As this season of Torchwood: Miracle Day crosses the halfway mark, we come to reflect on the first half of the season and the changes that the show has undergone while wondering whether they’ll ever reveal who is behind the miracle.
One day, at precisely 10:36 p.m., people stop dying. What is initially thought to be a miracle, rapidly becomes a disaster of global proportions as the Earth hurtles towards overpopulation and the collapse of the healthcare system. In an effort to relieve hospitals of the burden of caring for patients that should have died but are simply hanging on, overflow camps are set up in major centres across the globe.
Life and death is redefined as humans are divided into three categories of life: Category 1 belongs to those that should have died, Category 3 is healthy, functioning people, and Category 2 is everybody in between. The sinister function behind the overflow camps was revealed in the last episode, “The Categories of Life”, as it turns out that the modules where Category 1 patients are to be kept are in fact ovens, designed for the mass incineration.
This season pairs the last remaining Torchwood members, Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) and Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) with CIA agents Rex Matheson (Mekhi Pfifer) and Esther Drummond (Alexa Havins). Matheson initially aims to apprehend the Jack and Gwen but soon, he and Esther find themselves to be targets and a new Torchwood team emerges. Rex is assisted throughout by Doctor Vera Juarez, a member of the medical boards who joined the team in the last episode.
In the meantime, convicted paedophile and child murderer Oswald Danes (Bill Pullman) survives his own execution and is freed under a cruel and unusual punishment technicality. He quickly becomes the spokesperson for the Miracle Day and is courted by Jilly Kitzinger (Lauren Ambrose) on behalf of the pharmaceutical giant PhiCorp.
Instead of pursuing a different story arc per episode, as was the case with the first two seasons of Torchwood, Torchwood: Miracle Day has stuck to one major story arc across the full ten episodes. The pace has been extremely slow to date and this has been compounded by the use of a different writer per episode. The result has been a disjointed storyline where interesting concepts are often raised but simply dropped the following episode. I am not referring to the Families (“Escape to L.A.”) or the mysterious blue-eyed man (“The Categories of Life”) (as I am sure that they will return) but what happened to the visually stunning protest marches from “Dead of Night”, for example?
“The Middle Men” opens with PhiCorp CEO Stuart Owens asking a colleague in Shanghai to investigate a PhiCorp construction site as he wants to know whether PhiCorp has anything to do with Miracle Day. Having suspected since “Dead of Night” that PhiCorp was behind the miracle, it turns out that they may be nothing more than middle men, despite the profits that the miracle has afforded them. The colleague Zheng Yibao sees something that disturbs him so much that he jumps from the top of a building. Just minutes earlier, Owens had been watching a television piece on the “45 Club” where people had reinvented the notion of suicide and eternal oblivion by jumping from buildings of at least 45 stories high.
At the San Pedro Overflow Camp, Rex Matheson records all that he is seeing, compiling proof of the modules and mass murders while Esther becomes suspicious of camp director Colin Maloney and wonders where Vera Juarez is. In Cardiff, Gwen and her husband Rhys Williams (Kai Owen) race to rescue her father from the modules at Cowbridge Overflow Camp and in Los Angeles, Captain Jack Harkness confronts Stuart Owens. Owens reveals to Jack what he knows and when Jack tells him of his only clue, that the miracle involves geography, Owens informs him of a mysterious document originating from the Council of Ministers in Italy that made reference to The Blessing.
This is the first episode in Torchwood: Miracle Day that does not feature Oswald Danes and also the first since “Rendition” that does not feature Jilly Kitzinger. The episode was written by The X-Files alumni John Shiban and certainly had a darker feel to it. Perhaps the usual inclusion of Danes and Kitzinger serves to lighten up the show with all of the hype and media frenzy, not to mention Kitzinger’s ambition and Danes’ ruthless manipulation?