Torchwood: Miracle Day - Dead of NightBookmark and Share

Thursday, 28 July 2011 - Written by Paula Seligson
Written by Paula Seligson

Torchwood: Miracle Day - Dead of Night
Written by Jane Espenson
Directed by Billy Gierhart
Broadcast on Starz - July 22 2011
BBC Worldwide Productions
This review contains plot spoilers and is based on the US broadcast of the episode.

A team dynamic has returned.

When Torchwood first hit television, it was described as Jack’s spinoff. But by the end of the first episode, the audience knew the show would focus on the Torchwood team, not just Jack. The previous two episodes of Miracle Day were lacking because there was no team dynamic. We had Gwen and Jack, and Rex and Esther. These four are now finally working on the same side, along with Dr. Vera Juarez.

Though a team dynamic has returned, the team dynamic has not. Jack, Gwen, Toshiko, Owen, Ianto - these five worked together as friends and with trust. The new ‘team’ formed from necessity, and is rightfully on very shaky ground. We see Rex challenge Jack’s leadership, ultimately deferring to him but then walking away and later returning. Esther grapples with her lack of experience and self-confidence, echoing Gwen’s first episodes of uncertainty at her ability to do the job. Jack, though a leader to Rex and Esther, defers to Gwen. And Gwen takes the most leadership, at a level of self-confidence not before seen in the show.

Jack and Gwen’s semi-role reversal finally gives insight into Jack. He’s mortal for the first time in thousands of years, and he wants to enjoy it, revelling in discomfort and hilariously even a hangover. But more than his mortality, he’s letting Gwen into his life. Instead of putting up a strong front as the sole leader of the group, he acknowledges (and she also interrupts and reminds him) that she’s competent and knows what she’s doing. In doing so, he also acknowledges that he’s not ‘okay’ from the events of Children of Earth. As he reveals the lasting effects of that finale, it leads to one of the best scenes in the show so far: Jack’s confrontation with Danes.

Danes is creepy and disturbing, and his description of how much he enjoyed raping and murdering the young girl left me feeling legitimately disgusted. He assumed Jack was like him, and just watching Jack’s expression change from one of anger to guilt and then to revulsion was disarming. Danes reveled in the murder of a child, and Jack listened with first-hand experience. Jack expected a monster and he found one. Of all the people affected by the Miracle, this man is the one becoming the next Jesus-like cult leader, deceiving foolish and desperate people looking for some kind of sense in the world. We now see his role in the show, and it’s one hell of a social commentary that I can’t wait to see progress.

But this conversation with Danes also revealed how fragile Jack has become. Not that he’s close to breaking or no longer being the Jack we all know and love - that would be a ridiculous cop-out. He has thousands of years of experience and is an impossibly strong person. Regardless of the horrible choices he’s had to make, he’s still the hero who will save the day. Yet all those years weigh on his shoulders and soul, and before that didn’t matter, because he had to keep going. But now things have changed - Jack is mortal. The writers are emphasizing his mortality not by just his actions - like ignoring the world for a night of sex - but also through his emotional exhaustion - his heartbreaking phone call to Gwen. I think they’re foreshadowing how he will deal with the Miracle at the end of the season. Because Jack saw himself in Danes; he saw a man with a deathwish.

As for the plot, it continues to unfold at a slow pace, throwing a bone or two to the audience each episode. PhiCorp either caused the Miracle or knew about it and chose not to tell anyone. And why? For profit. They’re pushing their agenda for a world with no drug prescriptions, pushing it via Danes and a terrified populace, with drugs stockpiled using Timelord technology.

I’m still waiting for the shocks and twists bound to appear that will make this quintessentially Torchwood, and find myself impatient at the tantalizing speed of the storytelling. This story is much slower than the other seasons, and it allows for more analysis of the affects of the plot - like Danes’ being noticed and attacked by two people and then picked up and beaten by the police, the cult with the masks, and a night full of sex for some and work and uncertainty for others. The slower storytelling creates more attachment to the plot through the characters, and hopefully wont cause the episodes to become boring as the story progresses.

But what of the growing team dynamic? Rex and Vera are ‘not strictly professional’ while Esther pines after him. Jack is trying to become closer to Gwen while she’s more focused on the Miracle and her family. Esther will hopefully come into her own as she faces new challenges, perhaps with the guidance of the obviously-impatient and frustrated Gwen. Rex continues to deal with his constant pain, and grapples with essentially being a solo agent, no longer tied to the CIA, an organization he’s dedicated his life to. And Vera attempts to find solutions for this entire mess, getting roped into Torchwood through her role as a surgeon and her access to PhiCorp. Jack and Gwen’s partnership carries the direction and expertise of the group, but the other three contribute, trying to make sense of the new world with their own respective skills. The five have the potential to recreate Torchwood, but as of yet have not succeeded. There are essentially two members of Torchwood, and three trainees.

They’re not a team yet, but they’re becoming one.

FILTER: - Torchwood - Television