Torchwood: Miracle Day Finale Review
Clint Hassell reviews The Blood Line, the Torchwood: Miracle Day finale.
To be successful, the finale of Torchwood: Miracle Day needed to accomplish three things: 1. explain the origin of the “miracle,” and then end its effects, 2. wrap up each character’s story arc, and 3. make a statement about the series as a whole. Considering how much of the plot was left unresolved until this final episode, the writers managed to construct a fairly satisfying finale that not only provides closure to Miracle Day, but blatantly lays the framework for future Torchwood series.
“The Blood Line” follows on the reveal from “The Gathering” that The Blessing is the empty space inside a crack extending through the entire Earth, from Shanghai to Buenos Aires. Seemingly alive, apparently ageless, The Blessing has, for years, been affecting the average life expectancy of the Earth’s entire human population to match that of the humans living near it’s Shanghai end. Why? It’s unclear. Jack mentions Silurian myths that reference The Blessing, before hypothesizing that it might be Huon particles or Racnoss energy – but, ultimately, Jack doesn’t know, and Gwen and Jack share a chuckle at that fact.
The Families, having discovered this “remarkable artifact,” combine it with another “remarkable artifact” – the blood of an immortal. Jack’s immortal blood raises the average life expectancy in Shanghai to “infinite,” and The Blessing thus alters the planet-wide morphic field to match, creating the “miracle.” The ensuing social upheaval causes the global economy to crash, giving the Families the opportunity to rebuild the financial markets, that will control the governments, who will control the media, which will control the people – thus giving all three of the Families the ability to rule a “fitter, more compact, more disciplined” society. By destroying the access tunnels to The Blessing, no one will be able to feed it mortal blood, and the “miracle” will continue indefinitely. Thus the reason the Families have tried for months to find and kill Jack: his is the only mortal blood that remains.
I hate this explanation for the “miracle” because it contradicts what six series of Doctor Who and Torchwood have taught us – that Jack’s immortality is due to his being a fixed point in time, that the universe warps reality around him to ensure that, at any point in space-time, Jack is alive. Jack himself admitted (several times in this series, in fact) that there is nothing special about his blood!
It is further revealed that, to end the “miracle,” Jack’s blood must be fed to both ends of The Blessing at the same time, a fact previously unmentioned, and really only important here because it necessitates the sacrifices that Esther and Rex will have to make on their side of the Earth. I dislike plot twists shoved so inorganically into the narrative, and it is at this point that I desperately wished Jack’s vortex manipulator functioned properly. That being said, I do appreciate the plot point of Rex using the “miracle” to his advantage and carrying Jack’s blood transfused inside of himself. I love when characters utilize the unique options provided to them by a sci-fi narrative in smart, sensible ways. (I also loved Rex’s quick reasoning that, if he and Esther maintained radio silence, the Families would assume that the two had died in the explosion that seemingly destroyed their blood reserves.)
However, it is then revealed that, to stop the “miracle,” The Blessing “will take every last drop” of mortal blood, ostensibly killing both Rex and Jack. At this point, it’s just silly how the writers keep inventing rules in order to create drama, though, in fairness, I do understand the need, considering that the only “action” is people monologue-ing their secret plans to each other.
Random question: why are the Families planning to wait until midnight to blow up the access tunnels to The Blessing? Why not destroy them immediately, especially knowing that Torchwood is approaching? Better yet, why didn’t they blow up the tunnels minutes after they were successful in creating the “miracle”?
And, why does the Chinese shopkeeper yell at Gwen – who is obviously speaking English – in Chinese? The shopkeeper speaks at least some English as she uses several phrases, including, “No Door. Bad place. Many ghost,” “Very bad, yes?” and “Sad girl . . . crazy girl,” in later scenes.
Also, why do Noah and Shapiro talk openly about their efforts to trap the CIA mole in front of a group of people, one of whom they are positive is the double agent? And why are people under suspicion of espionage allowed to come and go from that room while the trace is being conducted? Ridiculous. Noah and Shapiro were practically begging to get blown up. (As a side-note, though it’s not very “work-appropriate,” I did appreciate that Charlotte’s red dress has been a tip-off that she is evil, much like Jilly’s scarlet wardrobe.)
Finally, if everyone made the completely illogical (though conveniently correct) assumption that the “miracle” would make Jack mortal, why is it that no one seemed to think that ending the “miracle” would restore Jack’s immortality?
Plot-specific quibbles aside, The Blessing does serve as a grand setting for the finale’s second goal – to complete each character’s story arc. Luckily, Torchwood’s main characters – Jack, Gwen, and Rhys – all saw their arcs completed, along with Sergeant Andy’s, in “Immortal Sins,” with Mary and Geraint Cooper’s following in “The Gathering.” Only Torchwood’s new cast needed to be dealt with in “The Blood Line,” with Oswald Danes’ story receiving the most attention.
One important scene occurs early in the episode as Jack and Oswald prepare to follow Gwen, who has located The Blessing. Danes, who has previously indicated that he’d like to die to assuage his guilt for killing Susie Cabina, is suddenly concerned that they will not return from their mission. Jack reminds Danes that Susie didn’t have a choice whether she lived or died (a move I felt out-of-character for a man who identified with Danes, having killed his own grandson). Jack reveals to Danes that he is from the future, a moment that Danes truly ponders (as opposed to the normal reactions of instant faith or humorous disbelief). In a move seen only on TV, and never in real life, Jack whispers in Danes’ ear that, having seen the wondrous expanse of the universe and the future greatness of the human race, Danes has made his life small in comparison. How does this conversation affect Danes’ later actions? Is Danes’ final act an effort to make amends or a result of giving up entirely?
A second important moment occurs once the three arrive at The Blessing. Seemingly alive, The Blessing seems to reflect a person’s inner self, an emotional, often sickening, experience. For Gwen, The Blessing reflects extreme guilt – no surprise since she has been torn between career and family throughout the series; it’s her defining characteristic, in fact. For Jack, The Blessing recalls all of the forgotten details of his many lives, causing Jack to appreciate again the gift of his immortality. Oswald sees nothing but his own sin. Everyone panics as Oswald is so overcome with grief that he seemingly considers detonating the explosives strapped to his chest. However – in his character-defining moment – Oswald reveals that he is more than accustomed to living with his sins. (By the way, what was the reasoning behind giving Oswald the explosives, considering he is both unstable and unpredictable, and, blowing up the access to The Blessing was exactly what the Families wanted? I loved that pragmatic Jilly points this out.)
Danes’ character arc is completed as the Torchwood team prepares to end the “miracle.” Rex will empty all of Jack’s secretly-transfused, mortal blood from his own body, sacrificing his life and thus redeeming his character in the eyes of the audience. Only, Esther is shot, a desperate attempt by the Family to stop Rex’s actions; if the “miracle” ends, she dies. Rex asks Jack what to do; Jack is undecided. (Very telling since he and Esther shared those two months together in Scotland. I so wish we could have seen more of that relationship!) Ultimately, it’s Gwen – who has admitted to loving Torchwood so much that she wallows in guilt and self-hatred, recognizing her own selfishness – who decides to carry forth with the plan, which will seemingly kill Jack and Rex, and doom Esther. Seeing Danes, Gwen realizes that no one should have the power to control life and death. It’s beautifully symmetric that Miracle Day, which started with a gruesome scene designed to decry the death penalty, ends with the message that no one should get to choose who lives and who dies. Finally, it makes sense why Miracle Day included Danes – a child molester, a murderer, a condemned man – as a major character: Danes was the catalyst for Gwen’s pivotal decision. I am happy to see that Russell T Davies had an endgame and a purpose in mind for Danes’ character.
And so Danes, consigned to death, admits that “all the bad little girls run straight to Hell,” and that he is following. It’s chilling – he is unrepentant. It’s novel to have a rapist as a main character; it’s shocking for that character to make the statement, “She should have run faster”; it’s brave to not redeem a character at the end of the series; and it’s masterful that the character does, in fact, have a complete arc, even though his character is static and unchanging.
Sadly, Esther, Rex, and Jilly’s character arcs are not as deftly handled, the three being consigned to a montage of fake death scenes. Jilly appears to perish in the flames of Danes’ explosion; Rex, seemingly at peace, loses consciousness; Esther’s eyes flutter open, then close again; Rex’s head rolls to one side; Esther is conscious. It’s all bulls—. Only the beloved Esther dies, her funeral a slow reveal of the other characters’ fates, the camera masterfully waiting until the last second to reveal that Rex is still alive.
Jilly also survives, her character’s main punishment being that she was trapped in China with no easy route home. Clint’s Future Husband offers her another job. Apparently, the “miracle” – a plan that nearly succeeded – served as a trial run for “Plan B.” I’m very interested in seeing Plan B. It makes sense that, just as the Torchwood Institute spent 130 years gathering alien tech, the Families could also amass several sources of supernatural power in their decades-long history. Though Miracle Day suffered by focusing so heavily on PhiCorp, it may be to the next series’ benefit that there is so much still to learn about the shadowy Families. With breakout character Jilly still alive and poised to become a full-fledged villain in the next series, well, I am totally on board.
Gwen mentions that she doesn’t understand how The Blessing could allow Esther to die. Perhaps The Blessing did reach out one last time – to Rex. Perhaps Rex’s newfound immortality is not due to Jack’s non-special blood, but to The Blessing’s antipodal nature. Perhaps due to it’s “polar-dynamic field” (a Russell T Davies trademark, if ever there was one), The Blessing realigned Rex’s morphic field to match Jack’s now-immortal one.
My thoughts on Rex’s immortality? I’m disappointed, as it diminishes Jack’s uniqueness. Also, considering the mini-series format of the current Torchwood, there is no way that Russell T Davies will be able to tell effectively the one story for which immortality-as-plot-device begs – how to deal with continuing to live when others around you die, a story we’ve been able to experience alongside Jack over the course of six series of Doctor Who and Torchwood.