Torchwood: Miracle Day (3/10)

Torchwood: Miracle day (Parts 1 & 2)

Miracle Day (Part 3) packs a lot of plot and character development into 55 minutes.  In this episode, Torchwood bounce back and take the fight to the enemies’ camp.  Rex breaks into Newman’s house and extracts a full confession, at gunpoint, of everything he knows.  Not much, it seems.  He only communicates by cell phone to his shadowy employers, who bought him years ago.

“You won’t find anything on them.  I never did.  They’re everywhere.  They know everything.”

A nice bit of paranoia that goes well with the creepy triangle symbol that identifies them on the red cell phone they’ve given him.  Illuminati aficionados will recognize the sign from numerous YouTube videos.

Back at Torchwood HQ, an abandoned apartment in Washington, DC, the team is falling apart.  Rex would much prefer to be on Team CIA, but he’s been kicked off and has to make do with Torchwood, whose existence he doesn’t even accept.  Jack’s insistence that “you’re a member of Torchwood now,” coupled with the alpha male headbutting and Jack’s sexual versatility doesn’t bode well for a happy collaboration.  He’s also impatient with Esther because her desk job as a CIA analyst hasn’t prepared her for life in the field.  Esther, on the hand, has a thing for Rex but doesn’t say anything.  Gwen and Esther have a jokey, sparring relationship, expressed in the difference between British and American English.

Esther proves her worth by ferreting out a CIA warehouse they obviously want to keep secret.  (I should mention that while living in a slum, they’ve also managed to buy loads of state-of the art computer equipment).  The warehouse proves to be stacked full of painkilling drugs, stockpiled by Phicorp, evidently in preparation for Miracle Day.  So is Big Pharma the Big Villain?

Probably so.  Jilly with the crazy smile and red coat shows up at a meeting where Vera is talking with other medical professionals about the need for painkilling drugs.  She reveals herself as a drug rep for Phicorp, finally securing a “maybe” from Vera to meet her employers in Dallas.

Rex argues for sharing the information they have with an ex-CIA employee, and sets up a meeting, only to arrive at the hotel and find a police raid in progress.  His credibility weakened by this failure, the final straw is Jack saying of Torchwood: “Its us.”  Rex leaves.  Later on, Jack takes the night off and goes to a gay bar, leaving Gwen and Esther to bond as they walk together in the rain.  Nice touch that, and there’s even some poetry from a homesick Esther.

The night is still young.  Rex visits Vera for fresh dressings and they end up sleeping together.  Then he blows it by first trying to manipulate her into spying for him at the Phicorp meeting, and then implying that she allowed a relative to die under her care.  As one of the comments said in the previous post, “an arrogant and all round jerk.”  But Vera is forgiving and later agrees to spy for Rex.

Meanwhile, Jack has gone home with the barman.  In vino veritas, he wakes up to the realization of his feelings for Gwen, and calls her.  Perhaps a bit flaky to do it while he’s still in bed with the barman.  It looks like Gwen might be feeling the same way, until the spell is broken when Esther rushes over with a video link to Rhys and the baby in Wales.  Jack’s left with dead air.  I’m guessing this is a teaser, because the plot cries out for something more with Rhys not there.

A busy and transformative night for Oswald Danes, as well.  He’s pursued by a vengeful couple and rescued by police, who beat him up and dump him outside the motel.  And there she is waiting for him, the Devil in a red coat, Jilly Kitzinger.  She pretty much offers him the world if only he’ll go to the Phicorp meeting in Dallas. Of course he accepts.

Next morning Rex shows up at the hovel, because he needs them.  Jack shows up with a hangover, apparently something he never felt when immortal.  Gwen has stolen a handy dandy piece of alien technology from the Cardiff days – contact lenses that work as a camera – so the team can monitor whatever she sees and hears.  Perfect for the Phicorp meeting.

Gwen goes to the meeting in place of Rex and hacks into Jilly’s computer while Vera keeps her occupied.  Jack wants them to follow Oswald Danes instead but is overruled, so he goes off to confront Danes himself, leaving Esther and Rex to monitor the meeting.

This meeting turns out to be a Phicorp presentation to many influential medical and scientific opinion makers, fronted by a congressman who is legislating for all medicines to be freely available without prescription.  Massive income potential for Phicorp, particularly with all those stockpiled painkillers in the warehouse.  Danes has a private meeting with Phicorp executives.

Jack confronts Danes, who freely confesses to not being sorry for his crime, and not feeling forgiven.  So the tearful television interview where he said, “I’m sorry,” was a cynical manipulation.  Jack realizes that he really did want to die at the execution and immortality is, paradoxically, killing him.  He’s Jack’s mirror image.  Then Phicorp goons burst in, beat Jack up, and dump him in the street.  From the pavement he can see a television inside a window.  On it, Danes has emerged as a kind of evangelist/front man for Phicorp:

They stick with us…walk across the fragile skin of this wide world together…the future is now endless and it’s terrifying.  Walk with me.

Lovely.  Religion hand in hand with commerce, aided and abetted by government.

As I said at the the beginning, Russell T. Davies packs a lot of plot and character development into this episode.  (If you promise not to call me a geek, I’ll shorten that to RTD in future).  I love the razor sharp dialogue, with not a word wasted, and each one fleshing out character and plot.

Jilly Kitzinger is turning into a really interesting character.  Her complete amorality, and ability to tempt Vera and Danes into her schemes, does make her seem devilish. There’s something about those wide open, unblinking eyes.  I think the red coat was a definite choice, something that suggests what is really going on.

Danes is emerging as Jack’s mirror image – a man who was once mortal, is now immortal, and really wants to die.  His apotheosis from condemned murderer to evangelist of a new world where the dead are more alive than ever, keeps me watching to see what he’ll do next.  The possibilities are open ended.  He almost overshadows Jack, who we assume will come out all right in the end because he’s the hero.

RTD is also exploring the social and political consequences of something like Miracle Day, and working them into the subplots.  The Soulless, for example, who wear white masks and believe they’ve lost their souls because no-one can die.  There are echoes of America’s culture wars in some of the discussions Vera has with other doctors.  One Catholic doctor is worried about aborted babies and the fact that India and China are putting contraceptives in the water supply.  Clips of news reports and television interviews move the plot forward and add verisimilitude.

Then there’s power of corporations to influence legislation – Phicorp’s pet congressman whose bill is going to bring in billions of dollars.  Their push for all medication to be available without prescription is a kind of sick and twisted version of Obama’s health care bill.  References and allusions like this flesh out the stark science fiction predicament that nobody can die.

I hope it’s not just Big Pharma behind Miracle Day, fascinating though the idea is.  I want an Alien Bigger Bad pulling their strings and making this a proper science fiction show.

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