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Review #2360: Torchwood: Miracle Day: Part 6: “The Middle Men”

Posted on the 14 August 2011 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Gregg Wright

This episode has a more promising opening than most recent ones, but unfortunately this translates into an episode that’s not significantly better or worse than the past couple of episodes. The opening scene introduces us to Stuart Owens (guest star Ernie Hudson), chief operating officer at Phicorp, who is apparently just as much in the dark about the miracle as everyone else is. In the opening scene we see him sending in some sort of investigator to check out a plot of land near Shanghai purchased by a division of Phicorp in 1999. A few hours later, this investigator is telling Ernie Hudson that there’s nothing there, before promptly leaping from 45 stories to ensure his permanent lack of consciousness.

Review #2360: Torchwood: Miracle Day: Part 6: “The Middle Men”

To me it seems fairly likely that this plot of land is the “specific geography” that whoever is behind the miracle has been looking for. Whatever is at that site now made the investigator want to commit suicide, presumably out of a sense of hopelessness or a fear of living through whatever is to come. Yeah, I’m thinking aliens, which it’s a bit disappointing that the vast majority of the episode is simply about Torchwood’s efforts to blow the whistle on the overflow camps (which might as well be called “death camps” at this point).

It does help, somewhat, that there’s a bit more suspense involved in this than in most of the previous episodes. But the threat once again comes primarily from overflow camp director Maloney. I’m not quite sure what to think of the character. At the very least, I think he’s well-acted, with Marc Vann attempting to make him both despicable and slightly sympathetic. But writing still seems to result in a somewhat silly, unbelievable character. I thought the character was slightly improved this time, but I think it’s still fair to say that if you didn’t like him last week, you probably won’t like him here either.

Rex and Esther are still my two least favorite members of Torchwood, but there were some small signs of improvement for them. It was nice to see Esther saving Rex, and Rex treating Esther as an actual human being. Rex is his usual cartoonishly gruff self, but he handled Maloney a bit better than I expected him to. In fact, it almost looked as though he might be getting through to him for a moment.

Meanwhile, while Rex and Esther are dealing with Maloney in the US, Gwen and Rhys spend the episode struggling to get Gwen’s father out of the camp. Maybe I’m just being naive, but it still seems pretty unbelievable to me that so many people would knowingly go along with the incineration of Category 1 patients, and not one person is willing to come forward and anonymously leak to the press what’s going on. Are they all just afraid of reprisals?

Anyways, Gwen and Rhys seemingly succeed at the end, which seems to have been a part of the conspiracy’s plan. They made it possible for Rhys to escape with Gwen’s father so they could both be captured. Now “they” have Rhys, Gwen’s parents, and Gwen’s baby daughter. And apparently, they now want Jack, which ties in with what we’ve been previously told about Jack being “very special” to them and the hint at a past dealing Jack had with them. So why did they want Jack killed back in “Rendition”? Or was that unintentional on their part? Did they know that the miracle would render Jack mortal? Perhaps they’re trying to repay Jack for whatever it is that he gave them in the past by giving him mortality. Of course, even if this were true, it wouldn’t explain everything else that’s going on.

I’m still a bit disappointed about the characterization of Jack this season. This reminds me a bit of what happened when, after each season of “Torchwood”, Jack would jump back over to “Doctor Who”. “Torchwood” offered us a much more serious look at Jack, presenting him as a highly intelligent, capable, occasionally morally ambiguous leader. His omnisexuality and flamboyancy was still a part of him, but it didn’t totally define him. In “Miracle Day”, Jack has been returned once again to a simpler, arguably less-interesting version of the character. Now he’s portrayed more as the flirty, wise-cracking, slightly inept gay hero. His sexuality is undeniably a part of the character’s charm and enduring popularity, and shouldn’t be shied away from just to pander to American audiences, but reducing the character to a gay stereotype just robs the character of his complexity and depth.

This episode is very much a sequel to the previous episode, continuing the story of the overflow camps and hopefully reaching a point at the end where the story can move onto something more interesting. I suppose it is to the episode’s benefit that the Oswald Danes subplot makes no appearance whatsoever. Better that than an attempt to create more filler out of it. I remain somewhat engaged by the central mystery of who is behind the miracle and what it all has to do with Jack. But they’re really taking their time doling out the hints, with most of the conflict being centered on Phicorp. I did ask for more of an emphasis on the serious implications of the miracle, but the results have been a bit underwhelming, and told us virtually nothing about the grander conspiracy. At least this episode wasn’t as heavy on poorly-rendered social commentary.

At this point I could almost copy-paste a final paragraph from any of my past three episodic reviews and it would be just as relevant now as it was then. The tone of the show and weak characterization are still its biggest flaws. (It might help if Murray Gold’s music were a bit more appropriate for the on-screen action.) But the show still succeeds enough at milking its own mystery that you feel compelled to see it through to the end, anticipating the big reveal.

Rating: 7/10

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