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“Torchwood: Miracle Day” Episodes 8 and 9 Review (SPOILERS)

As I was derelict in my duties as Torchwood: Miracle Day reviewer last week, I’m going to do a double review this week and look at both episode 8, “End of the Road,” and episode 9, “The Gathering.” After the flashback- and characters-heavy “Immortal Sins,” episodes 8 and 9 act as a turning point for the series. The plot kicks into high gear, pieces are set in place, and characters make choices that change their entire lives. Mostly, I think this is because the writers said, “Oh, shit, there’s only three episodes left; we better wrap this fucker up.” Things happen so quickly in these episodes that it’s almost comical. Concepts are brought up again out of nowhere and then dropped again almost as quickly. Still, sloppy progression is better than no progression at all and for the most part, in spite of myself, I actually quite enjoyed these episodes. Why? Well, to quote a popular fad t-shirt from the mid-80s: “Shit Happens.”

At the beginning of “End of the Road,” the four Torchwoods of the Apocalypse are taken back to Angelo Colasanto’s mansion with his granddaughter, played by Nana Visitor.  If you’ll recall, at the end of “Immortal Sins,” she claimed at Angelo was the one person who knows how the Miracle began.  However, when they get to the manor, they see that Angelo is a very, very old and sick man who is connected to life support devices.  He isn’t immortal at all; he’s merely lived a good, healthy life.  His granddaughter tells Torchwood of the three families and how they made a pact in 1927 to become immortal using Jack’s blood, however Jack’s immortality didn’t come from his blood and has nothing to do with it. Still, the Miracle is happening. The families have completely deleted themselves from any record throughout history, effectively making them invisible. In 1998, she says, they discovered something called “The Blessing,” and it was then that things began moving forward.

Just then, a CIA team led by Brian Friedkin (Newman; you remember him) bursts into the mansion and tries to arrest everyone.  Friedkin is working for the Families, if you’ll recall. Little does Friedkin know that Rex, SOMEHOW, knew that he’d try to take them out and called in TNG’s Q, John De Lancie, for backup. De Lancie plays CIA director Allen Shapiro, who knows Friedkin’s a traitor.  But then Friedkin blows himself, Angelo’s granddaughter, and somebody else up because he’s failed the Families. What a tosser.

The Torchwood folk are then made to join the CIA or get deported.  Jack says goodbye to Angelo, whose life support alarm goes off. Jack unplugs it, thinking that it just doesn’t understand the new way of life, but he notices that Angelo has indeed died, making him the only person to have legitimately died since the Miracle began. Jack figures out it has to do with morphic fields (remember those?), and tells Rex and Esther that Angelo has found some alien tech from the destroyed Torchwood Hub that acts as a Null Field, meaning that whatever field the Miracle is emitting to keep people alive, this does the opposite.  Gwen gets deported back to Wales, and Jack tries to escape with his new knowledge, only to get shot by an agent who also sees Esther helping him, and the two must flee.

Elsewhere, Oswald Danes just wants a hug. Having grown accustomed to his new way of life as a public figure, he decides he’d like a woman in his life. A redhead. While this prospect skeeves out Jilly Kitzinger to no end, she does get him a redheaded prostitute for the evening. But he doesn’t want THAT, he just wants to have dinner, something the prostitute wants no part of. She tells him that he’s likely to be made Category 0 soon anyway.  Oswald then demands to know from Jilly what “Category 0” is, and she tells him that all the people who shouldn’t be out in public, like people who were put to death but didn’t die, will be rounded up and put in the modules, effectively carrying out their sentences. Oswald can’t believe Phicorp would abandon him like that (though I can), punches Jilly for her troubles, and runs off.  Jilly gets another visit from the Family agent guy, who informs her she has a CIA spy for an intern, whom he then promptly shoots. He tells her that, if she wants it, there’s a promotion waiting for her.  Oh, and also, Charlotte the CIA analyst we haven’t seen in friggin’ weeks is working for the Families and ratted out the intern, and is giving false info.

Cut to two months later. “Really?” I asked incredulously.  The world is now in a depression and everyone’s feeling the hurt.  Gwen is back in Wales stealing medicine from stores and selling it on the black market. They’ve also got her dad, who is still designated Category 1, in a basement hiding place.  Esther and Jack are in Scotland, where he’s apparently mostly all better. Rex and Shapiro are doing their best to track down the Families, but Charlotte keeps effing up their plans. Rex discovers that a short story writer wrote a pulp story about Jack’s blood incident in 1935 and then his family disappeared completely. Jilly, meanwhile, has not enjoyed her new promotion as much as she thought she would, but another appearance by the Family agent tells her that she’s to change her name and go to Shanghai to witness “The Blessing.”

Oswald Danes, on the run for the past two months, is in Wales and, posing as a deliveryman, gets into Gwen’s house with some information. Gwen and Rhys beat the crap out of him before he tells them he wants to see Jack or they get nothing.  So, of course, Jack and Esther come to Wales very quickly and Oswald tells them that while he was snooping around on Jilly’s computer, he discovered a name that keeps coming up over and over: Harry Bosco. Harry Bosco is not actually referring to a person, but a method of spinning news reports from other countries by mistranslation, something Jilly has been doing for awhile.  They find news footage from Shanghai before the Miracle of a man who tried to burn down a hospital, but using Rex’s translation expertise (?), they realize the man was actually talking about “The Blessing.”

In Shanghai, Jilly meets with a big nerd, likely a descendant of the Families. who tells her that throughout history, one family has controlled politics, one finance, and one media. He also tells her that it is now her job to rewrite history, though the actual ins and outs of this are not specified. She goes to a secret area and meets with Frances Fisher, who shows her an enormous THING in the ground with a big crevice down the middle of it that is sucking things into it. This is “The Blessing,” I guess, and it goes all the way through the middle of the earth and comes out on the other side, in Buenos Aires.

The Welsh police finally find Gwen’s dad and take him to likely be exterminated in the modules, despite Gwen’s pleas.  It is because of this that Gwen decides they must go and put a stop to the Miracle once and for all and fix the world.  They figure out that it’s happening in both Shanghai and Buenos Aires, and decide to split up and go to both.  Oswald insists on coming or he’ll either tell someone what they’re doing or allow Rhys to kill him, which wouldn’t be good for anybody. Jack, Gwen, and Oswald head to Shanghai, while Esther meets an off-the-grid Rex in Buenos Aires. Charlotte is keeping tabs on them, of course, so I bet they’re in for a spot of bother.  While in Shanghai, Jack’s bullet wound is getting worse again and a drop of blood on the ground begins to move toward where the Blessing is.

What? Right, I’m there with you too.  So much has happened in these last two episodes that was not set up in the previous 6 episodes that it truly makes me wonder if they had any idea where the story was going at all.  Information is delivered very clumsily and quickly and plot elements are only given the bare minimum of time to unfold.  The morphic fields idea which was reintroduced in episode 8 was completely forgotten about again in episode 9. There’s also a storytelling idea that you’re not supposed to introduce new characters in the third act, that it’s supposed to just be a matter of tying up all the loose ends you have, yet in episode 8 of 10, we get a new ally in the form of John De Lancie and in 9 of 10 we get a new villain in the form of Frances Fisher.  It makes me think back to episodes 5 and 6, and how we wasted so much time getting to know various bad guys who have never shown up again. Complete waste. We could have seen the downfall of Oswald in those two episodes instead of just waiting around for him to have a meltdown and Jilly to rebuke him, all in the blink of an eye.

That all being said, I’m actually now, finally, enjoying the series again.  I’m interested to find out how they’re going to wrap it all up next week.  I’m betting it won’t be satisfactory, but I’m still interested to see it.  We still don’t know why the Families created the Miracle, we don’t know what the Blessing is or what it actually does, and we don’t know how Torchwood are going to be able to fix it.  Lots and lots of questions to answer in only 55 minutes, but there we have it.  One episode left, folks. Then the Miracle Day will be over. I was going to say I can’t wait but I actually can wait, I just won’t have to.

-Kanderson does humorous things pertaining to what he’s just written. Follow him on TWIITER please.

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14 comments

  • I wouldn’t call Francis Fischer or John De Lancie new characters. They both represent faces on factions we were already aware of (that of The Families (which we already knew there was a ‘something’ behind Phicorp) and the CIA).

    I don’t necessarily agree that the pacing/plotting seems last minute either. There was always going to be a turn to reveal the final act, and to get there, rather than drop them in the middle of the Families, they used the characters to set up everything we need to know about how far back this goes. I’ll take a languid flashback episode over a super-secret file that gets discovered any day, but to do that they had to compress the action of 8/9.

  • If Shanghai is sucking things in, then I’m assuming that Buenos Aires is regurgitating them out. That would make BA one big a-hole of a place, and Shanghai one big suckie mouth.

  • “giant buttcrack?”
    “[Buenos Aires] one big a-hole of a place, and Shanghai one big suckie mouth.”
    Now, aren’t you just the classiest of commentators?
    Let’s wait to see what you have to say for American Horror Story.

    While I do recognize a few …. novices’ problems with structure and sophomoric stumbles across storytelling throughout this particular incarnation of Torchwood, I still find it better television than 97% (my best guess) than what’s out there to watch right now. Especially considering the American summer season. Remember how dead that used to be just two or three years ago?
    Torchwood took a sharp turn between series 2 and 3, if you’ll recall. And just leave season 1 behind. That thing was a critical disaster in so many elements, it’s amazing that the series survived beyond its first run at all.

    After everything is said and done, Torchwood remains something I prioritize on my TiVo *and* make room in my day to specifically watch. I don’t subscribe to these channels (HBO, Showtime, Starz, Encore) to be specifically confronted, or challenged, or confounded. I pay to be entertained. If anyone wants a GOOD thinker of a series, go watch Breaking Bad – go watch it from the very beginning. Go watch Six Feet Under, The Sopranos, The Wire, Treme. Those series are the ones that are grounded in concrete psychological explorations. Torchwood? That thing’s just a science fiction franchise. It’s a wonderful and thrilling production overall; but if anyone forces it to be held to, commit to, or even rise to, the standards that have been set 7 to 10 years before it was even conceived, it will struggle forever.

    To summarize, gentlemen:
    Take it from whence it comes, and just enjoy the ride.
    Otherwise, you’re only spoiling it for yourself.

  • @brik

    I find it very insulting that you would throw the entire Scifi genre under the bus like that, especially on Nerdist.

    Scifi has experienced a serious change in the last decade, one that has raised the standard for the genre in major ways. If MD were premiering in the 80’s then yes, it would fit right in with that style of Scifi, especially on TV, but it’s not. Instead it follows BSG, Firefly, Eureka, and the new Doctor Who ( especially Moffat’s seasons 5&6). We have indeed come to expect more from our entertainment, Who is thoroughly entertaining, but does so with unmatched pacing and a perfect integration of episodic thrills and a season long plot integrated throughout.

    Take last weeks episode, even though it had no seemingly important implication on the overall “impossible astronught” storyline, it will no

  • Why have they spent so much time on Gwen’s dad? We know she doesn’t want him to be taken away, but constantly making her act crazy, not like a member of some super tough secret organization, is really not interesting.

  • @bric,

    I agree with Jeff in saying that scifi shouldn’t be so easily dismissed. BSG, most of the Stargate franchise and Fringe just to name a few have elevated the genre not only in entertainment value but critical acclaim.
    Even if we put aside the “genre” discussion for a bit, “Miracle Day,” isn’t close to meeting RTD’s previous standards with Torchwood.

    I’m baffled at how bad this series has turned out. RTD has had ample time, more money and bigger writing staff (I thought Jane Espenson alone would make this series mildly compelling) to put this thing together and it’s bordering on laughable.

    The series is nearly over and I’m having trouble deciphering what this show is trying to say? It’s part social/political commentary, part spy/conspiracy thriller… and a dash of scifi. The problem being that it played none of these parts very well and failed to blend them into a cohesive narrative.

    Unfortunately, I think this season will end up being one giant teaser for another series. The only time you introduce new characters in a third act is when it’s not actually a third act but rather a prelude to a bigger story.

  • I was so happy to hear Torchwood was picked back up. The previous series was fantastic. Then they start Miracle Day, and the concept sounded great. The first two episodes were awesome, and then it just dragged. It dragged longer than Harkness’ dick drags on the ground I’m sure. The story is old and boring now, and even the most recent episode finally shedding light on plot hasn’t been enough to keep me fully interested, which is a shame, because I love all things Who.

  • “Oh, shit, there’s only three episodes left; we better wrap this fucker up.”

    LOL! That’s exactly what we were thinking!

    I will miss your reviews of Torchwood when it ends. But there’s still Who!

  • With a wonderful scenario for an alien invasion this series could have been very good; however it’s rubbish, being obsessed with racial profiling, homosexual sex and neurotic women.

  • I feel like this series would have benefited greatly from being reduced to only five or six episodes. I think the writers have gone off on so many tangents in an effort to flesh out this dystopian world. The concept seemed to have excited the writers more than the actual story. I just cannot see how everything can be tied up in the final hour.