Entertainment Magazine

Review #2993: Torchwood: Miracle Day: Part 9: “The Gathering”

Posted on the 04 September 2011 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Gregg Wright

I don’t know much about what went into the production of “Miracle Day”, but the show seems to suffer from too many hands in one creative pot. Either that, or just a showrunner who can’t seem to figure out how to wrap up all his good ideas in a cohesive package. Even across a single episode, it’s extremely inconsistent. And even at this late stage in the season, it still can’t seem to decide what kind of show it wants to be. It’s difficult to understand why this season of “Torchwood” has been so underwhelming, considering “Torchwood’s” excellent track record and the wealth of great ideas bubbling under the surface of “Miracle Day”. Shoddy execution, coupled with a confusing tone, poor plotting, bad dialogue, and bad characterization could all be blamed for its failure.

Review #2993: Torchwood: Miracle Day: Part 9: “The Gathering”

All of these problems are on display this episode, but a few key scenes of the episode are unexpectedly great. The scenes with Jilly Kitzinger, the buildup to and reveal of The Blessing, and that last scene with Jack’s blood creeping along the floor, pointing the way to the Blessing, are stand-out moments for the season. These scenes almost feel like they’re from a completely different show. As Jilly descended in the elevator, I half-expected The Blessing to turn out to be an alien ship, à la “Quatermass and the Pit”. It wasn’t, but it’s still very sci-fi, which is something “Miracle Day” has been in desperately short supply of from the beginning.

As the episode builds toward the eventual reveal of The Blessing, even Murray Gold’s music seems to actively morph from scene to scene, as the previous, flimsier cues he’s introduced along the way are now approached from a much more dramatic and complex direction, and combined with a new sound that takes greater advantage of the orchestra and choir (and seems to play to Gold’s strengths better than most of what we’ve heard so far on the show). I’ve actually only just now, in the midst of writing this, discovered that Gold is sharing composing duties with an assistant composer named Stu Kennedy. Could this explain why the music for “Miracle Day” has been so wildly inconsistent?

But the fact that I enjoyed these scenes only makes the whole experience of “Miracle Day” that much more frustrating. The rest of the episode is just as problematic as the season on a whole has been. The “two months later” caption at the beginning felt like another attempt to give the season a fresh start, but aside from the previously mentioned scenes, it completely fails to take things in an interesting direction. It actually feels like a cheap cop-out, offering no explanation as to how last episode’s cliffhanger was resolved.

I maintain that Oswald Danes was an interesting idea for a character, and he’s played well by Bill Pullman. But more so than ever before, this episode hammers home the point that Oswald serves no purpose in the story, especially not at this point. The writers have continually failed to justify his presence in the narrative, and the attempts to force him into the story (possibly to serve some later goal) are painfully obvious. This is disappointing, because I really thought they were going somewhere with this character. But the role has proven unworthy of Pullman’s talents.

This is the penultimate episode of the season, and the bulk of the episode is spent with Gwen and company trying to hide her Category 1 father in the basement, while Rex hangs out at the CIA office, following leads that go nowhere (thanks to the recently-revealed mole working for The Families). The episode should have been spent gearing up for some sort of climax involving The Families and/or The Blessing, but this only starts to occur near the end of the episode. I’m beginning to strongly agree with the suggestion that “Miracle Day” would have been better off with a shorter season. As is, it feels like a plot that’s been unnaturally stretched to fit the longer season. The story could have greatly benefited from a much tighter, more-focused narrative.

To make matters worse, there’s absolutely no way they can satisfactorily wrap things up in only one more episode, and the possibility of a follow-up season is seeming more and more doubtful all the time. As disappointing as this season has been, I still would very much like to see this story play out in full. Exactly how far ahead does Davies’ plan for this story go? Has he planned some multi-season story arc for this new chapter of “Torchwood”?

A theory has been slowly forming in my mind since finishing “The Gathering”. It is by no means a theory without holes. But I consider it worth mentioning. My theory is that The Families, possibly manipulated by or in concert with The Blessing, have been gradually taking control of global finances, politics, and media, with the ultimate goal of establishing a New World Order in which religious, conservative values are enforced. I realize that this might be reaching, but consider the clues.

It was explicitly stated in “End of the Road” that The Families excluded Angelo from their plans because of his relationship with Jack. It could be argued that this was just a product of the era, and has no bearing on The Families’ current motives. But it gains more significance when placed in context with the other clues. The Families stated in “Escape to L.A.” that they liked Ellis Monroe’s message and style (and it’s no secret that Monroe is directly inspired by real-life Tea Party figures like Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin). Of course, it could be argued that The Families only liked Monroe’s message for it’s effect on the public, and not for its actual content. But I didn’t get this impression. The Families even went so far as to mention that, had circumstances been different, they could have been friends.

There’s also the matter of the overtly religious term used by The Families for “The Blessing”. Speaking of The Blessing, it was interesting to see an explanation given for the “specific geography” first mentioned by the assassin in “Escape to L.A.” And the fact that Jack’s blood seems to point the way to The Blessing could explain why The Families were so interested in it, given that it has nothing to do with Jack’s immortality. But back to my theory!

Whether or not you agree with Davies’ social commentary, most would agree that it’s been far from subtle. Davies’ attitudes toward government, corporations, abortion, human rights, and sexuality feature rather prominently in “Miracle Day”. I think it makes a lot of sense that Davies’ choice for a villainous group or a villainous being/force would be one that threatens the values he so strongly espouses. I don’t think that this is a bad idea. Every hero and villain are written from a certain perspective. But I wish Davies’ had gone about it differently. If my theory is correct, then “Miracle Day” could end up being labeled by many as liberal propaganda, rather than an intelligent and thought-provoking morality tale (like “Children of Earth”).

I’ll offer one final thought before I finish up. I can suspend my disbelief for a lot of preposterous things in storytelling for film and television, but an app for thermal imaging? I suppose this could be seen as a minor issue, but it’s just so ridiculous. Why would anyone think that a nifty new app could be made that somehow “unlocks” thermal imaging on a smart phone? I guess there’s no need for me to spend thousands of dollars on a thermal imaging system. My phone was secretly built with the feature, and all I need is an app to make it work. Am I just misinformed? Or did this strike anyone else as an incredibly stupid writing choice?

Rating: 6/10

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By crood
posted on 06 September at 18:54
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The "app" would have made more sense if there had been someone with a piece of equipment that the phone could connect to. However, since thermal imaging is one of those things that Hollywood gets wrong, I can't really complain that much. The point of walls is to block the transfer of heat.

The problem with Oswald is we were lead to believe he was important. It's now revealed that Jilly was the important one. It does make sense. If she can get him a following, she can convince the world of anything. However, they didn't transition the focus well.