Saturday, September 10, 2011

"Torchwood: Miracle Day," season finale

Posted By on Sat, Sep 10, 2011 at 6:50 AM

  • Courtesy of Starz
Is the title of the “Torchwood: Miracle Day” finale a pun? It’s called “The Bloodline,” and those drops of Jack Harkness blood point in straight line towards the location of the Blessing in Shanghai and Buenos Aires, respectively. Before our heroes can make things right, though, the episode begins on the most serious note imaginable, as Gwen, her face surrounded by darkness, tells a lovely story about her father and the first time an adult spoke to her in an honest way. Which is a built-up to her kicker: “Today’s the day I’m going to kill him.”

The Families plan to blow up the, uh, mouth of blessing to make the Miracle permanent. The Mother Colasanto, apparently the Three Families Shanghai rep, tells Jilly that the power of the Miracle was revealed thanks to the information age: someone with a lot of time on his hands crunched numbers to reveal that Buenos Aires and Shanghai both had exactly the average life expectancy of the world. So what? Beats me, but they the families deduced that this big, pink crack going through the Earth can calibrates the age of humanity. When the gave it Jack Harkness blood, it took Jack as its baseline and thus prevented the human race from dying by some kind of morphic field voodoo. (Why it made people deathless but not indestructible remains a mystery.)

Gwen follows the blood through the chicken-strewn kitchen of a Chinese lady who doesn’t want to open her back door: “That place. Many ghosts,” she says, catering to Chinese stereotypes (at least she didn’t offer, I don’t know, to do Gwen’s dry cleaning). Back in their room Jack and Oswald have an emotional encounter. Jack admits he’s from the future and has seen mankind proliferate across the universe, to point out how small Oswald has made his life. For a minute, I thought Oswald would reveal that he didn’t actually commit that murder, but the show goes in another direction.

The CIA tries to coordinate the raids, but the Family moles throw monkey wrenches into the works. Rex and Esther get some Argentinian soldiers, but one of them blows up himself, the other army guys and their briefcase of Jack blood. Rex and Esther decide to let others presume that they’re dead, so they can sneak in. At the CIA, John De Lancie gives the order to track down the mole’s cell phone: “Run the trace and find the bastard” — which is no “Save the cheerleader, save the world” as potential catchphrases go. Duplicitous nay-sayer Charlotte casually gets up and walks out, practically humming to herself “La la la, not a spy…” Her cell number comes up, De Lancie says “Oh fuck!” and the office blows up. Both explosions have those ear-ache whines you hear in more realistic war movies.

Rhys visits Cowbridge Overflow Camp to pay a touching farewell to Gwen’s father — “Everyone sends their love” — while Gwen’s cop friend Andy Davidson sits with an unclaimed young stranger in a very sweet moment. (Give that guy his own show.)

Torchwood East and West invade their respective blessings. Jack and Rex both suffer ill effects from their proximity, but not so much that they can’t both snap the necks of anonymous goons. Jack, Gwen and Oswald bust in on the Shanghai Blessing. The bad guys point guns at them, but Oswald reveals that “This isn’t about Captain Harkness” and that he’s wired up like a suicide bomber. “Advantage, Torchwood.” But apparently they’re on speakerphone with Buenos Aires, and learn that Rex and Esther are prisoners. “Advantage, Families,” says the conspirators South American rep, who’s such a horrible actor he practically sinks every scene he’s in. Jack reveals that he has the trump card, cutting his finger and allowing blood drops to fly into the giant stone labia.

Question: why, in both places, to they across into the Blessing? Why don’t they look down? You’d think it’d be in the floor.

Jilly says why she’s with the bad guys: “These families, they want to make the world fitter, more compact, more disciplined… and I like the sound of that.” I don’t remember Jilly, the high-energy publicist of her early episodes, being such a fascist.

Jack threatens to use his blood to undo the Miracle, but the Family guy says, not in so many words, “HA-ha!” To change the Miracle, they’d have to release fluids into both orifices at once — really, I’m not at all comfortable with some of this imagery. It turns out, however, that all of that Jack blood they thought was destroyed was transfused into Rex’s veins, so he’s like a big sack of the stuff. Will they sacrifice themselves to save the world? Sure! BANG! Even if it means Esther’s life? Um… yeah! Gwen whips out a gun so Jack won’t have to kill himself. Gwen: “Bye, then.” Jack: “Bye.” (Great line-readings. No, really.)

The intensity of the emotional sacrifices get immediately diffused by the ridiculous shots of Jack and Rex with open chests, blood-spraying in each other’s directions in opposite sides of the world. But there’s a lovely, poetic moment of Gwen’s father and the other Category Ones dying in the overflow camp.

At the two blessings, all hell breaks loose. Oswald grabs the mother and vows to blow her up. Jilly and Gwen make their mistake, but with mortality back on, Jack’s immortal once again, and he sits up, gasping in that Jack way. Gwen and Jilly have a hilariously mismatched fistfight and Gwen rescues Jack. In Buenos Aires, Rex rises long enough to toss the annoying Family guy off the scaffold, like the Emperor at the end of Return of the Jedi. Stuff blows up.

Who survives? Jilly, for one. She meets the handsome Family contact on the bench, bitches about her escape from Shanghai “I had to sell my jewelry!” He replies, of the Miracle, “As trial runs go, it was good.” “Trial run for what?” “Plan B.” He walks off and Jilly totters after him on her heels.

Gwen, Jack and Rex attend a funeral that turns out to be for Esther. Evil Charlotte’s and Esther’s crazy sister are there, although there’s apparently 10 funerals every hour in the post-Miracle world. Jack and Gwen chat about whether they’ll put Torchwood back together when Rex discovers a cell-phone message from one of the dead CIA analysts. He discovers that Charlotte was the mole, she shoots Rex and gets shot herself. Rex dies…

… only to immediately sit up, gasping, like the resurrected Jack! So is the world’s most obnoxious, self-righteous intelligence operative now an immortal like Jack? Everyone asks “What?!” “What?!” shout-out to his “Doctor Who” season finales.

One of my favorite Homer Simpson quotes comes when he uncovers a wild conspiracy and replies, “Of course! It’s so simple. Wait, no it isn’t, it’s needlessly complicated.” I wish Homer could’ve shown up at the end of “Miracle Day” to confront the Families about why they went to the trouble of engineering the Miracle in the first place. Given their enormous resources and perfect secrecy, they could have seized power by all sorts of schemes. What do they do? Use an inexplicable geological phenomenon to make the human race immortal, cash in on prescription drugs, incinerate the infirm and otherwise sew social discord. How did they expect to control it? And why did they want Oswald so much early on, anyway?

And not only is the Families’ conspiracy inexplicable, the show almost arrogantly punts over the nature of the Blessing. What is it? Nobody knows! Winking to “Dr. Who” fans about the subterranean Silurians doesn’t compensate for the complete lack of a comprehensible explanation. When I started recapped “Miracle Day’s” first episode, I was totally intrigued by the mystery of the Miracle and compared the show to “Lost” with its potential for morning after theories at the water cooler. Unfortunately, “Miracle Day” proved to be more reminiscent of “Lost” with its highly frustrating, evasive non-resolution.

In retrospect, once “Miracle Day” introduced the ovens, the show stopped exploring the implications of the immortality premise. We had no more scenes of heroes or adversaries surviving deadly encounters, like Jack and Esther jumping out that window into the fountain. Although the show had plenty of highlights, especially the “Immortal Sins” episode, “Miracle Day” leaves an lasting impression of being a sprawling, frustrating mess. Seriously miscalculating Rex’s appeal, “Torchwood’s” creators set up another season with Rex as a primary character. I’m not sure that the show will continue to be as immortal as Jack and Rex.

I kind of wish I'd been watching "Doctor Who" instead.

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