(Index to all Torchwood posts here.)
Recap: In episode 1 someone released something at the CIA that flashed up the name and files of Torchwood before swiftly being deleted. Moments later, something happens that means that no one can die. No one that is, except Jack, who is usually immortal. Rex is on the phone to Esther at the CIA who has just witnessed the puzzling appearance and deletion of the word ‘Torchwood’. He’s in a car accident that ends with poles skewering him straight through the chest. He should be dead, but he’s not.
Esther investigates Torchwood and manages to find some photos of the crew just as Jack finds her… and some mysterious figures in black find Jack. Jack tells Esther about Torchwood, then wipes her memory. But somehow a file about Torchwood winds up on her desk anyway, and she tells Rex about it. Rex gets up off his not-so-deathly bed and charges across the Atlantic to chase down Gwen just as the mysterious men in black launch an attack. Jack arrives to provide Gwen with the means to save the day, but Rex somehow gets the British police to arrest them all anyway so he can take them back to the states.
Meanwhile, a paedophile on death row survives his execution and is freed on a technicality – theoretically, he’s already received his punishment.
Why recap all this? Well, there are a few things about the start of episode 2 that bug me. First off, even though Esther gets her memory wiped by Jack, chasing down Torchwood is her baby, yet suddenly she’s in a position of asking if she can be on Rex’s team. Rex’s ludicrous actions may have captured Torchwood, but I’m deeply puzzled at the way no credit is being given to Esther for putting him on to this.
We also have the odd moment when, having arrested Rhys and dragged him and baby to the airfield, Rex decides to let them go, forcibly separating Gwen from her child. And the British police seem to have no problem with any of this.
I’m less fussed with this last point – as I said in my review to the previous episode, it’s Torchwood, I expect it to be a bit silly. Besides which, it does make for a nice dramatic moment. I had a really interesting discussion with a friend of mine about how Gwen’s role as a mother affects how my friend views her as a character. I have no children and no maternal feelings whatsoever, so this is a perspective I don’t naturally have access to. My friend found the prospect that Gwen was inevitably going to have to be separated from her baby if she was to continue kicking ass as she had in the first episode hit a bit close to the bone. She also couldn’t feel good about Gwen as a character if she was willing to do that without much fuss. What I really like about the opening to this week’s episode, then, is that we’re given an opportunity to see that this is a thing Gwen does not do easily at all.
Eve Myles has come on a lot as an actor over the last few years, and I found her distress and anger at being separated from her baby utterly compelling. I like this, and, on reflection, it also makes sense of what initially seemed, to me, to be an overly harsh reaction from Gwen where she blames Jack for all the trouble that’s brought down on them. Although she goes on to pull herself together and be consistently awesome throughout the rest of the episode, I’m glad to see this moment of emotional realism given to her feelings as a mother – again, in a way that does nothing to detract from her inner strength.
I also greatly enjoyed Dichen Lachman, whose appearance I was anticipating with glee last week. She did not disappoint as the cold and self-possessed Lyn. Although, it must be confessed that secret double agents of whatever people she’s double-crossing the CIA for have the slowest. IM. Ever. I mean, seriously, even if you’re supposing that they can’t use MSN for obvious security reasons, if they’re communicating that way at all you’d have thought it could have been both swift and encrypted. Movie tech has a habit of looking unrealistic, but I’m happier when they create stuff that looks more advanced than we could achieve, rather than less.
Anyway. Lyn. I like her. I like what happens to her at the end. It’s deeply creepy and a wonderfully nasty thing to turn your beautiful starlet into. It’s a moment that sells the horror of the situation in a way that even the still-living corpse of the man who got exploded in the previous episode didn’t quite touch on.
Speaking of building horror: I am in love with everything connected to the Dr Vera Juarez plot about what the medical profession will need to do in the changed circumstances. If other elements of the plot haven’t been sufficiently thought through, someone has clearly spent time on this, and this is where the real science fiction lies. They present all kinds of things I’ve never even considered. I really like that.
The Oswald Danes plot, on the other hand… I just don’t know. I’m not sure whether we’re meant to believe he’s sorry for what he did or not. And I’m not sure if I’m meant to be unsure, or if Bill Pullman is just utterly failing to pull off contrition. His conversation with the unpleasantly false Jilly Kitzinger seems to indicate that he isn’t actually trying to fool people. If so, that’s a really interesting take on how the prospect of not dying could change someone’s point of view, but at this stage… I’m just not convinced by the portrayal. Similarly, I found Jilly herself grating enough that I’m afraid there’s really nothing about this plot that has me wanting to return to it.
On balance, however, I’m still finding the Miracle Day has a lot to offer, and I’m really looking forward to seeing more of where it’s going with this. It’s an odd mix of dull cliché and really interesting and original content, wrapped up in the fun and action-packed Torchwood package I have developed a fondness for.