“The Middlemen”

After watching Dr. Jaurez burn in one of the crematoriums the leaders of the world have authorized for the Category 1′s, Rex (Mekhi Phifer) tries to escape from the San Pedro camp, only to find it in lock-down as Colin Maloney (Marc Vann) unravels. Meanwhile in Wales, Gwen (Eve Myles) races the clock to have her father reclassified from Cat.1 to Cat. 2., aware of the fate that awaits him in the Modules. And Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) confronts the COO of PhiCorp as he tries to track down the mysterious group behind the Miracle…

Spoilers, they do follow…

Oh my dear and fuzzy lord. What happened to TORCHWOOD? Yes, the first 2 seasons were uneven, but they had promise. And CHILDREN OF MEN was really good. But now…

Here’s the problem I’m having… the first three episodes of TORCHWOOD: MIRACLE DAY were really promising. The fourth episode was frankly bad, the fifth sort of ok. But now we have the sixth episode of a 10 episode series and although I have a lot of respect for Russell T Davies, I really think he’s gone off the rails here.

There is so much wrong here it’s hard to know where to start. To keep from turning this into a really long recap/review, I’ll direct you to the previous reviews for details, but short-ish version? Mankind has gone completely insane, our leaders worldwide have decided that mass-murder is justified, time is flowing at different speeds for everyone but our heroes, oh, and our heroes have forgotten everything that they’ve ever known about being effective and have turned into complete amateurs.

So what about this episode, “The Middlemen”? Well, the good news is that we do get some things of interest, but unfortunately they happen in an episode full of a LOT of bad writing.

After Gwen’s father collapsed last episode in the midst of her rescue attempt, his condition gets him reclassified as a Category 1, which obviously concerns Gwen. Somehow managing to maintain her less-than-brilliant cover, she confronts the doctor who reclassified her father, in one of the better bits of dialogue in the series so far, and certainly the best for Gwen. Oh it’s a little heavy-handed, but it’s emotionally charged, and heavy-handedness can work pretty good there sometimes. What’s really good is the way Gwen manages to sum up the core of the ethical dilemma:

Gwen: “Well I’m glad you have the law on your side, but are you actually there, in the Module, are you actually throwing the switch? Well are you? No. No you’re here, you’re nice and safe, hidden behind your paperwork. You haven’t got the nerve to actually watch them burn, ’cause then you’d have to face the truth wouldn’t you, that this isn’t a hospital, that this is a concentration camp.”

“They built a concentration camp, here, in Britain, and you, you, you are one of the staff!”

Doctor: “The entire health care system is about to collapse, what else am I supposed to do?”

Gwen: “You say no. You say no, that’s what you do, for the love of God you say no.”

Doctor: “I… I can’t.”

Gwen: “Don’t you dare, don’t you dare, don’t you dare look at me and tell me you’re obeying orders, don’t you bloody dare. Oh, and one more thing. Don’t call yourself a doctor… not anymore. Shame on you.”

Oh how I wish Gwen had been written this well in the episodes before, but no, no she hasn’t been. That’s one of the problems I’m having with this series in fact. One episode a character is written well, the next they’re written horribly. Here Eve Myles gets to be the Gwen Cooper she should be, as opposed to the mess she’s been. And for the rest of the episode she’s pretty good too, getting her father out finally. Of course then we have a nice dramatic bit where she blows up the Modules at the camp, spoiled only by a) getting the explosives from an oddly unlocked munitions room, b) setting the charges without being spotted by any of the military on site and c) creating such a huge explosion that it’s inconceivable that there wouldn’t be serious loss of life or injury.

Then, as she returns to the States, she gets a page over the airport p.a. system to the courtesy phone, where she is simply told the word “Lenses”, prompting her to go to the bathroom and put on of the Torchwood comm/camera lenses. To her horror she finds that they’ve been hacked, and the Triangle have taken her family. To get them back she’ll have to bring Jack to the Triangle…

And here’s where I yelled at the screen. Ok, I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. It is inconceivable that the Triangle baddies, as powerful as they are, as easily as they located the Torchwood team before, haven’t been watching them all along. That our heroes have been traipsing about without being captured before now is just silly, and if the Triangle can hack the bloody Torchwood lenses, then what the hell has taken them this long? Gahhhh! They know where Torchwood is, they know who Torchwood is, they have the ability to take them down, but they what? Just like letting them run about? Seriously… this is lazy, lazy writing.

But what of Rex and Esther? As Rex tries to escape the camp in San Pedro with the record of Jaurez’s death, (by the way, the only character who’s displayed a lick of sense for most of the series, sorry to see you go Vera), he finds himself prisoner of the fast unraveling Colin Maloney. Esther, unaware of Vera’s murder, has been trying to contact her in vain, and arranges to stay behind the other office workers when they leave after their shift, and finds herself dealing with the lock-down Maloney has instigated to help cover his crime. When Rex is captured and tortured by Maloney, he’s only rescued by the timely arrival of Esther, who gets to put a beat down on the camp director. Of course he’s only a little bit dead, so when he comes after her again, his weaselly pet soldier finally stops being the embarrassment to the military he’s been up until now and shoots him.

Maloney continues here to be the cliché banal villain, and while we know well from history that those who ran the death camps were good indeed at making excuses for their actions, Maloney is so over the top, so pathetic and so much the political toady it just becomes comical. And while Rex comes off here pretty well, Esther gets to be so obvious in her questions and wandering about that it’s clear that the military has been given orders to ignore, oh, pretty much everything. Esther’s breakdown later about haven given her real name as her cover is particularly pointless, as she’s been on the run from the authorities since the second episode. Esther, honey, they already know who you are.

Jack, Jack, Jack. He gets to do some things this episode, like convince a woman in an office romance with a married man to set him up so Jack can talk to him. The married man is the Chief Operating Officer of PhiCorp, Stewart Owens, who isn’t quite the villain one would expect. As played by Ernie Hudson, Owens is not really good man, but not the monster one would expect from the head of the company that is bankrolling Oswald Danes, who is absent this episode. Interestingly, he’s been asking questions about his own company’s involvement with the Miracle, and the episode opened with him sending an operative into a site in Shanghai that a shell company connected to PhiCorp purchased in 1999. That the operative calls him to tell him the site is empty and then throws himself off a building is also interesting. Less interesting is the five-minute conversation he has with Jack, where aside from Owens giving his “I’m only a businessman trying to make a profit” speech and telling Jack he’s been trying to find out who’s behind it all, he blames the situation on the system itself. The only thing he’s learned is that whoever is behind it has been planning this for a long time, which we knew, and a mysterious reference to “The Blessing”, which added to the “Geography” reference of episode 4 and Jack’s mysterious connection to the Triangle adds up to not much at all.

Oh, how this is all dragging out. I really don’t understand how this is working. I mean again, we have things like the hospitals and camps being built seemingly overnight, and Torchwood flailing about for 5/6 episodes before they are really starting to get answers. We have villains who are seemingly all-powerful yet they can’t, until now, despite our heroes doing pretty much everything wrong, track them down. And maybe worst of all, we have the governments of the world embracing the method of the Nazis Final Solution and then trying to justify it. Folks, whatever political bent you may have, the day that the United States, Great Britain and our other allies decide the solution to anything is the mass murder of millions is the day when everything we hold dear is dead. That the most we’re getting out of this so far is a news bite where the White House gives a particularly lame excuse is a bit pathetic and unbelievable.

Four more episodes. That’s all that’s left to wrap this all up. It’s taken us 6 to get us this far and frankly I’m despairing a bit about where it’s all going. I sure would like to be pleasantly surprised, but somehow, based on what I’ve seen so far…

[photos: Starz]


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