Mon
Aug 29 2011 12:10pm

Torchwood I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down: Torchwood: Miracle Day: “End of the Road”

Torchwood: Miracle Day episode review

When casting reports for the latest installment of Torchwood started to roll in, fans like us were super enthusiastic about all the actor’s names we recognized. Not only were we getting a Ghostbuster (Ernie Hudson) but also two Star Trek alums in the form of John deLancie and Nana Vistor. Add to that Lone Star/President Whitmore himself; Bill Pullman! If you count Wayne Knight’s turn in Jurassic Park, this gathering of sci-fi star power was unprecedented since Dean Stockwell, Lucy Lawless and company showed up on Battlestar Galactica! But for some reason, none of these cool guest stars seem to stick around for very long. And it’s not just all the familiar faces either. Why are there so many characters in Torchwood Miracle Day and why don’t they hang around longer?

SPOILERS BELOW

For a show in which no one can actually die, Miracle Day seems to have a habit of getting rid of its guest stars anyway, which effectively kills them insofar as we never see them again. In the first episode Gwen shot down a helicopter, leading us to wonder if those burning people were still alive. With the introduction of the government-mandated furnaces to burn the Category Ones back in “The Categories of Life”, it seems like the show had figured out a way of getting rid of characters, even in a world in which death doesn’t exist. If poor, poor Vera comes back from the dead by the end of the series, I suppose I’ll be proven wrong, but I kind of doubt it. This latest episode sees not only the departure of two high-powered guest stars, but also the actual in-universe death of a character who is practically brand new to us; Angelo.

Torchwood: Miracle Day episode review “End of the Road” picks up pretty much where the last episode left off and we are told that Nana Visitor and her people only abducted Gwen’s family for the express purpose of getting a hold of Jack to protect him. Nana is playing Angelo’s granddaughter Olivia Colasanto and though she is honoring her Grandfather’s wishes and has no problem sharing her information with Jack, she isn’t all that crazy about him. It’s revealed that Angelo managed to extend his life a little bit by being on an awesome diet or something, and that he also had made a deal with “The Family”: they would own Jack’s immortality and try to actually harness it. Rex gives these names to Esther but she’s unable to locate any record of these guys ever existing. Not only that, but it seems no one has ever had these names. (For me, this calls to mind Jack’s ability to delete all references to the word “Torchwood” at the start of the mini-series.)

Olivia shows Jack that Angelo is still alive, but only barely and the only thing keeping him alive now is the miracle that’s preventing everyone else’s death. These scenes also give us some snapshots Angelo took over the years while he was apparently stalking Jack, complete with a photo of Jack rocking a 70s era porn ’stache.

What have we learned so far? Well not much, because while Olivia and the bedridden comatose Angelo know about the The Family, they don’t know all that much. Luckily, everything gets nuts when Friedken (Wayne Knight) leads a CIA raid the house. It seems they’re after Rex and Esther because Friedken knows that Rex knows Friedken has been working for The Family. (Even though Rex and the audience still don’t know what the hell The Family even is.) The whole CIA isn’t terrible, just the part that’s working for The Family, run by Newman, er, Friedken. Remember all this from like six episodes ago when Newman tried to have Esther and Rex killed? Okay, good.

But Rex saw all this coming and when Newman takes him into a little room to try and shoot his brain, Rex reveals he’s wearing the cool magic Torchwood contact lenses that record everything. Score! At this point, the real CIA comes in led by a guy named Allen Shapiro who is played by “Q” John Delancie. Apparently Shapiro is really, really in charge of the CIA, not Newman, and now that Rex has exposed him, Torchwood and the CIA start working together. Kind of.

Rex and Esther are keen to start working on the right side of the law, but Jack’s not too sure. And then, in the midst of all of this, Angelo dies! For real. He actually dies. Which shouldn’t happen, but after it does, Jack gets really quiet. Because he knows something and he’s not telling. Esther and Rex are like “tell us what’s going on” and Jack’s like “no and by the way, shut up.” Then ShaQiro deports Gwen randomly because he thinks that will get Jack to talk. While all this is going on Newman and Olivia are thrown into a car that Newman decides to blow up with a tiny bomb he has with him. This, I suppose, makes them a lot like the people in the ovens, effectively dead. Around this same time, it’s revealed that Angelo’s bed was on a raised platform, and underneath that platform is a special alien transmitter thing. Jack is still not telling CIA Shapiro what the thing is even though Esther and Rex are really trying to get him to spill it.

Eventually, by using some pretty cool voice dampening stuff, Jack tells Rex and Esther that the transmitter thing creates a null field, meaning it reverses the effects of the miracle in this case. It is also most certainly alien technology, a variety of which Jack thinks Earth really, really shouldn’t have. He claims that the entire timeline of Earth’s future could be seriously screwed up if a big government gets this technology. This is a neat bit and sort of reminiscent of something the old Torchwood really used to do, preserve the future by grabbing weird alien technology that was scary. Jack convinces Rex and Esther to smuggle him out with the one little credit-card sized part that makes the whole transmitter function. Everything goes really poorly as usual for this version of Torchwood and Jack ends up shot with Esther driving a stolen car with him inside of it.

MEANWHILE, Oswald Danes and Jilly are having fights about PR. Oswald tries to date a prostitute, and we learn he is going to be put into a new category called Category Zero by the government. Oswald loses his shit, slaps Jilly around and storms off. This whole time the CIA has randomly sent a spy to watch her, and in a very confusing turn, we’re told another minor background CIA character is working for The Family. After an agent of The Family kills the undercover CIA agent, Jilly is asked to join The Family officially, and she does.

The episode ends with Esther driving in the middle of nowhere crying hysterically while Jack, the only mortal man in the world, is seemingly dying. With only two episodes left, everything looks pretty hopeless. Miracle Day made a farily strong comeback with the previous episode in which the show actually started to feel like it was going to reveal some secrets to us, and I’m not sure I’m ready to say this latest episode was a step back. However, I’m not sure I’m crazy about all these major plot developments being introduced so late in the game. If the entirety of the show’s arc is going tobe reliant upon Jack shutting down the null field technology, the secret of The Family being revealed, and Esther and Rex starting to work for the CIA again, then why did we go through all that other stuff?

I like Torchwood in general, and Miracle Day in specific as a concept, but it seems like it’s three different kinds of shows right now. One, an extension of the old show known as Torchwood. Two, a big sprawling science fiction drama exploring what would really happen if everyone stopped dying. And three, a complicated espionage drama about people being crossed and double-crossed by conspiracies involving a secret society. Meanwhile, guest characters waltz in from time to time to play their parts in one of the three Torchwoods and then leave or are killed. With only two episodes to go, I’m not sure they’re going to be able to kill enough characters to whittle down these plot points to a manageable size. I love you Torchwood, but with so many confusing things going on, and despair just rampant among the characters, I have to say, you’re bringing me down.


Ryan Britt is a staff writer for Tor.com.

26 comments
Adrian J.
1. LightningStorm
This is the greatest review ever. I agree with it 100%, including loving the show but it's still pissing me off.
Mark Lawrence
2. incurablyGeek
This episode was a letdown after last week's. It just felt like it was moving chess pieces around and didn't make use of the great characters it introduced.
Joseph Kingsmill
3. JFKingsmill16
Rex & Esther may be two of the most infuriating and unlikable characters in all of SciFi.
ChuckEye
4. ChuckEye
Wasn't it established like in the 3rd or 4th episode that the contacts only worked on Gwen? I remember her being particularly explicit about that. And then all the sudden the work for Rex. Right.
ChuckEye
5. Pendard
This season, it seems to me like Torchwood episodes are coming in pairs: a great episode, then an aimless episode filled with an awkward mish-mash of exposition and suspense-building events which basically finishes things from the pervious week and begins things for the next week. This week's Episode 8 was the second type, wrapping up the threads from last week's flashback episode. Episode 6 was the wrap up of the previous week's episode where they infiltrate the camp and Vera is killed. Episode 4 was set-up for Episode 5. Episode 3 was a wrap-up for Episode 1 and Episode 2. Basically, half of the episodes are good, and the other half are connecting tissue for the good ones, just wrap-up and set-up.
ChuckEye
6. originalsibling
@ChuckEye, Since when did consistency matter to RTD (or whoever's really running this Charlie-Foxtrot)? The last ep had a major continuity issue that I can't believe no one else has commented on: Jack describes to Angelo how he became immortal ("Time changed me...I became a fixed point in time and space"), but he didn't know all this at the time -- this was waaaay before the Dr Who episode "Utopia", unless there's more than one loop in Jack's timeline (where he's conscious and above ground, at least), and there's been no indication that's so. Granted, those who are just tuning into Torchwood for this season or since Children of Earth don't know this, but, well, that's the problem with writing timey-wimey plotlines, RTD!
ChuckEye
7. Nazgul35
Assuming they will wrap everything up in two episodes and not leave on a major cliff hanger for the next season...
ChuckEye
8. Taylor_S
@ChuckEye--

It might have been a lie so that Gwen could be the one to go in. I can't recall, but she wasn't the only one to use the contacts in the previous Torchwood season, was she?
Ryan Britt
9. ryancbritt
@6 Originalsibling-
Oh good call! Bravo. Yes, I can't believe no one else has commented on this either! I felt like something was really off with his treatment of his immortality with Angelo also, but yes. There it is. The smoking gun of a continuity error.
ChuckEye
10. Cecily
ChuckEye, Gwen was lying about the I5 contact lenses because she didn't want Rex to have them. The I5 lenses definitely work on other people - see Children of Earth and Lois Habiba, for example.
Ryan Britt
11. ryancbritt
@1 Lightning Storm: Thanks!

@Everyone on the contact lens situation. Gwen did say that at some point. But I guess she was lying because Martha used them in season two and a bunch of people in Children of Earth too. Right?
Adrian J.
12. LightningStorm
@6 & 9
Good call indeed. Though I have to admit, I would overlook that as a bit of stupidity on Jack's part. Because if he was a fixed point in "SPACE" as well as time, he wouldn't be able to move. So continuity isn't the only issue here, logic, is as well.
Nathaniel Gulick
13. PresN
@ChuckEye @originalsibling - Gwen was lying when she said that the contacts only worked for her. Other characters used them several times in previous seasons, and right after telling Rex that they were coded to her DNA she winked at Jack, if I remember right. Not to mention that her tone of voice when she told Rex that was "I'm totally telling you the truth, honest, would I lie to you" while she really wanted to be the one to go on the mission instead of Rex.
ChuckEye
14. whatheheck
Future Jack must have looped back into the timeline post-"Utopia". This is hinted to because Jack told Angelo enough about the future events to allow him to become fabulously wealthy. So Jack had obviously either lived through the 20th century once before or been in the future (from Angelo's viewpoint) long and far enough to have read up on these events.
marian moore
15. mariesdaughter
I was pretty certain that the Doctor tells Jack that he's a fixed point in time when Jack confronts him about being left. Or is it the "and space" that you all are complaining about ? I agree, that's wrong.
David Thomson
16. ZetaStriker
Am I the only one that actually likes Rex? I agree with Esther being excess baggage, as all she really does is cause trouble for the team and worry about her family, but Rex is a competent, sympathetic character in my mind.
marian moore
17. mariesdaughter
I agree that the episode is a bit muddled. It reads like the first draft--where you write yourself into a hole and then have to go back and rethink.

Just when I thought Rex had become a team player, he decides he wants back on the CIA. Inconsistent.

I actually like the fact that the family has another mole on the CIA. But they were too obvious about it.

Esther goes into yet another crying fit. It's realistic--I don't know what I would have done if all the major characters had left me in the dark like they do her. HOWEVER, it's well past time that she stood up and became a responsible part of the team. I thought that they had illustrated her doing that. Now we get a reversion to her old ways. Either the character has changed or not. Which is it? Yes, real people rise and fall, but the show doesn't have that type of time.

I actually like the references to Doctor Who, but people new to the series would be clueless. What does it mean that Jack is a fixed point in Time? They drop it in, but they don't include any sense of mystery. There is no followup by the other characters.

For the first time, I didn't mind the inclusion of Danes and Jilly. I still don't know if Danes is honestly trying to reform or not. In this case, I don't mine watching his sine curve behavior as he tries to become "normal". I think the writers are actually struggling to portray the problem presented by a sexual offender re-entering society. Whether that storyline fits into Miracle Day is still up-in-the-air for me.
Fredrik Coulter
18. fcoulter
As for knowing the events of the Great Depression, that only works for about eighty or so years. If you ask people about major economic downturns, people will tell you about the Great Depression, but not the even worse downturn that was only a generation earlier. It wouldn't surprise me if my grandchildren don't know anything about the Great Depression, but will consider the current times to be "the worst of all times."

Why am I saying this? Because for Jack to know enough details about the Great Depression to make Angelo rich, he will need to have looped back relatively recently. In other words, within the last (say) hundred years.

That's my argument for Jack's multiple time loops.
Ryan Britt
19. ryancbritt
@18 Well, Jack was originally from the 51st Century and worked for the time agency before he met the 9th Doctor (before becoming immortal)
So it's totally possible that Jack had been on Earth or at least aware of Earth history prior to being part of Torchwood.

I suppose the working for the Time Agency gives him a free pass on knowing Earth's future in my head. BUT the whole fixed-point immortality explanation, prior to meeting with the 10th Doctor, doesn't work. Right?
ChuckEye
20. cats
This isn't happening prior to Utopia. If I remember correctly (and you all will correct me if I'm wrong) Jack took off to grab hold of the Tardis at the end of Series one. He came back at the beginning of series two, having done the whole Utopia thing. Then there was Children of Earth. Now Miracle Day. He's known about being a fixed point for quite a long time now.
Josiah Rowe
21. Josiah_Rowe
@cats, the continuity question isn't about the main narrative of "Miracle Day" (which you're dating correctly), but about the 1920s flashback with Jack and Angelo. The simplest reading would suggest that that sequence takes place (in Jack's timeline) between Rose making him immortal in "The Parting of the Ways" and Series 1 of Torchwood, and therefore prior to the Doctor revealing that he was a "fixed point" in "Utopia". So we're left with three possibilities: either Jack suspected that he'd become a "fixed point" long before the Doctor confirmed it, or Jack somehow traveled back to the 1920s again at some point after the events of "Utopia", or the writers screwed up.
ChuckEye
22. Raven,the

what bugs me most about this ep is rex and the null field... how come nothing happens to him when he's near that machine/circuit thing?!
Adrian J.
23. LightningStorm
@22, good question, I was wondering that same thing (though not with Rex specifically). If Angelo was on the null field the whole time (presumably even before the Mircale started) he should have been immortal prior to the miracle. Then when the Miracle began he should have died, even with all of the life-support machines.

As for Rex, they keep referring to Rex as a category 1, but I don't believe it. Even before the miracle while he was critically injured he was not mortally wounded. Rex is really a category 2, not 1. I also don't buy that a person who is category 2 couldn't recover over time back into category 3 status. Wounds heal, and with an infinite amount of time to do so they'd get better to a point where even if the immortality stopped they wouldn't suddenly fall into critical injury again. Cat 1's I could see being non recoverable (depending on the cause of "death").
Luis Milan
24. LuisMilan
Those CIA guards they posted to keep an eye on Jack while he's "analyzing" the null field thingie are the worst guards ever. They can't see Rex and Esther gesticulating while not making any noise. Why couldn't they just speak while keeping their heads down without looking around or looking at Jack?
ChuckEye
25. AlBrown
The last episode and this one FINALLY feel like something is happening to move the story forward. The only thing I didn't like in this one was the incredibly wordy lump of backstory that Angelo's granddaughter got stuck with. I kept thinking we should rename her Basil Exposition!
ChuckEye
26. Taffy
Uh-huh. Rex, not knowing the contacts would work for him, *stole* the contacts from Gwen's pocket, *after* she took them off in the wilds of Nevada, *while* they were driving to Angelo's place, *and* reprogrammed them to transmit their display *to the computers at Angelo's place* (again, while on the drive there), and nobody noticed? And have the transmission saved on *Angelo's* computers? Yeah. Right. And he apparently expected the CIA to show up and (other than Friedkin) welcome him with open arms? Doesn't the CIA think he's being paid by the Chinese, or have they decided "what's a little 30-pieces of silver between friends"?

Also, why is Gwen crying in the plane? Isn't she going back to the "loves of her life", Rhys and "my daughter" and Daddy-Dear? Do we really expect the UK government to ignore the fact that she blew up the camp thingy a couple of days ago and has been travelling with faked papers? (Well, yes, she's Gwen. I'm sure they'll overlook that as just Gwen being herself. )

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