Torchwood: Miracle Day Review, Episode 9: “The Gathering”
Written by John Fay
Directed by Guy Ferland
Airs Fridays at 10pm (ET) on Starz
This week, on Torchwood: Two months pass, the gang gets back together and splits up again, Oswald Danes is revealed as a master of stealth, disguise, and hacking, Jack’s blood is magic, and Jilly, make that Lucy, gets a look at the Blessing.
Torchwood: Miracle Day has been a rocky series, to say the least. One need look no further than this episode to see why. Certain elements are very promising. Lauren Ambrose has proven herself a strong addition to the cast, and this episode is no exception. Jilly is the most interesting new character by far and one that has managed to remain gray throughout without adopting an air of self-seriousness or overly stretching the bounds of logic or reason. Gwen is always fun, bringing her personal style of conflict resolution to the table (stab it in the face). The glimpses we get of Jack through the wash of generic-male-lead are greatly appreciated and John Barrowman’s unending charisma does a lot to buoy scenes that shouldn’t work. More than anything, the overall concept is a fascinating one- what would happen if no one could die?
Unfortunately, Miracle Day has made so many missteps and miscalculations that these positive elements are easily lost. Oswald Danes was a poor choice for a main character to start with and one episode from the finale it has become clear that he has little to nothing to do with either the Miracle or what will stop it. Bill Pullman’s at best hammy performance does almost nothing to help with this problem. The writers and producers have stretched the limit of believability too far. Ask a sci-fi viewer to accept that death has stopped? They’ll bite. Ask them to believe that a Death Row inmate would be released from prison in a matter of days because he threatens to sue? No way. This episode does nothing to help the Danes problem either. His entire existence in the series is a contrivance and the ridiculous justification given for his joining up with the gang adds insult to injury. In an episode that prominently features a character being given a memory-wiping drug, having another hold recently overheard information over the Torchwood crew as a bargaining chip is not only laughable, it’s groan-inducing.
Also troublesome, though significantly less so than the previous issue, is the addition of Gwen’s family to the mix. Here we see Gwen struggle to protect her father only to abandon her daughter to go running off across the world. If this were illustrative of character development or part of a larger theme, that would be something, but Gwen has consistently made the same choices. The storyline with her father feels included for the sole intent of allowing a Holocaust parallel. After the first several concentration camp and oven references we get it. The continued hammering of the point feels manipulative and exploitative. At least Miracle Day opted away from having her running into burning buildings with Anwen on her back, but her seeming lack of concern for her own life is disheartening. Gwen is pretty badass, so one can see why the PTB at Torchwood wouldn’t want to tinker with her, but Eve Myles has proven herself capable of much more than they’ve given her. Perhaps this isn’t actually true, but isn’t becoming a parent supposed to change one’s perspective and priorities? Gwen feels unchanged.
Another problem is the continued tie of the series in to Doctor Who. If this is the case, where is Martha Jones? Where are UNIT? Why is the CIA the best the world has going in trying to solve the Miracle? Why does no one seem to remember the 456 or believe that the Miracle may be of extraterrestrial origin? In that case, what do the Silence have to say about all of this? Or what did they have to say, that is, until ’69. Many other ideas are introduced and thrown away too. There has been no mention of the Soulless, other than one sentence from Esther’s crazy sister, since their one scene cameo in episode three. There is no mention of Dr. Juarez or her death, despite continued discussion of the restarting of the Category One furnaces. Almost everything has felt like filler to take us from Danes surviving his execution to Jack and Gwen in Shanghai and Esther and Rex in Buenos Aires, both with supplies of Jack’s very special blood. Undoubtedly a twist is coming with this, but if the twist is in any way similar to the others we’ve seen this season, it will consist of a character revealing that this or that was in fact a ruse and they were really that or this! *insert audience gasp*
Many have enjoyed Miracle Day. That is fantastic. A lot of people worked a lot of hours and spent a lot of money to make it happen. However the list of frustrations has proved too long for this viewer and no foreseeable revelation or Hail Mary next week can save it. It’s still very possible for Miracle Day to have a phenomenal finale, but it seems increasingly unlikely that even that will be enough to make up for how utterly flawed the rest of the season has proved to be.
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