TORCHWOOD: MIRACLE DAY
Season 4, episode 2: “Rendition”
As the effects of the Miracle Day are making themselves known across the earth, Captain Jack Harkness and Gwen Cooper find themselves prisoners of CIA Agent Rex Matheson. Matheson, trying to find the connection between the now devastated Torchwood institute and the event has some personal reasons for answers: he’s got a hole in his chest that should have killed him, but for the Miracle. But there are sinister forces at work here (of course), and Rex may not be able to trust those he works for anymore…
Spoilers follow. And opinions. You have been warned.
It’s quickly apparent that this Miracle Day is going to change the world and not for the better. As Agent Matheson (Mekhi Phifer) loads Jack (John Barrowman) and Gwen (Eve Myles) onto a plane back to the states, Matheson’s analyst friend Esther Drummond (Alexa Havins) finds herself watching world events uphold in a way that defies explanation. With death no longer something the human race is experiencing, outbreaks of violence lead to horribly wounded people incapable of dying, and peace is breaking out in unexpected places. But all is not well in the halls of the CIA, as Esther will soon discover. Deputy Director Friedkin (Wayne Night) has taken over the investigation into Torchwood, and he’s clearly up to no good, seizing Matheson’s files and computers and soon going after Esther’s as well. And then there’s Lyn (Dichen Lachman), the agent Friedkin sent to help Matheson bring Torchwood in, who’s in flight drink service can’t actually be recommended.
Meanwhile, Bill Pullman’s child murdering pedophile Oswald Danes finds himself out of prison and something of a celebrity, even more so after a news interview where he breaks down on camera and sobs his apology for his crime. There’s a interesting exchange with a disapproving production assistant, as Danes grabs as much of the food from the craft services table as he can. When she points out that the food isn’t all for him, he shows he’s very aware of the world he’s emerged into. Who will hire him? Where’s his next meal coming from? Who will take him in?
“So you see my problem. There’s going to be a mob outside my door for the rest of my life. And life is now… a very long time.”
As he emerges from the interview, he finds that there’s been a sea change in public opinion… in this new world people seem to be more forgiving, and legions of people seem ready to forgive even the most horrible of human monsters. Enter PR consultant Jilly Kitzinger (Lauren Ambrose), who seems to have a knack for showing up at the right time, who thinks Danes should hire her to deal with the wave of media outlets who will want to talk to him. While Danes sends her away, she seems quite confident he’ll call her. When she shows up again to schmooze Dr. Juarez, it’s clear that she is up to something and far more than what she seems.
Speaking of Dr. Vera Juarez (Arlene Tur), she finds herself in a unique position. Consulted by Matheson from the beginning and working in trauma care, she realizes that the standard model for dealing with trauma cases is now backwards, with the worst cases in no danger of dying, the least injured are the ones that need to be treated first. More than changing medical protocols, she realizes something far far worse: with no one dying humans are becoming germ factories, and increasing use of antibiotics will only create more resistant strains, and disease will explode across the world. In the past, things like the black plague would burn through the population until only the resistant were left, but now, no one is really resistant, and the death of the infected can no longer destroy the disease. Then there’s all the chronic illnesses we all deal with, only now ALL diseases are chronic illnesses. It’s going to get far, far worse for humanity, very fast.
Picking up immediately after the events of the premiere, this episode ramps up the tension nicely, making the threat newfound immortality is posing to the world very clear. But while I think there way much to like here, there are some things that niggle. From the CIA using a commercial flight with civilian flight attendants who are surprisingly well informed about the hydraulic systems of aircraft, to convenient phone calls from banks to tip off Esther that she’s being framed for espionage, there’s a LOT of coincidences in this episode. Then there’s the immediate response to Danes’ televised breakdown. Really? In any world would a man who raped and murdered a child and then said “I’m sorry” be so quickly forgiven? And c’mon. The Miracle happened what? At most a couple of days ago? Is there a legal system in the world that would release a convicted and admitted killer so FAST, even under such odd conditions? Have you ever seen the legal system move that fast when dealing with the prison system? And then there’s Jack’s incredibly speedy recovery from being poisoned. For someone who really shouldn’t have ANY immunities at this point, and as the last remaining mortal man, shouldn’t he be flat on his back, his system in shock? While I certainly understand the necessities of storytelling, it’s like they’re throwing everything out so fast here and hoping we won’t notice when things fly in the face of common sense.
That said? There is some really good stuff here, especially with Dr. Jaurez. I’m not sure the writers of this series intended for her to become the most interesting character of this season, but for me she is. She’s asking GOOD questions, and making GOOD decisions, and talking to the right people. If our world were ever to face something on this scale I want Vera Jaurez to be a real person.
And Mekhi Phifer’s Rex Matheson continues to entertain… abrasive and sarcastic, way too sure of himself, a constant thorn in Jack and Gwen’s side, his addition to the reconstituted Torchwood is most welcome. And while she seem woefully out of her depth, Alexa Havins’ Esther is growing on me as she faces the conspiracy in the CIA.
And then there’s Oswald Danes. Bill Pullman is doing a fantastic job here, creating a character you really hate because of what he’s done, but find yourself intrigued by for what he MAY do. It’s something reminiscent of Hopkin’s Hannibal Lecter… the monster we’re fascinated by. Is he remorseful? Can he possibly be? Does it matter? Are we going to see his redemption or are we going to see a monster released into a world where his victims can be tormented forever? And what does Jilly really want from him?
The other big question here is what happens when the effects of the Miracle end. They have to don’t they? This is, after all, the same world DOCTOR WHO happens in, so we can expect a reversal by series end, whatever the cause is revealed to be. Will we see everyone who should have died from their wounds or illnesses have it all catch up to them?
Interesting questions, and quibbles aside, it’s an intriguing setup Russell T. Davies and Co. has given us here, and I for one can’t wait to see where they take it next.