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TV Review: Torchwood: Miracle Day – “Escape To L.A.”

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There is so much that is different about Torchwood: Miracle Day when compared to the original Torchwood series but in the fourth episode, “Escape to L.A.”, we take one great step towards discovering the real identity of the enemy and it seems clear that it is an enemy that Captain Jack Harkness is already familiar with.  We do not know yet whether this series will remain faithful to the Torchwood and Doctor Who canon but I was glad that the story finally seemed to be going somewhere.

“Escape to L.A.” begins with Esther Drummond visiting her sister Sarah and saying goodbye to her.  Sarah’s home is boarded up, with spray-painted warnings to trespassers to go away. Esther grows suspicious when her sister won’t let her see her nieces and Esther ultimately reports her to the authorities for child endangerment.  It is a giant lapse of judgement on Esther’s part, as confirmed when the whole scene is witnessed by The Gentleman (C. Thomas Howell, Southland) and reported back to the unknown enemy.

The Torchwood team relocates to Venice Beach en route to the PhiCorp headquarters in Los Angeles, where they intend to break in and steal a secure server.  It is a trip compromised from the start, as The Gentleman tails and closes in on them. 

Quite a lot of time in this episode was dedicated to exploring the relationships between the Torchwood team and their families.  We are used to Gwen’s husband, Rhys Williams, being a regular presence in the series, and the storyline involving him, daughter Anwen and Gwen’s father Geraint is quite interesting.

I found myself less responsive to the storylines involving Rex Matheson (Mekhi Pfifer) and Esther Drummond (Alexa Havins).  The scene with Rex and his father seemed to have no bearing on the overall story.  It was obviously intended to make the audience relate to Rex but I felt it fell short and I still don’t like this brash and obnoxious character. 

I dislike Esther Drummond for different reasons and find her to rather devoid of character.  I keep wondering to myself if Gwen Cooper was this disinteresting in the first few episodes of Torchwood, but I seem to remember being rather taken with her right from the start.  Whatever the case, I would like to see Havins actually acting and not just close ups of her crying, looking scared or being worried.

Meanwhile, Oswald Danes’ stronghold on the media seems to wane as small town mayor and Tea Party member Ellis Hartley Monroe (Mare Winningham) gains ground with her conservative Dead is Dead campaign.  The medical establishment begins to crumble under the pressure of patients who aren’t dying, and an abandoned hospital is reopened to house these patients.  As Ellis Hartley Monroe exults that these people are being put in their rightful place,  Danes regains control of the media with an ambitious stunt where he establishes himself as the champion of the people, exclaiming “life is life!”. 

The greatest sources of excitement in “Escape to L.A.” are the antics of The Gentleman, a sinister assassin, and the emergence of the mysterious enemy, represented only by a disembodied voice and the image of a revolving triangle.  The episode reaches its pinnacle in the headquarters of PhiCorp as the Torchwood team clash with The Gentleman.  This could have been a really great scene if it were not ruined by a massive plot hole (or was I the only one that found it strange that Rex Matheson managed to access a highly secure, biometric-access area via the back fire escape?)

Nevertheless, the episode draws to a close with the chilling dispatch of one of the characters in a car scrapyard as the disembodied voice proclaims, “We are everywhere, we are always, we are no one.  And soon, the families will rise.” Finally, Torchwood: Miracle Day gives us some insight into the enemy and the promise of aliens and extra-terrestrial threats begins to filter back into the series. 

We are left wondering who ‘the families’ could be as the Torchwood team discover the existence of overflow camps and Gwen’s father is moved to one in Wales.  With my faith partially renewed in Torchwood: Miracle Day, I look forward to discovering the identity of the enemy in the next episode “The Categories Of Life”.

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About Mandy Southgate

Mandy Southgate is a blogger, serial expat and eternal tourist living and working in London. Aside from writing at Blogcritics, she blogs about travel and London at Emm in London, entertainment and media at Addicted to Media and war crimes, genocide and social justice over at A Passion to Understand.
  • http://www.twitter.com/rayveniael Rayveniael

    When Rex came in it happened so fast that it appeared the Gentleman (or Captain Jack since he didn’t have the biometric materials to enter or presumably leave?) put something in the doorway to prevent the door from closing, but I agree it was a hole but seemingly concealed if it were indeed blocked by something, it was definitely off but I tried not to give it much thought, I too am annoyed with Rex and Esther. The only thing really keeping me going is the mysterious bad guy from CJ’s past.

  • corsair

    I still can’t get past anyone in the world caring about Danes and his supposed good guy image. The man is a convicted ghild rapist and murderer. He comes anywhere near most people in the US and I think they would do the same to him (if not worse) than the police of the previous episode.

    It is like the writers don’t understand how we think here in the US. We are not Europe. We don’t forgive and forget 12-year-old girl murderers.

    Also, can the writer’s disdain for the Tea Party and Fox and conservatives in this country be any more obvious? Leave our politics out of it, Limey!

  • Sherry

    Corsair – people in Europe do not forgive child murderers any more than we do. That is pretty harsh. Also, some of the writers are American.

    I can believe the Oswald Danes storyline. No one is forgiving him of his crime. He is manipulating the obvious corruption everyone sees around them. Given the extraordinary circumstances I don’t find the Oswald Danes storyline unbelievable.

    I agree that they shouldn’t have mentioned the tea party. I just thought it was stupid to be so specific.

    I also don’t like Esther. I don’t think she is a good character. I like Rex, the scene with his father didn’t bother me.

  • http://www.addictedtomedia.net/ Mandy Southgate

    @ Rayveniael: Yeah, the whole time he was running up the stairs, I knew what was coming and found it was too distracting and took too much effort on my part to make the scene work!

    @ Corsair: I agree, and in last week’s review, I observed that I was tired of being manipulated by the directors into feeling sympathy for Danes.

    I don’t know what it is like on the Continent, but in England, they never, ever forget about child molestors and murderers. Even if the general population are inclined to forgive them (or release them after serving their sentences), the press never forgive or forget: they are exposed and hounded for the rest of time.

    “Escape to L.A.” was written by John Shiban, an American writer and producer known for his work on X-Files, Supernatural and Breaking Bad. You’l have to take the Fox and Tea Party comments up with him!

    @ Sherry: I think you are right: the whole Oswald Danes story is about how far people can manipulate the media and thus the public. I think it is possible to comment on politics without having to resort to direct references.