Review: Torchwood: Miracle Day Ep. 08 “End of the Road”

“End of the Road” is quite an apt title for the eight episode in the fourth season of Torchwood. We see the end of a couple characters during the episode and at the same time we finally get the final pieces to the question of who or what caused “Miracle Day”.

The episode begins with the Torchwood team arriving at the Colasanto estate and led by Olivia Colasanto to her grandfather and Jack’s former companion and lover from the late 1920’s. We find out that Angelo Colasanto has kept himself alive through natural means, but is now in a coma as Jack looks on. Angelo’s condition when revealed almost felt like a cop out, but in a major exposition info dump done by his granddaughter we find out who is behind Miracle Day”. They’re called The Families and are made up of the descendants of the three men last seen in the previous episode forming an alliance to study Jack’s seeming immortality.

Angelo himself has been kept out of the alliance due to the three men’s discomfort over his homosexuality. Angelo has been observing not just the three families through the years, but Jack as well in an attempt to either stave off whatever plans The Families have in regards to the “Miracle” or, at the very least, give Jack the clues needed to fix the problem. But before Jack, Gwen, Esther and Rex can do their thing to save the day there’s the little obstacle of Rex’s old boss in the form of Wayne Knight interrupting the Jack/Colasanto reunion. The rest of the episode never lets go of the throttle once John De Lancie’s CIA head honcho Shapiro show’s up and we get closer to this season’s endgame.

The episode was well-written even with the major expositional scene involving Nana Visitor’s character. Each character in the Torchwood team got a chance to shine in their roles with Barrowman making Jack’s bittersweet reunion with Angelo a mixture of happiness and regret. If there was a weak point in the cast’s performance it would continue to be some of the side characters like Wayne Knight’s deputy director Friedkin and Bill Pullman’s Oswald Danes. While I can understand the role of Knight’s character in the overall scheme of things this season I still can’t quite grasp just exactly what Pullman’s Danes character is suppose to do other than be over-the-top creepy. Even Ambrose’s Kitzinger got a chance to own her scene as she finally unleashes what she truly feels about Oswald Danes despite having to be his publicist.

“End of the Road” ends on a major cliffhanger with one of the Torchwood team members shot and the team split apart as the CIA, The Families and everyone else seem to be pulling at them from all directions making their task about solving “Miracle Day” that much more difficult. With only two more episodes remaining this season what looked to be a show that seemed stuck on idle for most of the middle episodes has suddenly begun to speed ahead towards what could be an epic conclusion.

Review: Torchwood: Miracle Day Ep. 07 “Immortal Sins”

I didn’t think Russell T. Davies and his writers could pull off moving the story of Torchwood: Miracle Day towards a resolution that would be interesting, but it looks like they might just do it. The series is now on it’s final stretch run and fears that the show was spinning its wheels about not having any idea what the cause of “Miracle Day” was and what was the endgame looks to be easing somewhat with this 7th episode titled “Immortal Sins”.

The episode was mainly told through a flashback to the early 1920’s where we see Jack entering the U.S. through Ellis Island and befriending an Italian immigrant who also happened to have tried to steal his visa papers. We learn that this man is one Angelo Colasanto and his bright-eyed outlook on being in a new land has made quite an impact on the well-traveled Captain. Soon enough Jack and Angelo become companions and romantically involved, but as with everything involving Jack such happiness never last for long as we find out why Jack was entering the U.S. in the first place. It’s a consequence of Jack and Angelo’s attempted escape following Jack’s mission that his companion  later learns of his inability to die.

In one of the more disturbing sequences throughout this series, so far, Jack’s immortality was tested time and time again. Angelo’s misguided betrayal of his lover leads to Jack being killed over and over only for him to return. It’s from this sequence we see what could be the birth of the shadowbrokers pulling the strings behind PhiCorp and the many others complicit in moving “Miracle Day” along.

While the bulk of the episode was taken up mostly by Jack’s flashback to his meeting with Angelo we still got enough time given over to Gwen as she attempted to save her family from the very people who also want Jack. Even with her loyalty to Jack we see that Gwen will be willing to turn him over to the very people holding her family hostage if it meant saving them. It’s only through a timely intervention by Esther and Rex that Gwen and Jack get out of another crisis. It’s the final moments of this sequence that we finally learn the name of the person who has the key to learning the true nature of “Miracle Day”. Sins of the past looks to have caught up to Jack this time around and it’ll be interesting to see if “Miracle Day” becomes the elaborate plan of a spurned lover and companion and whether Jack will be the key to unraveling the effect of the world’s current bout of “immortality”.

Overall, “Immortal Sins” was a good episode that gave us a nice look into a part of Jack’s past that has only been shown briefly in the past. The episode was actually stronger when it focused on Jack’s past with Angelo and the discoveries made by both men about each other that looks to color the current situation occurring on the planet right now. While the other half with Gwen had it’s exciting moments (mainly once Esther and Rex get involved) this section of the episode looked to be more of an expositional trigger to get Jack to recount his past. I did like how Jack and Gwen seemed to make-up and get back on track as partners once again when the danger had passed. The chest bump between the two was quite amusing. Only time will tell if Gwen’s attempt to save her family’s life by trying to turn Jack over to the very people opposing them would have any lingering effects as the season comes to a close and towards any potential future seasons.

The final three episodes of this season should make for some interesting tv watching.

Review: Torchwood: Miracle Day Ep. 06 “The Middle Men”

Torchwood: Miracle Day is now into the second-half of it’s 10-episode latest season and something just occurred to me even while I was enjoying this 6th and latest episode. For a new season that’s just 10-episode the writers seem to be doing things as if there’s more than just the 10 episodes. For some people this slow pace has become an annoyance as the mystery of what is “Miracle Day” seem to be doing the glacial unveiling. I’m beginning to lean towards these individuals who thinks this season, as entertaining as it has been, looks to be wasting too much of of the season’s remaining episodes introducing new characters left and right to be nothing more than exposition mouthpieces to help add another clue to the mystery of the season.

While episode 6, perfectly titled as “The Middle Men”, was entertaining as we see Rex, Esther and Gwen deal with their part in exposing the government “Outflow Camps” (aka extermination camps for those deemed braindead but still alive), the episode seemed to spin it’s wheels in place once Jack met with one of PhiCorp’s executive who may or may not know the company’s role in “Miracle Day”. Ernie Hudson plays PhiCorp’s COO, Stuart Owens,  who also has begun to investigate on the true nature of the Outflow Camps. One of Owens’ operatives in Shanghai tasked with investigating that country’s Outflow Camps relays an ominous and cryptic message to Owens in the form of jumping off of the roof of the tallest building in the city after what he had uncovered. It looks like the burn units in the Outflow Camps’ module might not be the only way to get around the forced upon “immortality” everyone now has.

The episode actually takes place pretty much where the last one ended and it spends most of it’s time with Rex and Esther finding out who was responsible for Vera Juarez’s “death”. This part of the episode was actually quite frustrating to watch. Some of it was very difficult to watch in a good way as Rex goes through a form of torture that had even me averting my eyes. But it was also a part of the episode where both Rex and Esther make one stupid mistake after the other. Esther I can understand as she’s become almost useless as a Torchwood member outside of her hacking skills. Rex on the other hand I thought would’ve been more wary of his surroundings and those in the Camp he interacted with. The fact that it took a bumbling idiot to save the two put this whole part of the episode into the realm of the absurd.

Gwen’s time in the Cardiff Outflow Camp was a bit more successful though this leads to consequences which puts her in a no-win situation as the episode draws to a cliffhanger close. We did get to see her get into badass mode as she figures out in her own way to put a temporary stop to the burn modules. She does this all the while playfully bantering back and forth with Jack back in LA. This past of the episode was actually the best of the three concurrent story plot threads which has been running for the past couple episodes.

The third part of the episode is more of an exposition dump than anything else. For some reason this season has seen Jack in less of badass role while at the same time the one member of the team who seems to run across people who do nothing but act as exposition dump devices. While Ernie Hudson’s character unloading information on Jack was good and all most of it was something that audiences probably have figured out by now and that PhiCorp is just a link to the those in the shadows pulling the strings on “Miracle Day”. He did give a little tidbit about what might be the endgame for those behind-the-scenes of this worldwide event: The Blessing.

All in all, episode 6 (“The Middle Men”) was a good episode but definitely a step back from some strong ones previous to this one. With only four more episodes remaining in the season I’d be really interested in how Davies and his writers will be able to wrap things up without rushing things. Part of me thinks they may not be able to pull it off and another part of me suspect that there won’t be a true resolution and that a follow-up season may be what’s in store.

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.”

Review: Torchwood: Miracle Day Ep. 04 “Escape to L.A.”

Torchwood: Miracle Day has been very casual in revealing the cause and ultimate agenda behind the so-called “Miracle Day” event which has turned everyone on the planet Earth with a unique form of immortality. There’s been speculation from new and old fans alike about the cause and reason. Some think it’s aliens from the future. Some believe it to be a government experiment that went terribly wrong. One thing the previous and third episode in this new season did dole out was that a major pharmaceutical company, PhiCorp, seemed to have been aware of the arrival of “Miracle Day” and planned accordingly even to the point of infiltrating governmental agencies to deflect suspicion from them. Which brings us to the fourth and latest episode: “Escape to L.A.”.

This fourth episode sees the latest incarnation of the Torchwood team arriving in Los Angeles with a plan to infiltrate one of PhiCorp’s many headquarters around the country and steal a server which may hold the information they need to expose the company to the world and finally get down to the bottom of what “Miracle Day” truly is. To say that PhiCorp has become more than just an ovelry opportunistic megacorporation after this episode would be an understatement. This episode had everything for pretty much all spectrum of Torchwood fans. It had some very emotional and quieter moments for some of the main characters (such as Esther Drummond and Rex Matheson). For those wanting a bit more action this episode had it as well as the team’s plans to infiltrate the PhiCorp server room runs across a few stumbling blocks in the form of a creepy hired assassin in the form of one C. Thomas Howell. There’s even a few lighter and funnier moments involving the team’s search for a base of operations while in L.A. with Rex sarcasticly commenting that Jack was trying to turn everyone he meets gay with Jack’s retort admitting to just such.

“Escape to L.A.” also continues to delve into the growing role of Oswald Danes (Bill Pullman still hamming it up as the twitchy, but smarter than he looks pedophile-murderer) in this new season’s scheme of things. While the last episode threw off the cloak of repentance Danes had shown on live TV this latest episode shows Danes as quite devious in trying to keep himself in what he thinks is the only way to protect himself from those who still thinks he owes society for what he had done. The interesting thing about what Danes does in this episode was that it put a voice into one of the themes being explore in this season. Danes sees those still living when they should be dead just like him being herded into places (abandoned hospitals and camps being built by PhiCorp) to be away from those still living in truth. It was interesting that he would be the voice for this theme and a counter to the fearmongering of a Tea Party politico in the form of Mayor Ellis Hartley Monroe (Mare Winningham). For once in this series, so far, I think many wouldn’t be too far off in saying they were rooting for Danes. He was the lesser of two evils in this episode even though it looks like it will be the catalyst which will propel Pullman’s character into the cult leader the season’s marketing had been hinting at.

While the episode wasn’t as good as episode 3’s “Dead of Night” it was still a very strong episode. This was an episode that actually added more pieces to the mystery of “Miracle Day” and just how far-ranging PhiCorp’s (and what could be others as hinted at cryptically in the episode’s final moments) role as the main antagonist for this new season. From how the episode ended for the Torchwood team it looks like we might see the team back on British soil as Gwen must now deal with her father’s safety.

The season continues to improve with each new episode and it’s a good thing this episode gave out more than just dribbles of clues. With only 6 more episodes to go it was high time the series went into the next gear as it races towards the answer to the question of “What is Miracle Day?”.

1st  Episode: “The New World”

2nd Episode: “Rendition”

3rd Episode: “Dead of Night”

Review: Torchwood: Miracle Day Ep. 02 “Rendition”

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”

Review: Torchwood: Miracle Day Ep. 01 “The New World”

The latest season of the British sci-fi series Torchwood finally arrives with much fanfare with it’s fourth season. Simply called Torchwood: Miracle Day the series moves from it’s usual haunts in and around Cardiff in the United Kingdom to a location that should bring with it some advantages and disadvantages to new fans and returning loyal ones. As someone who has just recently begun and caught up to watching the first three seasons to this series I must admit that I seem to be more excited about this newest season. The first three seasons for this Torchwood neophyte was a mixture of awesome and tedious (the last season was more of the former than the latter), but in the end I really bought into the series despite some of the latter.

“The New World” heralds in the fourth season of this series with the introduction of several new cast members to the Torchwood team in Mekhi Phifer as the up-and-coming CIA operative Rex Matheson who becomes well-acquainted with the sudden arrival of “Miracle Day” to the world. It’s during this sequence that we also get to meet Alexa Havins’ CIA analyst Esther Drummond who first brings up the topic of the Torchwood team to Matheson. Their conversation’s shortlived as Matheson meets with what seemed to be quite the fatal-accident on the road, but as the premiere episode soon states clearly the world’s suddenly forgotten the concept of death. It’s not just through Matheson we see this event occur first-hand but in another new character to the series in the form of convicted pedophile-murderer Oswald Danes (played with a level of creepiness by Bill Pullman) whose execution by lethal injection becomes railroaded by “Miracle Day”.

All that occurs within the first five to seven minutes before we even get to meet any of the returning cast members and really shows that the series’ showrunner Russell T. Davies wants to give these American characters their introduction before bringing in the regulars. When I say regulars I mean just the two surviving members of the Torchwood Institute which fans last saw being destroyed in the climactic episodes of season three’s Torchwood: Children of Earth. There’s Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles in the returning role) now in hiding with her husband Rhys Williams (Kai Owens) and their young daighter Anwen in a remote British seaside cottage. It’s been almost a year since the events of Children of Earth and these three live in constant paranoia from those they believe will soon come hunting for them for what they know of the Torchwood Institute.

The favorite of fans don’t make his appearance until a third of the way through the episode, but it was quite an appearance. The 51st-century ex-conman and immortal Capt. Jack Harkness (played by John Barrowman with his usual dashing flair) has been trying to keep the knowledge of Torchwood and those survivors from the Institute from the very shadowy figures Gwen has gone into hiding from. It’s during one such attempt to do this task that he encounters the intrepid sleuth in Esther Drummond who thinks Torchwood might be a link to the event being called “Miracle Day” sweeping the world. The rest of the episode does a great job in bringing together the surviving members of Torchwood (albeit somewhat reluctantly) with the CIA’s Matheson and Drummond who want to know just what the hell is going on in the world.

The episode doesn’t lack for action as we see running gunfights between a speeding jeep on a sandy beach as a helicopter with gunmen try to kill Harkness and his new team. There’s even a great use of special effects in a sequence where we first see the disadvantage of not being able to die as a body blown-up and barely together still clings to life in a hospital morgue. These two sequences and the slicker production value that could be seen in the episode really reinforces the fact that this latest Torchwood season has moved from being just a British series and into an American one as well.

This slicker look may throw some loyal fans off as being too Hollywood, but the show still felt and sounded like a Torchwood episode. The writing by Russell T. Davies for the premiere episode was great as he was able to balance the jarring introduction of American characters and their attitudes to what had been a British cast with their own distinct quirks and mannerisms. One thing I truly got from this episode which I rarely got from past seasons was the epic feel to the story. This epic tone was what made Children of Earth such a great third season, but even then there were times when the season sometimes fell back to being very regional in scope. Miracle Day really acts like a story where it’s not just the UK that these events are occurring but America and the rest of the world. It will be interesting to see how Davies and his writers are going to be able to continue to build on this international scope as the season goes along.

Torchwood: Miracle Day made for a fun and fast-moving premiere with “The New World”. It was able to bring back the recurring cast members from the previous three seasons in addition to introducing a new band of cast mates who look to be quite unlike the previous members have encountered in the past. I may not have been quite the lover of British sci-fi tv series in the past, but this latest Torchwood season does a great job in making me fall in love with it and I’m sure doing the same thing to like-minded individuals as myself. The loyal, regular fans may need to make room on the bandwagon for us Torchwood neophytes because there’s going to be a lot of us.