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“Torchwood: Miracle Day” – Episode 2 “Rendition” Review (SPOILERS)

by on July 17, 2011

Last week when reviewing “The New World,” I mentioned that it appeared that Torchwood was becoming like a science fiction version of 24; this week’s episode, “Rendition” proved that theory with a vengeance. While parts of last week took place in America, it still held a certain Britishness, but this episode just felt more American in its look and pacing. Surely, this has a lot to do with the directors. Episode 1 was directed by Bharat Nalluri, a British director who helmed episodes of MI-5, Hustle, and Life on Mars, while episode 2 was directed by Bill Gierhart, an American camera operator and director of shows like The Shield, Terriers, and Sons of Anarchy. It is Gierhart’s style that will probably be the template for the direction of the rest of the series, as he’s also directing the next two episodes as well as the finale. “Rendition” was also written by Doris Egan of House, MD fame and not showrunner Russell T. Davies, as the premiere had been. There isn’t anything inherently better or worse about the contrasting styles, but it is interesting to note that while the premiere was Torchwood with Americans, this episode is Torchwood IN America.

The 24-ness has been enhanced this week, as the different groups of characters act largely independently throughout. In the episode’s opening moments, Rhys rather glibly describes the situation re: Jack Harkness by saying everybody is immortal, so Jack isn’t. Miracle Day is essentially a toggle switch. Matheson again proves that he’s the good guy you love to hate as he gleefully rips Rhys and baby Anwen away from Gwen as she and Jack get taken aboard the plane to Washington. Aboard the plane, Jack says the key to Miracle Day is not that nobody can die, it’s that it all happened instantaneously all over the world. Overhearing this, a CIA Agent named… CIA Agent (Dichen Lachman from Dollhouse) gets an order from shady Agency suit Wayne Knight (Newman!) to kill Jack. She poisons him with arsenic in soda. What a bitch. A huge amount of time is spent aboard the airplane trying to deal with Jack, which is maybe the most American part of the episode. While I loved most of 24 (until the last few seasons, but that’s another story), one thing I could never stand were the filler episodes, where Jack Bauer or somebody would have to deal with a quick problem that may or may not impact the greater storyline. I will say, a lot of attention seems to be paid to how long it takes to travel across the Atlantic Ocean, and they had to have something for the people on the plane to do while the American peoples are doing whatever it is they’re doing.

A character I didn’t think anything of in the first episode became one of the more integral characters of this episode. Matheson’s surgeon, Dr. Vera Juarez (Arlene Tur), offers us some interesting medical and scientific theories for a world where no one can die. If people can’t die, and you treat the people with the smallest injuries first to get them out of the way, diseases and infections that normally kill people are living longer and thriving and thus will become immune to antibiotics. She surmises that all people really need at this point are painkillers, so the entire medical pharmaceuticals industry needs to be adjusted to fit that. It’s also Juarez who gets the airborne call from Rex Matheson about how to speedily overcome arsenic poisoning. What luck everything just happened to be on the aircraft. It’s also lucky that arsenic poisoning just happens to be one of the slowest ways to die. If dumb CIA Agent had just used the cyanide capsule, none of this would have happened. But then we wouldn’t have a show at all, I guess.

Bill Pullman’s Oswald Danes continues to intrigue. While going on a news program to “defend” himself, he tells a PA that he may no longer be incarcerated, but he is far from free; there will always be a mob of people with torches after him, which the PA didn’t respond to very kindly. However, during the show, when confronted by the host with a picture of the girl Danes brutally raped and murdered, he burst into tears and repeated numerous times that he was sorry. This garnered a great deal of unexpected sympathy as well as the attention of PR specialist Jilly Kitzinger (played by Lauren Ambrose). Kitzinger is the “business” woman, but with a definite dark side I find very interesting. She offers to represent Danes on his inevitable media blitz. He declines and tears up her card, but I have a feeling he’ll eventually change his mind… because I’ve seen the promos. Jilly also turns up to offer a similar service to Dr. Juarez and even offers up knowledge of a government stockpile of painkillers. Seems Jilly was the PR rep for a pharmaceutical company. The plot thickens.

At the CIA, Esther Drummond discovers that somebody is trying to bribe (or kill) she and Matheson to keep quiet about the Torchwood situation. It’s Wayne Knight. She sneaks out of headquarters using a co-worker’s ID badge and steals the woman’s car, which of course is a blue Mini Cooper, the only British car Americans know of on sight. She calls Matheson, who has just gotten off the plane. He frees Gwen and Jack, and the three beat up the Agency “protection” who’ve been sent to help. Matheson gets the Agent from the plane on the ground and snaps her neck, but she doesn’t die, of course. If she did, we wouldn’t get to see her be a BACKWARD-HEADED ZOMBIE! Esther is shocked to see the strange not-dead Agent walking around outside the airport to which Gwen promptly said, “Welcome to Torchwood.”

While I didn’t enjoy the stuff on the airplane for the most part, specifically how long it took them to carefully concoct the cure but still found the need to be amped up the whole time, I do enjoy the path the series is headed and am very interested to know how the different threads will intertwine. At first, I’ve been kind of put off by Gwen Cooper’s heightened badassitude, but I’ve realized this is integral for the average viewer to understand her character. We who’ve watched the show up to this point know the arc Gwen has taken over the years and know her to be a strong individual, but in a show where the Torchwood members aren’t the focus of every scene or even the whole plot yet, it’s necessary for Gwen to be depicted as such and I applaud Eve Myles for keeping Gwen real even given this method of storytelling. I’m very interested to see how Oswald Danes’ story plays into the greater plot of the series and how he interacts with Torchwood, something it looks like from the trailer, we’ll get sooner rather than later.

-Kanderson is collectively unconscious, follow his delirium on the TWITTERS