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Review #3002: Torchwood: Miracle Day 4.10: “The Blood Line”

Posted on the 12 September 2011 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Gregg Wright

On the surface, the finale of “Miracle Day” is an entertaining finish, full of emotion, special effects, pyrotechnics, and bloodshed. The Blessing is very much at the forefront of the episode as a showdown with the Families takes place. And Murray Gold finally delivers in the music department. On a certain level, I think it was a success. Initially, it left me feeling as if I’d seen the best episode of the season. But then I dug a little deeper.

Review #3002: Torchwood: Miracle Day 4.10: “The Blood Line”

As superficially enjoyable as it was, once I had a chance to let the episode sink in, I had to confront the fact that the finale hadn’t solved all of the show’s problems. Oswald Danes has become one of the show’s more glaring flaws. The finale makes an effort to render him important, but it’s clear that the writers never had a clear plan for Danes. In the end, he’s a memorable, but ultimately pointless character. I’m disappointed, as I was optimistic about the character in the beginning.

The finale managed to balance the humor and drama a bit better than many past episodes of “Miracle Day”, but the show remains as self-indulgent and pretentious as ever. Gwen’s speech to the audience in the opening scene (along with her narration during the dramatic slow-mo in the climax) makes “Miracle Day” feel a little bit too full of itself. The serious material does work in this show sometimes, but more often it seems to highlight the show’s inability to maturely and intelligently handle its own story and themes. It makes one wonder how this show could have come from the same man that brought us “Children of Earth”.

Jack and Gwen remain fairly consistent with how they’ve been portrayed so far in this season, but I’m still annoyed at how inconsistently they’re been portrayed with their characterization in past seasons. Another reviewer pointed out a great example of this in the finale, in the scene where Jack responds with a bewildered “I don’t know”, when faced with the decision of whether Esther must be sacrificed or not. I hate to sound like a token “Torchwood” fan, but this is really only one of many examples of how dramatically the character has been altered.

The odd thing is that everyone else still talks about Jack as if he hasn’t changed. The show itself seems to want us to think that this is the same Jack. The old Jack may have been someone to fear, as Oswald Danes observes, but not this Jack. The old Jack was a hell of a lot more ruthless and formidable, willing to resort to tactics that would appall the Doctor. Jack barely even blinked before sacrificing his own grandson to stop the 456 in “Children of Earth”. Jack has always been something of a “shoot first, ask questions later” kind of guy. But he’s completely lost his edge in “Miracle Day”, which makes the character a lot less fascinating to me.

Gwen’s transformation isn’t quite as maddening, and one could argue that it makes sense in the context of the franchise as a whole, but I still find some of the changes irritating. Gwen’s time with Torchwood has, understandably, made her a more skilled and determined individual. But I never thought of her as this hot-headed, overly aggressive superwoman that she’s become in “Miracle Day”. The over-the-top portrayal has made see made her a bit less human, and therefore harder to like and empathize with. Still, despite these issues, Jack and Gwen remain a great deal more interesting than this season’s American additions to the team.

The death of John de Lancie’s character (despite being one of the more memorable parts of the episode) remains a personal disappointment for me, as the character turned out to be one of the brighter spots of the last few episodes of the season. It would have greatly added to my anticipation for a subsequent season if de Lancie was set to return.

I think what I liked most about the episode was the heavier focus on the Blessing itself, rather than the spy games and dull social commentary that took up most of the season. The episode feels a lot more focused. It’s all about getting to the Blessing, confronting the Families, and finding a way to reverse the Miracle and put a stop to the Families’ sinister agenda. It felt good to finally have such a straightforward episode that relates so directly to the core mystery and threat of the season, and the focus on the Blessing made it feel a hell of a lot more like “Torchwood” than almost any other episode this season. Of course, the Blessing isn’t actually extraterrestrial in origin, but it’s certainly very alien, making it exactly the kind of thing that Torchwood tends to go after.

But what is the Blessing? Well, that’s still a difficult question to answer, but we do know significantly more about it now than we did before. It’s a rift (or a crack, or an abyss, or something) running straight through the Earth. It has apparently been there since before humans evolved, and seems to possess some form of consciousness. Jack’s blood was introduced to the Blessing in an experiment, which it perceived as an attack (on itself and, by extension, the human race). It responded, seemingly instinctively, by attempting to keep the human race alive, unaware that it was only making things worse.

I rather like the idea of the Miracle being some sort of unexpected side-effect of the Families’ tampering with the Blessing, which could be seen as just another victim of the Families. But this morphic field concept was never properly explained in the show. And we have no way of knowing how closely “Torchwood’s” morphic field concept adheres to the “Lucifer Rising” novel or Rupert Sheldrake’s original theory. I could speculate further about the nature of the field and the Blessing, but it strikes me as a futile exercise, considering how little the show has given us to work with.

So how well does “Miracle Day” wrap up its story? Better than I might have expected it to. But, perhaps, not quite as well as it could have. I lowered my expectations when going into the finale, knowing that it was inevitable that a number of questions would remain unanswered. I think what disappoints me the most is that they answered enough about the Blessing to make it the most intriguing part of the show, and then just left it. Unfortunately, it seems likely that the Blessing won’t be the focus of the next season of “Torchwood”.

However, the Families seem set to return in a big way, for “Plan B” in their world domination scheme. To be honest, the Families never really succeeded in grabbing my interest. I was hoping for some sort of reveal that would develop the Families into a worthy concept, but there was nothing to elevate them above generic secret society. There’s still plenty of potential to make more of them next season, but the finale should have given us more of a hint as to their motivations other than just “control” and a “New World Order”. Sure, they want control. But we still know virtually nothing about what they want to shape the world into. And when the Blessing currently seems infinitely more fascinating than the Families, it’s a little tough to get excited about the next season.

Still, despite all the problems I’ve had with this season of “Torchwood”, the finale left me with just enough good will toward the show to want to see it continue, and hopefully deliver an improved season that learns from the many mistakes of “Miracle Day”. The final scene of “The Blood Line” is enough of a cliffhanger to suggest that Russell T. Davies plans to continue the story sooner rather than later.

Rating: 7/10


John here…just wanted to add a couple of things:

First, I agree that the revelation of The Blessing was one of the biggest letdowns of the series, mostly because it could have easily been given an explanation that would have tied into previous seasons of “Torchwood” or even (as hinted by Jack) established “Doctor Who” lore. Why not make it a forgotten technology of the Silurians? With all the references to Who, such as the Silurians and UNIT, why not simply tie it off in that fashion?

Secondly, I detest that this ended on a cliffhanger. I understand that this was meant to refresh the series somewhat, but the cold reception to “Miracle Day” has put any future “Torchwood” material in serious doubt. Davies could and should have ended this arc in the same way he ended “Children of Earth”: in a manner that could support continuation or serve as an end to the series as a whole. Instead, “Torchwood” could very well remain unfinished.

Finally, I’m still deeply annoyed that we never had an explanation for why Jack returned to Earth, which is something they should have covered right from the start.

I’m disappointed that this series never managed to meet its potential.

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