The end is nigh – almost. After nine episodes, we’re finally given a glimpse at what’s been causing the events of Miracle Day. At least, I think that’s what it is. A hole running through one end of the world to the other, complete with wind and swirling papers; a massive geographical planetary anomaly that has never been detected. Ever.
I’m jumping the gun here. Let’s start at the beginning of episode nine, rather than the end, where disbelief must be utterly suspended. Saying that, Gwen’s ram-raid antics mean that suspension has to start early – masked to avoid identification, she shoots out a camera and then, in front of a witness, pulls off her balaclava to reveal herself. Of course, given that her terraced house in Wales is under surveillance, you’d be forgiven in thinking it’s safe to assume they know where she is anyway. Not in Torchwood, where returning with a couple of pizza boxes is the perfect disguise (although a memory-erasing drink is used later, so this could explain the lack of observation).
It’s now two months since the last episode, and the world finds itself on the brink of recession. Category Ones are still being cremated – in Wales, they’re being sought out by petty bureaucrats, presumably former tax inspectors – Jack and Esther are in hiding (currently Scotland, but it appears they’ve had a bit of a tour, enough time for Esther to gather vast quantities of Jack’s blood), while Rex is back at the CIA, heading the investigation into the three families. It’s a role that fits Rex like a glove and, frankly, one I could watch all day; he takes charge where necessary and the banter with his boss Allen Shapiro is first rate. Those two would make a good spin-off series, based on what’s on show this week; good acting, guys.
I’ve even warmed to Esther. Other than keeping Captain Jack alive (never really in doubt, but I still worried) she’s grown more capable in the passing months. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll always compare her to Dana Scully (it’s a fault of mine) and while she’s not there yet, there is potential. Even Gwen recognises the fact “we need Esther”, and when they do link up with her, she’s a big help. Her reunion with Rex was touching too; again, some good acting here.
Unfortunately, much of this episode is taken up with the authorities search for Gwen’s dad. Sure, it’s a touching moment when her mother is forced to say goodbye to the man she loves, but did it really need to take so long? If the nasty little man who seeks him had a heat-seeking app on his phone, why didn’t he use it in the first place? Yet, despite my frustration at this, it was something else in the Cooper home that really annoyed me this week.
That something, that someone, was Rhys. He’s always been the affable, put-upon husband, which is fine. This week, he’s that and more. Yes, I can understand his hatred of Oswald Danes, wanting a chance to get the boys round and give him a kicking, but murder? Really? Rhys has always been a kind and gentle soul, do we really need him to turn into bloodthirsty killer, just for the script to remind us how nasty Oswald really is, especially when Bill Pullman is doing a good enough job of this on his own? It’s jarring and completely out of character. Still, when sulking after being warned off, at least he has a handy inflatable globe so he can help the team identify that Shanghai and Buenos Aires are at opposite ends of the world.
Pullman’s turn as Oswald Danes has gone from strength to strength, and the passage of time within the story hasn’t lessened his presence. He’s especially sinister this week, in the moment when he proudly tells the Torchwood team that he has experience of keeping in hiding, his presence going un-noticed while he trawls the internet. This one line, perfectly delivered, encapsulates the character of this vile man more than one angry Welshman wanting to kill him ever could. This week, Danes uses all his skills to kidnap the grocery delivery man (who may still be locked in his van as you read this), insinuating himself into Gwen’s home and the Torchwood team as a necessary evil that they must use to solve the puzzle of Miracle Day.
Despite the reuniting of the Torchwood team, it’s through the perspective of Jilly Kitzinger that this week’s episode really advances. Following her invitation to join with the families, she’s spent the last two months doctoring press releases (which prove to be helpful to Torchwood; what with that and her stolen laptop a few weeks ago, Jilly’s done as much for Torchwood as they’ve done for themselves), but now has the opportunity to advance herself in the ranks. Armed with a new identity (one she forgets to use, silly girl) she takes a one-way flight to Shanghai where – after a brief but compelling interview – she is taken to see The Blessing in all its glory.
Conveniently, Jack and Gwen have arrived in Shanghai (they closed down the alien artefacts smuggling trade, but allowed the gun-running to continue?) with Oswald. It’s a good job he’s there, pointing out that Jack’s blood is moving, The Thing style, towards The Blessing itself. The scene is set for the final confrontation, one which feels long overdue.
I’m not going to mention The Soulless again (remember them?), but there are a couple of loose ends I’d like to have seen tied up – or, at least, mentioned – this week. Arguably the most chilling scene in the series so far was Esther’s sister volunteering her own children for Category One status, but we haven’t been told what’s happened to them. Surely this would have had more dramatic impact than the Gwen’s father fiasco? Also, doesn’t Jack still have the control device from last week’s space lino? If it inverted the field to allow Angelo to die, then why hasn’t Jack healed yet? Or used it to ease the passing of Gwen’s father? Perhaps he forgot to switch it on.
So, it’s another episode with the usual complaints. I still can’t shake the feeling that this average ten-part series would have made a brilliant three-episode story. It feels filled, padded out to stretch to the ten hour mark. After nine hours just to get here, it’s going to have to be a busy 60 minutes next week. Let’s hope it delivers, and Torchwood can come good at the end.