TV Review: The X-Files 11.1 “My Struggle III” (dir by Chris Carter)

Well, let’s get this over with…

(Seriously, if I ever get tired of “Stay supple!,” that’ll probably be my new catch phrase…)

As you my remember, way back in 2016, I reviewed the 10th season of The X-Files.  With the exception of the episode that featured Rhys Darby, I didn’t care much for it.   In fact, the episode that was set in Texas almost drove me to throw a shoe at the TV.  However, the 10th season did end with a big cliffhanger and, since I hate the idea of a story going unfinished, I knew I would have to watch the 11th season whenever it premiered.  And I also knew that I’d have to review it because that’s what I do.

Well, tonight, the 11th season premiered.  Armed with as much knowledge as one can hope to gain from scanning Wikipedia, I twice watched My Struggle III.

The episode began with a lengthy monologue from the Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis), in which he talked about how, if the American people knew about what was truly going on in the darkest corners of the government, there would be riots in the streets.  Personally, I love conspiracy theories and I’m generally opposed to all forms of controlling legal authority so I enjoyed that part of the show.   The episode managed to work footage of every U.S. President except for Obama into the opening conspiracy montage.  Personally, if I had edited the show, I would snuck Obama in there just to mess with people and their expectations.  But that’s just me!

Anyway, as much fun as that little conspiracy monologue may have been, I was more concerned with how the show was going to deal with the fact that the world literally ended at the end of season 10.  Well, it was quickly revealed that nothing that happened during My Struggle II actually happened.  Instead, it was all just a vision that Scully had.  Apparently, it’s a premonition of what will happen unless Mulder … does something.

Does what exactly?  I’m not sure and, to be honest, I’m not really sure that the show does either.  I understand that this episode is meant to be part of a bigger mythology and, as a result, it was supposed to be a bit open-ended.  However, as I watched My Struggle III, I got the feeling that the episode was mostly just something that was hastily whipped up so that the show could do away with season 10’s disastrous finale.  And it was hard not to feel that, narratively, the show took the easy way out.

The majority of the episode was made up of Mulder driving his car from location to location, searching for the Cigarette Smoking Man.  This led to Mulder breaking into a mansion and having a conversation with Mr. Y (Alexandre Campion) and Erika Price (Barbara Hershey) about aliens and the secret history of the world.  To be honest, it was kind of boring and it didn’t really hold my attention.

Meanwhile, the Cigarette Smoking Man and Agent Reyes (Annabeth Gish) were having a conversation with Skinner (Mitch Pileggi).  During the conversation, the Cigarette Smoking Man revealed that he, and not Mulder, is the true father of Scully’s son, William.

And twitter exploded in rage.

Don’t fear, twitter!  There’s always a good chance that next week’s episode will open with the Cigarette Smoking Man revealing that he actually isn’t the father or maybe it’ll just turn out that someone else was having a vision.  By dismissing season 10’s cliffhanger as just being a dream (or a vision or premonition or whatever), The X-Files has reminded us that nothing on the show actually means anything.  Who needs to maintain continuity or narrative integrity when you can just shrug and say, “Well, y’see, it’s all a part of the conspiracy…”

(As I watched tonight’s episode, I found myself thinking about Twin Peaks: The Return.  No matter how weird or convoluted Twin Peaks got, I still never doubted that David Lynch did have a definite destination in mind.  That’s not a feeling that I got from tonight’s episode of The X-Files.)

Now, here’s the good news!  I have heard, from people who I trust, that the upcoming episodes are nothing like the premiere.  Apparently, the premiere was one of those “we have to do it” things.  The upcoming episode will be stand-alone episodes, much like the one where Mulder met the Were-Monster.

So, with that in mind, I will tune in next week to see if episode 2 is any better than episode 1.

Will you?

Back to School Part II #37: Can’t Hardly Wait (dir by Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont)


Oddly enough, the late 90s and early 2000s saw a lot of movies about teenagers that all had strangely generic names.  She’s All That, Down To You, Drive Me Crazy, Head Over Heels, Get Over It, Bring It On … the list is endless.

And then you have the 1998 graduation party-themed Can’t Hardly Wait.  Can’t Hardly Wait has such a generic name that, when you first hear it, you could be forgiven for naturally assuming that it stars Freddie Prinze, Jr.  Of course, if you’ve actually seen the film, you know that it features almost everyone but Freddie Prinze, Jr.  This is one of those films where even the smallest roles are played by a recognizable face.  In fact, there’s so many familiar actors in this film that a good deal of them go uncredited.  Jenna Elfman, Breckin Meyer, Melissa Joan Hart, Jerry O’Connell, and Amber Benson may not show up in the credits but they’re all in the film.  In fact, you could argue that Melissa John Hart, playing an impossibly excited girl who is obsessed with getting everyone to sign her yearbook, and Breckin Meyer, playing an overly sensitive lead singer, provide the film with some of its comedic highlights.

(That said, perhaps the most credible cameo comes from Jerry O’Connell.  He plays a former high school jock who ruefully talks about how he can’t get laid in high school.  He’s so convincingly sleazy and full of self-pity that you find yourself wondering if maybe O’Connell was just playing himself.  Maybe he just stumbled drunkenly onto the set one day and started talking to anyone who would listen…)

Can’t Hardly Wait takes place at one huge high school graduation party, which is actually a pretty smart idea.  The best part of every teen movie is the party scene so why not make just make the entire movie about the party?  Almost every member of the graduating class is at this party and we get to see all of the usual types.  There’s the stoners, the jocks, the nerds, and the sarcastic kids who go to parties specifically so they can tell everyone how much they hate going to parties.  Eric Balfour shows up as a hippie.  Jason Segel eats a watermelon in the corner.  Sara Rue’s in the kitchen, complaining about how everyone’s a sheep.  Jamie Pressly drinks and assures her best friend that she’s at least as pretty as Gwynneth Paltrow.  (“And you’ve got way bigger boobs!” she adds, encouragingly.)  Outside, Selma Blair frowns as someone hits on her with bad line.

Of course, Mike Dexter (Peter Facinelli) and Amanda Beckett (Jennifer Love Hewitt) are the main topic of conversation at the party.  For four years, Mike and Amanda were the school’s power couple but Mike decides to dump Amanda right before they graduate.  Mike feels that he’s going to have a great time in college and he doesn’t need any old high school commitments holding him down.  His best friends all agree to dump their girlfriends too.  Mike spends the party watching, in horror, as all of his friends go back on their promise.  Amanda, meanwhile, wanders around and wonders who she is now that she’s no longer Mike Dexter’s girlfriend.

Preston Meyers (Ethan Embry) struggles to work up the courage to tell Amanda that he’s had a crush on her ever since the first day he saw her.  Meanwhile, Preston’s best friend — the reliably sarcastic Denise (Lauren Ambrose) — finds herself locked in an upstairs bathroom with Kenny “Special K” Fisher (Seth Green).  (Needless to say, Kenny is the only person who actually calls himself “Special K.”)  Kenny is obsessed with losing his virginity.  Denise, meanwhile, won’t stop talking about the sweet and dorky Kenny that she knew way back in elementary school.

And then there’s William Lichtner (Charlie Korsmo).  He’s spent his entire life being tormented by Mike and he specifically goes to the party looking for revenge.  However, he has a few beers and quickly becomes the most popular senior at the party.  He even gets a chance to bond with Mike…

Can’t Hardly Wait is a favorite of mine.  It’s one of those films that doesn’t add up too much but it’s so so damn likable that it doesn’t matter.  It’s full of smart and funny scenes and all the actors are incredibly likable.  If you’re not rooting for Preston and Amanda by the end of the movie then you have no heart.  In fact, Can’t Hardly Wait is a lot like Empire Records.  They may not be much depth to it but it’s so sincere and earnest that you can forgive it.

You can even forgive the generic name.

A Few Thoughts On The X-Files 10.6 “My Struggle II”


(WARNING: This review will contain spoilers.)

I have to admit that, after I finished watching the finale of The X-Files “revival,” I felt totally and completely confused.  I wasn’t really sure what I had just seen and I don’t mean that in a good way.  I wondered if maybe, as a relatively new viewer of The X-Files, I simply did not have the necessary background information to follow the episode’s plot.  And then I wondered if maybe I just had not been paying enough attention while I was watching.  Maybe I was too ADD to follow an episode of The X-Files…

So, I rewatched the episode.  I made sure to sit right in front of the TV and to turn on the closed captioning so that I would be able to understand what everyone was mumbling about.  During the second viewing, I came to understand just why exactly I had been so confused.  To say that the editing of My Struggle II was ragged would be an understatement.  It was often difficult to figure out how much time had passed between scenes or where the characters were in relation to one another.  The whole episode felt as if it had been haphazardly constructed, with scenes randomly tossed together.  But then again, that’s been true of the entire season.  Even the better episodes have shared that ragged quality.  The parts, as good as they have occasionally been, have rarely added up to a coherent whole.  I imagine that, if you were a fan of The X-Files before the revival, you might have enough of an emotional commitment, in Mulder and Scully as characters, that you can overlook the revival’s weaker moments.  But for a new viewer, like me, it can get frustrating.

This has been a very uneven season.  Season 10 was made up of 6 episodes, each of which seemed to have a totally different tone and outlook from the other.  There’s been one great episode (Mulder & Scully Meet The Weremonster), one terrible episode (My Struggle), one mediocre episode (Babylon), and two episodes that were above average but nothing special (Founder’s Mutation, Home Again).  For the first 40 minutes or so, I thought that My Struggle II would be another mediocre episode.  But, towards the very end, things started to get better.  After spending most of the episode separated from each other, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson finally got to share a scene.  (The only time that Duchovny and Anderson seem truly invested in their roles is when they’re playing off of each other.  Each brings out the best in the other.)  And the scene ended with a cliffhanger that was so batshit crazy that, almost despite my better instincts, I found myself saying, “Yes, give us a season 11 because I have to know what just happened!”

And really, thank God for that cliffhanger.  A good final scene can make up for so much.  My Struggle II opens with Mulder missing and, it’s a sign of that ragged editing that I mentioned earlier, that I wasn’t sure how long he had been missing or who exactly was aware that he was missing.  It turns out that Mulder’s missing because he’s busy driving to South Carolina so he can confront the Cigarette-Smoking Man (William B. Davis), the big villain from the show’s original run.  Apparently, the CSM is aware that humanity is about to be wiped out by an alien plague but he has a cure and he wants Mulder to join him and a few others that he has judged worthy of survival.

Meanwhile, Tad O’Malley (Joel McHale) is back!  When we last heard, Tad had vanished and his web site had been shut down.  And yet, at the start of this episode, Tad has suddenly returned and his web site is once again active.  No mention is made of where O’Malley has been and nobody — not even Scully — seems to be curious about the details.  Maybe O’Malley was never really missing in the first place.  It’s hard to tell with this show.

Anyway, the main reason that Tad shows up is so that he can announce, during his podcast, that humanity’s DNA has been corrupted with alien DNA and, as a result, everyone is essentially a walking time bomb.  This, of course, leads to rioting in the streets which is … odd.  I mean, let’s be honest.  He may look like Joel McHale and his show may be surprisingly well-produced but, ultimately, Tad is just a guy with a podcast.  As I watched the original world react to Tad’s podcast, it occurred to me that Season 10 may be airing in 2016 but it still has a 2002 sensibility.

Working with Agent Einstein (Lauren Ambrose), Scully is able to use her DNA to create a cure for the virus.  I’m not sure how that works but, in all fairness to The X-Files, this may be one of those plot points that would make more sense to me if I had watched more of the previous seasons of the show.  By this point, Mulder has returned from confronting the CSM and is on the verge of dying from the virus.  Scully announces that, in order to cure Mulder, they have to get DNA from their son William but she’s not sure where he is and…


And, as frustrated as I had been with My Struggle II, I cheered a little when that UFO showed up.  Ever since this revival started, I have been predicting that William would return.  Now, I don’t know for sure who is in that flying saucer but seriously, it has to be William, doesn’t it?  I mean, who else would it be?  As frustrated as I have often been with The X-Files, I ended My Struggle II wanting a season 11 because I want to know who is in that flying saucer.

And, ultimately, I guess that has to be counted as a point in the show’s favor.  When a show can be as flawed as The X-Files has been this season and still leave the viewer hoping for more, that has to be considered a success of some sort.

So, my final verdict on My Struggle II: Uneven but intriguing when it mattered.  I think the same can be said of Season 10 as a whole.

Will The X-Files return for an 11th season?  Well, if it doesn’t, there will be a lot of disappointed people on twitter.  Assuming the show does return and that William is on that flying saucer, can we all start calling him “Sculder?”

Seriously, I’ve been trying to make Sculder a thing for a while now…

Shattered Politics #88: Grassroots (dir by Stephen Gyllenhaal)

Grassroots_2012Well, it’s nearly over.

For the past three weeks, I’ve been watching and reviewing 94 films about politics and politicians.  We started Shattered Politics by reviewing the 1930 film Abraham Lincoln and, 86 reviews later, we have finally reached 2012!  It’s hard to believe that, over just three weeks, I have reviewed that many films.  Some of those films have been good.  Some of them have been bad.  And, quite a few of them, have been somewhere in between.

The 2012 film Grassroots in one of those in between sort of films.  It’s based on a true story.  Phil Campbell (Jason Biggs) is a Seattle-based journalist who has just lost his job.  Unsure what to do with himself, Phil finds himself reluctantly dragged into the city council campaign of his friend, a music critic named Grant Cogswell (Joel David Moore).

Grant is running because he feels that the city council is not making proper use of the Seattle monorail.  Grant also appears to be a bit crazy, the type of guy who will spontaneously start to shout about everything that he views as being wrong with the world.  However, Grant is also very sincere in his desire to do the best for the people of Seattle and Phil agrees to manage his campaign.

And, as Grant continues to campaign and as the city’s political establishment goes out of its way to make it difficult for Grant or any other insurgent to run a legitimate campaign, he starts to pick up support and suddenly, it starts to look like he very well could win.

And then, the World Trade Center is attacked on September 11th and suddenly, the voters are a little bit less enthusiastic about handing the keys to the asylum over to one of the inmates…

Grassroots is a minor film but it’s definitely likable.  It took me a while to adjust to the film, largely because almost all of the characters are the type of stereotypical Seattle hipsters who would probably be used for violent comic relief in most other films.  (Don’t misunderstand, though — some of my best friends are hipsters … though they’ll never admit it.)  As well, the film trots out the familiar trope of having the campaign cause friction in Phil’s marriage and seriously, is there a more tired plot point than sudden marital friction?

But, ultimately, the film won me over because, much like Grant, it’s just so sincere in its love for Seattle and in its belief in grassroots politics.  It won’t challenge Milk for the title of being the most inspiring recent film about a city council election.  But, taken on its own terms, Grassroots is a likable movie that should inspire even more hipsters to run for public office.

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. 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. 03 “Dead of Night”

Torchwood: Miracle Day has now reached it’s third episode and we’re beginning to see a few more clues as to the truth about the so-called “Miracle Day” event which automatically made everyone on the planet Earth immortal (with the exception of the planet’s previous lone immortal Capt. Jack Harkness who became mortal instead). The series has been a bit slow about the reveals and dropping of clues and with only 10-episodes to this season it’s going to be interesting to see how Davies and his writers will tie things up when the tenth episode rolls around.

“Dead of Night” is the name of this latest episode and it’s actually quite an apropo title. The episode happens mostly at night and it’s during the darkness of night that we get a glimpse at some of the darker sides of some of the characters on the show. First, we see the team on the run after the bungled attempt by CIA deputy director Friedkin (Wayne Knight) to apprehend Matheson and the remaining Torchwood team at Dulles International. It’s interesting to notice how Rex and his fellow agent in Esther Drummond seemed out of sorts realizing that they’ve been betrayed by the very agency they work for (and maybe the very country they serve loyally) while both Jack and Gwen seem to take it all in stride as if they’ve been there and done that. Some have mentioned that the show doesn’t seem to be classic Torchwood and I can see where they’re coming from. The additions of the American characters to the team and the transplanting to US soil has created a different tone to the show which seem to be harder for the veteran fans to accept at the moment.

It’s definitely not the writing or the acting which has given this show an almost dual nature and feel. Tonight’s episode was written by Jane Espenson (who helped write the excellent sixth episode of Game of Thrones, “A Golden Crown”) and the flow of the show seemed to have improved for the previous one. Most of the set-up’s been completed and now the team is up and running once again with a new problem to solve. It’s that very problem which drives this episode as Jack and his new team begin to uncover one of the major clues that goes a long way into explaining the true nature of “Miracle Day”. I do think that finding out a major pharmaceutical conglomerate might have had a hand or knew in advance about “Miracle Day” wasn’t too much of a surprise. The way the episode paints PhiCorp and their plans for their wonder drug seems like the bad dream for everyone trying to overhaul the nation’s health care system for the better.

The show further explores Capt. Jack Harkness’ current situation as he begins to accept the fact that he’s finally dying (aging being the correct term people would use, but not for one so used to being immortal) and he doesn’t do as well as some would want him to. His emotional and drunken late-night call to Gwen after a one-night’s dalliance with a stranger picked up at a club brings back some emotional baggage and the sexual tension between the two. There’s an almost air of desperation in John Barrowman’s performance in this scene which should show new fans to the show that the series won’t be all about action and intrigue. There’s a reason the series has cultivated such a rabid fanbase and it’s been the performance by the actors, first and foremost. Eve Myles performance as Gwen on the receiving end of Harkness’ call were at times empathic, sad and frustrated as if she thought this was something the two were past but now have been brought back to the surface.

The other major performance of the night belongs to Bill Pullman’s pedophile murderer, Oswald Danes. His character still continues to be the show’s cipher. We’re still not sure what to think of Danes. He’s being made out to be a sympathetic character in one moment then a devious manipulator trying to find whatever advantage he could get his hands on to keep himself safe. We finally do get an idea who Danes is during a confrontation between him and Harkness and it spoke volumes at just how banal evil really is and it’s current face happens to be Bill Pullman’s. It’s going to be interesting to see how Danes, PhiCorp and “Miracle Day” will tie together once this season gets deeper into it’s main story.

“Dead of Night” was better than the last episode but still shows some growing pains as the writers are still coping with some of the major changes to the show’s usual tone. While some long-time fans of the show seem to not be as accepting of these changes I think it’s these changes that show’s growth in the series and such things do take time to find their footing. I expect more growing pains in the coming episodes, but I do think that this episode goes a long way into  establishing the melding of old Torchwood with the new Torchwood.

1st episode: “The New World”

2nd episode: “Rendition”

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.