Review: Torchwood: Miracle Day Ep. 05 “The Categories of Life”

We’ve now reached the halfway point of the latest season of Torchwood. While the previous four episodes in this season has been quality work there’s been a small, but growing number of the show’s fans who saw the series as not as good season 3, Torchwood: Children of Earth, and that the addition of more American characters and transplanting the team to the US had lessened the show to some degree. I can’t say if these fans are right or not, but this midway point episode goes a long way to really giving Torchwood: Miracle Day the punch it really needed to put the season from just very good to something on the level of season 3.

The team has now split up into three working groups with Gwen headed back to Wales to try and get her ailing father from becoming just another statistic in the so-called “Outflow Camps” being set up by world governments with the help of the pharma-transnational PhiCorp. Her brief reunion with Rhys and her baby girl makes for some fun moments, but it doesn’t last long as Gwen gets right down to the business of “rescuing” her father from the very people tasked to help him. Their plan seemed like something that would never succeed, but seeing the chaos at the newly created “Outflow Camps” really helped in believing that Gwen and Rhys could actually pull off their rescue of her father. It’s not the danger of being discovered which puts her father in greater danger but the “Miracle Day” situation itself which does it and from that development in this episode’s story thread do we get a clue as to the darker nature of the hidden modules being built in these camps.

It’s during the plot thread involving Rex, Esther and Dr. Vera (who had decided earlier in the episode that she had a better chance to help people if she helped Rex with his plans) in California which was the strongest thread in the episode. We get to see first-hand through the eyes of Vera and Rex just how unprepared the government really was even in setting up these PhiCorp “Outflow Camps”. Camps which have been designed to house those who have been given new categories to describe their “Miracle Day” status. Category 1 being those who were braindead but still alive for some reason (including those who have been horrifically mangled in some fashion). Category 2 being people who have survived a fatal event and still alive and conscious (Rex for example) with Category 3 being everyone else who are healthy and no need for extensive care.

It’s during Vera’s tour with an unctuous, inept camp administrator that the true nature of the camps come to light. It serves less as a place to help ease the overcrowding in hospitals, but more of a concentration camp to segregate those labeled Cat 1 and 2 from the general population who make up Cat 3. It’s also in this plot thread that we see for the first time the horrific nature of the secret camp modules that Rhys had heard being called “burn units”. I wasn’t surprised that the writers decided to go all the way with demonstrating the nature of the modules with one of the season’s lead characters with still half a season to go, but it was a major gut-punch and should change how the Torchwood team goes about exposing not just PhiCorp, but those behind it and the true nature and agenda of “Miracle Day”.

The third plot thread in this episode was the weakest of the three as we see Capt. Jack continue in his attempt to understand Oswald Danes and his role in whats going on, but also use him to try and expose PhiCorp.  I’ll be the first to admit that I was wrong in thinking Pullman’s performance as Danes would smooth itself out, but with five episodes in the season already in the can his character (as interesting as this character still remains to be) just looks and behaves like a bad caricature of an unhinged villain. Maybe Pullman will pull back on the scenery-chewing long enough to actually appear as the dangerous, albeit tortured, foil for the team, but I’m losing hope. This thread does show that whatever sympathy Jack may have had for Danes just went out the window as the very person he’s trying to use has just set himself up to be the face of “Miracle Day” and the cult growing around his personality.

“The Categories of Life” was still the best episode to date for this new season of Torchwood despite the weakness that is Oswald Danes. It explored the subject matter that’s dear to many (health care in the country or lack thereof) and themes of how in times of crisis people will flock to whoever is speaking the loudest (even if the message is one that is not for the benefit of people) and give those in power the blank check to do whatever needs to be done to keep the masses a false sense of hope and security.

Torchwood: Miracle Day still hasn’t reached the epic greatness that was season 3’s Torchwood: Children of Earth, but with five more episodes to go it’s making a strong push to try and equal it. Whether it does or spectacularly fail in the attempt should make the second half of the season worth watching.

1st Episode: “The New World”

2nd Episode: “Rendition”

3rd Episode: “Dead of Night”

4th Episode: “Escape to L.A.”

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