It seems that with two episodes of setup, we’ve finally arrived. In case you’ve got this thing cued up on your DVR, but haven’t yet partaken, I encourage you to watch right now. The third episode, “Dead of Night,” is in top form, doing what Torchwood does best: sex, emotional angst, and action all the way.
In addition, the broader strokes of the series are becoming clearer, and it looks like we’re in for an intriguing ride. Rex is feeling betrayed, Esther is frightened, Gwen is kicking butt, and Jack is… well, he’s Jack. Really Jack. Our Jack.
Rex has figured out that Brian Friedkin is the man responsible for selling them out. He threatens Friedkin for information, pointing out that just because he can’t kill the man doesn’t mean he wouldn’t do a fair bit of damage if he lodged a bullet in the appropriate area of his brain. Friedkin tells him that the people who put him up to it are a mystery. They’ve only ever contacted him on a red cell phone. Rex takes the phone and escapes with Jack, Gwen and Esther. They find a place to hide out together and start gathering information.
Gwen sees parades of people wearing masks in the street. They call themselves “the Soulless,” claiming that man’s immortality has left him without one. It’s pretty darn creepy.
After doing some digging, they make a connection to a warehouse that someone is working hard to keep under wraps. Upon arriving there they find an endless stock of pain medication from a pharmaceutical company called PhiCorp. It seems as though the warehouse has been stocking the medication for a year or more, indicating that they already knew the “miracle” was going to happen. Rex wants to get the word out by taking the information to a former CIA head who he trusts, but his faith is misplaced and the rendezvous is covered by cops before he arrives.
Perhaps the most satisfying part of the CIAs betrayal is that it leaves Jack in charge. Rex and Esther are Torchwood now, not the CIA, and as a result, the Jack Harkness that Torchwood fans are familiar with is back with all the swagger and charm we’ve come to expect. He’s teasing as always, building that squabbling sibling dynamic between his team members by laughing and joking with that questionable sense of humor that we all adore so much. There are moments where it seems that despite the friends that Jack and Gwen have lost, some semblence of that dysfunctional camraderie could be rebuilt here.
But the team doesn’t come together without a fight. Being sold out by a man he trusted makes Rex panic and he runs (or more accurately, drives) away. Esther isn’t sure that being on the run with Jack and Gwen is any better than being caught and questioned, though a pep talk from Gwen does her a world of good.
Jack, who is anxious to see what life is like when he’s mortal again, leaves the girls to chat and goes to a bar full of loud music and half-naked men. Rex goes to see Vera (Dr. Juarez) for pain medication and a patch up. Jack flirts with a bartender who admires his coat. And then, because it’s Torchwood and Russell T. Davies promised not to tone Jack down for an American audience, our captain gets wasted and hooks up with the bartender while Rex hooks up with Vera. Which makes me curious as to whether homosexual and heterosexual sex scenes have ever been intercut in the history of television before this episode.
Also—Jack advocates safe sex. Sure, it’s a brief exchange in a long episode, but there is something uncommonly impressive about even mentioning this on television. While the premise actually makes the concern legitimate (his partner insists they don’t need to worry about diseases since they can’t die, while Jack points out that you will still get the disease and play host to it forever), the bottom line is that it was addressed on screen, something that is practically never done unless dramatic irony is employed later. (Like in Grease. Which is not a film I ever expected to bring up in talking about Torchwood. But there you go.)
Then comes the angst. Jack calls Gwen, still drunk, to make sure everything with them is okay, that the team is still solid. They both can’t help but think that if this had only happened a year ago, they would still have Ianto, Tosh and Owen. It turns out that Vera is thinking the same thing about her mother, who she took off life support after a stroke. Rex says the wrong thing and pisses Vera off, while Gwen gets to video chat with Rhys and her baby, instantly forgetting about Jack and leaving him on the phone with himself.
Rex still manages to convince Vera to go to a presenation by PhiCorp when he finds out that the terrifying PR rep, Jillian, invited her. Jillian is working all the angles very carefully, bringing in Oswald for a private meeting after a cop beating leaves the man feeling a bit more cooperative. It turns out that PhiCorp is being backed by U.S. congressmen, and the plan is to make all drugs and antibiotics available to the public without a prescription. PhiCorp is set to make a killing. Gwen sneaks into their building and gets all the info off of Jillian’s computer. Jack runs off to confront Oswald and finds that he now has protection from PhiCorp in exchange for being their party line man. He’s becoming a celebrity already.
As this episode unfolded, it became clear that the plot of Miracle Day is carefully poised to make real commentary of the state of health care and, more importantly, the amount of money and power wielded by pharmaceutical companies. The decision to make Torchwood so relevant in a plight that concerns countless Americans is a fascinating move, and I can’t wait to see if it pays off.
One annoyance for me: all the “here’s what we call that thing in America” jokes. I understand that some of the differences are funny to point out (“pants” vs. “trousers” is always a favorite), but I find it really hard to believe that Gwen is completely ignorant of any U.S. lingo whatsoever, or that it really matters much in the scheme of things. She’s not pretending to be American, after all.
In the meantime, though, we’re still left wondering—do aliens have anything to do with this? I mean, they must…right?
Emmet Asher-Perrin thinks it’s hilarious that Jack wears the Vortex Manipulator to bed and apparently nothing else. *points up* You can bug her on Twitter and read more of her work here and elsewhere.