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“Torchwood: Miracle Day” Review: “The Middle Men” (NOTHING TO SPOIL)

I miss the child rapist/murderer. That is a sentence I never hoped to utter (or type) in my life, and yet, Torchwood: Miracle Day’s sixth episode, “The Middle Men,” left me with little choice. For the first time in the series, an episode was completely devoid of Oswald Danes, the murderer-turned-messiah in Phicorp’s new ass-backward world order.  No Danes means we also have no Jilly Kitzinger, the plucky, overly ambitious PR person assigned to manage Danes. This, along with last week’s shocking incineration of Dr. Vera Juarez, means that episode 6 lost all of the characters who’d made the first five episodes in any way interesting.  My tolerance of Miracle Day and my willingness to give it the benefit of the doubt is slowly dwindling. The fact is nothing is happening to move the plot forward and everything seems like a space saver or a digression to stretch for time.  And when you need to stretch for time, nobody works better than a Ghostbuster.

That’s right, Ernie Hudson was in this episode playing Phicorp’s COO, Stuart Owens.  At the beginning of the episode, Owens is also concerned about what his company is doing and gets a trying-very-hard-to-seem-cool Chinese operative to check out a Phicorp installation in Shanghai. Whatever he finds out is so horrible that he throws himself off of a 45 story building, which, only moments earlier, the “news” told us was the only way to ensure brain death.  Convenient. The episode spent almost no time setting up Owens as a character or what he was doing with Phicorp. We’re just plopped right in the middle of him looking stuff up and for about five minutes I thought I’d missed a whole episode somewhere. Whatever the Chinese guy found will have to wait for another day, probably, because nothing else about it is mentioned here.

Back in Wales, Gwen and Rhys are still trying to get Mr. Cooper out of the camp, as he’s being transferred at 6:00am to the module of fire.  Gwen finds a doctor that can hopefully help her, but the doctor refuses on the grounds of policy and so Gwen yells at her, giving her a brow-beating of gargantuan proportions.  Apparently, all one has to do to not get kicked out of an Overflow Camp is to wear scrubs.  Seriously, if some strange lady yelled at me for five minutes about what a monster I am for not helping, I’d sure as hell ask, “Hey, who are you anyway? How did you get here? Why are you yelling at me? Oh! My mistake. I didn’t see those scrubs you are wearing. Please forgive me, you clearly belong here, since we love hiring people with very loud, boisterous opinions about how evil we are.” Gwen thinks of a plan which is essentially the same exact plan as the last time, but with no heart attack. Tension is ramped up by making Rhys get stopped by a guy at the gate. He has to check paper work. And call people. Riveting. Of course, eventually they get her dad out. Then Gwen blows up the modules with a crapton of C4. Using the video contact lenses (that usually can’t transmit audio but can now because it’s convenient), she broadcasts the explosion and a message about what the camps are really doing. And while people are outraged, nobody is apologizing.

Jack, not to be outdone, has decided to waste a bunch of time himself.  He finds Stuart Owens’ secretary/lover at a bar and displays that he knows all sorts of things about her and the fact that Owens is a dick and wanted to get her fired even though he’s boning her. She offers to help Jack get close to Owens by pretending to be held hostage. This is completely unnecessary, as Owens is probably the most forthcoming character we’ve ever seen on the show.  Owens tells Jack that he’s just a middle man and knows nothing, though he’s uncovered references to “the blessing,” which is what the mucky mucks called “miracle day” before it happened.

This scene is supposed to be really intriguing and mysterious, like in All the President’s Men when they talk to Deep Throat or in JFK when he talks to Donald Sutherland, but it’s actually more like when people talk and don’t say anything interesting. Ernie Hudson was completely wasted and did the best he could with just being an info-dump character. Who was this guy? He must not have been that important since we didn’t even know Jack was looking for him until he’d already gathered all the necessary intel on him. In storytelling, there’s a thing called “Suspense,” which involves the audience knowing what someone has to do and then watching and hoping they succeed. This was just what they call “Filler,” which is where the same information that could have been gathered on a computer screen was given to a well-known character actor in order to make an episode longer.

The bulk of the episode dealt with Rex and Esther still in the San Pedro Overflow Camp and site coordinator Colin Maloney trying to cover up his murder of Vera Juarez and military feeb Ralph Coltrane freaking out and whining.  Maloney puts the camp on a lockdown so that people will stop wondering about Dr. Juarez, but really it was a means of keeping all the characters from getting out and furthering the plot. Can’t have that, now.

Rex has taped everything and wants to get out to show everybody the footage of Vera burning in the module.  While trying to escape, he gets captured and chained to a pipe for Maloney to deal with. Maloney does a pretty good job of pretending he’s not at fault for anything and Rex calls him a middle man also before beseeching Maloney to watch the “Juarez En Fuego” footage which makes the murderer break down and cry. Maybe he’s seen the error of his ways… nah, he decides to stab Rex’s open, gaping chest wound with a pen. Then Esther shows up and is a bad liar, causing her to have to fight Maloney and suffocate him. But she didn’t get the chain keys so she has to go back and get them, which gives Maloney ample time to be not-dead and try to kill her again. Good thing Ralph The Useless grew a pair and showed up just in time to shoot Maloney and save Esther. THEN THEY JUST LET REX AND ESTHER GO! Seriously? They’re witnesses to multiple murders AND they’re wanted by the CIA, yet somehow they just get to leave and end up back at Torchwood HQ. “Episode’s over, everybody’s okay, no need to bring logic in to anything involved.” Son of a bitch.

Then at the end, Gwen comes back to LA and gets a phone call on LAX’s white courtesy phone. This is the biggest bit of sci-fi in the whole episode because I’m damn skippy no one has EVER heard their name on the intercom at an airport about using the white courtesy phone because usually people aren’t expecting to hear it. But Gwen has amazing hearing and just happens to be right next to a clearly-marked white courtesy phone. A voice on the line tells her to put in her lenses. She goes into the bathroom and the message on the lenses, presumably from the bad guys in charge, tell her that they’ve kidnapped her husband, mother, and child. But not her dad. Is he fine? If she wants her loved ones released, she has to deliver Jack. DUN DUN DUMB.

It’s six episodes of ten, and right now the closest thing to a main villain we’ve seen is Colin friggin’ Maloney. There is no way he should have been that big a threat. He kills one main character and nearly kills two other ones. Even Oswald Danes only killed one person, though he’s still way ahead of Maloney on the rape.

I’m gonna watch the rest of the series because I said I would and I’m a man of my word, but holy crap, you guys, this show is sloooooooow mooooooving.  I’ve also decided this isn’t actually Torchwood; it’s a show with characters from Torchwood, but it bears almost no resemblance to either the first two seasons or Children of Earth.  Hopefully, by time the series ends, it’ll turn into something approaching what a Torchwood is.

-Kanderson needs excitement… and TWITTER followers

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  1. nackers says:

    Episode 6 was poor. I think they have stretched the series idea out far to far. I don’t really care anymore why the miracle happened or who’s behind it. I expected clues in episode 5 and got nothing. The latest twist of Hubby, child and Mum all being kidnapped is stupid. Gwen only just left them – couldn’t she have at least got them to hid somewhere?? Rex isn’t a great character…I kinda wish he had got burned and not the lady Doctor. How come none of the medical staff or Admin questions what they are being told to do?? Totally unreal that bit. I will record the last few episodes and watch when I can be bothered….not that engrossed anymore.
    Re: Gwen’s last explosion – just how many innocent people must she have killed doing that!?!

  2. Saxyroro says:

    I agree this last episode was the worst so far. But I have high hopes for the coming episodes. I know Ep 7 is supposed to have some MORE sexy time.

    And for those who didn’t catch this on Adult Swim:

  3. Vi Janaway says:

    I also like it. Transistion episodes are necessary to any drama and I think the story is being moved at the correct pace in spite of all my frustrations at wanting everyone to be okay.

  4. Ed says:

    Personally, I like it. I think it’s well written, well acted and definitely leaves us wanting more after each episode. It seems to me a lot of you need to be spoon fed what’s going on. It’s almost like you’re watching a different show. My suggestion, stop watching it if you don’t like it. But I have a feeling every single one of you will be glued to the screen until the last episode. Go ahead, try and prove me wrong or pretend you just ‘have to watch it’…because you promised (serious, that’s lame. If you don’t like it, don’t watch it and quit pretending it doesn’t have you interested).

  5. CosmaB says:

    I have been a big Torchwood fan from the get-go and I’m sorry, this series is just awful! I had high hopes what with Jane Espenson involved, but this has been more disappointing each week. I will probably finish it out but am not expecting it to improve. I have NO CLUE what’s going on, it’s that boring and badly written. Each week I feel like I’ve missed something. Just badly written IMO. Sorry. But I am SO disappointed in this series.

  6. MagicSwordKing says:

    This is starting to wear on me, just because of how misused everyone is. I like Esther, I’ve even grown to like Rex, he could potentially be a really good foil for Jack. You’ve got the swashbuckling, charge in and play the hero and get your boyfriend killed Jack, versus Rex, who we are repeatedly told is an amazing strategist.

    Now, Rex goes off on a half-baked plan, gets Vera the Ianto treatment, and we have two episodes where the biggest villain is the hillbilly who likes racquetball and his dickless military accomplice Gomer.

    Separating the team members is never a good idea. Let them all play to their strengths, let Gwen be the welsh action girl with a conscience, let Jack be reckless and charming (and stop harping on the coat, good joke the first couple of times, now its just a cheap euphemism) .

    Maybe have Jack and Rex fight it out! You have two headstrong people who want to be in charge, and they both have legitimate reasons as to why, give em something to do! As for Esther, well, just let her be Tosh, because I’m pretty sure her character bio is “Tosh, but American and White”.

    As for Jack, he’s not being Jack. I don’t care that he’s mortal now, old habits die hard. The one event that changed him more than immortality was meeting the Doctor. Jack was willing to die for a good cause when before he wasn’t. Why is he now just sneaking around, chatting guys up, and being a smug prick? I honestly never thought I could dislike Jack, but the way he’s portrayed so far gives him very little to humanize him, which CoE did brilliantly, with both Ianto and his daughter/grandson.

  7. Miles S. says:

    He stabbed Rex with a pen! It’s Comic-Con 2010 all over again!

  8. Chris says:

    I been watching this with my girlfriend who has never seen torchwood and doesn’t know what doctor who is. When I told her that aliens should be coming sooner or later she thought it would be crazy and stupid. It would be like watching law and order and in the end aliens are the murderers. It just doesn’t fit. It’s possible that it will simply be paranormal. Supernatural. Not alien, but not human. It’s possible that the blessing is a secret society of immortals and they want to die, but it backfires and we have miracle day. I don’t know. I have a feeling the end of this season is going to be disappointing. I hope I’m wrong, even though I love being right.

  9. Charley says:

    Loved the individual episodes ala season one and two. Was disappointed in the five episode miniseries of Children of Earth but really loved everything about it. Just wanted more, wanted Ianto back. Loved the idea of a new season, Jack back, U.S. flavor… Why slow the pace down. Blowing up a helicopter in flight – Very cool. Blowing up the module incenerator – cool. Rex infuriates me at times. I dislike the whimpy Jack. I certainly hope that the remainder of the season speeds it’s pace up.

    When I heard they were coming to the U.S. I thought that maybe Greenbriar would get a mention…

  10. Scott S says:

    I think everyone’s acting a lot like old Torchwood. I’ve always wondered how any of the Torchwood members survived so long, they never work as a very good team, personal issues always come up, and these “professionals” always let them interfere while they’re doing jobs, which never seem to be planned very well, anyway. There’s more of an American feel to Miracle Day, but I feel like Torchwood has always seemed more American than Doctor Who (and new Doctor Who feels more American than the original.)

    I’m not sure if watching Miracle Day all at once is better, or spread out might be better. Getting so little every week may make it seem more stretched out than getting everything over a smaller chunk of time. Maybe they’ll make it into a movie for DVD, and edit out huge chunks of it.

  11. GuanoLad says:

    I almost miss the days when Torchwood was only about one of the team taking one of the alien artefacts home and causing all sorts of chaos.

  12. Brian E says:

    I agree about this not feeling like Torchwood. No Weevils. No Cybermen. No talk at all about aliens and they’ve even stopped talking about morphic fields and other out-there explanations. Yes, we know PhiCorp is responsible. Yes, we know they have a puppet master. Danes stated this two episodes back in his hotel room when talking about conducting an internet search on who owns PhiCorp.

    According to next week’s previews, it appears Jack is going back in time for some reason. Hope this also serves as a stage for the writers to actually discuss Jack’s background. They haven’t even allowed him to explain his manly leather bracelet which allows him to jump through time and space.

    My biggest concern is the lack of continuity of this show, which is weird because it all takes place in the same few weeks/months. 1. There is another new “cult” related to the Miracle, the “45 Club”. Apparently, the “Dead is Dead” group and the ones with the masks have all just disbanded or found new hobbies because there hasn’t been a whiff of them since their original mention. 2. Is Esther getting dumber? Her confusion and the pained looks on her face as she is trying to realize why Cruz hasn’t returned cause me to have painful looks on my face. “Someone isn’t returning their calls during a dangerous mission? What could that mean? Hold on, lemme just stare at the bad guy and figure this out for a while,” she probably said. 3. The camps have been open for like a week, right? How come everyone that works there (especially the fat guy who tells Esther to stay inside) knows every single protocol and all seem to act as if they’ve been there for years?

    I’ll watch the last four, but not expecting anything great. When can Moffat take over Torchwood, too?

  13. Kyle Michaud says:

    I agree with Sarah. The lenses don’t have audio. At the very end when she blows up the module and whatever, she’s talking through a radio-link with Jack, who had just mentioned he opened it up and is recording it.

    I think you’re all pretty harsh on the show. Yeah, it’s not really the same Torchwood we remember, but it’s still Torchwood. Yeah, besides the “everybody can’t die” thing, there’s no real Sci-Fi. They aren’t mentioning Jack’s past (though it looks like they are going to next episode!!!) or anything. Yeah, they’re doing a lot of talking/snooping instead of just going in and punching people. Yeah, some of the acting (Esther’s work-mates. Oh my god, terrible…) isn’t great.

    But, they just killed one of the main characters, so you know it’s Torchwood. Gwen just blew something up. Jack hits on everyone. Just be patient. The next four episodes will hopefully be wonderful.

  14. Josh Z says:

    Don’t you feel like The Doctor would have sorted this out in 2-45 minute episodes? Fact is, this thing is so stretched out pancake thin that the only thing we are missing is seeing 3 meals-a-day. The story idea is a brilliant one – really has some make-you-think moments – but the story pace, dialogue, and acting make it at times very difficult to watch and sit through 10 long weeks.

  15. Sarah says:

    I agree. This show has been so slow. I kept thinking that it would pick up once they threw all the info at us and developed the new characters. Nope. It is like Russell tried to write it “American” instead of just writing Torchwood the same way he normally would but set in America. It has lost all Torchwood feel and Gwen and Jack stick out and do not seem to fit in. I was excited that they were going to do stick to one storyline like Children of the Earth, but this does not hold a candle to that series.

    Like everyone else I will stick with it and hope that the next episodes , that seem to have some flashbacks with Jack, get better.

    P.S. The lenses still do not have audio. She needed to be in the mirror in the bathroom and the bike for Jack to “hear” her. The rest of the time she was just talking to herself. Gwen was pretty bad ass I must say.

  16. Gospel X says:

    I think the outcry is a bit exaggerated. Sure, this is very different than the previous Torchwood shows, and I can only attribute that to the American broadcast company’s wanting a greater focus on the American cast than on the original British. Let’s face it, this show is Jack- and Gwen-lite. Give it time. The concept is still great, but I think the show was really written for a five or six episode series – so they’re stretching as best they can.

    Save for this episode and the previous one, it’s been a great ride. With four episodes left, they’ve still got time to WOW us and make us say that this joint production was a great idea. Otherwise…well, it’s a lot better than other tripe we see on television. I wouldn’t ever classify the show as bad, especially with how strong it started.

  17. Gerry says:

    I expected BIG THINGS from Miracle Day.

    A Grand premise …

    A larger canvas …

    But a complete bore.

    Why have they completely buried the science fiction aspect of Torchwood, as if they are ashamed of it?

    Each and every time there is a reference to Jack being a (formerly immortal) time traveler who has traveled to countless alien planets … they instantly change the subject.

    The plot is pedestrian. An evil pharmaceutical company? How lame.

    And the lazy writing! Are the military in the US/UK so pitiful that Torchwood can sneak around on a secure base with almost absolute impunity?

    The acting … oh god. The actor from CSI who portrayed the Maloney character at the death camp may never work again after that performance — if there is any justice in the world.

    I am stunned by how bad this show has become. And I’m a fan.

  18. Saffron says:

    Yes, and thank you. I’ve reeeeally tried to be enthusastic about this new “Torchwood” but – you’re right – it /isn’t/ anything even remotely resembling Torchwood and I’m at the point where I don’t care who/what is doing it, if things will ever be resolved, or what will happen to Jack and Gwen.

    And it’s that last one that I find the most disheartening and the biggest kick in the teeth.

    At this point, I’ll finish watching it because I’m 6/10 of the way through, but I’m not enjoying it. And that’s really hard for me to say considering the great actors they’ve wrangled together for this series. It /should/ be enjoyable, and we /should/ be excited to see next week; but so far all its given us is false promises and those aforementioned kicks in the teeth. Meh.

  19. Josh says:

    I’ll agree with almost everything you are saying.
    The ending had better be something smashing, like it is The Silence behind this or something.

    It’s funny, one would think something like all humans becoming fixed points on the space-time continuum would attract the Mad Man in the blue box, I guess it’s pretty convenient that his future girlfriend in infantile form has been ‘kid’napped.

    I hope it get’s A LOT better.

  20. Matt says:

    Glad I’m not the only one that thinks the last couple of episodes have been boring as dirt. The dialogue has been piss-poor too. At one point while I was watching Maloney have whatever passes for a psychotic break in the Torchwood universe (the bit where he was muttering about how Juarez had said he was doing a great job running the camp) I found myself yelling at the tv, “They wrote those words down and gave them to an actor to write onscreen? REALLY?” I had such high hopes…

  21. Robin Burks says:

    I agree. This episode was a complete time-waster and I’m really hoping things pick up next week. I’m starting to lose interest, especially since we haven’t seen the aliens yet. Because there HAVE to be aliens, since that’s what Torchwood does. But I’m getting close to the point of not caring who did it.

    I loved the fast pacing of Children of Earth. Miracle Day is just the opposite and I don’t think the show works as well like that.