Torchwood Miracle Day Reviews II/III

Chalchiuhtecolotl December 14, 2011 1 Comment »

Episode 4:  Escape to L.A.

 

The team heads to California to find a place to lay low and plan for the assault. While in California, Torchwood becomes aware of a new campaign “Dead is Dead.” The campaign is led by Ellis Hartley Monroe and states that those that should have died should be treated as they are dead.

Torchwood begins plans for a raid of PHICORP, specifically to steal server hard drivers.  Drummond reveals everyone that the security system will require them to get a voice recording, a palm print, and a retina scan from Nickolas Frumpkin. After considerable effort, they are able to get ahold of what they need and begin the raid.

A hit-man has been tracking the team throughout the episode as they make contact with family members. He also gets ahold of the material, but in a far more sinister way.  As Torchwood raids PHICORP, they come into conflict with the hit-man.

The “Dead is Dead” campaign comes into conflict with PHICORP’s campaign and Monroe competes with Danes for favor of the public. Her success threatens PHICORP and its plans, and in order to give himself a leg up, Danes makes a bold move. He enters a hospital where the extra patients are being treated- while Monroe is making a speech nearby- and talks to the patients there, telling them that they deserve equal medical treatment and that individuals like Monroe seek to take their right to live away from them as they no longer consider them human. The press is drawn away from Monroe and to Danes who vows to fight on behalf of these people, earning the admiration of the patients, press, and the public.

The plot continues to pick up in ‘Escape to L.A.’ For the most part, this is a good episode.  The plot moves along, keeps the viewer interested, and develops the characters further.  The ‘Dead is Dead’ campaign is a great addition, touching on one of my favorite sci-fi themes: “What defines life.” I feel more could have been done with it, but it seems unlikely this plot point will be explored further at least in the form of this campaign. In addition, Monroe and her story seems underdeveloped.

Drummond gets more attention in this episode, but once again, writers fail to deliver. Her family arc is needlessly tragic and dramatic in a plot with a lot of that going on already.  Rex is continuing to grow on me, though his personal story seems underdeveloped as well- though not nearly as bad as Drummonds. With Drummond and Matheson interacting with family, it is almost as if the writers are using this interaction as a plot tool rather than for character development- the family interactions introduce the hit-man stalking the team.

What is continuing to impress me about the series is that it is still continuing to focus on real life ramifications. The show doesn’t just mention biological issues once and move on, but actually continues to remind the viewer that hospitals are becoming overcrowded, bacteria and viruses are running amok and there simply aren’t enough supplies to cover it all.

For a good story, and introducing more sociological, biological and philosophical consequences of a world where no one dies, “Escape to L.A.” gets 4 out of 5 wagons.

Episode 5:  Categories of Life

 

PhiCorp and the world’s governments implement a system of categorizing life after the miracle. The system- called the ‘Categories of Life’ divide life up into 3 categories:

  • Category 1 Status:  Individuals who should have died and are brain dead
  • Category 2 Status:  Individuals who have persistent illness or injury
  • Category 3 Status:  Individuals with minor problems or healthy individuals

Those with Category 1 and 2 statuses are sent to Overflow Camps. These camps ring eerily like WWII concentration camps. At these camps, there are modules that do not show up on satellite footage. Dr. Juarez- appalled at the growing control the government is exerting over life and death- assists Torchwood in investigating the camps.

Matheson, having survived a fatal car crash, investigates a California camp as a Category 2 patient. Drummond sneaks in and changes Matheson to Category 1 status and smuggles a camera in so that he can record what he sees. Meanwhile, Juarez uses her medical credentials to get into the camps so that she may inspect the treatment of Category 1 patients. What Torchwood uncovers further sends home the image of Nazi Concentration Camps.

There was only one problem with this episode, and it is the first time that I have witnessed this problem in Torchwood: acting issues and character inconsistency. For the longest time, I was trying to figure out what was grating on me for this episode and it took awhile, but I finally figured it out. Dr. Juarez, or should I say Arlene Tur, the actress who plays her, was not up to par this episode. Her acting wasn’t horrible, but it was not as good as it had been in previous episodes. It was hard to tell if it was the acting that got to me, or the change of the character, but Dr. Juarez’s scenes grated against my nerves like nails on a chalk board.

Despite the issue with Dr. Juarez, I still loved this episode and give it 5 out of 5 wagons.

Episode 6: The Middle Men

 

The episode opens with PhiCorp COO, Stuart Owens, attempting to investigate PhiCorp construction sites in Shanghai. The man he hires to investigate chooses to jump off a building and end consciousness rather than share the horror he uncovered.  We then learn the PhiCorp is just as much a pawn as everyone else and that whoever orchestrated the Miracle has been planning it for far longer that originally thought. Owens team of investigators uncovered another term for the Miracle, “The Blessing,” dating back to the 1990’s.

Rex attempts to escape the camp with the footage he has filmed, but ends up getting caught, escaping only with the aid of Drummond and one of the camp soldiers- all the footage safe.

Gwen manages to break her father out of the Cardiff Overflow Camp he had been sent to.  She broadcasts a message explaining the true purpose of the camps before blowing up the modules in the Cardiff camp. She heads back to the US and upon touching down, finds she cannot contact Rhys. A mysterious phone call at the LAX white courtesy telephone tells her to put on the Torchwood contact lenses, where she receives a message from the conspirators behind Miracle Day: her husband, child and mother are in custody, and she must deliver Jack to them to set them free.

As a whole, this episode is decent. However, several areas could have been expanded and others reduced. The sub-plot with Esther and Rex getting out of the overflow camp was horribly drawn out with minimal attention paid to Gwen and Jack. Several scenes with Jack and Gwen were brilliant, but were so short that nothing profound came of them.

Another plus of this episode is Esther. It only took half the series, but she finally came into her own in this episode. Esther shows initiative and makes significant contributions to the team.

One pattern that I have noticed over the course of the series has left me more than a bit sad. Has anyone else noticed the significant lack of our beloved Captain? It seems as though Jack is becoming a guest star in a show he was originally the star of. This wouldn’t be so bad if the new Torchwood characters were a reasonable replacement. Even though Rex and Esther have improved significantly, they are nowhere near on par with Jack and Gwen, and with only four episodes remaining I have trouble seeing a significant improvement in the two American add-ons.

Episode 7: Immortal Sins

 

The episode opens with a flashback to Ellis Island in 1927.  Jack catches an immigrant, named Angelo Colasanto, who stole his visa. The two get a room together and become lovers.  Jack and Angelo become bootleggers and their activities earn the attention of mobster Salvatore Maranzano. Jack is able to save his and Angelo’s tails by negotiating with the mobster; Jack agrees to help Maranzano obtain a crate that his bosses want. Angelo assists, even though Jack wants him to leave, not wishing to risk his safety.

They find the crate and inside is the creature Jack had been sent to destroy: an alien parasite. This parasite lays spores in the brain of its host, slowly causing insanity. The parasite was a plan on the part of the Trickster’s Brigade. The plan: to infect future Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt so that he wouldn’t be able to lead the US as president during World War II. Jack and Angelo escape the warehouse, only for Jack to be shot in the head by police while Angelo is arrested.

A year later, Angelo is released from prison and greeted by Jack, who is still very much alive. Jack attempts to calm Angelo by explaining that he survived being shot, but Angelo remembers Jack’s “death,” and, believing Jack to be the devil, stabs him. The neighborhood soon learns about Jack and he is brought to a butcher shop where he is repeatedly killed by the crowd. During this, a great deal of Jack’s blood is collected. At some point, Jack watches three mob bosses by him from the butcher and come to some sort of agreement, though the details are not revealed. Angelo eventually helps Jack escape from the shop, hoping to start a new live together in Los Angeles. Unsurprisingly, Jack feels betrayed by Angelo, and abandons him.

Back in present time, Gwen kidnaps Jack in an attempt to get her family back. The two wait at the meeting place and are eventually contacted by a woman who knows all about Jack. They are then snipped by Rex and Esther who had became suspicious of Gwen’s earlier behavior and learned of the situation through Gwen’s contact lenses. Andy had been called in with an armed police unit. Now, the tables have turned on the mysterious woman, and Jack demands answers. But she simply tells jack that he will have to come with her to the man who knows how the miracle began: Angelo Colasanto, who is still alive.

This is by far the best Miracle Day episode. For starters, it is Jack-centric. Esther and Rex were mostly on the sidelines for this episode, which was a welcome change. That isn’t to say that these characters are uninteresting- they have come a long way since the start of the series- but Torchwood was originally about Jack. Not seeing him much in previous episodes was what kept me from falling in love with Miracle Day. Perhaps this is a sign that Jack will be more involved in the rest of the series.

Jack’s storyline this episode is very reminiscent of old-school Torchwood: alien encounters. His poor luck in the romance department rings true of classic Torchwood as well. While it doesn’t match the tone of the previous episodes, it finally gives a sense of order to what has- up to this point- been a bit haphazard. Largely because this is the first episode that provides the first real hint of an approaching climax and end to the story.

Only one thing did not sit well with me, and that was Angelo himself. Up to now, the viewer had no awareness of his existence and therefore, no idea he could possibly be involved in the miracle. Some foreshadowing for this would have been better for storytelling, but all in all, I really can’t complain. “Immortal Sins” gets 5/5 wagons.

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One Comment

  1. CasualCostumerNo Gravatar December 14, 2011 at 4:50 pm - Reply

    You are much kinder to Miracle Day than I ever could be! I thought that Immortal Sins was the only decent episode of the entire series. It was the only episode in the entire series that had an alien appearance, and that had what, less than a minute of screen time? I won’t go into all my issues with MD, though, because I’d be here for a few hours. 🙂 Let’s just say that I was HIGHLY disappointed with Miracle Day.

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