In a twist, the episode begins with a new character,
Winston Zeddemore Stuart Owens, the chief operating officer of giant, evil pharmaceutical company PhiCorp. Owens seems to be having an affair with his secretary, but PhiCorp may not be all that evil after all. Owens wants to get to the bottom of some of the Miracle Day-related shenanigans, and he asks an operative in Shanghai to investigate some murky real estate holdings. On the news in his office, we learn of a Hemlock Society-type group called “The 45 Club,” which suggests that the only way for the suicidal to permanently lose consciousness, in a death-free world, is to leap off a building higher than 44 stories.
We see Owens’ man in Shanghai sneak around a dark alley that could be the Chinatown set in any action show, and he sees something on the other side of a fence. But he talks to Owens, the guy denies seeing anything important right before he jumps off we can only assume is the top of a 45 floor skyscraper.
Meanwhile, the Torchwood team remains were we left them last week. Gwen has just discovered that the Welsh overflow camp is equipped with ovens to incinerate “Category 1” dead people. At the San Pedro camp, Rex has just recorded Dr. Juarez’s horrible incineration and wants to sneak off-site with the evidence. Esther’s at the administrative offices, doesn’t know what’s happening with Rex or Dr. Juarez, and has trouble finding out with the camp under lockdown. “The Middle Men” avoids the social-issue subplots — Oswald and Jilly don’t even turn up this week — and plays more like an episode of “24,” split between camps almost literally on opposite sides of the globe.
Characters make some vaguely sinister statements about the nature of the camps. Rex says that the government could start burning convicted felons and illegal immigrants, while San Pedro camp director Maloney asserts that in a camp, murder is not illegal, or something like that. Both statements seem like a huge stretch.
In San Pedro, Rex knocks out a guard and tries to sneak out in his uniform, only to get busted immediately. Chained to a chair, Rex tries to convince Maloney help him expose the camp’s true nature: “It’s proof that someone’s using the modules for murder!” Now, Rex didn’t see Maloney lat week, when he came across as an odious racist and sexist, as well as being a bureaucrat way over his head. (I’m surprised no one said anything like “You’re doing a heckuva job, Maloney!”) And Rex doesn’t know that Maloney shot Dr. Juarez and baked her in the module. It still seems far-fetched that the ever-paranoid Rex would trust a stranger.
Maloney jabs Rex’s chest wound with a pen, and Rex’s hollering attracts Esther, who’s finally gotten away from the hateful office’s drudges. Esther tries to distract Maloney by claiming Dr. Juarez has called him, but he knows she’s lying and attacks her. Esther proves she has self-defense chops and puts him in a chokehold. She finds Rex, has to go back for the keys, Maloney attacks her again and Ralph, the nervous soldier, shoots Maloney and helps her escape.
In Wales, Gwen browbeats a doctor who sentencing people to death, and then tries to spring her Dad from the camp. He suffers another cardiac episode, so they need to put him back. But then Gwen’s dad gets reclassified and scheduled to burn at 6 a.m., so they bust him out again, with Rhys driving a getaway truck. After they leave, Gwen puts in her contact lens cameras, finds a leather body suit, a motorcycle and a cache of explosives and blows up the ovens in an act of defiance.
Jack doesn’t do much this week but chat up Stuart Owens’ secretary/mistress, who helps Jack put pressure on Owens to reveal what he knows. Owens tells Jack that he genuinely doesn’t know what’s going on, and suggests that “The true face of evil is the system itself,” and that the shadowy figures pulling the strings are playing such a long game, their economic manipulations go unnoticed.
“The Middle Men” reinforces the theme of the evils of the system through characters like Maloney and the doctor in Wales who knowingly participate in a monstrous scheme like Nazi soldiers “just following orders” (the parallel isn’t exactly subtle). Presumably people like the helpful soldier in San Pedro or the helpful cleaning lady in Wales are exceptions. Nevertheless, the presence of doctors and bureaucrats abetting 21st century Holocaust comes as highly implausible — even given the pressures on the health care system, the idea seems completely unjustified in the world of the show.
Compare this to the crux of “Children of Earth.” The scenes I best remember involved Peter Capaldi’s British civil servant negotiating with the sinister, enigmatic alien, who gives the human race a horrible ultimatum regarding the planet’s children. “Children of Earth” showed political leaders agonizing over a devil’s bargain and implementing a lesser-of-two-evils choice with horrible consequences, had Torchwood not saved the day. “Miracle Day,” however, made a big leap with the death-camp themes without really setting it up. Maybe it’ll make more sense the more the show goes along.
So Torchwood blows the whistle on the camps, sending over the internet Rex and Gwen’s recordings. Gwen returns to California and gets a phone message that simply says “Lenses.” She puts in her contacts, looks in the mirror and reads the words “We have you mother. We have your husband. We have your child.” She asks what they want, and reads the reply “Bring us Jack.” Uh-oh.
I didn’t miss Jilly and Oswald at all this week.
I know Ernie Hudson’s most famous for Ghostbusters but I associate him more with “Oz.” Fred Koehler, as the conscientious soldier Ralph, also had a recurring role on the HBO prison show.
The Shanghai guy didn’t really looked like he was standing on the roof of the building before we saw him fall.
After being shot by Ralph, Maloney went all limp and glassy-eyed — basically, like he was dead. But he wasn’t dead, so was he in shock?
When Jack sends his text message to Gwen’s lens-camera, you can see the word “in” on the screen before he actually starts typing “in the flesh.”
I should have thought of this sooner: could the name “Doctor Juarez” be a very subtle reference to “Torchwood” as a “Doctor Who” spin-off? As in, “Doctor Who-arez?” Maybe?
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