monroe, the politician in direct conflict with Danes.   These scenes form some of the most exciting character moments yet since the advent of Miracle Day.

I am still coming to terms with whether Rex and Esther are contributing a lot to Torchwood or not yet.   The dynamic is very different to what we have seen before, and if anything it is clearly a less British dynamic.   I immediately warmed to previous season characters, especially Tosh and Ianto, yet I am finding it harder to care about Rex, who is largely just a brash, arrogant American, and Esther, whom is kind of too much of a wallflower.   She gets a very significant story arc in this episode emotionally, with the introduction of her familial problems, but this introduction feels very isolated, to build the character, yet for me it did little to get me to know the character any better.   The episode cliffhanger is also an emotional one for Gwen, and I feel this one was better handled, as it will clearly influence her for the rest of the season.

The episode is certainly flawed, but there is a lot to recommend it as well, especially using the last episode as a benchmark.

4 stars out of 5

 

Torchwood Miracle Day – Episode 4 on IMDB

Torchwood Miracle Day – Episode 4 preview [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o4BjQHQ4MmI]

Torchwood: Miracle Day Episode 3 – Dead of Night

Created by: Russell T. Davies

Cast: John Barrowman, Eve Myles, Mekhi Phifer, Alexa Havins, Kai Owen, Arlene Tur, Bill Pullman, Lauren Ambrose, Wayne Knight

Synopsis: Rex determines the cause of his current outsider status from the CIA is his boss Friedkin, from whom he learns that the latter has been in contact with someone involved with Miracle Day.   Esther and Rex are now somewhat enrolled in Torchwood, and the team has set up base to work the problem out.   They identify a warehouse that Friedkin had been protecting, and going there discover a stockpile of Phicorp painkillers, the same company that employs Jilly Kitzinger.

This may seem out of character for me since I have started doing television episode reviews.   I have been a consistent broken record, talking about great drama, building episodes to what promises to be a brilliant finish, and how each episode of the shows I have been watching has been equal or superior to what had gone before.   I regret to say though that with this episode of Miracle Day, the ball was dropped somewhat.

This is not to say that the episode was bad.   There were many entertaining moments, as well as enticing revelations concerning what we can expect later on in the show.   The Phicorp storyline starts to bring the separate threads of the story together finally, with them not only employing Kitzinger, who in turn has been soliciting the support of both Oswald Danes and Dr. Juarez, but also having knowledge of Miracle Day a year in advance and seeking to profit.   So as far as story is concerned, the progress is fine and at a good point at this still early point.

However, the episode still does not feel quite brilliant to me.   I feel a part of that is a question of tone, this episode perhaps leaning too far into the comic arena.   Some humour in a dark concept show like this is needed to introduce levity and prevent a very depressed audience, but there was perhaps a little too much in this episode, in particular Jilly Kitzinger, whom at this point is about as deep as a puddle after a sun shower.   Her character is not the only one to suffer, however.   Jack himself does not fare well in the character development stakes.   Her leaves for a moment of levity, leading to a sex scene interspersed with a Rex/Vera Juarez sex scene.   The fact that Jack’s  scene is with a man garnered some controversy, but for me the homosexuality is beyond the point.   The simple fact is the scenes did little to serve the plot.   Jack does experience some self realisation afterwards, concerning his relationship with Gwen, but even this feels unwarranted given that Gwen has clearly moved on.   Even if it was necessary for the plot to include this element, I feel there were other ways to achieve this.   Add that to Rex and Juarez, where the lead up to the sex is so rushed it stretches beyond the point of credibility, overall including sex at all in the episode was a poor choice.

So yes, I am a bit disappointed.   There were the seeds of another episode worthy of not only the opening of Miracle Day, but perhaps even equal to some of the best of Torchwood as a whole.   Some poor choices in characterisation and tone undid that potential however, leaving the episode at just being slightly better than average.

3 stars out of 5

 

Torchwood Miracle Day – Dead of Night on IMDB

Torchwood Miracle Day – Dead of Night trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtNyJzgAMqI]

Torchwood: Miracle Day Episode 2 – Rendition

Created by: Russell T. Davies

Cast: John Barrowman, Eve Myles, Mekhi Phifer, Alexa Havins, Kai Owen, Arlene Tur, Bill Pullman, Lauren Ambrose, Wayne Knight, Dichen Lachman

Synopsis: Rex has Jack and Gwen in custody on a plane on the way back to the US.   He is unaware that Esther has been framed by the CIA, and it apparently has something to do with her investigations into Torchwood.   Dr. Juarez finds out more information on what is happening to the world, with evidence that despite the lack of death, humanity is still aging.

This episode is more thrilling and more gripping than the last.   I found myself absolutely enthralled from beginning to end.   Whist some new information clarifies factors of what is happening, only more questions are raised as a result.   Given that there are still eight episodes to go and as such the end of this episode takes us to the one-fifth mark, this is a perfect dramatic point to be at these early stages.

Rex starts the episode as a true hard-arse company man whom as an audience, as for Jack and Gwen, it is difficult to determine whether he is worthy of trust.   It quickly becomes apparent however that he is on the outside of the CIA, with Esther seeing men turn over his office, and with Esther herself having received a mystery investment of $50 000 into her account courtesy of an anonymous account in China.   Clearly they are being set up, and their director Friedkin (played as brilliantly sleazy as only Wayne Knight knows how to do) seems to be behind it all.

Friedkin also has his own agent on the plane with Rex and his prisoners, Lyn (Australian actress Lachman, an alumna of Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse).   She overhears Jack comment on morphic fields, and their possible connection to Miracle Day.   Given that whereas everyone else being immortal has led to his own mortality, she arranges to poison him… it seems he may indeed be close to a truth that Friedkin, or at least the mystery superior he has contacted, wants hidden.   Rex manages to arrest Lyn, but it leads to an exciting mad dash to assemble a cure with only items available on a plane.    Having a doctor on speed dial can be handy sometimes, as Dr. Juarez proves in this section of the episode.

The parallel storyline of Oswald Danes does not yet intersect with other events in the series, but being penned by Russell T. Davies, we can anticipate this happening soon.   Pullman puts in an amazing performance however, breaking down in apology for his crimes in national television.   This introduces a moral ambiguity into the plot… it is difficult seeing a man in so much anguish and not feel sorry for him, however when one reflects on the crimes he committed, is such sympathy warranted or justified?   The Danes thread also serves to introduce PR agent Jilly Kitzinger (Ambrose), whom is all big teeth and big sell.   We first see her trying to sign up Danes after his on-air “performance”, and later offers assistance to Dr. Juarez, as it seems she also works for a drug company and can supply pain killers.   Given everyone is getting injured and aging, they shall be a valuable commodity.

A lot clearly happened in the episode, and everything I have revealed still leaves elements at the end of the episode yet to be discussed, but as that would be in great big spoiler potential, I will refrain from doing so.   I loved this episode, and can’t wait to hit play on my recording of episode 3…

4 stars out of 5

 

Torchwood Miracle Day – Rendition on IMDB

Torchwood Miracle Day – Rendition trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0tU6RvnomNU]

Torchwood: Miracle Day Episode 1 – The New World

Created by: Russell T. Davies

Cast: John Barrowman, Eve Myles, Mekhi Phifer, Alexa Havins, Kai Owen, Arlene Tur, Bill Pullman

Synopsis: Gwen (Myles) and Rhys (Owen) are in hiding after the events of Torchwood: Children of Earth, which, among other things, resulted in the disbanding of the Torchwood Institute.   Just as a virus hits the CIA flashing the word Torchwood, everyone on Earth stops dying, despite fatal injuries and illnesses.   They survive with the pain of the damage inflicted on their bodies.   One agent (Phifer), himself fatally injured makes the connection and seeks out Gwen and Captain Jack Harkness (Barrowman).

A review by Film Nerd.

It was with great excitement I started up my recording of the first episode in this series, which first aired in Australia last weekend on Foxtel’s UKTV.   It has been way too long between drinks since the last Torchwood miniseries, Children of Earth.   I am delighted to say that the episode delivered, and I can only hope it maintains the pace and quality established in this first episode.

The exposition that starts and new series is present and correct, but it does not lack for enough tense moments to keep interest.   We open on the execution of Pullman’s Oswald Danes, a rapist/paedophile/murderer.   The lethal injection goes horribly wrong, from the simple fact that as a result of Miracle Day, he does not die.   The next new character also gets a thrillingly fatal introduction.   Phifer’s CIA agent Rex Matheson is in a car accident in which he is impaled through the chest with a metal bar.   He also will not die, but is in constant immense pain.   It is through fellow agent Esther Drummond (Havins) he makes the connection with Torchwood, and seeks them out.   Drummond is the key to the CIA (and any new audience members) finding out exactly what Torchwood was all about.

Gwen and Owen are in hiding, but after Miracle Day, they cannot escape their past.   Thankfully, the Torchwood virus/malware that alerted the CIA also called Captain Jack back from his intergalactic roamings.   Interestingly, it seems Miracle Day has also affected him.   He is injured during his introduction by an explosion, and does not immediately heal.   It seems that the literally death-defying Jack is actually now mortal.

As mentioned above, the exposition is handled really well.   The downsides of global immortality are spelt out quite succinctly, introducing the potential for global anarchy as food supplies should run out in four months, leading to global, deathless starvation.   Everyone would fight over simple scraps of food.   The horrors are most vividly represented in one scene observing the victim of an explosion, who remains conscious despite being a charred shell of what was once a human being.  In a word, horrific, and the stakes are immediately set high.   Without giving too much away, the episode ends with a thrilling, effects laden chase which reunites our Torchwood elite and draws them into Matheson’s radar.   By choice or not, Torchwood now has a role to play in solving the mystery of Miracle Day.

This was a great first episode that had me on the edge of my seat for a good portion of it.   With nine episodes left it is yet to be seen whether this quality can be maintained for the entire run, or whether there will be a mid-series lag.   Regardless I will be watching, and reporting my opinions in each case.   I can say with certainty however that I look forward to tomorrow night’s episode.

4 stars out of 5.

 

Torchwood: Miracle Day – The New World on IMDB

Trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A4JXRiLdZq0]