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Review #2931: Torchwood: Miracle Day 1.4: “Escape to LA”

Posted on the 01 August 2011 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Gregg Wright

After the previous episode, I found myself feeling very discouraged about this show. Getting used to a new stylistic approach to “Torchwood” is one thing, but it’s particularly difficult to enjoy a show that, even when judged as an individual entity, still comes up short. “Dead of Night” was a poor enough episode that it seemed to greatly overshadow anything positive I’d seen in the first two episodes. I had very low expectations when going into “Escape to L.A.”, so I was surprised to find that it wasn’t quite as bad as I expected it to be.

Review #2931: Torchwood: Miracle Day 1.4: “Escape to LA”

“Escape to L.A.” (which must surely be a reference to the disappointing Carpenter sequel) somehow manages to play a little more to “Miracle Day’s” strengths. The writing works a little better and the story begins to head in a more interesting direction. There’s even an attempt to flesh out Rex and Esther a bit. It’s not enough to say that the show is back on track; the show is still heavily flawed. But it gives hope that the season might avoid becoming a complete chore to sit through.

Last episode came the reveal that pharmaceutical company Phicorp was a part of the bigger conspiracy, and had apparently sought to take advantage of the situation for their own financial gain. We haven’t really seen anyone behind the green triangle yet; just Phicorp (which includes Jilly Kitzinger and Oswald Danes), and now the assassin. Both seem to be just useful tools for whoever is really behind everything. The assassin seems to get his orders directly from the green triangle, rather than anyone at Phicorp.

There’s a lot about the conspiracy that appears contradictory, at the moment anyway. Why does it matter to the green triangle that Phicorp profits from this? How could anyone benefit from the world piling up with sick people who won’t die? And if the assassin and Phicorp are both being controlled by the green triangle, then why did the assassin need to steal a man’s palm and eyeball to break in? It seems as though the assassin went off mission, at some point, to satisfy his own curiosity about Jack. (And speaking of contradictions, I no longer understand Jilly Kitzinger at all. One minute, she’s telling Oswald Danes that he disgusts her, and then not long afterward she’s ecstatic about his totally exploitative move to win the public to his side.) The assassin character was a little over-the-top, but he was effectively menacing.

I get the sense that the assassin was dropping some vital clues, but I couldn’t make any sense of it after the first viewing. “They are everywhere. They are always. They are no one.” “They once had names.” The assassin claims that Jack once had dealings with these “people”, or whatever they are, a long time ago, and that Jack is “very special” to them (which the assassin claims he knew only because “they” trusted him enough to tell him). Jack supposedly gave them something, and the assassin wants to know what it was. But it seems unlikely to me that they would lift a baddie from a previous season, as “Miracle Day” seems so heavily geared toward rebooting the franchise for a new audience. But oddly, this is starting to sound a bit like the 456 from “Children of Earth”, who Jack gifted a group of children to at some point.

“And soon, the families will rise.” Maybe the whole point of the Phicorp internment camps is to prepare a whole bunch of diseased folks for use as living incubators, so some sort of alien spawn can arise? “They have been waiting for such a long time, searching the world for a specific geography.” This one strongly hits at an extraterrestrial element, as if to suggest that something needed to find the perfect spot to land. Or if not that, at least to set up some sort of huge structure for malevolent purposes. If it’s the 456, then maybe they want to set up some huge atmospheric habitat somewhere. Again, the involvement of the 456 seems unlikely, but there are some striking connections. The 456 claimed that the children they took would “live forever”. And the number 456 did appear in the season premiere.

I have mixed feelings about the character developments for Rex and Esther. I’m glad that they’re attempting some genuine character development, but I’m not sure if this was the best way to do it. Rex’s meeting with his father didn’t do much to humanize him; he’s still being an insufferable jerk to Esther, verbally abusing her at every opportunity. The thing is, I think there’s actually some great potential here to set up character arcs for Rex and Esther. Maybe Esther will gradually become a more capable field agent, and Rex could grow to respect Esther and soften toward her a bit. There’s also the dramatically under-utilized element of Rex’s fear that he’s just a dead man walking.

Unfortunately, one big, lingering issue continues to plague the show more than anything else. The tone is just too light. We have the “miracle” and all the medical, legal, philosophical, ethical, and societal implications that come with it. There’s the clues that seem to point to a shadowy organization/secret society or a malevolent alien force/race that’s planning a “new world order” of some sort, and everything that Phicorp is doing now is a means to that end. The potential is there for another brilliantly dark, compelling sci-fi story, and yet “Miracle Day” insists on treating the whole affair as a tongue-in-cheek spy thriller. I’m not saying that a serious/comic blend can’t be done well; it most certainly can be. But “Miracle Day” is largely an example of how not to do it. This is a situation in which the execution is failing to do justice to the material, which is, admittedly, interesting enough to carry the show on its own, to a certain extent.

Rating: 7/10

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