Judging from most of the comments on this blog – I can’t look anywhere else for fear of spoilers – some of you are distinctly underwhelmed by the new, American incarnation of Torchwood. Fair enough. I loved the Cardiff ambience as well, but taken on its merits, Miracle Day is far more complex and imaginative than anything that went before, and just as fast paced. What does it take to get your pulses racing?
Anyway, Part 4 takes the team to Venice Beach, California, conveniently close to Phicorp headquarters in Los Angeles. I completely understand Gwen’s delight when they get out of the car at Venice Beach. That’s how I felt after traveling across America and fetching up in Seattle 22 years ago.
The Torchwood team seem to be bonding. Rex is back, and his interactions with Jack are sparky rather than explosive. Esther is still feeling the familial tug of her depressive sister and her family in Washington, DC. So much so that she has unwittingly endangered them all by visiting her at the boarded up house, with the KEEP OUT and NO TRESPASSING signs spray painted on it, before leaving for California. Unable to see the two children, she calls Child Protective Services to get her sister some help, which results in her being put in a psych ward and the children into care, an entirely unwanted result. Esther is deeply upset and remorseful.
The house, of course, is under surveillance. Esther is definitely the weakest link, but who could blame her? And the surveillance agent is not from Phicorp, who appear to be the front for something much bigger, but one of the creepy Illuminati guys. You can tell this because all their communication devices show the triangle symbol that Newman had on his phone in episode 2.
Rather than move into an abandoned hovel, Jack rents quite a nice apartment in Venice Beach, bribing the landlord to keep him informed of any questions about them. Their mission is to get the information on the most closely protected Phicorp server in the Los Angeles HQ.
Simple really. All you have to do is buy a new server, damage it in a way that will look accidental, and find a way into Phicorp HQ so you can swap out the real server and replace it with the damaged fake. Which, the reasoning goes, will make Phicorp think the data is still safe, if unrecoverable at present. Then you can read the real Phicorp data in the comfort of your Venice Beach apartment.
Daft, but it works. The fireworks are in the execution of this cunning plan.
First of all, though, they have to get in, both to the building and the server room. This means getting the voice print, retinal scan, and palm print of the man, Nicholas Frumkin, who set up the server. Conveniently, he lives in their neighbourhood. So Jack and Gwen, using an improbable American accent, waylay him as he’s out with his wife and baby. They ooh and aah over the child, and get all the biometric information through the subsequent interaction. All while under surveillance. The Illuminati know they’re coming.
As you’d expect, it all goes pear shaped very quickly. Rex and Esther monitor the action from a van outside the building. Gwen pretends to be there for a training session, while Jack delivers the server, all telephone calls being caught by Esther. She tells Rex about her sister and the visit. He’s furious at this breach of security, but he’s keeping back a secret of his own. Rex has visited his estranged father in LA, showing him the mortal wound. His father still rejects him.
While Jack and Gwen are successfully getting to the server room, the unfortunate Nicholas Frumkin is caught in his car by the surveillance agent, who wants the man’s biometric data. (Obviously Phicorp is being kept in the dark about Torchwood.) But he’s not so scrupulous about how he gets it – the voice caught on tape, plus his actual eye and hand suffice.
Jack and Gwen reach the server room first and swap out the servers, with the agent not far behind. He knocks them both out and ties them up. He’s strangely interested in Jack’s im/mortality, especially as it pertains to his employers, about whom he seems to know a lot. Echoing Newman when confronted by Rex, the agent has this to say:
They are everywhere, they are always, they are no-one. They’ve been waiting for a long time, searching the world for a specific geography. They’ve found it. And they’ve made it magnificent. They once had names long ago. Those names were…
And that’s when Rex shoots him in the throat and a lot of other places. Because Gwen’s wearing the contact lenses that allow Esther to see and hear what she sees and hears. So Rex staggers up the stairwell, bleeding profusely, and gets there just as they’re about to find out who’s behind both Phicorp and the Illuminati. And shoots the agent in the throat. Gwen is really pissed. You have to feel sorry for Rex. “Thanks, anybody, thanks?”
Deep joy. I wanted an Alien Bigger Bad, rather than boring old Big Pharma. There is a Santa Claus.
Back at Venice Beach, the server reveals that Phicorp, with the backing of the UN, has been building what it calls “overflow camps” where the Dead will be sent. In other words, concentration camps. Bad news for Gwen, because she’s been urging Rhys to get her dad out of the hospital ward where he’s been parked, into something better. Rhys calls to report success – he’s gone to a South Wales overflow camp…
Now these overflow camps are similar to proposals a minor Teabagger politician has been urging on the government. Ellis Hartley Monroe, looking uncannily like Christine O’Donnell, down to the red suit, is leader of the Dead is Dead movement that seeks to segregate them “for our sake.”
While Phicorp anointed Oswald Danes as the man who will deliver “the Message,” Monroe is stealing his thunder, causing some TV networks to cancel his interviews in favour of hers. He’s angry with Jilly Kitzinger, appointed as his aide and handler, for this slight.
In another subplot, Vera Suarez is involved in getting an empty hospital ready for all the Washington Dead, concentrating them in one place. There’s that word again, although for the moment it’s as humane as it can be given the chaos. In fact, the place is already full, and people are dumping older relatives and babies there. But it’s the sort of idea to warm the cockles of Ms Monroe’s heart, and she hijacks a press conference outside the hospital that was organized for Danes. Once more he’s frozen out of the media action.
A born politician, Danes takes the initiative. He puts on a mask in full view of the reporters and goes into the hospital. They expect Monroe to do the same but she is obviously too scared. Game, set, and match to Danes, who becomes the focus of media attention once more as he takes off his mask, literally embraces the Dead, and becomes their champion. He even reinvents the politician and baby ploy, by picking up an abandoned baby and calming its crying. “This little girl,” he says, “is going to live forever, and ever, and ever…” He has in fact taken on a Christ-like aura, explicitly saying,
After the Miracle, I have risen. I have risen with unending life. And I can promise all of you that same rapture.
So Danes becomes known as “the Sainted Danes,” and Monroe slinks off to her limo, telling the driver, “Get hold of Fox, tell them I’m heading for New York.” Vera sees through it all. “It’s disgusting,” she says, walking past Jilly. “I know,” she replies, jumping up and down with delight.
Unfortunately for Monroe, the driver is the surveillance agent and the coffee he gives her isn’t all it should be. She wakes up in her car to a message from the Illuminati (triangle symbol), saying how terribly sorry they are, and how much they liked some of her ideas, but she was giving too much away, too soon. Plus Oswald Danes is now their main man. Then, in one of the most deeply satisfying scenes so far, the car is lifted into a crusher with her inside it. After it’s done, the camera weaves through the tightly twisted metal to reveal a live eye looking back.
This is only the second time in my life that I’ve used the vile acronym, but it’s justified – LOL. Even – and this one’s a first – ROFLMAO.