TORCHWOOD 04.09

Posted: September 7, 2011 in Uncategorized

“The Gathering”
A review by Timothy Harvey

As Rex and the CIA continue to try and track down the Families, Gwen and her family try to keep the authorities from finding her father, while Jack and Esther hide out in Scotland. But the sudden arrival of Oswald Danes changes everything…

TWO MONTHS LATER appears on the screen and all I can think is…

Are you kidding me? Seriously? After half a dozen episodes where time is treated like a joke we get “Two Months Later”? Gahhh!!!!

OK, here’s the problem. We had episodes where hospitals were renovated overnight, governments threw out civilized behavior overnight and internment camps were built… overnight. Meanwhile our not-so-intrepid Torchwood team flailed around and kept anything but a low profile, yet managed to accomplish little and bizarrely avoid being captured or killed by the less-than-all-powerful all-powerful villains. Based on what happens in the world, the first 6 episodes of this series has to take place over a period of months, and yet we get no real time markers. Now we get “Two Months Later”.

It’s really magnifies the big issue of this season’s run, and that’s the simple fact that Davies and Co. don’t actually seem to have 10 episodes of story here. Or to be honest, maybe it’s that they weren’t allowed to have 13 or 23 or 24. It’s really frustrating. I went back tonight and watched this season from the beginning, and I really think it needed to be condensed down to 5/6 just brutal episodes, or given a full season to take a more even pace and really build this horrific world in detail. Instead we have a series that has moved too slow, has moved too fast, and frustrated me up until these last few episodes. The sad thing is that I know of a LOT of people who have given up on MIRACLE DAY by now, and I really can’t blame them. I’m honestly not sure I would have stuck with it if I wasn’t writing these reviews, but I did, and with this penultimate episode at least a lot is happening, even though a lot of it doesn’t make sense.

Not to make you think we don’t have some good stuff this time around because we do. Gwen’s turning into a drug store Robin Hood and her desperate attempts to keep her father from the more and more fascistic government are quite good indeed, and the resigned way that she and Rhys discuss his possibly taking a job driving the Category One’s to the camps is a nice touch. Rex and Shapiro’s weary banter in the CIA and the so-daft-it-feels-like-reality clues that lead them to their first real breakthrough are also good, as is the deepening mystery of Jack’s blood. Best is the scene where Oswald Danes arrives at Gwen’s house and she wipes off the saucepan before using it to beat the crap out of him. Of course Danes had just picked up her daughter and her response and Rhys’ are perfectly understandable, and FINALLY someone reacts to Danes with some degree of reality! Horror and disgust and revulsion… not this surreal celebrity. Of course that all came crumbling down last week with his assault on Jilly, but there is some sense of perverse satisfaction in seeing him bloodied on Gwen’s kitchen floor.

Bill Pullman’s Oswald gets a LOT to do here and if there was any real question about MIRACLE DAY including his redemption it’s gone right out the window these last few episodes. Here he’s just horrible, and it’s one of the intriguing things about this series that we’ve spent so much time with such a monster. His escape from the US to the UK is a little too pat, but his addition to the Torchwood team shakes everything up and adds a critical piece to their investigation. He maneuvers himself into being something resembling a necessary evil here, and while we are given plenty of opportunities for our heroes to really consider just killing him, it makes sense that in the end they take him with them. But still the question remains, why have we spent so much time with Oswald? One has to wonder what the payoff of the character will be.

The scene where Gwen considers the difference between the pedophiles she encountered in her time with the police and Oswald is one of Eve Myles best moments in the series as far as I’m concerned, and in fact, everything that takes place in Gwen and Rhys’ house this episode is some of the best work, acting and writing, that TORCHWOOD: MIRACLE DAY has given us. Finally we have answers to the “geography” question, finally we have a plan for crying out loud, and some momentum. It’s odd that the most story momentum we’ve seen has come out of two episodes set inside houses, but with only one more episode left it’s about time we have some.

It’s frightening how quickly the governments of this world have turned into thinly veiled fascist states, and to my eyes, quite unbelievably so, but here we have a very Nazi-ish functionary character hunting down Category One’s and thus at Gwen’s door. One does have to wonder why with the world falling apart, one old man is so important to the bureaucracy, but nevermind.  Here we have a US that is closing its borders and of course, the major countries are all on the Module/Ovens plan. The collapse of the stock markets and the economic systems seems a little quick to me too, and I have to wonder if cellphone service would be quite so reliable at this point, or if travel quite so easy. Maybe. But it’s a chilling world picture and for the first time it feels like the world our story is supposedly taking place in. That said, we have Esther and a wounded Jack traveling to the UK without much difficulty apparently, Oswald traveling to the UK without much difficulty, and a trip from Scotland to Wales happening without any time at all.

Not that we aren’t continuing to see more of the same problems that have plagued the show this season, oh no. Writing this time around lets us down the most, with Jilly meeting her Families contact at the park to go all cloak and dagger, despite the fact she left with him last episode. Sure it makes for a nice shot, but surely they wouldn’t have to act so much like they’re meeting on the sly would they? I mean these guys have offices, right? And am I the only one who is having a hard time wondering what exactly Jilly is bringing that’s so special to the Families? Sure she helped guide Danes into worldwide “fame”, and she’s quite the PR queen with the “Harry Bosco” business, but still. After all these years of controlling media and politics and finance they don’t have their own people for this stuff? And why did it take them two months to decide to bring her to the Blessing? Sigh.

The Blessing itself is still something of a mystery here too, but at least we have a visual for it. It’s what exactly? A hole through the earth with some sort of creature apparently? Some fleshy/rocky thing certainly, and if it’s alive I’m pretty sure I’ve got a problem with something living passing through the earth’s molten core. But it’s a science fiction series, and sometimes we let these things slide if we have a great story. Of course here we have had a wildly erratic one, so I’m not sure I’m going to. In any event it seems to have a touch of the Total Perspective Vortex to it, and like Zaphod Beeblebrox, Jilly gets some sort of justification from it, while Jack’s blood is drawn to it.

So we’re left at the end with our team split up and heading towards the two ends of the Blessing in Shanghai and Buenos Aires. The pieces are all in place it seems for the big revelations and climax of MIRACLE DAY, but after 9 episodes and what we’ve seen so far, I for one am not that optimistic that we’re going to get the payoff we deserve. We’ve got the mystery of the Blessing, the mystery of the Miracle, the mystery of Jack’s blood, the actual goal of the Families, the fates of Oswald and Jilly and half a dozen things more to resolve, all while bouncing back and forth between the two teams on opposite ends of the earth. That’s a LOT to resolve in an hour and if there’s anything this season of TORCHWOOD has taught us, it’s not to set our expectations all that high.

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