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“Torchwood: Miracle Day”: The Finale Review (SPOILERS GALORE)

So, Torchwood: Miracle Day is over. That happened.

How do Russell T. Davies and Jane Espenson explain everyone on the planet not being able to die? With a massive, vacuous crevice thing running through the middle of the Earth, of course. That’s what we’ve come to; after nine episodes and plot threads and ideas introduced and dropped almost on a whim, we end with a big sucky vagina-pole that balances life.  Thank you? The episode, entitled fittingly “The Blood Line,” is as big, bombastic, and “emotional” as anything we’ve come to expect from RTD, and indeed most of Torchwood up to this point. Characters die, truths are uncovered, blood flies through the air in poor-looking CGI shots, and yet by episode’s end, it was essentially status quo. The core of Torchwood, Jack and Gwen, ended up just fine. Most of the big changes happened with the new characters introduced this season, but, at this point, I didn’t care enough about any of them to worry one way or the other.  So, truthfully, what did Miracle Day accomplish? At any rate, I suppose we ought to start at the beginning.


The episode opens with a pretty good monologue by Gwen about a memory of her father and what a nice and good man he is and that, once they succeed in reversing The Miracle, he’ll die. This is a nice character moment for Gwen, and Eve Myles does a good job as always; however, the moment is almost ruined by the completely out of place music. This is a complaint I’ve had throughout the series; every time there’s a quiet or dramatic moment, Murray Gold’s score comes in way too loud and usually not in keeping with the tone of the action onscreen. I don’t necessarily blame Gold for this, as he has very little to do with the placement of his music or the final sound mix of the episode, but it has been noticeable for me and, fuck it, the series is over so I’m going gripe about it. Really awful choices in both the scoring and the way it was used in all ten episodes.  There is no quicker way to take someone out of the story than by noticing a piece that doesn’t fit, be it music, cinematography, editing, or otherwise.

The bulk of the rest of the episode follows Rex and Esther in Buenos Aires and Jack, Gwen, and Oswald in Shanghai trying to find “The Blessing,” the aforementioned pussy-rod that goes through the center of the planet. It’s a lot easier to find than they expected, given that a drop of Jack’s blood will point them to the exact location of it. Rex says he’s going to need the help of the CIA for this, though Jack asks him not to reveal any info about Torchwood. Shapiro at the CIA is only all-too-eager to help, and mobilizes some Argentine military backup for them. Unfortunately, the Families’ mole, Charlotte Wills, is still doing her best to mess everything up. She gives away their position and a guy working for the Families blows up most of the military as well as all the samples of Jack’s blood. Luckily, Rex and Esther hadn’t gotten into the transport yet, so they decide to use their perceived deadness to go under the radar, a/k/a they shouldn’t have called the CIA in the fucking first place. Shapiro demands they track the Families’ mole in the Agency using fancy new software they just got. Of course, though, Charlotte knows she doesn’t want to get caught, so she plants a bomb that explodes just as Shapiro and that other analyst guy find out she’s the mole. This made me sad, because I actually really liked the Shapiro character, though he did get one of the best death lines of all time.

Back in Shanghai, the two heroes and the horrible child murderer prepare for what they assume will be their inevitable death. Oswald is oddly afraid of his impending death, despite his assertion to the contrary in episode 3. Oswald says he can see within Jack that he’s done very bad things and that his friends, though they love him most of the time, sometimes are afraid of him.  He asks Jack who he really is, and Jack says that he’s from the future, though he can’t see the outcome of their efforts because time is always changing. He also says he wish Oswald could have seen the things he’s seen so that he’d know how small he’s made his life. Oooh, BURN! Now you’ve really hurt the convicted child molesting murderer’s feelings.

Gwen finds the door to the Blessing in a stereotypical Chinese woman’s kitchen/chicken coop. It scares her and she stops to take a call from Rhys, who has gone with PS Andy to see Gwen’s dad before he’s put in the furnaces. Eventually, they go through the door and find The Blessing, as well as Frances Fisher and Jilly Kitzinger. The plan, on both sides of the globe, is to blow up the area where the Blessing is to make sure the Miracle goes on forever. Essentially, they want to be ones controlling who lives or dies, how they live, where they live, etc. They basically want to be gods. Jilly, who for a minute a few episodes back seemed like the most level-headed person on the show, is now all for total world domination if it means clearing away some of the riff-raff. Over in Argentina, Rex and Esther are caught almost immediately by a bald guy we’ve never seen and a channel of communication is open so that everybody can talk to everybody else.

Okay, so this is how the Blessing works: It calibrates the average lifespan of everyone on Earth using the average life expectancy of the people in Shanghai and Buenos Aires. When they gave the Blessing Jack’s blood from the 1920s, the Blessing recalibrated it to reflect his immortality and changed the Earth’s morphic field.  This morphic field is apparently also the inverter switch that caused Jack to become mortal.  Okay. So, since he’s mortal, Jack reckons his mortal blood flung into the Blessing will reverse things. Oswald straps himself with bombs to ensure that, whatever happens, Jack’s blood goes into the Blessing’s cavernous hatchet wound.  But, oh, silly rabbit, you’d need mortal blood at both ends of the Blessing for it to work. Since all of Jack’s blood samples got blowed up, you’ve failed entirely. But, wait! Rex cuts his finger and his blood goes flying into the Blessing too! What gives? Well, it appears Esther and Rex gave Rex a complete blood transfusion using Jack’s 90-year old blood samples, just in case something like this happened.

That is some pretty amazing forward thinking. It’s also complete bilge. The flashback depicting this amazing transfer of immortal blood with mortal is Rex lying on a couch with a tube and a bag tied to his arm. Is that all it takes to completely desanguinate someone and put different blood in? Oh, he should have died, but luckily The Miracle kept him alive. Fuck you. Okay, so now there’s mortal blood on each side of the thing. Gwen says she’ll shoot Jack to spill his blood, and Rex will do whatever to spill his. Why don’t the Families people just shoot everybody? Or capture them? I mean, I know Oswald’s got explosives tied to him, but this has all been astoundingly easy. Then the bald guy shoots Esther in the chest and says that if Rex will not stop the Miracle, they’ll fix her up and she won’t die because nobody dies. Why doesn’t the bald guy just fucking tackle him? You can’t shoot him because of the blood, but you can try to incapacitate him. He’s on the ground cradling a dying woman, now would be the perfect time to jump on him and tie him up. It’s like Baldie and Frances are completely immobile and only have their powers of persuasion to make sure their century-old life’s work actually happens.

Gwen, being the hardass she is, says nothing has changed and to continue with the plan. So he does. Gwen shoots Jack in the back and Rex pulls off his bandage and all their blood goes flying out in bad CGI again toward the Blessing. Do they really want us to believe that a single piece of cloth held on by tape is keeping an ancient black hole from sucking all of Rex’s blood out? Oh, it was Scotch tape? Then I stand corrected. Stupid. So then there’s an overly dramatic, past-tense voice-over monologue from Gwen saying that all the dying people in the world got a moment of clarity and then all died simultaneously. The caverns they’re in all start rumbling and Gwen and Jilly make for the service elevator while Oswald grabs Frances Fisher and yells about how excited he is to blow himself up so he can see the girl he murdered again when he gets to Hell.  This didn’t sit well for me for a number of reasons. 1) He’s committing a heroic act he didn’t earn, 2) he’s doing the classic “I’m coming home, Mammy!” speech but about a little girl he murdered, 3) he’s implying that the innocent little girl he raped and murdered is going to be in Hell waiting for him, like it’s his reward, and 4) Frances Fisher looks like she’s in no way being held against her will and could easily escape at any time if it were in the script for her to do so.

But, wait! All hope is not lost. Jack’s immortal again and gasps back to life. Gwen and Jilly get into a fistfight in the elevator about whether to leave or get Jack. Gwen clocks Jilly and retrieves Jack. In Buenos Aires, Rex somehow has enough energy to throw the bald guy into the void despite having just gotten all the blood in his body sucked out of him. He collapses next to Esther just as the Argentine military guys come in to save them.  In Shanghai, Gwen and Jack, followed by Jilly, exit the wherever-they-are. Jilly trips and Gwen yells for her just as the whole place goes boom thanks to Oswald. Jilly’s fine and if Gwen were really concerned, she wouldn’t have let a freshly knocked out woman in high heels fend for herself. And where’s the Chinese lady? I hope she got out.

Later, Jilly finds the Family Agent guy and he asks if she wants to help with Plan B.  There’s a funeral for Esther and all the surviving good guys are in attendance as well as Charlotte “The Mole” Wills. Also there is Esther’s crazy-ass sister and her kids. Now that people can die again, I guess she’s magically a fit mother again. After the service, Gwen wonders why Rex was able to be saved but Esther wasn’t. Just then Rex gets a text about who the mole was, which he explains to everyone in the expositoriest dialogue I’ve ever heard. It’s Charlotte, duh. He calls after her and she shoots him in the chest, and then other guys with guns who are there for some reason shoot Charlotte dead. Without even trying to help him, Jack says that Rex is dead. But then he gasps back to life too and his bullet wound heals! WHAAAAAT??? He should have known. Wouldn’t a big clue to his immortality have happened when he DIDN’T HAVE THAT GIANT OPEN WOUND IN HIS CHEST ANYMORE??? I mean, for fuck’s sake.

“The Blood Line” was unfettered ridiculousness from beginning to end, but weirdly, as dumb as it is, I enjoyed watching it as an episode. It was at least entertaining, something that cannot be said for a lot of the episodes of the series. Also, what was the point of episodes 1-6? There was absolutely nothing in those first episodes that connected to the plot, no shocking realizations made that people watching keenly would have picked up on before anyone else. It was literally six episodes of “What if nobody could die?” scenarios and four episodes of incredibly rushed plot.  Everything happened way too conveniently in the plot and, aside from the loss of Gwen’s dad and Esther, there were no real sacrifices made by any of the characters. And so, what, we’re supposed to believe that all of the de-humanizing and ritual-killing laws the government enacted just magically went away and everything was back to normal? The world they spent six long episodes establishing gets blinked away without any repercussions to anyone? That kind of writing is both lazy and irresponsible.

So, it’s over. I don’t have to watch it anymore, and neither do you. Miracle Day will go down as a sort of return to form for the Torchwood series, having taken the melodramatic elements people seem to like about the first two series and the global dilemma aspect from Children of Earth and put them together.  I like the idea of Torchwood and its component parts a lot more than I like the actual execution of it.  Ultimately, I hoped for more, but sort of got what I paid for.

-Kanderson will sort of miss Torchwood. He’ll get over it if you follow him on TWITTAH

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32 comments

  • The series just ran TOO LONG. I enjoyed it, but as in “Doctor Who” the writers have no compunction with killing off “good characters”. Hopefully Plan B never comes out, but would like to see “justice prevail” on the little red-headed b****. Like “Children of the Earth” couldn’t believe it when they killed Jack’ grandson.

  • That final episode really sucked. They led us on for 10 episodes building up expectations that this “mysterious group known as Phicorp” was totally behind the “Miracle” and they have been planning this event for almost 100 years. Only to have everything nullafied by introducing Capt. Harkness’ mortal blood into the chasm ?!

    WTF ?

  • Thank you thank you. I have started watching the series here in the USA. so far I have seen 3 episodes and have been so infuriated more with each one. That is why I had to find you how this ended before I invested anymore time and emotion into it.
    Once again thank you

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  • hello so glad to read your criticism netflix screwed up big timme time sending me the original episodes
    i did not like all the hype in the 1-4 barrowman and whoever the other guy is touting the series and somehow i thot it was a chance for barrowman to be gay right in our faces american i mean
    a lesson for usa puritan values and a good one i believe
    dont know if i will ever get to see the rest
    i love your descriptions metaphors lent color to the piece

    being in usa and knowing about corporations attempting to take over our lives it made sense and the ovens……..we know about that
    we know about the plans for us tho i dont believe they will happen cause so many people know cause of the internet
    thanks again maybe i dont care about watching the rest?
    i just love looking and enjoying barrowman
    almost as i like excperiencing johhy depp
    life goes on love and light and hugs

  • I wish I could un-watch “Children of the Earth” & hit reboot on the series. I REALLY enjoyed Barrowman and how he interplayed with the other members of Torchwood. That was all lost when they killed off the other 3. Then to move it to America? I can’t even bring myself to watch “Miracle Day”. It is a shame really.

  • I just watched episode 1 online and I must say that Torchwood will never be the same without Ianto. And as of episode one Torchwood seems empty like it’s missing that special thing it had in series 1, 2 and especially 3.

  • This was SO not the Torchwood that I adored since Season 1, even with some of the shaky episodes. Sorry but I can’t forgive Davies for fracking up one of my most favorite shows. To the point that if Torchwood comes back, I’m out. Davies has broken my trust in him as a storyteller.
    Excellent post :)

  • “The world they spent six long episodes establishing gets blinked away without any repercussions to anyone?”

    Didn’t the exact same thing happen after the DW Stolen Earth/Journey’s End saga? Even though the Earth had been moved to the Medusa Cascade, everyone conveniently forgot about it afterward. I think someone mentioned it (maybe it was Donna?) and someone else acted like she didn’t know what they were talking about. And the spirits/Cybermen appearing every day before the Battle of Canary Wharf also seemed to have disappeared from consciousness, except for in the minds of the Torchwood crew.

    Maybe I’m just misremebering things.

  • Robin Burks: To that point the reason I think Rex became immortal was only partially due to the blood. Remember since the Blessing made Jack mortal within the morphic field everything about him was mortal including his blood. And the Blessing took his blood as a template in the end. So since Rex had his blood the field used the blood as a marker and made everyone with that blood immortal and everyone with different blood mortal again.

    And everyone for what it was I liked it. I agree at times it did lag and part of me missed old Torchwood from series 1 & 2. But I liked how they tied the Blessing back to The Doctor and even referenced the Silurians. I’m really hoping for Jack to have an episode on the next series of Doctor Who. I’d love to see Barrowman and Smith play off each other. Again I understand why people didn’t like it. But I’ve seen worse things on television.

  • The thing I keep coming back to is how none of this should have come as a surprise to me. I never thought very highly of series 1-2, I found them alright with the occasional moment of greatness and occasional moment of utter awfulness spread throughout what was mostly just OK.

    Then came Children of Earth and the show, finally, seemed to find its niche and blossomed into something truly worth watching. When Miracle Day was announced I was very cautiously optimistic and as more details emerged my caution lessened. And why not? The new series was going to be based on an intriguing high concept and be written by writers whose work I’ve enjoyed in other genre shows. Maybe this time there’d even be a budget!

    But the signs were always there if I had only paid closer attention. One data point is not a trend and aside from Children of Earth some of the things I’ve enjoyed least in both Torchwood and Doctor Who have been Davies’ overarching plots (especially the weak and sometimes inexplicable endings). This would be stretched over 10 episodes rather then the tight action packed 5 of Children of Earth and though interesting the central concept of no one dying never seemed quite enough to sustain a narrative for that long. And at the end of Children of Earth Torchwood was pretty definitively disbanded making it tough to know just quite where to pick it up for a new run.

    And here we are on the other side. With possibly the worst series of Torchwood, dare I say, so far. The series drags, picks up and drops plot threads, the antagonists are weak, the new team members are either boring or annoying, what little forward momentum there is in the plot is usually delivered through scenes of pure exposition that is sometimes repeated for emphasis only to later be completely ignored, every character in the series seems to fail or succeed only due to incompetence and there’s some seriously dodgy CG in there.

    I really shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up.

    It turned out Children of Earth was just one of those rare moments of greatness and, like life being balanced by a giant rock vagina through the center of the planet for some reason, the show had to balance that greatness with this crap to restore order to the universe.

  • With plot-holes bigger than the inside of a TARDIS, I am so relieved that is over!

    I have a question though, with so many bad ideas, missed opportunities, and unanswered questions to make Damon Lindelof happy, why is it the little thing that sticks in my craw?

    When explaining how they found the Blessing, Fisher uses an example of sixty-six years, five months, and thirty-three days. WTF? What month has longer than 31 days?

    I believe this prove my theorem that the entire script was a first draft with no editing whatsoever, what a disgrace…

  • Good review. I totally agree with ericdano’s comments: Too much like ’24’ and Mekhi Phifer is one of the worst actors I’ve ever seen. And, yes, the character was worse.

  • I agree with most of what was said. What a disappointing bastardization of a decent show. Feels like they CSI’d the real torchwood. Bring it back to Cardiff or let it die. If they show up at comiccon, someone needs to rip them new one.

  • I really was hoping Rex would die. His character was terrible. The blonde dying…..didn’t feel anything. The doctor getting burned alive? Meh.

    Gwen and her father thing. Totally annoying and stupid. Gwen’s husband Rinse or Reeses or whatever his name is. Moron. I wish they’d kill him off.

    The whole series needed more SciFi. It was like shortened version of 24 except this Jack was crippled through most of the end and hardly did anything throughout the series. And Chole was the mole and gets shot at the end. That was cool. Q getting blown up……not cool. I wish he had been in from episode 1 and survived to the end.

    I dunno, the premise of the series was interesting. Turn Jack mortal and everyone else immortal. Civilization goes to hell. Jack and Torchwood go and fix it. But there was hardly any SciFi. Lots of Gwen being a bitch, protecting her Dad, and Reese Peanutbutter dipshit just being an idiot.

    I hope they get another season. I love Captain Jack Harkness…..not in the way Jack would like ;-)

  • What I tell myself in an effort not to pick the whole “blessing” apart is this. I don’t know how it effing works and neither did the families. They had probably done experiments in the past on Jacks blood and decided what the hell. I’ll even go out on a limb & say that because of Jack’s immortality his blood was still viable in a scientific way after all those years.

    So the Blessing is related to lifespan. The families know that bit not how. They DO know it’s related (as cause or effect) to the lifespan at the ends. So they figure Jack’s blood has an eternal lifespan, let’s reset the blessing. Nothing happens so they chuck it in both ends. It works, nobody can die, but due to how Jack became immortal the rest of humanity lacks his healing/recovery factor and retarded aging.

    What I still can’t reconcile is how that changed Jack as he was already an exception to the rules of nature.

    Bah, now I am mad at the show again. Thanks for making me think about it!

  • I actually enjoyed the last episode, to my surprise! Maybe it was because I’ve read all the spoilers and reviewers so my expectations were ultra low, maybe it was because there was actually plot unlike most of ep 1-9, maybe it was because it’s FINALLY OVER!!!

    Whatever the reason, I like the whole Charlotte/CIA “will they figure it out, won’t they” part more than what our heroes were actually doing in BA and Shanghai. Like what I said before, if this was just a random sci-fi drama with a dash of supernatural, I might have enjoyed it more. But as it is, with giant plotholes and Jack’s timeline shredded to pieces (yes, i know RTD said he doesn’t care), it did NOT live up to the Torchwood name and what the producers promised. At least 5 eps too long!

  • This wasnt the Torchwood I remember at all. This was an American remake of Torchwood with 2 original cast members. Red Dwarf, Spaced, The IT Crowd, had the right idea when they pulled the plug after two episodes of the remakes

  • I’m posting my review of the episode tomorrow. I’ve been ambivalent about the entire season, but agree with pretty much everything you said. I also have a problem with the fact that it’s not Jack’s blood that made him immortal and therefore, that should not have really affected The Blessing at all. Doctor Who folks know that Jack is immortal because Rose opened up the time vortex in the TARDIS and brought him back to life. He’s a fixed point in time because of that. But, as far as I understand it (and from explanation during this season of Torchwood), there’s absolutely nothing special about his blood. So why would The Blessing even respond to it?

  • Small nitpick – I thought Esther had been taking blood from Jack during those 2 months we didn’t see because they knew it was important for some reason. Therefore, it wasn’t 90-year-old blood , just a couple months plus a few days in a suitcase.

  • My girlfriend only saw bits and pieces of the series as I watched it, but she watched the whole last episode, and I don’t think it was really too hard for her to follow. It really could have been just one episode, probably two decent enough ones, or three pretty stretched ones. How the hell did they decide to make it ten?