Torchwood Miracle Day Reviews I/III

Chalchiuhtecolotl December 12, 2011 No Comments »

Episode 1: The New World

 

“The New World” opens up on Oswald Danes, convicted pedophile and murderer. He is about to be executed by lethal injection. The cocktail fails to kill Danes, however. We then join CIA agent Rex Matheson; as fellow agent, Esther Drummond, is giving Matheson information on Torchwood, Matheson gets injured in a car crash. Having debris shoved through his chest, Matheson’s injuries should have been fatal, but the surgeon that treats him- Vera Juarez- tells Matheson and Drummond that no-one has died in the last 24 hours at any US hospital.

No one has died in the last 24 hours; people become sick, get injured, but continue to live on regardless of the severity of their condition. Even more curious, what prompted Drummond’s interest in Torchwood was an email sent to US intelligence agencies. The email contained one word, “Torchwood” and the time stamp corresponds with the planet’s last recorded death.

Drummond continues to investigate Torchwood and comes across old files in the CIA archives and across Captain Jack Harkness himself. Harkness had erased all online traces of Torchwood and arrived in the U.S. to deal with Drummond by erasing her memories using Retcon.

Meanwhile, Matheson tracks down the last survivor of Torchwood, Gwen Cooper. Gwen had been called out of hiding by her old colleague Andy Davidson informing her that her father had suffered two heart attacks, but remained alive. Gwen’s husband, Rhys, persuades her not to investigate the strange circumstances further, but Matheson links the relation of “Miracle Day” to Torchwood and confronts her in her own home- after using Davidson’s phone call to Gwen to find her.

Matheson, Gwen, and Rhys are then attacked by a helicopter and are only saved due to Jack’s timely arrival. The four escape to the Roal Dahl Plass, the original site of Torchwood: Cardiff. Here, Jack reveals that he is not healing as he normally would.  While the rest of world is immortal, Jack is now presumed to be mortal.

Gwen and Jack attempt to discuss the groups next actions, but are interrupted by the South Wales Police force and Matheson announcing that Torchwood is being taken over by the United States of America.

Torchwood: Children of Earth left the Torchwood team scattered and hurting. Most of the team was dead- Owen Harper and Toshiko Sato having died at the end of season two, and Ianto Jones died during Children of Earth. The Torchwood Hub had been destroyed in a bomb attack by MI-5 and Jack had had to sacrifice his own grandson to save the planet.

The first episode of Miracle Day is very much a set up episode. It introduces new characters, reintroduces old ones, and sets up the basic plot of the season. I’m not going to lie; I felt a bit bored watching the premiere. Don’t get me wrong, seeing Gwen and Jack back to kicking ass was wonderful, but I felt nothing for the new characters- Juarez and Drummond in particular. I was afraid of this; you can see where they are attempting to replace old characters with new. Drummond is a Toshiko analogue while Juarez and Matheson are both replacing Owen- Juraez as the doctor aspect of his personality and Matheson attempting at leading.

Even though this is a continuation of the series, given the brief hiatus, I am treating it as a new series. Episode one of the original Torchwood did a brilliant job of setting up the plot, characters, and undertones of the show. It didn’t give everything away, but it gave us enough to become interested. Miracle Day is set up like Children of Earth– one story spanning multiple episodes, so there is no need to rush the story, but I felt that this season premiere was rushed in terms of introducing characters. The plot introduction was great and I am very curious to see where the story goes, but as I stated before, I feel nothing for the new characters. At the moment, they are cookie cutter two dimensional, but it is only the first episode. With nine more left, I have high hopes that the writers can give us more insight, but for now the three new characters leave a sawdust taste in my mouth.

The talk of characters brings me to another subject though, Oswald Danes. To me, he is the most intriguing part of the season premiere. He is the first character we are introduced to, and he is a pedophile and murderer that is sentenced to death. When lethal injection fails, he is able to wiggle his way out of prison, not through a run of the mill escape attempt, but by using the state’s own legal system against it. The man is an evil genius and the most intriguing character because I can’t see his place in the series of the plot.

Traditionally, Torchwood used alien threats as the antagonists, but there are episodes where humans are the monsters. Does Danes have something to do with the whole planet suddenly being immortal or is he just taking advantage of an extraordinary situation? Of all the events set up in the pilot, all the roles, Danes’ is the one I am the most curious about.

Episode 2: Rendition

 

Gwen and Jack are on a plane heading to Washington DC with Agent Matheson and Agent Lyn Peterfield- Rhys and Anwen having been forced to stay behind. A good deal of drama occurs on the plane ride courtesy of Jack being poisoned with cyanide by Agent Peterfield.

Meanwhile, back in DC, Dr. Juarez throws the traditional medical triage system out the window because of the Miracle. Originally, most serious cases were treated first, but with no one dying, in order to clear space at the hospital, priority is reversed with the least severe getting first priority.

This episode sees increased publicity for Oswald Danes. It also introduces a new entity- the pharmaceutical company, PhiCorp. Both Juarez and Danes are approached by Jilly Kitzinger- a member of PhiCorp. She approaches Danes and offers to be his agent- he declines her offer. Kitzinger then approaches Juarez, offering to aide Juarez in the medical crisis plaguing the hospitals.

The action heats up in this episode considerably. For starters, the conflict with Jack dying of cyanide poisoning was new. Granted, the writers had the characters go about solving the problem in an unrealistic manner. Still, I found myself anxious for a character for the first time in the series. In addition, this episode provided more insight into Rex Matheson. Originally, there was little depth to his character, but now the viewer gets to see how he operates.

Perhaps the best part of this episode was that it touched on medical ramifications of immortality of the human race. Super bacteria and having to revamp the triage system are both very real possibilities in a world without death. Adding this into the plot creates a sense of realism and urgency for the problem to be resolved. This also gives Juarez  a chance to develop as well. At this point, the only character I still am disinterested in is Agent Drummond.

For a significant improvement in storytelling,  “Rendition” receives 4 out of 5 wagons.

Episode 3:  Dead of Night

 

Previous episode, CIA Director Brian Friedkin, had forced Agents Matheson and Drummond to team up with Torchwood. Now on the run, Gwen, Jack, Matheson, and Drummond manage to acquire the phone from which Friedkin received his mysterious orders to exterminate Torchwood. After following leads the team discovers that PhiCorp has a stockpile of painkillers large enough to indicate they knew of Miracle Day in advance.

After hitting a dead end and temporarily splitting up, Matheson and Jack each have a night of passion- Jack with a stranger in a bar, Matheson with Dr. Juarez. After sex, Juarez and Matheson have a discussion which ends with Matheson convincing Juarez to go to a PhiCorp meeting and spy on behalf of Torchwood.

Gwen goes on her own mission using the Torchwood contact lenses to steal information from Kitzinger’s computer, and the PhiCorp meeting turns out to be a seminar where Congressman Morganthall announces plans to make painkillers legal without prescription. In addition, the new Torchwood headquarters becomes compromised.

Danes’ story further unfolds as it is revealed he is struggling to fit into society. He ends up accepting Kitzinger’s earlier representation offer. PhiCorp awards him personal security clearance under the condition that he promotes their painkiller legislation so that they can profit from Danes’ growing popularity.

This is the best episode of the series by far. At this point, Agent Matheson is no longer a plot tool, but an actual member of Torchwood. Agent Drummond is starting to show potential as well- finally.  Even Jack and Gwen have shown character growth since the end of Children of Earth, Gwen in particular. The scene with her and Rhys was very telling about how she has changed in the time Jack has been away and how Jack has remained nearly the same. The story is unfolding little by little and we have a first major plot development.

In terms of the plot, what we discover about PhiCorp raises more questions than answers.  Storytelling like this keeps the viewer interested. It is no fun if we know everything at once. This is true with revealing new characters as well. In the first review, I mentioned that Matheson, Drummond, and Juarez were severely underdeveloped. By the end of this episode, the writers have revealed enough about these new characters to make them interesting.

I am happy to say, this episode was a huge improvement from the first and that there is potential for Miracle Day to be as good as the previous seasons of Torchwood. “Dead of Night” gets 5 out of 5 wagons.

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