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.
The more cynical Rex knows that the truth will be obfuscated and covered up in a million different ways. People simply do not want to hear the truth and the government is more than obliging.
But somehow the entire thing, I think, comes back to Jack. Is, in fact, Jack himself “The Blessing?” I wonder, as Gwen, in the aftermath of her small victory is stunned to learn that the bad guys (whomever they may be) are holding her family hostage. What do they want? They want Captain Jack Harkness! And that’s where “The Middle Men” concludes, leaving Gwen with an impossible choice: her family or Jack. But why Jack?
Which leads me back to the question: is Jack “The Blessing?” Is Jack the key—or holding the key—to the entire horrific puzzle? Did someone discover his secret—his immortality—sometime in the mid 1990s; something then used to as a basis to stage this “miracle?” Hmm.
Or do they want him, because they know as long as he’s free, he’s a threat to the project? Will he get closer and closer to the truth, and discover then a way to destroy the bad guys in an even more profound way than Gwen’s resourcefully handled bombing? Or—do they need him for some other purpose?
John Shiban’s tense script ratchets up the tension in “The Middle Men.” Shiban, an X-Files alum created some very dark X-Files episodes (although I’ll never forgive him for “Teso dos Bichos” and “El Mundo Gira,” and if Torchwood has always been a little reminiscent of that great 1990s conspiracy classic (heck, Cardiff cop Andy has even called Jack and Glen “Mulder and Scully!”), Miracle Day paints a conspiracy picture at least as sinister than anything The X-Files could conjure.
There are only four episodes to go, so the so-far (perhaps too) slow build will obviously increase in intensity over the next couple of weeks. And if this is any clue, writer Doris Egan (“Rendition”) recently told me “wait’ll you see Episode 7…holds a special place in my heart.” So, needless to say, I cannot wait until next week’s episode, called “Immortal Sins.”
Torchwood: Miracle Day airs on Starz Fridays at 10 p.m. ET