We’re five episodes into Miracle Day now, and anyone expecting a twist in the middle of the tale won’t be disappointed. Sadly – once again – the same can’t be said for the rest of the episode. Last week’s trailer showed so much promise, but this episode failed to deliver. Until, that is, the last few minutes.
Despite the brightness of the LA locations, this was a dark, grim episode. Much of the usual Torchwood humour and banter was missing (although Jack’s gag about Rex being his lover was right on the mark), but this was apt considering the episode dealt with extermination camps. Tonally, episode five saw a big shift, one that feels more in line with the previous series Children of Earth. It’s a moment of genuine unease when it’s revealed that surviving humans have been categorised and thus marked for extinction – if the peg is blue for category two, red is dead - one that’s heightened when Vera Juarez is shot and dumped into one of the ‘modules’ where she will be incinerated. This is grown-up stuff and, in true Torchwood style, there’s nothing subtle about it, making the shock all the more effective. The first half of the series has truly ended with a bang.
Yet, despite this, there’s still much to pick at. Are we really meant to believe that Gwen, a woman wanted by the CIA, is able to travel halfway around the world, to meet with her family, who apparently aren’t under surveillance – you know, how Esther’s sister was last week? Perhaps it’s something to do with geography, although that never seemed to matter before. Still, it’s a charming scene when she meets up with Rhys in the airport and the heartstrings are pulled when Gwen attempts to rescue her dad.
Going back to Esther, she asks Jack if he thinks she’s stupid (I shouted “yes!” at the TV) and then uses her own name to infiltrate the staff and computer system of the Overflow Camp? Saying that, if the rest of the army are as pathetic as Maloney’s lackey, she’ll be able to fight her way out of the camp armed with a toothbrush; unless she is stopped by Maloney himself, who seems destined to be the creepiest pen-pusher I’ve ever seen on TV.
Anyway, while all this is going on, Jack is left back at base, the only man in the world who can be hurt and killed. While the good Captain has reasons to lack his usual ebullience, he feels wasted as a shadowy figure to pursue Oswald Danes. I’d like to see Jack remain heroic despite this setback, rather than hiding from it; the Captain Jack of Miracle Day isn’t one I’m used to seeing.
Still, Jack certainly doesn’t lack courage; anyone who can watch Oswald Dane’s speech in its entirety is a brave man. Then again, he didn’t have to listen to the ‘rousing’ music in the ‘background’ that almost drowned out the new messiah’s life-affirming words “We are all angels,” Danes claimed, then spoke of his revelation before the PhiCorp logo exploded behind him. I’d like to think Jack had his eyes closed when Danes attempted what looked like an old break-dancing move with his arms, one that still got the people on his side. I’m interested in his choice of words, once again wondering if this is going to be more about perceived religion, that the big bad will be an entity rather than an alien.
Let’s face it, for a team that were formed to protect the Earth from extra-terrestrial threat, there’s precious little ET action in Miracle Day so far. Perhaps Rex has hit the nail on his head when he says that Torchwood is just a name, that it doesn’t exist anymore, not like it used to. It certainly feels that way; I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s something missing, and it’s not just The Soulless, that enigmatic cult with creepy masks that haven’t been mentioned for weeks now.
Opinion seems split over this series. Of three friends, one doesn’t watch it anymore, while another thinks it’s great. The third, much like myself, keeps watching in the anticipation that something special is going to happen.
It needs to. Episodes four and five have felt like fillers that could have been condensed into one tighter, much more dramatic hour; the scene has been set, but feet have dragged in getting us to the shocker at the end of this episode. The transference across the Atlantic has made Torchwood feel as if it’s made to formula (why have five episodes when we can have ten?), losing the love and care that the original UK episodes showed; for all its faults, the first series at least had charm.
The concept of this series is brilliant, acting and direction has been superb, but there are several moments that make me wince (I’ve already mentioned the music, and the continuity is sometimes absurd – watch Jilly’s legs cross and uncross when she’s in the car with Oswald) for each one that impresses me.
Will I keep watching? Of course; I’m sufficiently hooked at the end of each episode to await the next, and I know – it’s happened before, so I just know – that Torchwood will eventually deliver to my expectations, one of which was to have several ups and downs. Well, we’ve had them, and it’s now time for Miracle Day to knuckle down and be the adult sci-fi series we all hope it can be.