“Torchwood: Miracle Day” Review: “The Middle Men” (NOTHING TO SPOIL)
By Kyle Anderson on August 15, 2011
I miss the child rapist/murderer. That is a sentence I never hoped to utter (or type) in my life, and yet, Torchwood: Miracle Day’s sixth episode, “The Middle Men,” left me with little choice. For the first time in the series, an episode was completely devoid of Oswald Danes, the murderer-turned-messiah in Phicorp’s new ass-backward world order. No Danes means we also have no Jilly Kitzinger, the plucky, overly ambitious PR person assigned to manage Danes. This, along with last week’s shocking incineration of Dr. Vera Juarez, means that episode 6 lost all of the characters who’d made the first five episodes in any way interesting. My tolerance of Miracle Day and my willingness to give it the benefit of the doubt is slowly dwindling. The fact is nothing is happening to move the plot forward and everything seems like a space saver or a digression to stretch for time. And when you need to stretch for time, nobody works better than a Ghostbuster.
That’s right, Ernie Hudson was in this episode playing Phicorp’s COO, Stuart Owens. At the beginning of the episode, Owens is also concerned about what his company is doing and gets a trying-very-hard-to-seem-cool Chinese operative to check out a Phicorp installation in Shanghai. Whatever he finds out is so horrible that he throws himself off of a 45 story building, which, only moments earlier, the “news” told us was the only way to ensure brain death. Convenient. The episode spent almost no time setting up Owens as a character or what he was doing with Phicorp. We’re just plopped right in the middle of him looking stuff up and for about five minutes I thought I’d missed a whole episode somewhere. Whatever the Chinese guy found will have to wait for another day, probably, because nothing else about it is mentioned here.
Back in Wales, Gwen and Rhys are still trying to get Mr. Cooper out of the camp, as he’s being transferred at 6:00am to the module of fire. Gwen finds a doctor that can hopefully help her, but the doctor refuses on the grounds of policy and so Gwen yells at her, giving her a brow-beating of gargantuan proportions. Apparently, all one has to do to not get kicked out of an Overflow Camp is to wear scrubs. Seriously, if some strange lady yelled at me for five minutes about what a monster I am for not helping, I’d sure as hell ask, “Hey, who are you anyway? How did you get here? Why are you yelling at me? Oh! My mistake. I didn’t see those scrubs you are wearing. Please forgive me, you clearly belong here, since we love hiring people with very loud, boisterous opinions about how evil we are.” Gwen thinks of a plan which is essentially the same exact plan as the last time, but with no heart attack. Tension is ramped up by making Rhys get stopped by a guy at the gate. He has to check paper work. And call people. Riveting. Of course, eventually they get her dad out. Then Gwen blows up the modules with a crapton of C4. Using the video contact lenses (that usually can’t transmit audio but can now because it’s convenient), she broadcasts the explosion and a message about what the camps are really doing. And while people are outraged, nobody is apologizing.
Jack, not to be outdone, has decided to waste a bunch of time himself. He finds Stuart Owens’ secretary/lover at a bar and displays that he knows all sorts of things about her and the fact that Owens is a dick and wanted to get her fired even though he’s boning her. She offers to help Jack get close to Owens by pretending to be held hostage. This is completely unnecessary, as Owens is probably the most forthcoming character we’ve ever seen on the show. Owens tells Jack that he’s just a middle man and knows nothing, though he’s uncovered references to “the blessing,” which is what the mucky mucks called “miracle day” before it happened.
This scene is supposed to be really intriguing and mysterious, like in All the President’s Men when they talk to Deep Throat or in JFK when he talks to Donald Sutherland, but it’s actually more like when people talk and don’t say anything interesting. Ernie Hudson was completely wasted and did the best he could with just being an info-dump character. Who was this guy? He must not have been that important since we didn’t even know Jack was looking for him until he’d already gathered all the necessary intel on him. In storytelling, there’s a thing called “Suspense,” which involves the audience knowing what someone has to do and then watching and hoping they succeed. This was just what they call “Filler,” which is where the same information that could have been gathered on a computer screen was given to a well-known character actor in order to make an episode longer.
The bulk of the episode dealt with Rex and Esther still in the San Pedro Overflow Camp and site coordinator Colin Maloney trying to cover up his murder of Vera Juarez and military feeb Ralph Coltrane freaking out and whining. Maloney puts the camp on a lockdown so that people will stop wondering about Dr. Juarez, but really it was a means of keeping all the characters from getting out and furthering the plot. Can’t have that, now.
Rex has taped everything and wants to get out to show everybody the footage of Vera burning in the module. While trying to escape, he gets captured and chained to a pipe for Maloney to deal with. Maloney does a pretty good job of pretending he’s not at fault for anything and Rex calls him a middle man also before beseeching Maloney to watch the “Juarez En Fuego” footage which makes the murderer break down and cry. Maybe he’s seen the error of his ways… nah, he decides to stab Rex’s open, gaping chest wound with a pen. Then Esther shows up and is a bad liar, causing her to have to fight Maloney and suffocate him. But she didn’t get the chain keys so she has to go back and get them, which gives Maloney ample time to be not-dead and try to kill her again. Good thing Ralph The Useless grew a pair and showed up just in time to shoot Maloney and save Esther. THEN THEY JUST LET REX AND ESTHER GO! Seriously? They’re witnesses to multiple murders AND they’re wanted by the CIA, yet somehow they just get to leave and end up back at Torchwood HQ. “Episode’s over, everybody’s okay, no need to bring logic in to anything involved.” Son of a bitch.
Then at the end, Gwen comes back to LA and gets a phone call on LAX’s white courtesy phone. This is the biggest bit of sci-fi in the whole episode because I’m damn skippy no one has EVER heard their name on the intercom at an airport about using the white courtesy phone because usually people aren’t expecting to hear it. But Gwen has amazing hearing and just happens to be right next to a clearly-marked white courtesy phone. A voice on the line tells her to put in her lenses. She goes into the bathroom and the message on the lenses, presumably from the bad guys in charge, tell her that they’ve kidnapped her husband, mother, and child. But not her dad. Is he fine? If she wants her loved ones released, she has to deliver Jack. DUN DUN DUMB.
It’s six episodes of ten, and right now the closest thing to a main villain we’ve seen is Colin friggin’ Maloney. There is no way he should have been that big a threat. He kills one main character and nearly kills two other ones. Even Oswald Danes only killed one person, though he’s still way ahead of Maloney on the rape.
I’m gonna watch the rest of the series because I said I would and I’m a man of my word, but holy crap, you guys, this show is sloooooooow mooooooving. I’ve also decided this isn’t actually Torchwood; it’s a show with characters from Torchwood, but it bears almost no resemblance to either the first two seasons or Children of Earth. Hopefully, by time the series ends, it’ll turn into something approaching what a Torchwood is.
-Kanderson needs excitement… and TWITTER followers