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“Torchwood: Miracle Day” – Episode 2 “Rendition” Review (SPOILERS)

Last week when reviewing “The New World,” I mentioned that it appeared that Torchwood was becoming like a science fiction version of 24; this week’s episode, “Rendition” proved that theory with a vengeance. While parts of last week took place in America, it still held a certain Britishness, but this episode just felt more American in its look and pacing. Surely, this has a lot to do with the directors. Episode 1 was directed by Bharat Nalluri, a British director who helmed episodes of MI-5, Hustle, and Life on Mars, while episode 2 was directed by Bill Gierhart, an American camera operator and director of shows like The Shield, Terriers, and Sons of Anarchy. It is Gierhart’s style that will probably be the template for the direction of the rest of the series, as he’s also directing the next two episodes as well as the finale. “Rendition” was also written by Doris Egan of House, MD fame and not showrunner Russell T. Davies, as the premiere had been. There isn’t anything inherently better or worse about the contrasting styles, but it is interesting to note that while the premiere was Torchwood with Americans, this episode is Torchwood IN America.

The 24-ness has been enhanced this week, as the different groups of characters act largely independently throughout. In the episode’s opening moments, Rhys rather glibly describes the situation re: Jack Harkness by saying everybody is immortal, so Jack isn’t. Miracle Day is essentially a toggle switch. Matheson again proves that he’s the good guy you love to hate as he gleefully rips Rhys and baby Anwen away from Gwen as she and Jack get taken aboard the plane to Washington. Aboard the plane, Jack says the key to Miracle Day is not that nobody can die, it’s that it all happened instantaneously all over the world. Overhearing this, a CIA Agent named… CIA Agent (Dichen Lachman from Dollhouse) gets an order from shady Agency suit Wayne Knight (Newman!) to kill Jack. She poisons him with arsenic in soda. What a bitch. A huge amount of time is spent aboard the airplane trying to deal with Jack, which is maybe the most American part of the episode. While I loved most of 24 (until the last few seasons, but that’s another story), one thing I could never stand were the filler episodes, where Jack Bauer or somebody would have to deal with a quick problem that may or may not impact the greater storyline. I will say, a lot of attention seems to be paid to how long it takes to travel across the Atlantic Ocean, and they had to have something for the people on the plane to do while the American peoples are doing whatever it is they’re doing.

A character I didn’t think anything of in the first episode became one of the more integral characters of this episode. Matheson’s surgeon, Dr. Vera Juarez (Arlene Tur), offers us some interesting medical and scientific theories for a world where no one can die. If people can’t die, and you treat the people with the smallest injuries first to get them out of the way, diseases and infections that normally kill people are living longer and thriving and thus will become immune to antibiotics. She surmises that all people really need at this point are painkillers, so the entire medical pharmaceuticals industry needs to be adjusted to fit that. It’s also Juarez who gets the airborne call from Rex Matheson about how to speedily overcome arsenic poisoning. What luck everything just happened to be on the aircraft. It’s also lucky that arsenic poisoning just happens to be one of the slowest ways to die. If dumb CIA Agent had just used the cyanide capsule, none of this would have happened. But then we wouldn’t have a show at all, I guess.

Bill Pullman’s Oswald Danes continues to intrigue. While going on a news program to “defend” himself, he tells a PA that he may no longer be incarcerated, but he is far from free; there will always be a mob of people with torches after him, which the PA didn’t respond to very kindly. However, during the show, when confronted by the host with a picture of the girl Danes brutally raped and murdered, he burst into tears and repeated numerous times that he was sorry. This garnered a great deal of unexpected sympathy as well as the attention of PR specialist Jilly Kitzinger (played by Lauren Ambrose). Kitzinger is the “business” woman, but with a definite dark side I find very interesting. She offers to represent Danes on his inevitable media blitz. He declines and tears up her card, but I have a feeling he’ll eventually change his mind… because I’ve seen the promos. Jilly also turns up to offer a similar service to Dr. Juarez and even offers up knowledge of a government stockpile of painkillers. Seems Jilly was the PR rep for a pharmaceutical company. The plot thickens.

At the CIA, Esther Drummond discovers that somebody is trying to bribe (or kill) she and Matheson to keep quiet about the Torchwood situation. It’s Wayne Knight. She sneaks out of headquarters using a co-worker’s ID badge and steals the woman’s car, which of course is a blue Mini Cooper, the only British car Americans know of on sight. She calls Matheson, who has just gotten off the plane. He frees Gwen and Jack, and the three beat up the Agency “protection” who’ve been sent to help. Matheson gets the Agent from the plane on the ground and snaps her neck, but she doesn’t die, of course. If she did, we wouldn’t get to see her be a BACKWARD-HEADED ZOMBIE! Esther is shocked to see the strange not-dead Agent walking around outside the airport to which Gwen promptly said, “Welcome to Torchwood.”

While I didn’t enjoy the stuff on the airplane for the most part, specifically how long it took them to carefully concoct the cure but still found the need to be amped up the whole time, I do enjoy the path the series is headed and am very interested to know how the different threads will intertwine. At first, I’ve been kind of put off by Gwen Cooper’s heightened badassitude, but I’ve realized this is integral for the average viewer to understand her character. We who’ve watched the show up to this point know the arc Gwen has taken over the years and know her to be a strong individual, but in a show where the Torchwood members aren’t the focus of every scene or even the whole plot yet, it’s necessary for Gwen to be depicted as such and I applaud Eve Myles for keeping Gwen real even given this method of storytelling. I’m very interested to see how Oswald Danes’ story plays into the greater plot of the series and how he interacts with Torchwood, something it looks like from the trailer, we’ll get sooner rather than later.

-Kanderson is collectively unconscious, follow his delirium on the TWITTERS

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  1. Kelly says:

    RTD lost me with COE, not just because my favorite character was killed. I think he was pushing the politics WAY too much and did little with Torchwood. The Government is taking kids! BAD BAD Government!! (Oh yeah, this has to do with Torchwood, look there’s an alien and let’s blow some stuff up.) He railroaded Ianto’s character and Jack’s relationship with him, and yet again Gwen was more the center of attention. They blew up the hub, killed a kid (which a lot of other writers could have been more creative with IMHO. Jack was freaking immortal after all with those weird pheromones). It just felt too much like RTD’s public vehicle for his opinions on government etc… for me,

    And afterwards, he basically told fans of the previous two seasons to F off in interviews. If we don’t like it, go somewhere else, who needs you.

    From what I’ve heard of the season, it has a great premise but it’s truly lost touch with it’s roots. (And the photos of Gwen with baby in one hand and gun in the other were EXACTLY what some fans from day 1 were afraid of.)

    One day, I might give it a shot. But for now, I’ll settle for Moffatt’s Who for my Brit Fix. (And maybe one day RTD will step aside and use his ‘jump across the pond’ to do what he really wanted, helm an All-American show. Seems like Torchwood was just the vehicle.) Hey, can Moffatt bring back British Torchwood?!

  2. John R says:

    I’m digging it… I think it’s a tad slow, but I will have faith in the creators that there is a plan (Children of Earth earned that much). But the geek in me loved the crowd sourcing of how to manufacture an antidote at 35,000 feet. Reminded me of “Apollo 13”, trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.

  3. Joyce says:

    I miss The Mill EFX. I’m also getting antsy with the pacing but let us hope next week will be worth the wait.

  4. John says:

    Here’s something I noticed right away when I watched the episode. When Rex calls Dr. Juarez from the plane, using the skyphone, she looks at her phone, answers it, and says “Rex” immediately. How did she know it was him? Does the good doctor have some as yet undisclosed telepathy? Maybe more morphic field happenings?

  5. Courtland says:

    It’s a slow introduction, but it does seem like american Torchwood is building up. I do kind of wish that there was more of Dichen’s character though, she’s a pretty good actress and I thought she was a tad underused. Also, I loved Gwen yelling at everyone when they were making the cure…nice to have some more comedy into it.

  6. Graham Trudeau says:

    I think the best way to sum up this season of torchwood is as follows: An americanized, 5 stretched to 10 episode version of children of the earth. Take that as you will, im not really a fan of it.

    They seem to have americanized doctor who very well (by doing absolutely nothing besides some billboards and ads) why couldn’t they have just done the same for torchwood? Im guessing starz is sharing some cost of production or something, but I’d rather see low budget torchwood (or no torchwood), than 15-minutes on a plane doing a bad macgyver impression torchwood.

  7. Jon says:

    Liking the two episode’s we’ve seen so far, but am itching for the ALIENS to reveal themselves and their masterplan!

    also, I found most of the first half of this episode a little tedious, but thought the entire scene on the airplane as genius. Gwen’s frantic urgency was probably some of the best acting I’ve seen out of her

  8. Robert says:

    What a totally useless episode. Would have been better if the scene on the plane lasted only about 15 minutes. In that time, they could have discussed the worldwide problem and the need to assemble a team.
    After landing, they could have recruited Dr. Juarez and Esther Drummond. Then the team could have gotten to the business of finding out who or what is behind the problem and working on a solution.
    I sure hope next weeks episode is better.

  9. Tanya says:

    I have loved Torchwood for years now and I’m not hating the new season, but it doesn’t have that “Torchwood” feel to it. I think the soundtrack is what’s bothering me the most. There has always been such distinct music for the show and this year it’s just not there.

  10. Robin Burks says:

    Was it me or was the scene with Dichen Lachman’s head on backwards a really case of poor special effects? I’ve seen much, much better done elsewhere.

    However, I adored the rest of the episode, especially when the doctors are discussing the changes going on in healthcare – that seemed very relevant, even in our “normal” world. That scene was very intelligent and well done.

    My favorite, though, was Gwen saying “I’m Welsh” right before punching Lachman’s character out. I like Gwen’s bad-assness. And I think it’s been amped up more because she’s now a mother, more than anything.

    I am extremely disappointed that it seems we’ve seen the last of Rhys for awhile, though. He is as much a part of Torchwood as Gwen, and I’m sick and tired of his character getting thrown on the back burner. It’s happened in every season of Torchwood, save Children of Earth, where I thought we finally had a chance to see what he was capable of.

  11. Art says:

    I <3 Lauren Ambrose!! Very glad she's part of this and I hope we get to see a lot more of her.

    I agree, it is reaallllyyyy slow. I suppose its necessary, and i'm not bored enough to stop watching. I know it will pick up.

    RTD has always been hit or miss with me when it comes to Science Fiction. He's either amazing or cringe worthy. I'm expecting to be Amazed by the end of this, though.

  12. Zach says:

    Also, modern Minis are made by BMW, though I’m not sure how common of knowledge that is among the Starz viewership.

  13. Scott S says:

    I’ve seen the previous seasons of Torchwood, and I’m thinking of acquiring several of these shows before I start watching them. I’ve been a lifelong Dr Who fan, so I feel obligated to watch Torchwood and Sarah Jane, and even the new version of Dr Who, even though they all seem much more American than the original Dr Who. Dr Who has gotten better in the last couple of seasons, but Torchwood has kept too much of what seems like American action TV to me. The memories overall don’t seem so bad, but watching the actual episodes frequently made me want to stop. I hope watching the new Torchwood in a bunch will leave a decent taste in my mouth.

  14. emily says:

    @Zach- Totally, the backwards neck thing was super creepy and totally caught me off guard. I loved that.

    It felt like they spent half the episode dealing with Jack being poisoned. Which is fine, I guess. But really, the pacing is SO SLOW for a ten episode series. So slow. Starting to like Rex. And I can’t wait to see how Oswald Baines gets caught up in everything. And what’s the deal with the ginger PR lady?

  15. Zach says:

    Ugggh. Go take a look at the ingredients on some liquid soap, I guarantee you EDTA is on there. Surely somewhere on the plane there would be some handsoap?

    Cool episode, nonetheless. I even forgot about the immortality for a second when Rex did the neck-snap, then cringed when she was still alive.

  16. ericdano says:

    The LESS of Reese (Gwen’s husband) that we see, the better. Can’t stand him. I miss Owen and the others.

    I do like where this season is going. It’s much better than 95% of the stuff on TV right now. I mean, it’s better than Weeds, about the same as True Blood, but probably won’t be as good as the upcoming season of Dexter or the Walking Dead.

  17. Alex says:

    It is a slow start. I’m expecting it to start feeling more like Torchwood in this next episode now that they have most of pieces falling into place. Davies wrote himself into a corner at the end of Children of Earth so these last two episodes have been him trying to get out of that corner. I think he did it in a plausible way, but it is making the series feel slow.

    That said, I really can’t wait for the next episodes. The mystery of Miracle Day has me intrigued and I will be on board for the entire run just to find out the answers.

  18. Christian says:

    I really don’t like this slow American setup of story telling, but I do love this show. Hope the rest of the episode isn’t going to take super slow and long build up.

  19. Nicole says:

    Loved the first 2 and somewhat half seasons of Torchwood but not liking the new series. It was such a disappointment to see what they’ve done to it. The only thing that could save it would be to put it into the hands of Steven Moffet and let him fix it.

  20. Anna Granfors says:

    Want. Screener complete series boxset. NOW.

    So far, this is convincing me that I may not be a Whovian, but rather an Arteedeeian. (RTD. Russell T Davies.) I’ve liked this more than the entire Moffat run of Doctor Who, except for “The Doctor’s Wife”. Then too, I’ve liked/loved most of RTD’s output since “Bob & Rose”, but he really seems to be hitting his stride between “Children of Earth”, the DW Specials, and now this.

  21. Old Doctor says:

    I too am enjoying this run of Torchwood and I too have a nit to pick. The “not gay” flight attendant makes a comment about one thing good coming for being diabetic in having the syringe handy. I must say this dude has one hell of an insulin requirement! My god the size of that syringe was outrageous! I’m a diabetic and take insulin every day and use a needle six times smaller than the one they used.
    I am also enjoying the twitter for across the pond – “Is it up yet have they loaded it up yet?” 🙂

  22. Swhitmore says:

    the doctor did.. when he called her for advice he said he was on a plane where was he going to get the stuff to cure jack, and they went back and forth about it. then she announced to the room full of doctors she happen to be with as a thought exercise how do you find what you need to cure arsenic on a plane.. and that gets the ball rolling..

  23. Kris Fruin says:

    Still hoping it gets better – it just doesn’t FEEL like Torchwood. I caught Torchwood: Children of Earth on TV before I knew what Torchwood was and I was HOOKED and then got my wife on it and we started at the beginning. If Miracle Day was what we had seen first, we’d not likely be watching Torchwood today.

    Hoping for improvements…

  24. Sawyer says:

    Not to nitpick, but didn’t Matheson specifically ask for an arsenic cure using materials that could be found on a place? I seem to recall them being on a plane working into that conversation at some point.