If there’s one overriding feeling one gets from this new Torchwood series it’s the notion of a slow burn. Though there are various characters and plot threads, the larger basic premise of each episode so far, is pretty much the same. Because of this, Miracle Day is probably coming across a little more somber and one-note than the first two seasons of the show. (Let’s face it, that blowfish alien guy who drove the corvette around has no place in this particular version of Torchwood.) But this isn’t a bad thing; because as the drama is slowly unfolding, the big questions are starting to build up in our minds. And blowfish-face not withstanding, the biggest question I have right now: are aliens involved?
The second episode of Miracle Day picks up where we left off last week with Jack, Gwen, Rhys, and the baby (What’s it’s name again? Myfanwy?) in the custody of the CIA en route back to America. Very quickly, CIA agent Rex decides he’s only arresting the Torchwood team; meaning Rhys and the baby are staying in the U.K. Gwen throws a pretty substantial fit, but as it turns out later, it’s probably for the best that she’s not carrying the baby around anymore. Rex, Jack, and Gwen all get onboard the plane where things start to get a little dicey.
Rex’s inner conflict deepens as it becomes apparent that he’s being betrayed by his own organization. Another CIA agent, Lyn, poisons Jack with arsenic, resulting in a frantic dash to concoct the antidote with only items found on a plane. Because the previously immortal Jack is now the only mortal man in the world, Rex is very interested in keeping him alive. When it’s discovered his own associate is responsible for the activity, Rex starts questioning his loyalties.
I liked this poison plotline a lot for a few reasons. For one thing the whole mad-dash to throw together various ingredients reminded me a lot of the scene in the Doctor Who episode “The Unicorn and Wasp” where Tennant is running around creating a random antidote for himself. This scene was also great because Gwen got to take control of the situation with desperate bravery. We’re never really worried Jack is going to die, but the scenes work all the same. Finally, the idea that Jack’s physiology never had to develop any kind of immunity to anything owing to his immortality is also a fun inversion of his lost “superpower.”
Meanwhile, Rex’s CIA buddy Esther (after having her short-term memory erased by Jack in episode one) is still trying to figure out the link between the Miracle and Torchwood. This leads to the introduction of a CIA higher-up, Brian Friedkin played by the always-slimy Wayne Knight. Does Wayne Knight look any different than he did playing Newman on Seinfeld or Nedry in Jurassic Park? Nope. He looks the same and he acts the same too, only now a little scarier. Like Rex, Esther quickly realizes elements inside the CIA are out to get her. Narrowly escaping, she manages to meet up with Rex, Jack and the gang by the end of the episode.
Perhaps the best stuff in the episode deals with Dr. Vera Juarez as she starts to make connections about the implications of the Miracle throughout the world and what it will mean in terms of everyone needing more painkillers and new kinds of antibiotics. These conversations are some of the best in the whole show insofar as its clear the writers have really thought about the ramifications of what would actually happen if bacteria-ridden corpses didn’t die and if people were in perpetual pain. When Rex snaps the neck of Lyn, she grotesquely doesn’t die, but by the end of the episode is simply walking around with her head on backwards. Like some of the gross-outs from the previous episode, this kind of stuff really explores the notion of immorality without actual healing and how the Miracle is way worse for the world than death. It also serves as a chilling reminder of something we gleaned from the season premiere: That without death, the consequences of the violence one inflicts are far more difficult to ignore.
Ultimately, what actually happened in this episode? In most ways this seemed like more set-up for the adventure yet to come. Oswald Danes genuinely admitted (to most of the world, anyway) that he was sorry for his terrible crimes. This, while interesting, is in my opinion one of the less compelling aspects of the overall story, although there seems to be a connection being made with his immortality and the planet’s ability to forgive him. One could see this plotline playing out in a non-Miracle Day world, however, which begs the question as to its importance within the sci-fi premise of Torchwood: Miracle Day. What I suspect is that the character is there to further mess with the sensibilities of the audience. And while I don’t mind it, it seems a little more direct and on the nose than the other themes and characters.
However, this episode did introduce a mysterious and marvelously creepy PR woman by the name of Jilly Kitzinger (played by Six Feet Under’s Lauren Ambrose) who seemingly wants to represent everyone from Danes to Vera. Here we get more hints that there is a clandestine organization guiding events, and that Miracle Day and Torchwood are perhaps just pieces of a larger scheme. What does this woman actually want? Who does she really work for?
Even with Jack talking about really high-concept science fiction stuff like morphic fields, I can’t help but wondering if aliens are involved in perpetrating the Miracle. And if so, for what purpose? How could permanently wounding a planet full of humans be advantageous to aliens? Or anyone?
Ryan Britt is a staff writer for Tor.com.