Torchwood: Miracle Day, Episode 6: “The Middle Men”
Written by John Shiban
Directed by Guy Ferland
Airs Fridays at 10pm (ET) on Starz
This week on Torchwood: Rex gets captured, Esther gets her hands dirty, Gwen plays with explosives, Jack digs up some dirt, and the endgame (presumably) finally starts up.
This episode is hit or miss- the necessary fallout from last week, particularly as regards Dr. Juarez, is a miss, but most of the rest is a big improvement, and finally prompts interest in where the rest of the season is going. It’s not a coincidence that this uptick in quality happens in the first episode to skip the Oswald Danes plotline entirely. Danes, and even Jilly, were not missed this week and one can only hope that the pendulum won’t swing back next week, giving us an overdose of this still ridiculous and off-putting plotline. The music is much better here and, barring a ridiculous search we see Jack do for “the Truth”, and the unfortunate decision to have another code word stepping stone with the Blessing, the story looks to be going in the right direction.
As usual, Gwen and Jack are the highlights, though Rex is improved, despite an eye-rolling speech direct to camera early on. Esther spends most of the episode dithering, but when she does get in it, she has a surprisingly human reaction to her situation. It’s nice to have one member of the team who isn’t a crackshot badass. The best moments of the episode, however, are Gwen’s passionate plea to a worker at the Wales camp not to hide behind the excuse of “following orders” and Jack’s delightful cheekiness in dealing with an enjoyable Ernie Hudson. Eve Myles and John Barrowman are great in their scenes, bringing depth to their moments while remaining utterly true to their characters. Though the levity we get with Jack is sorely needed (nice to see that side of the character again!), it feels out of place here. Also, the decision to spread the team out to two different bases was clearly a delaying tactic and mostly an excuse to put more people in jeopardy. Particularly with Gwen’s family getting immediately put in danger again, her detour to Wales feels unnecessary.
The Holocaust parallels are handled with varying success. Gwen’s reference, mentioned above, is the right mix of shared understood subtext and outrage, but the mentions on the other side of the pond are far more on the nose. They aren’t offensive or even a particular problem, but it would have been nice if Shiban had let the audience do the work and made Gwen’s the only direct reference. The introduction of The Blessing feels like another stalling tactic, particularly as Jack and co. don’t know about Shanghai yet and will presumably take a while to make that presumably-related connection. However, the mysterious Big Bads finally calling out Jack is a welcome development. Hopefully the series will surprise with its end game and detour from the predicted It’s-All-About-Jack, or at least put a twist on it, but if not, at least the PTB are no longer ignoring him.
The less said about the Maloney/Ralph plotline the better, but hopefully with the camp business out of the way, and the team back together, the season will build on the momentum gained here. Torchwood is still too in love with its soapbox and telling, as opposed to showing, the audience the dangers of an unchecked government, but if the writers can put that element of the storytelling to bed, there is promise for the rest of the season. As many have commented, extending this season to ten episodes was a mistake. The one-overarching-storyline idea worked like a charm in season 3 mostly because there were only five episodes and even that had about an episode of (admittedly well done) filler. Here the problem is exponentially worse, but with only four episodes left in the season, let us hope that creator/producer Russell T. Davies and company are done with appetizers and are finally bringing out the main course.