Sunday, July 24, 2011

Torchwood 4.03: "Miracle Day: Dead of Night"

“I sit and my desk and read blogs for a living.”

“Dead of Night” was an interesting episode of “Torchwood” in that it shed a lot of light on this season’s overall conspiracy plot. We now know (or think we know) who could potentially be behind it, and it’s none other than a big pharmaceutical company, trying to use the Miracle as a way to sell more medication. Since people can’t die, they’re going to need medication so they won’t feel the pain or incubate infections, after all. I think what kept me from loving this episode, although I certainly didn’t hate it, was that it didn’t quite live up to my expectations for Jane Espenson, who wrote the episode. It’s probably due to the fact that the last of Espenson’s work I had seen before this was her absolutely wonderful episode of “Game of Thrones,” “A Golden Crown.” That episode is probably my favorite example of her work since the old-school “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” episode “Band Candy.” So yeah, “Dead of Night” wasn’t quite up to those standards, but I suppose it was still an entertaining enough way to spend an hour.

One thing I did appreciate about the episode was that it started to connect Oswald more to the rest of the story. The episode opens with him giving an interview about how he thinks medications such as pain killers and antibiotics should be given to everyone who needs them for free. Friedkin (Wayne Knight’s character) sees this on TV at his home, and just after he has a chance to register what he’s watching, Rex breaks in and threatens him with a gun. Rex, understandably, wants to know why the rest of the CIA is after him and who Friedkin is answering to. After a little prodding, Friedkin says that the string-pullers have only ever contacted him on one particular cell phone (the one with the display that looks like a magic 8 ball), and he hands the phone over to Rex. It turns out that the rest of the Torchwood/ex-CIA team is supporting Rex behind the scenes, and they have to coordinate a quick escape when an alarm summons the police. It was a lot of fun to see the team up and running and Jack and Gwen doing their thing again. It’s been a long time.

The next scene takes place after the team has successfully made their escape. Gwen has been out on a supply run, and on the way back to the safe house (Jack’s run-down apartment that we saw in the first episode, I believe), she passes by a really freaky rally. People who call themselves “the Soulless” have donned really creepy masks and are carrying candles. The idea behind the group is that once they become immortal, human beings have no soul. I’m not sure what the point of their rally really is, other than to be creepy, really. Inside the safe house, Gwen hands out clothes, cell phones, and snacks to the rest of the team. This particular scene is really clunkily written, and it seems like the scene’s only purpose is to shove in as many differences in American and British slang as possible. Gwen talks about going to the petrol station to get chips, and Esther corrects every one of her British-isms. It’s just not a good scene overall.

Jack is talking about his morphic fields theory, and he’s run into a problem. Thousands of people have had the same theory, and there’s been so much written about morphic fields and the Miracle now that it will be almost impossible to sort through it all. Esther has more luck with her own investigation. I thought this was kind of cool, because it was a chance to see that the new CIA folks can really bring something valuable of themselves to the Torchwood team. Ether is on her computer, and she notices that ATF requests to Friedkin to see the warehouse that exploded have been repeatedly denied, so she and Rex think something important must still be there. Rex immediately thinks the team needs to steal a new car to go check it out, but Jack is pissed because he’s supposed to be calling the shots, not Rex. Jack does eventually go along with the idea, though, couching it as his own idea. Gwen is successful stealing a car by using a rock to break the window, which was hilarious, but then there’s the inevitable “driving on the wrong side of the road” joke, which was not so hilarious. Sigh.

Esther and Gwen pull up to the warehouse in their stolen car, and Gwen plays a little “lost Brit” to placate the security guard into coming just close enough to the car (because he thinks they need directions) to knock him out. It was pretty brilliant. Inside, the warehouse is absolutely packed with boxes of painkillers (Rex thinks it’s his lucky day, of course). All of the drugs are from a company called PhiCorps. The PhiCorps mystery deepens as we see Dr. Juarez at another panel, this time with doctors talking about babies not being miscarried. Jilly is there too, an she claims to be representing PhiCorps, who has developed a line of infant painkillers, naturally. At another mutual smoke break, Jilly gets Juarez to agree to come to a big meeting at PhiCorps.

Back at the safe house, Rex pitches a fit because he doesn’t want to keep the information about PhiCorps within Torchwood. He thinks they need to tell others. Specifically, he wants to bring in one of his instructors from Langley who is now ex-CIA. Jack reluctantly agrees, so Rex makes the call and arranges to meet his instructor at a hotel. Rex arrives just in time to watch from across the street as MPDC officers raid the place. It’s obvious that PhiCorps got to the instructor, and this freaks Rex out. A massive argument among the group breaks out in the alley, and Rex “quits” Torchwood.

Jack’s frustrated by the whole mess, so he goes to a gay bar to blow off some steam, and he meets a pretty bartender named Brad. Who likes Jack’s coat. Please excuse me as I shed a little tear for Ianto. Later that night, Jack drunk dials Gwen from the bed in Brad’s apartment. He wants some validation that they’re still a good team, and he mentions that he misses Ianto. Poor Jack gets hung up on, though, because Esther has just gotten a Skype-like video chat with Rhys and Anwen up for Gwen, and Gwen wants to see her daughter already! It puts Jack in a rather dark place, and I found his face when he realized Gwen was no longer on the line kind of heartbreaking.

Jack isn’t the only one getting lucky that night. Rex shows up at Juarez’s apartment needing treatment for his wound, which is bleeding pretty heavily again. Juarez re-dresses the wound, and Rex also gets some sex for his trouble. Juarez and Rex share some pillow talk about the Miracle and the drug store at the warehouse (how romantic), and Juarez mentions that she’s heard of PhiCorps before thanks to Jilly. Rex really wants Juarez to go to the big meeting at PhiCorps, but she’s not very enthusiastic about the idea.

Meanwhile, Oswald escapes the motel where he has been staying, and he ends up at a diner. As he tries to leave after eating some pie, two other diners recognize him and are horrified by his crimes. They chase Oswald out of the diner, and Oswald keeps running until he sees a couple of cops. The cops make the unruly couple leave, and Oswald asks the cops to take him back to his motel. The cops are a little too quick to agree. They drive Oswald to the middle of nowhere and beat the crap out of him, all though they’re careful not to hit his face. Oswald is dumped in front of his motel, and when he looks up, he sees Jilly standing there. He finally agrees to be Jilly’s client.

Jack arrives back at the safe house to see Gwen demonstrating the camera contact lenses from “Children of Earth” to Rex (who I guess has un-quit). The lenses are the only bit of tech that survived the destruction of the Hub in “Children of Earth.” Rex wants to use the lenses to go undercover at PhiCorps, but Gwen comes up with a quick story to make sure she’s the one who gets to go instead. She said that the lenses are specifically tuned to work only for her. Jack smiles approvingly at this. I’m guessing a Torchwood/Ex-CIA divide is going to be an ongoing story arc this season. So Gwen ends up being the person who is going to infiltrate PhiCorps.

Surprisingly, Juarez goes to the PhiCorps meeting. At a pre-determined time, she leaves the auditorium where the doctors are gathering and lets Gwen into the building. Gwen’s objective is to raid Jilly’s office for information, but on the way, she sees Oswald in the building. Back in the auditorium, Juarez sees that this whole meeting is really a big presentation given by a member of Congress. He plans to introduce legislation to make all drugs available without a prescription. The idea being, that without the check of a prescription, drug sales will go through the roof, and PhiCorps will be rolling in cash. Gwen’s furiously copying data from Jilly’s computer, but she’s in danger. Jilly has left the auditorium to go to her office, and Gwen is about to get caught. Gwen is warned just in time, and Juarez calls Jilly to get Jilly back to the auditorium.

At the safe house, the red cell phone Rex got from Friedkin rings. Rex answers it while Esther tries to trace the call. Rex keeps speaking to keep the other party on the line, but he gets no answer. And Esther can’t get a clean trace on the call, either. Rex and Esther start furiously packing up the safe house, because they know that whoever was calling probably now knows their location. Meanwhile, Jack confronts Oswald about how you can’t be forgiven for killing a child. Clearly Jack is feeling some residual guilt from the events at the end of “Children of Earth.” Oswald gets all creepy about how he enjoyed raping and killing little Susie Cabina before he calls in the PhiCorp guards to take care of Jack. Oswald does another broadcast, this time essentially an ad for PhiCorp, laying it on thick (too thick, really), about how corporations have our best interests in mind and are here to help us, while the guards beat up Jack, again being careful not to hit his face.

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