The first episode of the fourth season of Torchwood was a major success for the series as it moves from it’s British locale over to the United States. It was a move which gave the series (now dubbed Miracle Day) an even more epic tone which was a good thing since the series truly became an epic one throughout it’s third season, Children of Earth. The premiere episode saw the introduction of the American half of what I assume will be the newly-reconstituted Torchwood Institute. Mekhi Phifer comes in as the confidently arrogant CIA operative Rex Matheson who has a major stake in finding out the true agenda behind what the world has been calling “Miracle Day”. Taking on the role of support to Rex is the idealistic and, somewhat, naive CIA analyst Esther Drummond (played by Alexa Havins) who first introduces Rex to the term Torchwood in the first episode of the new season.
“Rendition” marks the second episode of the series and continues exactly where the premiere episode left off with Rex taking custody of the last two surviving members of the Torchwood Institute, the previously immortal Capt. Jack Harkness and Gwen Cooper, and renditioning them back to the US through some vague US-UK intelligence cooperation program in the hopes that Torchwood will either shed a light into whats happening in the world or flush out the people who do know and who seem intent on killing Jack and Gwen.
This episode brings in a couple three new players into the new series whose agenda range from ambiguous to outright hostile in regards to the event of “Miracle Day” and the Torchwood survivors. There’s Rex’s fellow CIA operative Lyn (played by Dollhouse alum Dichen Lachmann) who has been sent to “assist” Rex in bringing stateside Jack and Gwen on a chartered jumbo jet. We find out soon enough Lyn’s agenda in accompanying Rex on this rendition flight as she secretly communicates with CIA deputy director Brian Friedkin (Wayne Knight) who seems to want Capt. Jack out of the way before the plane lands on Dulles International. The interaction between Lyn, Rex and the rest of Torchwood and flight crew really sets her up as the clear antagonist for this episode though it’s not yet established whether she will stay beyond this episode. Wayne Knight as the duplicitious CIA director Friedkin was a hit-and-miss addition for me. His character was written quite well, but I think the casting director for the show really dropped the ball in putting such a recognizable face in a role that needed someone who could get lost in the role. I’m sure I wasn’t the only viewer of this episode who either vocally or mentally shouted “Newman!” when he first appeared in the episode.
The third new character to make their appearance in this episode was the PR consultant Jilly Kitzinger (Lauren Ambrose) who seemed really gung-ho in trying to represent the suddenly famous (instead of infamous) pedophile-murderer Oswald Danes whose blubbering breakdown during a news interview has begun to earn him shouts of forgiveness from the faceless masses. Lauren Ambrose as Kitzinger looked to be too peppy at first glance, but as the show progressed and she began appearing in places where one would wonder why she was there at all it planted seeds of just exactly who Jilly Kitzinger really is. This character is definitely one whose agenda may just swing back and forth as the series goes on.
This was the first episode of the new series to not be written by showrunner Russell T. Davies and one written by a newcomer to the Torchwood series in Doris Egan. The fact that Egan is new to the series didn’t really hamper the tone of this episode. It felt and sounded like a Torchwood episode. She even got a good handle on the Gwen Cooper character who bordered on organized panic during the flight to the US as Capt. Jack suffered through an attempt on his suddenly mortal life. I still get a kick at how quickly Gwen’s speech patterns get the more stressed out she gets. I was told by a hardcore fan over on Twitter that it was due to her being Welsh that she speaks so fast in such situation. That may or may not be true, but it made for some very amusing segments during an episode which continued to explore the dark side of the world population’s sudden bout with immortality.
It’s this exploration of whether “Miracle Day” actually is a miracle or a curse which gave the episode it’s serious weight throughout the episode. We see through Dr. Suarez (Arlene Tur) interacting with every expert trying to find out just exactly what has happened that “Miracle Day” looks to be a miracle by name only. The episode points out that people may night be dying but they’re still succumbing to injuries, diseases and plain old age. This dilemma brings about talks of a need to change how triage now operate and how “Miracle Day” looks to be the perfect breeding ground for super-germs and viruses. And while these were being discussed the series still hasn’t determined or given any clue as to the cause of this event whether it be natural, supernatural or extraterrestrial.
Overall, “Rendition” was a very good follow-up to an excellent premiere episode. We learn more about the new characters (all of them American) and see the old Torchwood faces back to doing what they do best and that’s solving a grave problem by the skin of their teeth. The new series has so far kept this Torchwood neophyte’s attention and actually has sold him on revisiting the past episodes and looking at them with eyes opened up by Miracle Day.
Up next week is the episode, “Dead of Night”.
1st episode: “The New World”