Escape to LA

gwenphoneThe fourth episode of ‘Torchwood: Miracle Day’ continues to consist of the occasional good moment ruined by everything surrounding it. I also get the increasing feeling that very little matters in each episode, with characters being introduced and then discarded with alarming frequency.

The story start on a strong note, Esther visiting her unstable sister and having to make a difficult call to child services to protect her niece and nephew. It was well handled, putting the character through some emotional turmoil while also showing the impact that Miracle Day was having on ordinary people.

It is a shame that while Esther’s sister claims that several cities are suffering outbreaks of disease, as predicted in one of the previous episodes, Esther dismisses this as internet fear mongering.

What this series needs is showing actual tangible changes. It didn’t help that the team relocate to LA where everything is perfectly normal. It seems that all the big important stuff is always happening off screen in other cities and other countries.

This early scene is also ruined later in the episode when Esther learns that the children were taken into care and the mother placed in a mental institution. One has to wonder what she thought was going to happen.

It was enjoyable to see Jack and Gwen pretending to be a married couple to steal bio-data from a target. It was brief but full of energy and could have been a scene from spy drama ‘Alias’ or heist comedy-drama ‘Leverage.’ We even got a joke about Gwen’s American accent.

Sadly these scenes are far too brief and I wonder if the need to shoe horn in the plot threads of so many characters has weakened the focus of the show. Previously I’ve compared the story arc to ‘24’ but the pacing model now seems more akin to ‘Heroes’ which had multiple plot threads and ultimately slowed to a snails pace to accommodate everyone.

By far the strongest of these multiple plot arcs is Dr Vera Juarez’s. Through her we actually see how people are trying to cope, with the medical profession being hit hardest. The creation of the ‘plague ship’ hospital was believable and unpleasant.

It was nice to see that Jilly Kitzinger is repulsed by Oswald Danes and an intriguing insight that she is willing to put her own feelings aside for her career. This was the only highlight in ludicrous story of a pedophile winning the hearts of a nation.

The belief that he is special in any way was tenuous at best. The fact that his execution coincided with the start of Miracle Day is not only coincidental but completely unnote worthy. By this same logic Rex should also have elevated status for not dying in his accident, along with everyone else who was brought into hospital at the same time.

Nothing Oswald has said or done has given any indication why people would forgive him for what he did. The publicity stunt at the hospital was transparent, his claims to speak for the ‘dead’ dubious and his photo with the baby girl should have sounded alarms not calls for saint hood from France.

The very idea that the ‘dead’ would have accepted that Oswald was just like them was insulting. We can assume that the majority of those in the hospital didn’t bring their injuries upon themselves. That they weren’t inflicted for committing a horrific crime.

This story line also introduces Ellis Hartley Monroe, a prominent political figure who believes the ‘Dead is Dead’ and that those who suffered ‘fatal’ injuries should be segregated from the public to avoid draining resources.

This would have been an interesting character, had she not been killed in the same episode in which she was introduced. Her campaign seemed to have some logic behind it and would have created obstacles for many of the characters.

After being briefly introduced we see her upstaged by Oswald at the hospital, apparently a devastating blow. The important thing here is that Oswald isn’t a political figure. He has the backing of a major drug company but in presenting himself as a spokesperson for the ‘dead’ he puts himself in charge of a minority group.

The reason why Monroe had support is because the majority of people haven’t been fatally injured and were concerned about money, food and drugs being given to people who were a lost cause. Those who were already supporting her would be very unlikely to shift alliances.

Monroe’s assassination by the conspiracy is gruesome, taking full advantage of the horrible result of not dying, but seems extreme if not a little confusing. Monroe wanted to segregate those fatally wounded and we learn that the conspiracy has the same goal. Apparently they kill her because she threatened Oswald’s popularity and her plans would have revealed the conspiracies activities.

The big question is how? What is more why would the conspiracy draw further attention to themselves by eliminating a prominent political figure. This is someone who was a mayor and member of the Tea Party. Would her disappearance really not result in an exhaustive search?

Her demise also raises a problem made readily apparent in this episode. Simply put, despite the premise being that no one can die characters are still being killed. The writers have yet to find a way to adapt to this new world.

During Torchwood’s infiltration of Phicorp Captain Jack finds a security guard has been strangled! Except the guard isn’t dead, as demonstrated by his blinking eyes as he lies there.

Shortly after the villain is shot repeatedly just as he is about to reveal who is behind this all! Except he isn’t dead, he just acts that way. There is a line of dialogue to say that he has been shot in the throat and so can’t talk but the show had already gone to lengths to show that the magic contact lenses can lip read.

In episode two we were shown a character with her neck twisted 180 degrees and who still managed to move. Here characters have less serious ‘fatal’ wounds but are still completely incapacitated. The rules about how inconvenient injuries are changes from scene to scene.

We are left with a cliff hanger as Gwen’s father is taken to one of the Phicorp controlled interment camps. This only raises another problem with the whole plot thread of overcrowded hospitals.

Just why are people being kept in hospitals? Rhys even indicates that the police in the UK are preventing people from leaving. If people can’t die and they can move, people like Rex for example, why aren’t the authorities allowing them to go home if they want? Wouldn’t that solve the over crowding problem?

Even if this is part of an evil plan why wouldn’t this thought occur to others? Surely medical staff would support such a move and question why their superiors are preventing it. It wouldn’t take long for friends and families to alert the media if people were being held against their will.

At nearly the half way mark this series still doesn’t feel like it is moving, filling time with characters and events that are discarded and forgotten by the next episode. The unevenness of the plotting makes me suspect that the writers were given plot points to hit and had to really stretch to make things match up.

The biggest example of this is the scene in which Jack tries to justify his belief that Oswald Danes is important. The reason he gives is a quote from Middlemarch. The problem is that he doesn’t give the full quote and thus changes the meaning.

Here is the full quote:

Your pier-glass or extensive surface of polished steel made to be rubbed by a housemaid, will be minutely and multitudinously scratched in all directions; but place now against it a lighted candle as a centre of illumination, and lo! the scratches will seem to arrange themselves in a fine series of concentric circles round that little sun. It is demonstrable that the scratches are going everywhere impartially and it is only your candle which produces the flattering illusion of a concentric arrangement, its light falling with an exclusive optical selection. These things are a parable. The scratches are events, and the candle is the egoism of any person now absent—of Miss Vincy, for example.

You’ll note that Jack talks only about the first part, indicating that the light of the candle reveals a pattern. The rest of the quote clarifies that this pattern is just an illusion, brought about the light itself.

In other words Jack thinks Oswald is important because he thinks he is but this is an illusion. Rather than showing Jack as intelligent it shows him as a delusional egotist. Is this the writers intention or just a desperate attempt to excuse sloppy plotting?

Next week it appears as if they’ll be leaving LA and we’ve been promised a revelation about Miracle Day.

Right now it feels like we need a miracle.

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