Episode Title: "Escape to L.A."
Writers: Jim Gray & John Shiban
Director: Bill Gierhart
Previously on "Torchwood: Miracle Day":
With an unknown force attempting to kill anyone associated with Torchwood, CIA Agent Rex Matheson (Mekhi Phifer) and his colleague Esther Drummond (Alexa Havins) were forced to go on the run with the surviving members of Torchwood, Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) and Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles). While fighting among themselves, the new Torchwood team discovered that the pharmaceutical company, PhiCorp was somehow aware of Miracle Day before everyone in the world was given immortality simultaneously. PhiCorp even had a TARDIS-like warehouse stocked with painkillers to serve the new world.
Meanwhile, child murderer and pedophile, Oswald Danes (Bill Pullman) found that there was a limit to how much tolerance his new fame would bring him when random strangers chased him and even the police took their chance to beat the crap out of him. Jilly Kitzinger (Lauren Ambrose) used Danes' apparent weakness to recruit him to PhiCorp, who soon had their new mouthpiece echoing their views on drugs for the people who can't die. Jack sensed that Danes was connected to the origins of Miracle Day and he confronted him in person. But Danes' new found protectors beat Jack and dumped him back outside the TV station as Danes' media star continued to rise.
Before leaving town with Torchwood, Esther attempts to visit her sister, Sarah (Candace Dean Brown) and her nieces; but Sarah is visibly disturbed and she won't even let Esther see the children. Reluctantly, Esther calls child services and alerts them of the situation. As she drives off, a mysterious Tracker (C. Thomas Howell) informs his bosses that he's located Esther and he is told to follow her to Jack. On the news, a member of the Tea Party named Ellis Hartley Monroe (Mare Winningham) makes traction with her message that "dead is dead." Her idea is to segregate the people who should be dead from the rest of the population.
And it seems that events are already going in that direction. Dr. Vera Juarez (Arlene Tur) and a group of doctors are given the tour of an abandoned hospital that is to be used by the Miracle Day survivors only. At the same time, Torchwood arrives in Los Angeles near Venice Beach, as Gwen sneaks away to call her husband, Rhys Williams (Kai Owen). The Tracker takes photos of Gwen and passes on word to his employers. At Torchwood's new office, Jack reiterates his belief that Danes is somehow connected to Miracle Day's origins and he promises to keep an eye on him until he knows how.
But Danes has his own problems, namely that Monroe's rantings are pushing him off of the news cycle. He even threatens Jilly if she can't help him reverse his course. Back in the Torchwood office, Rex repeatedly snaps at Esther for suggesting that he has family in the area. But Rex soon visits his father, who rejects his son's attempts to make amends. Soon, the Torchwood team forms a plan to steal secrets directly from PhiCorp's most secure database. Jack and Gwen pretend to be a couple to retrieve the biometric data from Nicolas Frumkin (Kelvin Yu), the designer of PhiCorps' secure servers.
At the hospital for the people who should have died, Vera and the rest of the staff are already overwhelmed. Outside, Monroe once again steals Danes' thunder until he walks past her and enters the hospital to comfort the people there. He gives an impassioned speech to the patients and promises to stand up for them. Despite their knowledge about what he has done in the past, the patients embrace Danes as their champion. Monroe is disgusted by the sudden shift in attention, but she is soon drugged and left in a car compactor to ensure that she can't interfere in PhiCorp's agenda.
At the PhiCorp building in Los Angeles, Jack and Gwen get inside the server room and begin replacing it with a fake. In the control van, Esther confesses that she's seen her sister and Rex yells at her for jeopardizing the mission. The Tracker disables and binds both Jack and Gwen, forcing Rex to climb several stories of stairs to save them. Unfortunately, he kills the would-be assassin just before he told Jack and Gwen who he really worked for and how Jack himself is connected to Miracle Day. Jack and Gwen then glare at Rex, who is frustrated by their lack of gratitude for saving their lives.
Later, the team learns that PhiCorp is building relocation camps for the would-be dead. Rhys then calls Gwen to tell her that her terminally ill father is being moved to a camp as well. She desperately tells Rhys to prevent that from happening, but it's too late. Gwen's dad and the rest of the terminal patients have already been moved.
"Torchwood: Miracle Day" is finally moving forward with hints at the villain behind humanity's deeply flawed immortality. The connection to Jack is intriguing even if it was entirely expected. The threat is obviously tied to Jack somehow, the only real question is if the villain is someone that has already appeared on "Torchwood" in the previous BBC seasons. Personally, I'd bet that the 456 from "Children of Earth" are the power behind Miracle Day, since they lack names and they would have a specific grudge against Jack and humanity. They were even mentioned in the first episode of "Miracle Day," so that's not too far of a stretch.
It's amazing just how unlikable Rex is in this series. Mekhi Phifer might be a fine actor, but the writers have not been doing his character any favors. It may be the writers' intention to make Rex into an anti-hero as opposed to a beloved team member, but Rex is such a jerk that it's almost impossible to feel sympathy for him. The scene with his dad should have been able to make the audience feel something for Rex, but it came off flat. Even in scenes where Rex could have earned some audience support by showing a modicum of understanding towards Esther ended with Rex screaming at her.
Rex does get one very memorable hero moment when he races up the stairs to save Gwen and Jack despite his deteriorating physical condition. In theory, that's the kind of thing that makes an audience root for a character. But I'm not sure it's going to be enough to make people reconsider their stance on Rex.
I want to like Alexa Havins' Esther, but she has the opposite problem of Rex. She's so sympathetic that she's almost a wet blanket instead of a heroine. Esther's connection with her sister and her nieces does offer some hint of a background for her character. But Esther's constant stream of tears is undercutting her role in the series. She seems more like a reluctant sidekick than one of the main heroes.
The one new member of Torchwood that comes off as a well rounded character is Dr. Vera Juarez… and she's not even officially on the team! Arlene Tur is making the most of her small role by giving Vera some visceral reactions to the decline of health care and humanity and her disgust at Danes' publicity stunt. She also has a lot of good will from telling off Rex after he continuously takes her for granted. The medical side of "Miracle Day" remains interesting, but events are starting to land on the edge of being unbelievable. Would the government really remain so quiet during a crisis that a company like PhiCorp could openly call the shots and set up internment camps? Because that requires a pretty big suspension of disbelief even on a show where the dead can't die.
Mind you, I could totally buy it if the government's response was incompetent or not well thought out. It's the complete inaction that's difficult to accept.
C. Thomas Howell gets in some entertainingly creepy moments as the Tracker out to kill the team, but the most startling sequence belongs to Monroe being crushed by a car compactor. I loved the shot of her eye open in panic as she survived the ordeal in what will probably be perpetual agony until the Miracle Day effect is reversed. That gave the ending of her story an almost "Twilight Zone" feel.
Now that "Torchwood: Miracle Day" has some momentum on its side, it may be able live up to its fantastic premise. This could be a truly great series, but it's too soon to tell if the show has turned the corner on the season.
Crave Online Rating: 8 out of 10.