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TV Review: Torchwood: Miracle Day – “The Middle Men”

Who—or what—is “The Blessing” and what has it to do with Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman)? Those questions may indeed hold the key to the entire conspiracy in the Starz series Torchwood: Miracle Day.

This week’s episode “The Middle Men,” has the Torchwood team continuing to work largely independently of each other. Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) is sill in Wales, trying to extract her father from an “overflow camp” in Wales, where he is designated “Category 1.” Category 1 is very bad; it means you are “dead,” at least on paper, and what happens to “Category 1s?” They are apparently incinerated—alive.

Ex-CIA agent Rex Matheson (Mehki Phifer) still haunts the San Pedro camp, where he has infiltrated as a Category 1 during last week’s “The Categories of Life.” He is recording his experiences, trying to get it all on the record. Meanwhile, also at the camp, Esther Drummond (Alexa Havins) also tries to acquire information on what is going on inside the camp, playing dangerously with the creepy commandant Maloney (Marc Vann). She and Rex barely escape with their lives (for whatever lives are worth these days) and a lot of first hand knowledge about what exactly transpires in the camps.

Captain Jack Harkness, the only mortal man left in the world, continues to play a bit out of his element while seeking the truth behind the miracle. Although Jack is a pro at chasing aliens and alien technology; he’s brilliant in oh-so-many ways, this is not necessarily his forte. Government-industrial conspiracies are not what he really does, and he’s forced to play on foreign turf and in a venue very unfamiliar. As he tells Rex and Esther, Torchwood is not used to fighting politicians, and he’s right. He badly misreads Oswald Danes  in “The Categories of Life,” for example.

Appealing to Danes’ better angels (as it were), Jack badly overestimates any sense of humanity the child murderer may have. And this week he plays his cards only a little more cynically in acquiring information from PhiCorp’s CEO Stuart Owens (Ernie Hudson), believing the man to be at the core of the conspiracy.

But Owens is only a middle man, trying to get at the truth for his own reasons. When he reveals to Jack that he’s only uncovered a small bit of information—something referred to as “The Blessing,” Jack seems as bewildered as Owens. But when the CEO relates that it originates in a mid-1990s Italian Council of Ministers document, a look of horror creeps across Jack’s face. Is there a distant echo of recognition? Does he know anything of what Owen’s is talking about? I’m sure I saw a bell ring figuratively above Jack’s head.

But when Jack returns to Torchwood’s makeshift Hub, his research comes up empty, as queries scroll endlessly across his giant video screen. He is visibly relieved to get a transmission from Gwen, across The Pond. He clearly misses her and when she tells Jack she’s ready to come back to fight by his side, he is happy. But Gwen has a parting gift for the Welsh overflow camp.

Like the freedom fighter she has become in Torchwood: Miracle Day, she blows the camp to smithereens before revving her motorbike ala Steve McQueen in The Great Escape, making sure Jack has it all recorded. “That’s my girl,” he declares, but with no mirth in his voice. Her transmission, including the bombing and her own statement, having borne witness to what’s gone on there, is broadcast live across the world. Jack, hopeful now that the truth is out, believe that people will be as horrified as he is and not allow the charade to continue. But people are deaf in a crisis. They want platitudes—and for people to tell them just what to do, and reassuringly. They do not want to hear that they’ve been unwilling accessories to mass murder by their own governments.

About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is publisher and executive editor of Blogcritics, as well as a noted entertainment writer. Author of Chasing Zebras: The Unofficial Guide to House, M.D., her primary beat is primetime television. But Barbara writes on an everything from film to politics to technology to all things pop culture and spirituality. She is a contributor to the book called Spiritual Pregnancy (Llewellyn Worldwide, January 2014) and has a story in Riverdale Ave Press' new anthology of zombie romance, Still Hungry for your Love. She is hard at work on what she hopes will be her first published novel.
  • Kate

    This season of Torchwood has been really slow, especially compared to Children of the Earth. I was glad that this episode sped things up a bit more.
    I keep thinking that the entire miracle was designed to make Jack mortal. Maybe the people behind this want him dead. But of course we all know that that is not going to happen. :)
    The last part of this episode was brilliant. I’m very excited to see how it will play out next episode!

  • Sherry

    I agree with Kate, this episode was an improvement. I liked the scene with Jack and Ernie Hudson’s character.

    I also liked the scenes with Rex, but can’t believe he wouldn’t have known better than to just trust that guy. Nice to see they let Esther get up from that computer.