Torchwood: Miracle Day (10/10)

Torchwood: Miracle Day (1&2/10)
Torchwood: Miracle Day (3/10)
Torchwood: Miracle Day (4/10)
Torchwood: Miracle Day (5/10)
Torchwood: Miracle Day (6/10)
Torchwood: Miracle Day (7/10)
Torchwood: Miracle Day (8/10)
Torchwood: Miracle Day (9/10)
BBC Torchwood website

The Families have just been waiting.  Now we can step in to control the banks, the banks control government, the government controls people.  Soon, we’ll be able to decide who lives, how long, where, and why.
– Families Woman in Shanghai

Brilliant ending for Miracle Day.  Good must triumph over Evil, at least temporarily, so it was no surprise to see Torchwood reverse the Miracle and bring death back into the world.  No surprise, either, to see Jack regain immortality – he wouldn’t be Captain Jack Harkness without it.  The brilliance was in all the twists and turns of how it happened, along with the surprises and revelations.  Not least in discovering which characters die.  Given the cull in Children of Earth, they got off lightly this time, although it was a pity the sacrifice had to be Esther.  I liked her.

As I predicted in last week’s review, Oswald Danes played a major role as a de facto, if reluctant, Torchwood member in allowing himself to be wired up as a suicide bomber.  Not exactly a redemption, because he knows that “whatever happens tonight, there’s no place on earth that I can go.  And I wasn’t planning on coming out of here alive.”  Indeed, his reaction to the self-knowledge brought by the Blessing is first shock, then acceptance of who he is.  “The Blessing feels like sin.  I guess I’m accustomed to sin.”  That gives him the steadiness to help bring about the reversal of the Miracle – the only way his life can end.  I’ve said before that he’s the mirror image of Jack, and that’s why they’re together at the end, and why Danes helps Jack.

Jilly got better and better – by which I mean worse and worse – in wholeheartedly accepting the Families plan for world domination.  “About time.  The families, they want to make the world fitter, more compact, more disciplined.  I like the sound of that.  That sounds like salvation.”  Amoral, self-serving, and idealistic, all in one petite, beautifully wrapped, fascist package.  I’m glad she survived to fight another day.  If there’s another Torchwood series, I hope she’ll be back.

Rex and Esther have been getting closer and closer, ever since Vera’s death, and in this episode they were working very well together.  I predicted then that Rex would fall in love with her, as much as she loves him, and his reaction when she’s shot bears this out.  He’s almost ready give up the mission, because in bringing back death he’ll condemn Esther to die.  His anguished, “What do I do?” says it all.  It takes Gwen’s determination to get him back on track.

Gwen was magnificent, as usual.  She brings all the ambiance of the old Cardiff Torchwood into this series just by being herself – Welsh, bloody minded, violent, unreasonable, passionate, devoted to her family, and beautiful.  There’s something about that gap between her teeth.  It was also a good move to switch scenes back and forth between Wales and America, and now Shanghai, so we can see why she cares.  Gwen is as important a character as Jack in the series.  Russell T. Davies always seems to give her speeches when a point needs to be strongly made.  As here:

And that’s what I did in a pit in old Shanghai.  I brought death back to the world.  They said it was like a breath, a breath that went around the whole wide world, the last breath.

This, after she has just granted Jack the honour of being shot by someone who loves him rather than committing suicide.  And her words sound out against the background of her dad finally dying in Wales.  Even Danes is impressed.  “You’ll kill them all?  You are magnificent.”

Jack is Jack, a known unknown, central to Torchwood and a friend of the Doctor.  There’s a lot of scope there to more fully explore the consequences of becoming mortal, but I don’t think he went through much character development in the series.  It was painful, inconvenient, and unpleasant to be mortal, dangerous sometimes, and that’s all.  There’s no sense of him changing as a person.  Everybody else was irretrievably altered.  And it must be said that John Barrowman was out-acted by everyone else in the cast.  So far he’s a character actor, rather than actor.  I’d like to see what he does with another role, in which he has to get under the skin of someone completely unlike himself.

Their reaction to what the Blessing reveals to them is revealing in the different ways they approach the world.  For Gwen it’s “enough guilt to last me a lifetime.  But that’s OK.  I’m a working mother, I don’t need the Blessing to tell me that.”  For Jack, “I’ve lived many lifetimes.  And now I can see them all.  Hey, not so bad.”  Jack might be a lot older, but he seems much younger and less-burdened.

The Blessing turns out to be what?  Jack waffles.  It’s not the rock, but “the gap in between.  Nothingness.  The space, it’s alive.”  Gwen knows bullshit when she hears it. “You don’t bloody know, do you?”  “No.”  One one level, I find the idea of a fissure running through the earth from Shanghai to Buenos Aires jarring.  It’s as if a flat earth were part of the plot.  Ridiculous.  I’m really good at the willing suspension of disbelief thingy, but it just isn’t true.  That’s why aliens are so necessary to science fiction – they can be and do anything they like, and I don’t have go, “Eh, what?”  The only writer I’d trust with a flat earth (or similar nonsense) is Terry Pratchett, and that’s because of the internal consistency of Discworld.

I loved the way the plot unfolded in this episode.  It never occurred to me that Rex might get a complete transfusion of Jack’s blood, just in case their precious “weapon” was destroyed, as happened in Buenos Aires.  Or that Rex would balk at carrying out the plan when Argentinian Families Guy shot Esther.  But the transfusion resolved the problem of getting Jack’s blood into both the Shanghai and Buenos Aires ends of the Blessing.  A visually spectacular scene.

Superb plotting, too, in the way we were kept in the dark about whether Rex and Esther were still alive.  We saw Argentinian paramedics working on them, and I thought both would live.  Usually there’s scene where the person to pop their clogs gets to say a few last words.  So I assumed everything would be all right.  Then cut to the funeral in Chapel of the Gardens.  Must be Gwen’s dad, right?  But as the camera pans from left to right, we see Rhys, Gwen, Jack, then Charlotte, last seen blowing up the CIA office to avoid detection as a mole.  Not expected.  Followed by Rex, and no Esther.  Cut to her picture by the coffin, then to her sister and nieces.

The scene where the creepy Families suit makes contact with a fugitive Jilly was sort of expected.  Every science fiction film has the thwarted menace growing again in the shadows.  This time it’s “Plan B,” and Jilly is definitely interested.  Miracle Day is about corporatocracy, which is actually a present reality – the background events reflected realpolitik.  But the Torchwood concept of the Families, as in the Illuminati, is a tin foil hat obsession that’s alive and well on the internet.

The best surprise came at the end, another one I didn’t expect.  Rex turns out to be immortal, after the blood transfusion from Jack.  Great dialogue, worth repeating.

Jack: I’m so sorry, he’s dead.  (Rex revives.)  What?
Gwen: What? (Wide-eyed.)
Rex: What? (Trying to work out what just happened.)  What? (Sees wound healing.)
Gwen: What the hell…
Jack: That’s impossible.
Rex: You, World War II, what the hell did you do to me?

There’s an entertaining thought – Rex and Jack, the only two immortals on earth, having to put up with each other for eternity.

A lot to mull over, and you don’t want me blathering on forever.  But leave a comment if you feel so inclined.  The sign of a good show is that you keep thinking about it afterwards.  I hope there’s a new series, one with a thoroughly pissed-off Rex, and Jilly doing her thing in that red coat.  At least I can read other blogs and reviews now, without worrying about spoilers.  Still, a big gap left in Thursday night.