Torchwood: Miracle Day Episode 9 Review

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Clint Hassell reviews The Gathering, the ninth episode of Torchwood: Miracle Day.

As “The Gathering” begins, an on-screen caption states that two months have passed since the conclusion of “End of the Road.” While the jump forward in time was necessary – it was becoming increasingly difficult to believe that so many radical social changes had occurred so quickly after the “miracle” – the move actually cheats Esther’s character development. After last week’s cliffhanger, we deserved to see how she dealt with being lost and without a plan, Jack being injured and unable to guide her. We are quickly informed that she and Jack are in Scotland, and, while she is demonstrating a clear head – she advocates stockpiling Jack’s blood as currency, since everyone seems to want it, immortal or not (a fair point, and one I actually buy) – she also desires to run blindly until they are safe. That’s a good balance, I feel, for Esther’s character at this point, I just wish that we could have seen her progression to that place.

Meanwhile, in Wales, Gwen is robbing pharmacies (though, not taking much for her efforts), and selling the medications to her neighbors. Rhys is struggling to find a job, the stock market crash mentioned in “End of the Road” having caused a global depression. In one pivotal scene, Rhys, having been offered a job driving Category 1s to the overflow camps, looks to Gwen to either absolve him of his guilt or tell him no. She keeps her eyes forward and doesn’t wish to speak of the details.

In the U.S., Rex has been fully reinstated into the CIA and is, again, a bossy, cocky jerk. Rex seems more concerned about letting everyone know that he found the evidence enabling them to trace the Three Families, rather than actually solving the case. What a shame! Rex was one character desperately in need of redemption if we were to like him, and suddenly, once back in the CIA, all of his character development has been lost. At least Allen Shapiro seems more of a real person this week. There is definitely less scenery-chewing, perhaps because there aren’t attempts to make him a humorous character hammered awkwardly into scenes.

Finally, Oswald Danes has been tracking Jilly’s on-line activity and believes that he has the name of the man that created the miracle. (It’s not Angelo, is it? Because we’ve been down that road before.) While I find it unbelievable that Danes is as Internet-savvy as he claims, I respect that the writers have at least embraced it as a plot point. As for the name Danes has found? It’s “Harry Bosco,” a clue to the fact that Jilly has been employed by the Families to mistranslate media references to The Blessing. (Again, the show taunts us with who is behind the miracle, only to not give us any answers.)

I credit the writers that “The Gathering” didn’t involve the massive infodump that plagued the opening of “End of the Road.” The events of the unseen two months were recounted somewhat organically. More importantly, I appreciate that the writers have returned to Miracle Day the sociology that seemed to go up in flames with Dr. Suarez. The emotional crux of “The Gathering” involves Gwen, Rhys, and Mary hiding Gwen’s Category 1 father within the wall of their basement, ever fearful of a police inspection that would result in him being returned to the ovens of the overflow camps. Just as the overflow camps were meant to be an allegory for Nazi concentration camps, Geraint’s secret cellar compartment recalls the hiding of Anne Frank. While the former was definitely more shocking, the latter is not without its own sense of heartbreak.

I do have to ask, however, why exactly is Geraint classified as a Category 1? He’s still breathing, he seems responsive to external stimuli (Mary has to use “all of her strength” to hold him down as the police search for him), and he feels pain (hence Gwen’s pharmacy raid – she was stealing painkillers for her dad), so there is obviously some level of brain activity. Also, Geraint still has a functioning metabolism which generates body heat. Mary even assigns emotion to him when she states, “he misses his bed.” While it is possible that she may just be personifying his actions as a method of coping, the other signs seem to defy the Category 1 definition given in “The Categories of Life.”

Further, why would harboring a Category 1 be illegal? They don’t decay, which would eliminate the infection control and odor problem that would be of concern to the greater public. Is it because, as the population increases, society cannot continue to feed all of Category 1 patients?

Why, once the police discover Geraint, does Gwen does not physically defend her father from abduction, as previously threatened? Gwen, Rhys, and Jack (and, heck, even Esther) are there, and NO ONE goes nuts and starts attacking people to save Gwen’s dad? Oswald probably would have jumped in too, if they had promised him something in return. Perhaps the answer is that Gwen and Rhys (and Mary, who looked very pretty, returning home) do not fight the police because, having lived with a comatose Geraint for so long, they realize that he is, for all intents and purposes, dead. He is not healing like Rex, and so, after all this time, they let him go. (And, of course, it’s the impetus that leads Gwen to China.)

Did the show really claim that an iPhone can be used as a thermal imager? (It can’t, for so many reasons. Trust me.) Was getting an actual thermal imager too difficult? Having the Props department craft some sort of small, blinking box with a screen was too much to ask? [sigh] Lazy.

Oh, and why does no one get arrested? Gwen and Rhys are caught AGAIN, hiding a Category 1, and no one arrests them? Is their “non-criminal” status also some sort of fixed-point in time?

But I digress. These problems aside, the return of high-minded concepts to what has recently become more of a spy caper is refreshing, and the writers even managed to include several awesome character moments. My favorite occurs when Gwen realizes that it is Oswald Danes standing in her kitchen, holding Anwen. She calmly removes Anwen from his arms, hands her to Rhys, and returns to washing dishes in the sink.

“I do have the most recognizable face on the planet,” Oswald claims.
“Not anymore,” Gwen states, as she unexpectedly backhands a pot across his face.

This scene may have replaced episode 6’s “I’m saying ‘no’,” as my favorite Gwen moment ever.

Later, Gwen asks if Danes really stated that his victim “should have run faster.” Danes says yes, delighted in the his audience’s repulsion. Gwen remarks that, despite all of the aliens that she’s encountered, she’s now met a monster. While I love the insight that Danes’ response gives to his character – apparently, he no longer desires to become a man reborn – Gwen’s line doesn’t carry the intended impact because she has not spent this series surrounded by Weevils, Cyberwomen, evil faeries, and demons. Also, did the writers forget that we’ve already seen Gwen realize that mankind can be truly monstrous in the marvelously effective “Countrycide”?

Watching Rhys “share” a beer with Danes is one of my favorite moments of Miracle Day. I also loved when Gwen asks the spy across the street, “Have you seen my car keys? I can’t find them anywhere.”

My biggest praise to the writers this week is for the character moment when Jack and Esther – not Jack and Gwen – make plans to visit Shanghai and Buenos Aires. Having been together for two months, she caring for him, it makes sense that they would have developed a deep bond. Again, I wish we had seen more of this relationship.

I have to note, however, that in this pivotal scene – the first in which all six contracted cast members are acting together – Rex is only present via the phone, which detracts from the dynamic. Even now, in the penultimate episode, the pieces still feel disjointed. The enemy is so nebulous that an unnatural number of coincidences must take place, or several events must remain unexplained in order to move the plot to a conclusion by the end of next week’s finale.

An example: Rhys figures out that Shanghai and Buenos Aires are antipodes, something that, like, NO ONE would notice, given just two cities. Maybe with four cities, definitely by six, but just two? No way. (But, hey, Rhys was seen playing with a globe earlier in the episode, so, of course, we saw it coming.)

And, tell me again, why do Jack and Gwen take Danes with them to Shanghai? Unlike earlier in the episode, Danes can no longer blackmail them into protecting him – Gwen’s dad has already been taken. No, he has to go with Gwen because otherwise he might alert the Families to their plan. So, why not just leave him under Rhys’ care? Because he’s too much of a risk in a house with Anwen? Because Mary needs to grieve the loss of her husband? No, because, supposedly, Rhys would kill him. What?! This is really reaching on the part of the writers. Do they honestly expect us to believe that Gwen thinks that gentle, blustering Rhys could become a killer?

Four minor points:

Groceries are not delivered in America. If there is anyone who still feels that Miracle Day is “too American,” please know that the writers are making an effort to exhibit Welsh culture. There is still much that feels foreign to me.

The boy that asks Jilly to “rewrite history” for the Families looks like Rory Williams, in glasses. I totally want a boyfriend who looks like that. I wonder which Family he is from – finance, media, or politics. I’m guessing media, since he’s recruited Jilly as a PR agent. Then again, maybe not, since he admitted that his family is quiet and not good at telling a story.

The PhiCorp logo is a globe with a line through the center. You just know that Russell T Davies had been sitting on that clever joke the enitre series.

The episode doesn’t hold back on showing us The Blessing, and I appreciate the size and scope they give the thing – it appears even larger than the “Satan Pit” from that episode. As for what it is, well, I’m not going to speculate, but if Russell is trying to make a statement by having this series’ alien look like ladyparts . . . well, that’s just not very classy.

Questions I have:

Why are Rhys and Gwen struggling financially? Where is the surplus Torchwood income Gwen mentioned stashing away in Children of Earth? It was such a important detail (as it brought her two-series-long infidelity story arc to a close) that I can’t believe it didn’t warrant even a cursory mention.

We get to see everyone else’s (graphic) sexual escapades, but not Rhys and Gwen’s? So unfair!

Why, after two months, has Jack’s wound still not healed? Barring infection, it should have closed long before now.

Why did the Families burn down blood banks surrounding the Blessing sites? Was The Blessing created with blood? Does it affect blood? (Surely not Jack’s blood, mind you, BECAUSE THAT’D BE EPICALLY STUPID, what with Jack himself admitting that there is nothing magical about his blood, that it didn’t make him immortal.)

So, when you’re near The Blessing, you get a disquieting sense that there’s something just out of the corner of your eye? Isn’t that how we’ve described a perception filter? (Moffat!)

The Blessing “tells” Jilly that she’s “right.” About what? I can’t wait to find out the answer to that, as her tear-filled response is one of Jilly’s defining moments in the series.