Sunday, August 28, 2011

Torchwood 4.08: "Miracle Day: End of the Road"

“And what is it with you, Red Barron? You got Snoopy up your ass?”

So I’ve returned to blogging Torchwood since I’m all caught up here on the blog, and once again, the show takes a significant downturn in quality. This episode wasn’t the worst of the bad episodes of “Torchwood: Miracle Day,” but it certainly wasn’t up to last week’s standards. Probably because there was too much of Jilly, Oswald, Rex, and Esther. And Jack and Gwen have been split up. Given how focusing on the original characters led to the season’s best episode by far last week, splitting them up now seems like a really, really inadvisable idea. Mostly, though, the episode was kind of boring. Which was a shame, because two great guest actors, Nana Visitor and John de Lancie, did their best with what they were given. The problem was, they weren’t exactly given much. Most distressing was the horrible underuse of Nana Visitor. She delivered some exposition (as well as could be expected), and that was it. We know from her time as Kira Nerys on “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” and her stage career that she is capable of being much more than an exposition machine. John de Lancie at least had to have a little fun being an ass with his role, even if it did require him to hit many of the same beats as one of his most famous characters, Q (who appeared in several of the modern “Star Trek” tv series).

The episode opens with the Torchwood team being taken to Angelo’s house. It’s very lavish, thanks to the financial advice Jack gave Angelo back in the 1920’s. Olivia, his granddaughter (Nana Visitor’s character), explains that after meeting Jack, her grandfather devoted the rest of his life to seeking immortality. The typical catch applies, though. Now that he has actually achieved immortality (thanks to the Miracle), he is too old and of poor health to enjoy it. He’s unconscious and hooked up to life support, to be specific. As I’ve already sort-of mentioned, Olivia has to do a heck of a lot of exposition in this early part of the episode. She talks about how Angelo took every step he could to try and extend his life, such as keeping his body at two degrees colder than its natural temperature. I thought that was kind of interesting despite being an info-dump. She also explains that Jack’s pre-Miracle condition isn’t really all that unique in nature. There are some jellyfish who have cells that can de-age, essentially. Finally, Olivia also tells us a bit more about the three men who made some sort of deal while Jack was being tortured in the 1920’s. They were from three separate families, and after Jack escaped, they made a pact to get the power of immortality back. Olivia gives Torchwood the three family names, but Esther can find no record whatsoever of anyone with those last names.

While Esther is trying to do more research on the Families, Friedken and some of his CIA flunkies roll up, and Friedkin points a gun at Esther through her car window. After arresting Esther, the CIA team raids Angelo’s house. Friedkin is trying to complete this raid before his boss, Shapiro, shows up because he doesn’t want Shapiro to suspect he’s working for the Families. For some reason I don’t quite understand, Friedkin takes a special interest in shaking down Rex. Rex recordings and broadcasts the indimidation (and a confession of taking bribes from the Families) by Friedken to everyone else at the house thanks to the i5 contacts. He nabbed the contacts from Gwen, which probably didn’t make her especially happy. Shapiro arrives just as the broadcast is wrapping up. Shapiro is an interesting character to say the least. He runs roughshod over everything and everyone, and he thinks he’s the center of the universe. Shapiro even tries to have Gwen deported, but Rex stops him by saying what an asset Gwen has been to the investigation. Shapiro’s an ass, but he’s marginally safer for our Torchwood folks than people like Friedken who are directly connected to the Families.

Shapiro wants everybody out of Angelo’s house as soon as possible- he’s getting them all loaded up in SUV’s to go to the nearest CIA installation, no doubt. For some reason, though, he decides to let Jack have a moment to say goodbye to Angelo. Before this can happen though, Friedken has to cause one last bit of trouble. He’s handcuffed in an SUV along with Olivia and some of his CIA underlings. He starts trying to justify his involvement with the Families, claiming he’s said “no” to them many times when they try to go too far. There’s one latest request from the Families, though, that he can’t refuse. Then we see that he’s got a bomb strapped to his chest. The other passengers only have a few moments to scream before the whole SUV blows up. I was really kind of ticked off that they killed off Olivia so soon. Nana Visitor really didn’t get a chance to do much with the role in the short amount of time she was on screen, but what she did with it (when not bogged down in exposition) was fun, and I would have liked to have seen more of it. After that bit of excitement, Jack does finally get to say his goodbye. He asks the unconscious Angelo if he saw Ianto, then realizes that Angelo would probably be jealous of Ianto. I appreciated the callback to Jack’s past, although I thought mentioning Ianto to the very sick Angelo was a little tacky. Anyway, Jack kisses Angelo, and alarms start going off. Jack doesn’t think that’s a dignified way to die, so he unplugs the life support. And Angelo actually does die (with Jack being overdramatic and screaming for help), in spite of the Miracle. Shapiro is bound and determined to figure out how that happened.

Now that their names have been cleared, Esther and Rex are busily videoconferencing with their coworkers back at CIA headquarters in DC. There’s some talk about an imminent economic collapse, with Greece, Ireland, and Spain’s economic troubles potentially bringing down the EU. Which is kinda happening without the Miracle’s help in the real world, actually. Esther asks her friend who is a fellow blonde, female analyst to help her look into the Families, and the other analyst vows that if there’s anything on paper about them, no matter how far back she has to go, she’ll find it. She also tells Esther that she’s found out where Esther’s sister is, and she arranged to get her some extra care. Esther calls her sister, and they have a rather disturbing conversation. Esther’s sister says she wants to volunteer to be made Category 1, which I find just bizarre. She says there’s a whole community of such people on the internet, and she’s added herself and her daughters (Esther’s nieces) to the list of volunteers. Why would she be able to put her daughters, who are currently under protective services, if I remember right, on any list like that? It’s kind of a stupid plot point and makes no sense if you think about it at all. Gwen’s also on the phone instead of working, talking with Rhys about how her dad’s not doing well and there are going to be runs on banks soon. They wonder if the financial meltdown in 2008 was only the first step of whatever plan for world ruin is in motion now.

In Dallas, Jilly is frantically trying to run down the schedule for a major public appearance at Cowboys Stadium with Oswald. He’s relly not very interested, though. Instead, he puts on some music really loud and starts to dance awkwardly. Jilly eventually gets him to turn down the music, but then he says he wants Jilly to find him a woman. A woman of legal age, thankfully. Jilly returns to her own hotel room in exasperation, and she meets an overeager intern from her PR firm. The intern seems as if she can make Jilly’s life a whole lot easier, so Jilly tells her to go fetch her a sandwich. When the intern asks how Jilly can stand working for Oswald, Jilly says that she’s not going to have to deal with him much longer. A text message from the intern back to CIA headquarters reveals that the “intern” is actually a CIA agent.

The requested prostitute pays a visit to Oswald. Oswald wants conversation and dinner, not sex, and that kind of throws of the prostitute. She could have put aside what Oswald had done if he was just asking for sex, but she can’t bring herself to pretend he’s a normal human being. Oswald starts to get a little violent with her, but she manages to leave before getting hurt. Before leaving, she says she’s heard rumors that Oswald is going to be declared “Category 0,” which will be a new designation for people who are to be sent to the ovens for moral reasons. Oswald confronts Jilly about this, and he gets even more violent, slapping Jilly when she doesn’t give him a satisfactory answer. Jilly fights back, and when Oswald leaves, she yells after him that she’s going to have him arrested on new charges, and he’s going to burn. The blonde guy from one of the Families who approached Jilly a few episodes ago makes yet another appearance. He tells Jilly she’s being watched by the CIA, and he kills the intern (by shooting her) for being a CIA agent. Then he tells Jilly she’s eligible for a promotion, and Jilly says she’s interested. We then cut to Esther’s blonde CIA analyst friend, who hangs up from a phone call and tells her coworker the call was “family business.” Guess Esther is about to be in a world of even more trouble.

Back at Angelo’s house, Esther notices that the floor under Angelo’s bed looks strange. There’s a bed-sized panel that looks different from the rest of the floor. Jack tells Ester to keep quiet about it, but she can’t resist telling Shapiro. On the one hand, Esther is annoying in her overeagerness to please her superiors, but on the other hand, Jack has been way angsty and evasive and mysterious in this episode, so I get why she’d fall back on doing things by the CIA book. This makes Shapiro start to press Jack for more information, and when Gwen tries to protect Jack, Shapiro decides to deport her after all. I’ll spare you the rant about how ridiculous this is. CIA flunkies rip up the floor and find a strange panel underneath. Jack is goaded into explaining that the device, which is extraterrestrial in origin, is emitting a null field. It’s cancelling out the morphic field causing the Miracle in the area around the bed, which is how Angelo was able to die. Shapiro commands Jack to make the panel safe so they can take it back to Langley.

Instead of doing what he’s supposed to do, Jack makes the panel nullify sound. He, Esther, and Rex (who doesn’t believe Jack at first and has to test out the sound proofing himself) get to have a private conversation. Jack tells the others that he thinks Angelo salvaged the panel from the ruins of the old Torchwood Hub. He begs Rex and Esther to help him get out of Angelo’s house and escape the CIA, and he wants to take a plate from the panel with him so the panel won’t work anymore. He thinks that the world should not have this technology- we can’t handle the power. Rex is skeptical and kind of desperate to be accepted back among his old CIA crew, but he eventually agrees to help. The escape plan goes south pretty quickly though. Jack ends up getting shot by what seems to be a random CIA lackey, and Esther is seen by that same lackey. They drive off together, and Esther is next seen completely freaking out while continuing to attempt to drive a very badly injured Jack. Oh, and Gwen is all emo with a tear prettily dripping down her cheek while on a plane back to Cardiff. I really don’t think this season is headed in a good direction at all.

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