The Middle Men

conversationThe start of ‘The Middle Men’, the 6th episode of this season of Torchwood, has a very well done sequence. CEO of Phicorp Stuart Owens (played by Ernie Hudson), hires an investigator to find out if land development in Shanghai has any connection to the miracle day.

We quickly establish that Stuart Owens is influential and the investigator is a professional.  This is communicated more in the way the two act than the dialogue itself. This makes it all the more unnerving when the investigator kills himself after seeing what is on the land.

We wonder what could possibly be there that would drive someone to kill themselves, particularly someone who seemed as hard boiled as the investigator. This is exactly the kind of scene we need more of.

Most tellingly this sequence lacks any of the main characters. For the most part the Torchwood team spend much of the episode doing what they did last week, skulking around their respective Overflow camps.

The duplication of story telling continues, with both Rex and Gwen finding a way to rehash what they discovered last week. Certainly there is no harm in reminding the viewer of events from previous episodes but to do so twice seems redundant.

With events taking place in much the same place the pace seemed rather slow. At least previous episodes have tried to create entirely new scenarios each week, even if this did result in elements being introduced and dropped in quick succession.

Here we once again have to put up with the unhinged Colin Maloney. His prolonged insanity further stretched any credibility that he would have been appointed director, or that his behaviour would have gone unnoticed prior to the arrival of the Torchwood team.

Similarly the whimpering soldier Ralph Coltrane doesn’t convince as a developed character. His complicity in Dr Vera’s death is tenuous at best but the far greater sin was letting Colin Maloney continue to act freely.

From Ralph we learn that the soldiers hadn’t yet been told what the modules at the camps were to be used for. In the Welsh camp we see that not only are they in use but several of the personnel knew about their function.

One has to wonder why the US hadn’t started using them and when they planned to tell the soldiers. Surely it would be best to find out if they would follow orders before they were supposed to carry out the task.

Esther was once again the weak link. She was first introduced as a data analyst, able to spot what others missed. Since fleeing the CIA she has had little chance to shine, making mistakes that make her appear stupid.

Here she seems to miss important clues or even suspect that Vera is dead, despite Maloney’s behaviour. Although in shock she also briefly thinks she has killed Maloney, forgetting the whole premise of this season.  Has she really been paying so little attention?

The problem of the lack of death raises its ugly head during the scenes with Maloney. Once he has captured Rex there doesn’t seem to be much he can do, other than prod him with a pen.

In the fight with Esther we know she can’t die and in order for her to knock him out we once again have to ignore the rule about the Miracle keeping people conscious. Of course he recovers and needs to be shot to be stopped.

Just how a few shots to the side would have stopped him in a world without death wasn’t clear. You would at least expect a head shot in order to incapacitate someone who is immortal.

Captain Jack gets more to do this week finally catching up to the head of Phicorp, the people who seemed to be behind so much. It was therefore a disappointment to find this was a massive red herring and they didn’t know much more about Miracle Day than anyone else, only that it was going to happen and that it might involve something called the blessing.

The only highlight was Ernie Hudson’s performance. Based on the track record of the series so far I fear that this is the last we shall see of his character. It is a real shame that he didn’t deserve his own character arc.

Gwen’s adventure in Wales was underwhelming, the blowing up the facility feeling empty as the victory felt unearned. We see her find the explosives and moments later she apparently was able to put the charges in place and escape with out any opposition.

After drawing on so much imagery of concentration camps and filling the characters with righteous anger it is worrying that the governments position actually seemed more sensible than Torchwood’s reaction.

The plan to burn unresponsive people, effectively dead, is sound. If those people were experiencing pain or torment it actually seems like a mercy. Yes, they are being burnt alive but in a world without death what is the alternative?

In an earlier episode we learnt that people would continue to age, a truly horrible thought. Would people wish to spend centuries in  a wizened  state or have a fiery release? This could even lead to a ‘Logan’s Run’ type scenario with a set age when people are incinerated, preventing the world from becoming overcrowded.

The furnaces aren’t evil in themselves. Since the plan was put in place by a democratically elected government they certainly are legal. The biggest problem was the miss categorisation.

Rex comments in his video log that after they deal with category 1 people they would move on to criminals. Oswald Danes is an example of how the government, and the people at large, already tolerated state mandated death. This hardly seems any different.

radiolinkWith the re-introduction of death a lot of the supposed problems of Miracle Day have been eliminated. Once again murder has meaning, an injury serious enough to make a person category 1 is the same as killing them. Over population fears and scarcity of resources all vanish.

This does, at least, show that humanity could adapt. It does also mean that the central premise is not the threat it once was. With just four episodes to go this is not the right place to remove any tension.

The ending of the episode was unintentionally hilarious. First we have the Torchwood team searching for ‘The Truth’ online and then we have Gwen, supposedly on the run for her life, responding to an announcement in the airport calling her name.

Rather than running for her life she calmly answers the phone. Moments later it isn’t the news that her mother, husband and child have been kidnapped by the enemy that makes her react, but the request to capture Captain Jack.

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