Torchwood: Miracle Day Episode 8 Review

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Clint Hassell reviews End of the Road, the eighth episode of Torchwood: Miracle Day.

Having just watched “End of the Road” for the second time, I can say that the episode is better than I initially thought it was. Really, that’s my whole review; what more is there to say? Everyone’s storyline moved forward. So, why don’t I feel like much was accomplished?

I’ve read comments that Miracle Day is too long, that it could have been done in five episodes. I think this argument overlooks the fact that Torchwood has grown beyond the done-in-one, sexy sci-fi roots of Series 1 and 2, and matured into something that examines more deeply the human condition. A five-episode Miracle Day would necessitate stripping away the philosophical layers from the narrative – something that I have found very attractive – and I am glad that the writers have had plenty of screen time with which to play. That being said, this episode sure did seem like filler, which is ironic considering this episode boasted one of the series’ longest running times at over 54 minutes.

I think this episode suffered most because it doesn’t have a through line – a connecting theme that unites the various storylines. In “End of the Road,” characters are not forced to confront their own mortality (episode 1), or how they relate to family (episode 4). Ethical questions raised by the “miracle” are not examined (episode 5 and 6). Characters do not ponder how their past actions have prepared them for their current situations (episode 7), nor do they deal with the emotional baggage from Children of Earth (episode 3). Instead, episode 8 services every character’s story, but doesn’t try to tie the disparate actions together symbolically.

And thus, the format of this week’s review: my random thoughts. Because if they can’t be bothered to tie everything together, why should I?

· For the first time, the “Previously…” teaser incorporated footage noticeably different than the actual previous episode.

· Olivia promised that her grandfather was “the one man who knows how the ‘miracle’ began.” What a letdown! Angelo knew that the three families were interested in profiting from immortality, but didn’t know the specific details regarding the genesis of the “miracle.” That’s sorta like saying that Jack knew the cause of the “miracle,” because, you know, “morphic fields.” While it makes sense for Olivia to use big, empty claims to entice Jack to go willing with her to reunite with Angelo, I felt that last week’s cliffhanger was less in-character dialogue and more the scriptwriters hoodwinking the audience.

· The Torchwood team is smart to leave a member outside the Colasanto mansion, as a safeguard. However, why Esther, and not someone with more tactical experience, like Rex or Gwen? Or two team members? Surely, Olivia was only interested in Jack.

· So, why did Olivia go to such great lengths as to hold hostage Gwen’s family and hack the I-5s in order to kidnap Jack? Ironically, she is carrying out her grandfather’s final wish to keep Jack safe, a claim she immediately counters by admitting that she doesn’t care about Jack, and the only reason she is keeping Jack safe is because he might be tied to the “miracle” in some way she has yet to deduce. Gwen’s reaction to Olivia’s nonsensical argument mirrors that of the audience: “So the why the hell, you know, uh . . . bollocks. Start again.” Why did Olivia not just contact Jack and say, “Hey, remember Angelo? He’s still alive and has information about the “miracle”? Obviously, it wasn’t difficult to find Jack; even with the layers of mystery surrounding the Torchwood Institute, Angelo had been following him for years. Was she trying to aid and protect Jack without the families knowing?

· Speaking of, Angelo stalked Jack for decades, and, though Olivia is convinced that Angelo loved her grandmother, he never lied about his relationship with a man? I call bulls**t on this. “Honey, how about I put my collection of framed photos of the guy I screwed in the 20s over the mantle, where most people would put family photos?” Riiiiiight. Angelo finding a woman that tolerant is even less believable than creating EDTA from plane degreaser.

· Apparently, Jack’s foreknowledge gave Angelo the advantage in investing. If the families are wanting to make a profit, why don’t they try to find other time travelers and exploit their future knowledge? Did the families really have to create the “miracle”?

· Regarding Turritopsis nutricula, sing with me:
“You say ‘poe-TAY-toe,’ I say ‘poe-TAH-toe.’
You say ‘toe-MAY-toe,’ I say ‘to-MAH-toe.’
You say ‘transdifferentiation,’ I say ‘regeneration.’
Let’s call the whole thing off!”

· I am so glad that last episode’s brief, awkward conversation between Esther and Rex regarding Vera’s death and surviving family – one of my favorite scenes from all of Miracle Day, thus far – came into play this week.

· Apparently, the I-5s have a self-turn on feature, where they begin to broadcast on all monitors within a 100-foot radius, once the wearer’s heart rate gets above 120. So, what about the times that Ianto and Jack, and Rhys and Gwen used to I-5s for, um, “adult” activities? Surely, they would have noticed! And, while I can infer that such a feature can be enabled/disabled as needed, how would Rex know about it? Did Esther tell him (she having tested the I-5s with Gwen in episode 3)? And, why didn’t Esther and Rex inform Gwen and Jack about the plan to trap Friedkin? Could it be that they didn’t trust Gwen because she abducted Jack? It is all conceivable, I just wish the audience was a little more informed, especially since this episode had lots of time to kill.

· And, once busted, why didn’t Friedkin kill Rex? It wasn’t that Friedkin knew that he was on camera and didn’t want there to be evidence of a shooting – he blew himself up just seconds later. Why not take out Rex first?

· When introduced, Allen Shapiro is charming, but difficult to read. Is he serious? Does he have jurisdiction? He deports Gwen, without being briefed on the situation, her importance, or how she might be of help; he accuses Esther of sleeping with Rex and then docks her pay; he gets in a crack at Jack’s WWII motif. It’s all funny, especially after the exposition-laden infodump of the episode’s first 14 minutes, but the humor comes at an inappropriate time, causing the character to act inappropriately for his position as a senior CIA official, so as to muddle the audience’s interpretation of who the character is supposed to be.

· While honest – Jack admits that Angelo could have said hi as an old man, unrecognized, and that Ianto became the companion that Angelo wasn’t – the conversation feels like a cheat, because Angelo doesn’t say a word, and because the character is so old that he no longer resembles the man Jack knew. It doesn’t feel like Jack is really getting to say goodbye. And, while I can infer that Angelo, having closure, was choosing to pass away, it sure seemed like Jack gave Angelo the kiss of death. Speaking of humorous moments at inappropriate times! The moment was not meant to be funny, but when Jack literally pulled the plug on Angelo, I was laughing out loud.

· In what way would a post-“miracle,” Category 1 person feel different from a truly deceased person, especially just seconds after death?

· I’m sure that you guys in the UK have this experience all the time, so forgive this native Texan, but OMG, PART OF MIRACLE DAY TOOK PLACE IN DALLAS! Screw you, Doctor Who, for visiting random places in America that I’ll never see; I got Torchwood in my hometown! For those of you who are curious, that really is the Dallas skyline. I live in an apartment with almost that same panoramic view of downtown (though this footage was shot from a higher up, in a helicopter). I’m sure that no one from the Torchwood production crew ever visited Dallas – and I do not recognize the hotel in which Oswald and Jilly are staying – but still, it’s as close to being part of the Whoniverse as I am likely to get!

· It is again mentioned that PhiCorp wants the burning of Category 1s to resume. Why? How does this benefit them?

· Forget watching Vera get burned alive in an oven, Oswald and Jilly’s exchange, “Get me a girl.”/“How old?” is the most horrifying moment of Miracle Day. The fact that he specifies that Jilly bring him a redhead just added to the creep factor.

· I love that Shawnie Yamaguchi wins Jilly over by using the same unrelenting, in-your-face-with-benefits tactic that Jilly used to convince Suarez and Danes. It makes sense that Jilly would respond to that. And Jilly’s exasperated, “And then, you can find me a prostitute,” is classic.

· So, Esther’s sister, Sarah, wants to volunteer herself and her kids for Category 1 burning. First, I want to remind everyone that I totally predicted that in my review for “The Categories of Life.” Second, there’s no way the government would ever let a mentally-incapacitated woman volunteer herself, much less her kids. (And why does Esther just hang up on her sister?)

· Sarah’s comment, “Sometimes I wonder what keeps us from falling straight through the earth, to the other side of the world.” Um, . . . spoiler alert?

· Gwen’s mom, Mary, reveals that Gwen’s dad had also been abducted in “The Middle Men.” This makes sense, since Rhys had just rescued Geraint when he was kidnapped, but for two episodes, every line has seemed carefully scripted as to not mention Gwen’s dad; I was beginning to wonder.

· Normally, when a television show introduces a character, the writers let the new addition shine for several episodes in order for the audience to embrace them. This sometimes requires a large suspension of disbelief as the new character is, say, able to quickly solve a difficult challenge over more-experienced teammates (think Gwen in “Day One”). I am happy that Esther’s quality of being observant has been built into the character – even into her job – in such an organic manner, since the first episode of Miracle Day. Further, this episode really fleshed out her character by finding her breaking point. Why would devoutly-loyal Esther betray Jack? She does it to protect her sister.

· I have absolutely no experience with female hookers in Dallas, so I’m just gonna assume that this scene played out with complete accuracy. I’m just glad that she didn’t have some awful Southern drawl.

· Jilly going ape sh*t on Danes is totally believable for her character. I’m actually liking her now.

· Now the vortex manipulator can alter extraterrestrial linoleum to nullify sound, as well as scan for signs of true death? Really?! When is it going to, I don’t know – manipulate a vortex?

· That being said, I thought that the scene where Rex proves to himself that Jack had nullified the sound of their voices was great because it showed an intelligent character acting in a sensible manner.

· So, Jilly gets a promotion via the world’s shortest job interview, and the dreamy, blonde-haired, blue-eyed man (that we’ll just call “Clint’s Future Husband”) makes a call to his confirm that Jilly is “in,” and who is on the other end of the line? Charlotte Wills, Esther’s co-worker! I can’t repeat the stunned expletive that I blurted out, but I am positive that this is the best-handled surprise twist I have seen in years. Well done, writers!

· Jack’s been shot. What now? I am expecting the alpha plate he took from the alien floor mat to nullify the morphic field that is canceling out Jack’s immortality, allowing him to rapidly heal at the beginning to the next episode.