Midway Review: Torchwood, Miracle Day
Halfway through the fourth series of Torchwood, we thought we should do a quick recap and review of how it’s going so far. There will obviously be spoilers here, so if you don’t want to know then look away now.
To sum up the first four episodes, everyone on Earth has suddenly become immortal except Jack, who is suddenly mortal. Gwen and Jack were kidnapped by an angry bloke who was, along with his wet friend, kicked out of the CIA. Now they’re all trying to figure out what’s going on. There’s one very nice, very smart surgeon lady who is being very nice and very smart about the whole thing, one very pretty, very efficient PR lady who is working the whole situation to her Very Bad Company’s advantage and one very creepy, very bad paedophile man who is being employed by the company to manipulate the public. Oh, and the rest of the world has gone to shit. The people in charge are being inhumane and the proles are worshipping the very-creepy-very-bad pedophile man as a God.
I just summed up four episodes — that’s four hours of television — in 142 words. Therein lies the main problem with this series of Torchwood. Very little is happening.
They are doing things — we’re not watching them just sitting around — but they’re not doing much that’s important. Lots of things happen, but they’re not really progressing the plot. The second episode was almost entirely taken up by Jack being poisoned and making his antitode. Very exciting, but what was the point? We already knew the CIA were out to get Torchwood.
Or episode four. Gwen and Jack break into PhiCorp, get tied up by Mr. Baddie Man and threatened with a knife. Mr. Baddie Man does a big long speech about who is in control of Miracle Day, then Rex shoots him in the throat. Half an hour of things happening, absolutely no plot progression.
The same is happening with the characters, sort of. It is so incredibly frustrating to have incredibly interesting characters being wasted. Oswald Danes had so much potential, but all he does is realise that people don’t like him and pull massive publicity stunts out of his arse that make people worship him. Oh, and get threatened by Jack. That’s it.
Or — and this made me really cross — Ellis Hartley Monroe, the creepy lady politician. She could have been so much. She was a really interesting, vile character, a good comment on the outrageousness of what some American politicians think and say, someone who could have been a real problem for Torchwood. Instead she’s killed off forty minutes after she first appears, reduced to nothing more than a mild distraction.
It seems like Miracle Day has a straight whole-series plot that could have been done in a few hours, but they’re padding it out with unnecessary, pointless characters and actions. It’s incredibly frustrating.
It isn’t, however, boring. As scathing as I’ve been so far, I’m actually really enjoying Miracle Day. Torchwood is one of the most ridiculous programs on TV, but I love that about it. I love Gwen mixing silver with degreaser to make an antidote for arsenic poisoning. I love Jack having incredibly melodramatic conversations with Oswald Danes. I love Rex implausibly having more testosterone in him than a room full of rugby players.
I love the characters, too. Sure, some (Esther and Rex) are as predictable as the plotlines, but Jilly is fantastically repulsive in her hungry ambition, and Vera is possibly the coolest woman on TV since River Song.
And, to be fair to Torchwood, episode five was really rather good, the best of them so far. Although it was just as ridiculous and made just as little sense as the rest of the series — Gwen was allowed to just sit there and wait, and Rhys was allowed to go free after they were clearly trying to break one of the patients out? Really? Really? — it also had lots of things happening, including the death of a character I loved very much in a manner that made me sit wide-eyed with my hand over my mouth.
Eve Myles has said that the series gets interesting and very twisty-turny in the last few episodes, so fingers crossed all of these seemingly pointless moments and characters will suddenly make sense in the last episode, just like it did in Doctor Who when Russell T was in charge.
So, Torchwood. Am I enjoying it? Yes. Is this the best series they’ve ever done? No. Does it really make any coherent sense, or an important point that previous series haven’t already made? No. It’s nonsense. But it’s very enjoyable nonsense, and you’ll find me glued to my sofa and staring at TV for the next few weeks to come.