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?
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.
“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.