I’d be a terrible professional TV reviewer – I don’t like writing down negative thoughts about things, I’d rather say nothing at all. I’m not just a glass half-full kinda girl, I’m a glass half-way to getting refilled kinda girl. So it pains me to report that although episode four of Torchwood: Miracle Day is better than its predecessors I’m still not feeling the love.
There are a few twists in the tale, but so much of it is predictable. From the moment Esther steps out of the car at her mentally-fragile sister’s home, you know she’s inadvertently laying a trail of breadcrumbs back to the rest of the team. I’m not sure what we’re supposed to take from her turning her sister and nieces in to social services – that she is really ruthless enough to be a member of Torchwood? I’m trying to care and failing.
Mekhi Phifer is stuck with a dog of a character in Rex. The writers are flogging a dead horse trying to convince me there’s some sort of relationship between him and Dr Juarez (still wearing those ridiculous high-heeled shoes). There’s more sexual tension between Dick and Dom to be quite honest. And this week we meet his alcoholic father living in a dump. I don’t know if we’re meant to be in the dark about who to feel empathy with, but again I neither know nor care. (I am vaguely intrigued by the boxes of Phicorp meds Dad has stashed though).
Gwen is also distracted by family – missing Rhys and Anwen and fretting about her father stuck in hospital. Again, the moment where she distractedly tells Rhys to get her father out of hospital is so clearly going to backfire horribly, it’s just painful to watch.
Slightly more interesting is the plan to overflow the terminally (or should that be eternally) sick into an abandoned hospital – a plague ship. Sounds like just the sort of thing David Cameron would sign off on to me and highlights the unpleasant fact that while the Big Bad is up to something Unspeakably Evil, it’s helped along by humans who just do’t care enough to say ‘no’ or ‘this is a bad idea’.
Torchwood’s move of the week is to break into Phicorp HQ, steal the server that holds all the juicy data and replace it with an identical, but handily fire-damaged, one. To do so they need the biometric data of one man, Nicholas Frumkin. I’m not sure that lampshading Gwen’s awful American accent is enough to excuse it – but she and Jack coo over the Frumkin’s baby and collect his fingerprints, a sample of his voice and a copy of his iris pattern in a scene that must have had bottoms clenching on sofas across the land. It turns out there is another way to get this data – as we find out when the man who is following Torchwood with instructions to kill Jack shows up – but this way involves a lot more blood and screaming.
The server switch goes beautifully until the unnamed assassin knocks out Gwen and trusses her up to entrap Jack. Luckily for Jack, the assassin doesn’t want to kill him (having noted his services are no longer required post-Miracle), and lets us have a few crumbs of knowledge to chew on. The Big Bad encountered Jack a long time ago and he gave them something (I’m resisting the urge to joke that it was a dose of the clap. Oh.). We’re about to learn the Big Bad’s name when all-too-predictably Rex finally makes it up 33 flights of stairs and shoots the assassin in the throat. Sigh.
More interesting, however, is Jilly Kitzinger. She’s not in thrall to Danes at all. She is just doing a job for Phicorp, allbeit with great relish when Danes unseats the ursuper to his media throne – Ellis Hartley Monroe and her Dead is Dead campaign. As it turns out he needn’t have worried about losing his moment in the spotlight. The Big Bad are worried Monroe is drawing unwanted attention to a future stage of their strategy and dispose of her in a thrillingly awful way (I know she was a caricature of a Tea Party loony, but she was very unpleasant and it was a damn fine way to punish a fictional horror). And now, we can also see the evangelical beginnings of the future Danes we saw in the taster for the season shown at the end of episode one. Bill Pullman remains an acting god despite everything the writers throw at him.
I’m hanging in there, afterall all relationships go through rough patches and I like to think that I can rekindle my full-on passion for Torchwood. But they’re going to have give me a little more than this to work with.
The good bits:
- Gwen asking for the team to be able to stay by the sea in Venice Beach instead of some “stinking dirty pit for once”.
- Rex scoffing at the large, biker dude landlord pointing the team to some ‘fabulous’ food on the corner: “Fabulous? What is it with you? You make everyone around you gay?” Jack: “That’s the plan.”
- George Eliot’s line about flames making patterns in irregular scratch marks on metal – which does at least explain Jack’s obsession with Oswald Danes.
- Jack is hotter than ever when doing manly lugging of heavy stuff in delivery man uniform.
- Assassin in reply to Gwen’s “It’s in your interests to keep [Jack] alive.”: “That’s exactly what I’m doing. Haven’t you noticed the absence of killing?”