In the wake of the news from NASA this week — that there may be evidence of water on Mars — we’re taking a quick look at the science fiction literature that focuses on the Red Planet. Barsoom. Mars. It’s captured the imagination of generations, and it’s been a setting for so many stories. […]
“DEAD OF NIGHT”
Late, late, late…
Ok, so this is being submitted on the night episode 4 is airing, and since I no longer have some of the other time conflicts I’ve had this week, expect to see that review shortly.
So where were we? Oh yes, every human on Earth suddenly cannot die, no matter how sick or horribly wounded. The word TORCHWOOD has appeared on computers at the CIA, prompting an agent to hunt down the surviving members to determine what they have to do with it. Meanwhile, a convicted pedophile and rapist finds himself free after a failed execution and thrust into the spotlight, using the opportunity to become a celebrity, and becomes involved with those who may be behind it all…
With Oswald Danes seemingly on every channel, and the medical community struggling to deal with the horrific implications of the Miracle, the newly reconstituted Torchwood decides that it’s time to get answers. Their first stop is Deputy Director Friedkin’s (Wayne Night) house, where Agent Rex Matheson (Mekhi Phifer) demands to know who is behind Friedkin’s attempt on his life as well as on Jack and Gwen’s. The answer isn’t much, but it’s a start: They’ve been around for decades, and only contacted Friedkin through his cellphone, which after deafening him, Matheson takes.
Setting up a base of sorts in an abandoned house, Torchwood plots their next move, finding Oswald Danes’ media presence to be suspicious, as well as a warehouse that Friedkin was doing his best keep away from scrutiny. But all is not well among our heroes, as the pressure of the situation has everyone’s nerves on edge, with Matheson’s anger and frustration directed at those around him. Calling something of a truce, they investigate the warehouse, finding a gigantic stash of PhiCorp drugs, painkillers specifically, EXACTLY the kind of drugs that are needed in this new world.
Meanwhile Dr. Vera Juarez (Arlene Tur) struggles both with the realities of what the trauma center has become, and with trying to work with other doctors to find a way to deal with the broader implications of the Miracle. From a woman beat so bad that she’s braindead but incapable of dying, to cholera outbreaks, to naturally terminating pregnancies that aren’t (and just think about that for a moment), she’s feeling a bit overwhelmed. Enter Jilly Kitzinger (Lauren Ambrose), PhiCorp rep, with an offer of help…
And then there’s Oswald Danes (Bill Pullman). Now free but still shadowed by a police escort, he sneaks out of his motel and finds himself chased by those who don’t have any intention of forgiving him for his rape and murder of a 12 year old girl. His rescue by the police turns out to be anything but, and after a viscous beating he ends up back at his motel, where he finds Jilly Kitzinger waiting for him…
The plot thickens indeed. Earlier this week I wrote about the WONDER WOMAN pilot, and my annoyance with it’s use of a pharmaceutical company as the bad guy, and finding an evil one here doesn’t exactly fill me with joy, but considering it’s a piece of the larger puzzle I’m willing to give it more time to play out. And since it’s somewhat unlikely that PhiCorp is your run of the mill drug company, especially in the world of TORCHWOOD, you can bet there are more revelations to follow. And their reach is something of a concern… how does Jilly know where and when to be to manipulate Dr. Juarez and Danes?
We do have to talk about the sex in this episode. Anyone concerned about STARZ toning down the omnisexual themes of the British version can look no further than here to see that isn’t the case. The scenes where our newly mortal Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) picks up a man in a bar while Matheson and Juarez meet in her apartment are as sexually charged and graphic as anything on the BBC. Anyone wondering if Barrowman is in good shape for 44 will have no doubts either. Whether you appreciate such scenes is going to be up to you, but from the beginning TORCHWOOD has worn its sex appeal on its sleeve, and it hasn’t toned it down for US audiences.
Performances continue to be strong on this fourth series, with standout moments for all of our actors here. Of note is Pullman’s Danes, who continues to be one of the most interesting characters. From his stilted speech and the way he moves his head to the mystery of his true feelings, solved here in a way that rings horribly true, Pullman has created a truly unique anti-hero. It’s weird to use any term involving hero in regards to Danes, but with his prominence in the series and his intentions revealed here, anti-hero is probably the accurate term. The way he recounts the murder he committed is chilling and really disturbing, but he continues to be much more than a two-dimensional villain, and I really am very interested to see how his arc ends.
Arlene Tur’s Dr. Vera Juarez is still my favorite new character of the series, again showing us a strong, intelligent and resourceful woman thrust into an impossible situation and rising to the occasion. Her relationship with Matheson is interesting. Sexual certainly, but also with a charming awkwardness as two people who are faced with an insane world finding a little comfort with each other. Her reluctant joining of the Torchwood team is as much to answer her own questions as to help Matheson, and she may be the best addition yet.
Gwen gets to be action girl a bit here, but Eve Myles’ best moment comes when she receives a call from both a drunken Jack and from her husband and baby back in Wales. While Jack tries to get reassurance that their separation and past traumas hasn’t changed the bond between them, Gwen’s focus is on her family. While there has long been a suggestion that Jack and Gwen have an attraction, it’s clear that too much has happened, too much death and sadness, to make that ever a reality. And her true love is her husband Rhys.
Alexa Havins’ Esther continues to feel massively out her depth out in the field, and makes about every mistake one can make if trying to keep a low profile. Havins gives us a woman who as an analyst is one of the best there is though, and proves it over and over this episode. Even while feeling lost and scared she pulls together the information that Torchwood needs to carry their investigation forward.
As Agent Rex Matheson, Mekhi Phifer continues to be difficult, unpleasant and confrontational, but also tormented and focused on getting answers. There is a softer side to him, revealed not only in his relationship with Juarez, but also with his real fear and confusion over the Miracle. The unhealing wound in his chest and the knowledge he should have died, combined with his constant pain certainly explain his bitter nature, but even when trying to walk away from the team his inherent goodness draws him back.
Jack Harkness. The immortal man who finds himself mortal, his decision to drink too much and find some physical pleasure in the midst of it all is very human, if a little selfish. Of course that’s human too, but the best moment in the sex scene is Jack’s insistence on using a condom. In a world where death isn’t an option, disease hasn’t gone away, and it’s good to see some safe sex being practiced no matter what the dramatic situation. That he drunk dials Gwen as soon as the other guy has fallen asleep reinforces the attraction Jack has for her, as well as Jack’s deep-rooted loneliness. That he doesn’t realize what he’s saying to Gwen isn’t really appropriate could be because he’s drunk, but his new mortality is also making him realize who he has lost over the years, and Gwen is all that’s left. But most important is Barrowman’s scene with Danes.
If you saw CHILDREN OF EARTH you know the sacrifice Jack made. To save millions of children he used his grandson as the means to destroy the alien 456, and the guilt is something he simply can’t shake off. As someone who killed a child, he finds Danes talk of forgiveness troubling, and when confronting him about it reveals the depths of his pain. When Danes confesses his true feelings about his crime, Jack sees that although Danes is a monster, he and Jack both want the same thing. What that is I’ll leave you to watch for yourself, but it shapes both characters in ways that will surely matter to the unfolding story.
So! Is it a good episode? It is, and my pick for the best one so far. We got answers and more questions, we got good character development and our story pushing forward nicely. Good stuff, and more to come.