This review may contain spoilers.
Now that the remaining members of Torchwood are together again and we can assume that everyone who’s never heard of Torchwood before knows enough to get going, episode two of "Torchwood: Miracle Day" starts us moving down the story track.
As the episode starts, CIA agent Rex Matheson clearly thinks he’s in charge, sending Rhys home with baby Anwen and dragging Jack (John Barrowman) and Gwen (Eve Myles) onto a plane for the United States. Esther Drummond also thinks she’s got things in hand, trying to convince her boss that she’s the perfect person to investigate Torchwood.
Unfortunately for everybody, they’re both wrong. In this episode we begin to see the unfolding of both the mystery and the conspiracy, as forces acting within the CIA start to cut Rex and Esther out of the picture. Perhaps more important, they also try to remove Jack -- permanently.
About the only people who understand they don’t really have a handle on the situation are newly-released pedophile Oswald Danes, who realizes that his employment prospects aren’t exactly rosy, and Rex’s doctor, Dr. Juarez, who recognizes that with nobody dying, the problem is even worse than they thought.
Points of Interest
1. Expect Rex’s desire for painkillers to become more obvious as shortages become more acute.
2. Jilly Kitzinger can’t seem to decide whether she’s a public relations specialist or a drug rep. It’s likely there’s much more to her than meets the eye.
John Barrowman’s performance as a suddenly-vulnerable Captain Jack Harkness was fantastic, fantastic, fantastic, and should serve as a good introduction to Hollywood casting directors who wondered if he could be more than a pretty face. And speaking of that pretty face, the makeup department did an amazing job of creating a look that was positively frightening, and it took a lot of courage for Barrowman to follow through with it.
The series’ pacing continued, even with a few moments of levity. Particularly enjoyable was Doctor Juarez setting a whole conference of doctors on figuring out how to save Jack with only what was likely to be on an airplane, even as Esther tries to outrun the handwriting on the proverbial wall. We’re also treated to a reminder of why we love Gwen Cooper so much, as she goes from lamenting the situation (and blaming Jack, just a little) to taking control as only Gwen can.
This episode also sets the philosophical part of the problem into full swing. What happens when people with infectious diseases don’t die? How about patients in pain? What what part is forgiveness going to play in all of this?
Whatever else Torchwood: Miracle Day is, it’s not light entertainment, and it’s definitely not boring.
What Didn't Work
Bill Pullman continues a performance that is, as a friend of ours put it, “so hammy I want to smear mustard on it.” I’m sure he’s going for creepy, but unfortunately, it’s so over the top that unless Oswald Danes turns out to be an alien or some huge universal force trapped in a humanoid body, I’m not sure there’s really going to be any justification for it.
And that’s part of the problem of reviewing a series like this on first viewing; some points can either by plot points or plot holes. For example, if nobody can die, why would the baddies try to poison Jack? If they know he’s vulnerable, the fact that they’ve tried it is a plot point. If not, it’s a cop-out, a deux ex machina just to set up a situation in which we get to see Gwen at her best. For the moment, it’s hard to tell which.
But perhaps the biggest problem is the hardest to pinpoint. Now two episodes in, the series still lacks the … Torchwood-ness that will be necessary to really pull this off. Unfortunately, this probably is a function of the Americanization of the show. To an American, watching British politicians pull strings feels like a foreign power behind the scenes; to viewers in the UK, the previous series felt like home. Now the situation is reversed, and it feels strange to viewers on both sides of the Atlantic.
Perhaps worse than that, Rex and Esther still have way too much screen time, with Gwen and Jack reacting to, rather than initiating the action. Now that Rex and Esther have been cut off from the CIA, here’s hoping Jack and Gwen may be more in charge going forward.
Credit Where Credit Is Due
"Rendition" was written by Doris Egan, and directed by Bill Gierhart.
"Torchwood: Miracle Day" airs Fridays at 10 p.m. ET on Starz.
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