Saturday, August 27, 2011

"Torchwood: Miracle Day," Episode 8

Posted By on Sat, Aug 27, 2011 at 7:22 AM

DONT YOU HATE PEOPLE WHO READ OVER YOUR SHOULDER? Mekhi Phifer, Alexa Havens and John De Lancie
  • Courtesy of Starz
  • DON'T YOU HATE PEOPLE WHO READ OVER YOUR SHOULDER? Mekhi Phifer, Alexa Havens and John De Lancie
After last week’s flashback-heavy installment and the nearly Jack-less episode before that, “End of the Road” spends a lot of time playing catch-up. After a “Previously on…” montage that looks worthy of a Hostel movie, Jack and the Torchwood gang pull up to stately Colasanto Manor in Nevada. Based on the size of the real estate and some comments from Angelo’s granddaughter (Nana Visitor), Angelo did pretty well for himself after the late 1920s — apparently Jack dropped enough hints about the future to make him rich.

Rex reacts with predictable bigotry when he learns of Jack and Angelo’s relationship: “You’re telling me the whole world got screwed because two gay guys had a hissy fit?” While Angelo has been able to live a long time thanks to healthy habits, it turns out that the Miracle found him decrepit and comatose. There’s a nice moment when Jack confirms that the bedridden elder has the same bloodshot birthmark has Angelo.

Nana Visitor explains what she knows, which turns out to be not so much: the source of the Miracle apparently lies with the samples of Jack’s blood collected in the 1920s, but its connection to “The Blessing” isn’t clear. The three mysterious conspirators each represent powerful families, but though Nana Visitor knows their names, she doesn’t know what they’re doing or how to find them. And in fact, their names have been expunged from all known databases, so the good guys are nearly at square one.

There’s a little action when Friedkin shows up with a half-assed plan to kill Rex and arrest the others “for violations of the Miracle Security Act” before the CIA bigwigs arrive. Friedkin holds a gun at Rex’s head and points out that the foot’s on the other hand now, or something like that. But Rex has used the contact lens camera to record Friedkin’s confession. Psyche! (Apparently Gwen popped out the lenses and gave them to Rex in the ride to Angelo’s house.) CIA boss Shapiro (John De Lancie) takes Friedkin into custody, and Friedkin blows up himself and Nana Visitor, who’s in the car with him. This episode really cleans house of guest stars. So long, Newman and Major Kira.

Shapiro struts around acting like a jerky bigshot: “What’s the matter, Red Baron? Got Snoopy up your ass?” he asks Jack, referring to his trenchcoat. The CIA takes control of the scene and we see Esther’s analyst friends back at the home base. Esther reconnects to her institutionalized sister, who wants to volunteer to become a “Level One” and, in effect, commit suicide. Gwen talks to her husband and mother, who tells her to “Go get the bastards.”

The latest global problem involves the world economy: the stock market’s tanking, “Greece and Ireland have declared bankruptcy” and characters mention how much it feels like the crash of 2008. Despite concerns that “the concept of money itself is under threat,” this seems pretty minor compared to the earth-shaking threats from earlier in the show. It’s like the writers are trying too hard to comment on current events.

Jack has a heartfelt goodbye with Angelo, who’s been keeping tabs on Jack for decades: “Did you see Ianto? You’d have liked him.” When Angelo’s bedside medical equipment starts beeping, Jack pulls the plug, then realize that Angelo’s actually dead. “Did the world just change back?” Rex wonders as they try, vainly, to revive him. There’s a visually interesting moment when we see Angelo’s bedding get folded up, a ritualistic sign of his demise.

The CIA keeps everyone in the house to find out why Angelo, out of everyone on Earth, up and died: “Dying of old age can now be considered a crime,” someone points out, a little confusingly. Esther realizes that something’s probably under the floor where Angelo’s sickbed stood. Jack signals her to keep her mouth shut, but Esther grasses him out and they discover some kind of plate that generates a “null field,” and apparently cut off Angelo’s connection to the global Miracle effect, causing him to die naturally.

We catch up with Oswald and Jilly at a hotel room. Jilly plans a public appearance with a Miracle survivor nicknamed “the Bisected Bride,” but Oswald wants a woman, and boogies unpleasantly to generic rock music on his stereo. A young woman named Shawnee Yamaguci introduces herself to Jilly and offers to be her intern, although she’s actually a CIA plant. “I don’t know how you put up with him,” she tells Jilly re: Oswald. “I won’t have to much longer,” Jilly says. She’s no longer pretending that she likes Oswald, apparently.

The prostitute shows up at Oswald’s room, and she turns out to be the most condescending, antagonizing call-girl imaginable. She contemptuously rebuffs Oswald desire to have a nonsexual “date,” ridicules him as a sex offender and mentions that he’s a “Category Zero.” Did the Three Families hire her to behave that way to manipulate him? Oswald confronts Jilly, who reveals that a Category Zero can be burned in the ovens as a death sentence. Oswald hits her and they skirmish in what I’d call a cat fight, except it involves a woman and a man. In perhaps the campiest image of “Miracle Day,” Lauren Ambrose flashes blood-stained teeth while screaming down the hotel room after Bill Pullman. A Family hitman kills Yamaguci and tells Jilly she’s got a promotion.

Oh, Esther’s friend works for the Three Families, too.

Back at Angelo’s place, Jack has turned the null field into a sound dampener and tells Rex and Esther what he really thinks. Apparently the null field is alien technology presumably recovered from Torchwood’s demolished Cardiff base. Jack doesn’t believe it should fall into human hands, partly because of its potential for abuse. (Assuming the Three Families aren’t aliens, humanity already has the tech, but never mind.) Jack asks Rex and Ester to get him out of there with the “Alpha Plate.”

Esther and Rex bust Jack out — but Jack gets shot! Rex stays behind while Esther drives off alone! Gwen’s stuck on an airplane! Is Jack bleeding out? Esther: “I don’t know what to do!” To be continued…

Notes
It seems appropriate that John de Lancie should appear on a “Doctor Who” spinoff, since his performance as the puckish, god-like alien Q felt like the most “Doctor Who”-like detail on the “Star Trek” franchise. De Lancie and Visitor even appeared on the same “Deep Space Nine” episode.

I love the part when Esther made them stop and spell out the names of the Three Families — people never do that on movies and TV shows.

When Esther said, “Remember the Vivaldi Inheritance in 2004?” I wanted someone to say, “Yeah — that was a great Robert Ludlum novel.”

Someone should totally make a GIF of Jilly with the bloody teeth.

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