Torchwood: Miracle Day, Episode 9

Wow, that was really something.

Plot:

Time has passed. The UK has gone into what the news are calling the Great Depression. Despite continued protest, the camps have been reopened. Gwen has ceased open defiance in favour of clandestine raids on pharmacies for drugs people are now too scared to go to the doctors to access. She and Rhys are living with her mother in Wales, protecting her father, who is alive, but unconscious, hiding in her basement. But she’s under surveillance and subject to regular checks, suspected of harbouring her father, who is known to be missing.

Esther and Jack are in hiding Scotland. Apparently Jack survived his wound, and Esther is regularly harvesting his blood, trying to figure out how he’s linked to the Miracle.

Rex has a lead – the Families are untraceable, but he finds a short story that seems loosely based on what happened to Jack in the meatlocker. The writer’s younger brother was killed, and the murder weapon, covered in his blood – his DNA – has escaped the Families’ record scrubbing. Unfortunately, Charlotte persuades Rex to use analysts under Family influence, and manages to stub Rex’s lead.

Jilly has been working in her new position under the Families, but it isn’t all she imagined, until, that is, she gets a summons to Shanghai, to see The Blessing for herself.

Meanwhile, Oswald has tracked Gwen down as a person who has access to Jack. He wants protection in exchange for information. Information about who Jilly is working for. Only it turns out that ‘Harry Bosno’ is a code world for a certain sort of spin, and not a man at all. Nonetheless, Oswald’s information isn’t entirely useless. They track the Families by working out what exactly Jilly has been spinning, and why. They find the Families have interests in both Shanghai and Buenos Aires… which happen to be on exact opposite sides of the world.

As Jilly is visiting The Blessing in Shanghai, Gwen’s father is discovered and taken from her house. She vows revenge and seeks to take the fight to the Famillies in Shanghai.

Once there, it is revealed that Jack’s wound is not fully healed, and actually getting worse. And Oswald notices that the blood is being drawn off in a particular direction – towards The Blessing.

How awesome was it?

Very awesome. Originality and talent have come together in these last few episodes, but never more so than now. If only the fat could have been trimmed from some of the earlier episodes this would have been an indisputably awesome piece of television. As it stands, this is certainly the most original and imaginative science fiction I have seen in a very long time on the small screen, maybe ever. No arguing that it cannot claim the sort of polished across-the-board high standards of the early seasons of the new Battlestar Galactica, but it must be confessed that BSG was not this original in science fiction terms. This episode in particular contained the realisation of so many interesting ideas that my little plot summary can’t even hope to do them justice.

The actors are also all on top of their game. Mekhi Phifer has been disappointing throughout, but ensconced solidly in a CIA world of flashy tech, performing subtle inferences, and having tense, charismatic conversations with the wonderful John De Lancie, he’s right at home.

Similarly, Bill Pullman has struggled throughout to bring the complexity of Oswald’s character to screen. He’s been caught up playing ‘creepy’, struggling with the more human aspects the script wants to inject. Tied-up and beaten and surrounded by people none of whom are prepared to pretend he’s anything but a monster, Pullman seems to have been freed from the responsibility of making clear to he audience that Paedophiles Are Bad. With this safely clear, Pullman brings a personality to the role and confronts us with the uncomfortable reality of Oswald’s intelligence and skill as an online predator.

Meanwhile, Jilly’s reaction to The Blessing, in the context of the revealtion that it can send you mad if you have something to hide, is enigmatic, terrifying, and wonerful. I really, really hope they explain it, but it’s a nice end point. What exactly was she right about? She seems both satisfied and upset. It’s been clear from day one that there must be something in Jilly’s past that’s broken, something that reforged her into the sort of woman who could deal with the job that was required of her, caring for Oswald Danes.

Gwen continues to be nothing but sheer pleasure on the screen. If she doesn’t at least get a BAFTA for this, Eve Myles will have been robbed. Can I start a campaign? The scene of her beating on Oswald without hesitation in response to finding him holding her baby is a thing of beauty. As is Rhys’s intervention. I love that Torchwood has quietly reversed the gender roles between Rhys and Gwen without in any sense emasculating Rhys. There’s no question of his status as a large, hulking, physically intimidating man as he turns back to Oswald and issues his own threat. The fact that he has not been trained to fight and chooses to refrain from violence makes him a good man, and not weak. I can think of several large-yet-loveable men that Rhys reminds me of strikingly – the sort of men that we almost never see on screen, except for when someone needs to be unlucky in love. I’m loving his representation.

Yet at the same time Rex dismisses Rhys’s comments (even though they are relevant) as those of ‘the husband’ in the way another programme might have dismissed Gwen as ‘the wife’. Rex does this because Gwen is the known entity to him – proven useful – and it’s in Rex’s character to be somewhat over-directed, focusing on the elements he perceives most likely to be successful. What’s really nice is that he’s still wrong to dismiss Rhys on the basis that he’s the primary carer for their child whilst his wife takes on the world. Gwen’s presentation as a strong woman is not reduced to an over-simplified role-reversal that still roots value in the stereo-typically male role.

It’s not without its flaws. The Blessing turning out to be something that looks like nothing so much as a giant rock pudenda, giving life to some, but threatening to suck the world inside it to destruction… almost certainly not intentional, but very unfortunate, and someone should have noticed. I’m also annoyed by the ridiculousness of the ‘hole straight through the Earth’ phenomenon. I really hope they give a nice bit of technobabble to explain that. Can’t help but feel if something like this had existed in the Earth all this time, it would have had even more alien visits than it has under the Doctor’s supervision.

But with so much yet to play out, and with the admirable rigour and imagination with which the consequences of Miracle Day have been unfolded, I’m willing to suspend my disbelief until next week. Looks like it’s going to be good.

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About Serenity Womble

I'm a writer of science fiction and fantasy short stories, as well as many, many unfinished novels. I review things of a generally speculative nature. This is my blog for writing and reviewing.
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2 Responses to Torchwood: Miracle Day, Episode 9

  1. Nyssa23 says:

    I thought maybe the Blessing was something akin to the Cardiff rift…but then I guess stuff would fall out of it too, not just go in. Hmm. The blood drop rolling across the floor was pretty awesome though.

    I was surprised that Jilly reacted so calmly to the Blessing; I half expected her head to explode or something. The lady from the Families was funny when she refused to use Jilly’s new name.

    Also, I love me some Rhys and I’m so glad he featured prominently in this series! I read a review in which the writer said it was out of character for Rhys to threaten Oswald, but I can’t imagine any father would react differently. Yay Rhys!

    I’ll be sorry for this series to end, not least because I’ve enjoyed your reviews so much. If you need me, I’ll be sitting in coffee shops, greeting passersby, then solemnly rising and saying “You won’t see me again.” HA!

    • Yeah, I wondered if it had anything to do with the rift in Cardiff, too, but that seems to be less physical, more… energy.

      I didn’t really feel that Jilly reacted that calmly. I kinda felt like people who didn’t kill themselves on seeing The Blessing feel like that means they’re OK, but really it means that they’re not. The Family lady was a bit weird and sexist, though ‘the men like to play these games’.

      Rhys love FTW! Totally in character for Rhys to threaten Oswald, but awesome that he restrained Gwen rather than physically attacing himself.

      Really glad you’ve enjoyed my reviews. I’ve enjoyed this series, too! It was a bit rocky for a bit, but it’s worked out somewhat awesome. Can’t believe there’s only one left!

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