Monday, August 1, 2011

"Torchwood: Miracle Day," Episode 4

Posted By on Mon, Aug 1, 2011 at 10:41 AM

The latest episode, “Escape to L.A.” begins with Esther visiting her sister, whom she mentioned last week “can’t cope” with the Miracle Day goings-on. The sister’s house has particleboard nailed to the windows and spray-painted “Keep Out” messages, which seem reminiscent of abandoned homes following Hurricane Katrina, but that may have been a coincidence. The sister has become a total shut-in and seems to be keeping her children as prisoners, and there’s a neat shot of her sitting in the corner of the screen, the round door locks lined up over her head. Sis seems pretty darn unstable, but I’m not sure Esther’s decision to call Social Services was justified, especially given that the kids can’t actually die these days. But she calls Social Services anyway, and we see that a mystery man, who turns out to be C. Thomas Howell, has blown her cover.

A TV montage catches us up with some of the latest Miracle Day twists, including a guy suing to get a job back after a health scare: “I’m not going to die, am I?” Plus there’s a rising political figure named Candace Holly Monroe (Mare Winningham) advocating a “Dead is Dead” approach to those whose lives have been extended via the miracle. Monroe suggests the government should cut off their medical care and treat them as legally dead. We’re told she’s “a small town mayor trying to make a name for herself” and “the darling of the Tea Party,” which sounds a little familiar. I have trouble seeing how "Dead is Dead" would appeal to the Tea Party, though. Maybe the Tea Party so opposes government spending that they hate handouts to people who should have died? But that seems kind of pro-Death Panel.

The Torchwood team arrives in Venice Beach, having driven across country. Rex calls Dr. Valdez to bug her AGAIN about pain-killers. (But why didn’t he load up when they broke into the PhiCorp warehouse last week? He could’ve gotten enough to last the rest of the season.) Meanwhile, Dr. Valdez and her doctor friends visit an abandoned hospital that the administrator plans to open as a kind of dumping-ground for chronic cases. One of the doctors compares the plan to a historical “plague ship.” In a not unrelated turn of events, Gwen calls her husband and urges him to get her father out of the London hospital, since the medical care aspects of Miracle Day have got Gwen spooked.

Jack links a quote from Middlemarch to Oswald Danes, and adds: “The patterns are starting to revolve around him. And all we have to do is keep watching.” Cut to Oswald in a hotel suite, relishing the sound of the hiss of bottles of tonic water from the mini-bar. Jilly Kitzinger shows up and, apparently, doesn’t like Oswald, which we never would’ve imagined from how much she pursued his business earlier in the show. Oswald discovers that Monroe's rising star is eclipsing his own celebrity.

Rex visits his impoverished estranged father for a terse conversation. Rex seems to want to reach out to his dad, but that doesn't stop him from stealing some of his father's painkillers from him. Maybe Rex also takes candy from a baby on the way back to the safe house — it could scarcely make him less likable.

The Torchwood team wants to break into the PhiCorp West Coast office, so in a fun little bit of cloak-and-dagger stuff they find the head of computer security, Nicholas Frumpkin. Chloe adopts a hilarious Ameican accent and she and Jack run into Frumpkin and family, where they coo over his baby while recording the guy's voice, fingerprints and retina pattern. Later, killer C. Thomas Howell will just jump the guy and implicitly take his fingers and eyeball.

Dr. Juarez discovers that the “plague ship” hospital is even worse than she imagined — the "sterile area" is actually outdoors. Monroe shows up to complain about the place and voice the “Dead is Dead” party line. Oswald has tense conversation with Jilly in a limo — very "Dynasty" — then decides to take the spotlight back. He goes into the hospital and promises to be an advocate for the sick and abandoned, all very Jesus-among-the-lepers. The trouble is that Bill Pullman, having established Oswald as a creepy sexual deviant, has an uphill battle in portraying Oswald as a charismatic leader, even when U2-style music plays under his speeches.

Torchwood U.S. plans to sneak into PhiCorp, set a fire and switch a viable hard drives with a fake. Gwen dons a killer black dress and wears her hair back, while Jack impersonates a delivery guy. In midst of this, Esther takes a call and finds out that her sister’s been institutionalized and her kids put in the foster system — what did she expect? Rex yells at her in the most dickish way imaginable for visiting a family member, yet we know he’s a total hypocrite, because he visited his own father,

The heist goes to plan when C. Thomas Howell shows up, ties up Jack and Chloe. Apparently he's not with PhiCorp and wants to know why the Triangle conspirators are so interested in Jack, but Jack genuinely doesn’t know (or he’s lying well enough to fool the viewers at home). He also makes some cryptic remarks that I had to look up:

You're very special to them, Jack. They trust me enough to tell me that. And I hear rumors. Of miracles yet to come. A new society being forged here on Earth and I'd like to guarantee my place. So tell me. What did you give them so long ago? … You'll never stop them. For this is who they certainly are. They are everywhere. They are always. They are no one. They have been waiting for such a long time. Searching the world for a specific geography.

He's about to name them when Rex bursts in and shoots him. (Cue wa-wa trombone.) They treat the assassin like he's actually dead and no longer a possible source, but since nobody dies, couldn't they take him back to the safe house and interrogate him? Will they still?

The good guys learn from the PhiCorp computers of plans for “Overflow Camps,” like the plague ship on a grand scale — and find out almost immediately thereafter that Gwen’s father has been sent to one in England. Thus, counting Esther's sister, two Torchwood family members are caught in the health care system.

But the creepiest moment comes when Monroe, having been drugged, awakens in her car in a junk yard. Over the car phone, Triangle Man’s voice tells her that her usefulness is at an end, and she’s crushed in the car a la Goldfinger. We see the now cubed car, the camera tracks inside of it, and there's an eye, looking around, still living. Ew.

When our heroes found a safe house in Venice Beach, a big, leather-clad guy showed them around. He burst the initial "mean biker" stereotype by a recommending a restaurant and conspicuously using the word “fabulous.” Turns out, not a biker stereotype but an effete/bear stereotype. Rex asks Jack: “What is it with you — do you make everyone around you gay?” It’s meant to be a throwaway joke, but maybe could be the premise of the next miniseries: “Torchwood: Miracle Gay,” in which everyone in the world goes gay — except Jack Harkness!

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