TORCHWOOD: MIRACLE DAY 1.06 ‘The Middle Men’

Rex and Esther try to escape the PhiCorp camp as Jack takes his search for answers closer to the source.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Episode Title: "The Middle Men"

Writer: John Shiban

Director: Guy Ferland

Previously on "Torchwood: Miracle Day":

When the world governments decided to rewrite the rules of life and death after Miracle Day, Dr. Vera Juarez (Arlene Tur) decided to formally join Torchwood to help find a way to reverse the Miracle. To learn more about the relocation camps set up by PhiCorp, former CIA Agent Rex Matheson (Mekhi Phifer) went undercover as a "category one" patient while Esther Drummond (Alexa Havins) worked as a temp in the front office and Vera came as an inspector for the camp. Vera was so horrified by the conditions of the camp that she openly threatened to have the director, Colin Maloney (Marc Vann) jailed.

In response, Maloney shot Vera twice with a guard's weapon and dragged her to the module for category one patients. Meanwhile, Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) attempted to convince convicted child murderer and pedophile, Oswald Danes (Bill Pullman) to reject PhiCorp on stage and read a statement implicating the company for its role in Miracle Day. But instead, Oswald gave his own speech and declared that the newly immortal population of Earth were now "Angels." Back in the U.K., Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) failed to retrieve her father from the relocation camps and she learned that the modules were being used to burn category one patients alive.

Back in Los Angeles, Rex found the injured Vera locked in the module just as it activated. And he was forced to watch as Vera burned with the rest of the patients.

Story:

In a teaser, PhiCorp COO Stuart Owens (Ernie Hudson) attempts to learn more about the Miracle and what caused it. Following up on his latest lead, he tasks Zheng Yibao (Eric Steinberg), an investigator in Shanghai to look into a PhiCorp location that has seemingly disappeared from the company records. Zheng easily infiltrates the location, but hours later he calls Stuart and tells him that there was nothing there. But in reality, whatever Zheng saw drove him to make a suicide attempt by jumping off of a skyscraper. Now picking up where we left off last week, Rex continues his recording and identifies himself as an agent of Torchwood. He also vows to avenge Vera.

In the office of the relocation camp, Esther becomes increasingly suspicious about Vera's disappearance. Inside his private office, Maloney presses the agitated guard, Ralph Coltrane (Fred Koehler) to move Vera's car and make it seem like she left the camp. Maloney also decides to declare a lockdown on the camp so that he can prove that Vera wasn't there when she disappeared. As Maloney gives the order, Esther asks about Vera. Maloney replies that Vera said he was doing an excellent job and left earlier. In the U.K., Gwen's attempt to get her father reclassified to category two leads her to scold a doctor who knowingly goes along with the genocide of category one patients.

Still incensed, Gwen calls her husband, Rhys Williams (Kai Owen) to tell him to bring a truck that night so she can break her father out of the camp. Back in L.A., Rex subdues a soldier and steals his clothes in an attempt to escape the camp. But the other soldiers soon capture him and restrain him for interrogation. Meanwhile, Jack tracks down Stuart at a local restaurant and demands to know what PhiCorp's connection is to Miracle Day. To Jack's surprise, he learns that Stuart has been looking for answers himself and that the closest he's come is something the company records refer to as "the blessing."

Back at the L.A. camp, Rex gets Maloney to speak to him directly and he shows him the video of the module burning and Vera's death. He tries to convince Maloney to be a hero and expose the activities of the camp. But when Maloney goes to stab Rex with a pen, Rex realizes that Maloney was the one who killed Vera. Esther finally locates Maloney and gives herself away when she mentions just speaking with Vera. In the scuffle that follows, Esther chokes out Maloney. But when she goes back for his keys to free Rex, Maloney nearly strangles her into unconsciousness. Only Ralph's timely intervention saves her and allows Ester and Rex to escape.

In the U.K., Gwen locates her father and this time she successfully smuggles him out of the camp with Rhys' assistance. She then records a message for the world about what the modules and the relocation camps are meant for. Then to punctuate her remarks, she blows up the modules in dramatic fashion. Back in Los Angeles, Jack is satisfied with exposing the truth, but Rex's prediction that the government response to the outrage will be inadequate is proven correct. Jack admits that Torchwood isn't capable of fighting a political battle over the Miracle and instead he urges that they investigate "the blessing" to learn more about the origins of the Miracle.

Gwen arrives in Los Angeles, but she notes that her husband is not answering his phone. She is soon alerted to an airport courtesy phone where a caller tells her to put on her Torchwood issue contact lenses. Once she does that, Gwen receives the terrifying news that someone is holding her mother, husband and baby hostage. And what they want in return for their safety is for Gwen to bring Jack to them.

Breakdown:

In theory, I tend to favor longer seasons over short runs. But for "Torchwood: Miracle Day," the show and the story might have been better served as a shorter run of six episodes.

After hitting a creative high point last week, "Miracle Day" squandered most of its momentum by keeping the action on the same ground that was effectively covered last week. And there was no reason to drag out Rex and Esther's escape or Gwen's second rescue attempt for a full additional episode. The scenes that had the most life to them were Jack's confrontation with Stuart and the teaser in which Stuart's investigator discovered something critical off camera.

Ernie Hudson brought some much needed gravitas to his scenes as Stuart and it was refreshing to see that someone other than Torchwood is attempting to figure out what caused the Miracle. Stuart's conversation with Jack was also oddly compelling despite largely serving as an exposition dump. It was a little disappointing that Stuart didn't reappear after that. He could potentially be the inside ally that Torchwood needs to solve this. I'm also curious as to what made Stuart's investigator attempt to cause himself irreparable brain damage rather than live with the knowledge of what he saw.   

For credibility's sake, it's amazing that no one questioned Gwen's presence in the U.K. relocation camp even though it should have been easy to figure out that she didn't belong there… especially after she was essentially caught in the act of sneaking her father out last week. Gwen's explosive solution for the modules was an epic moment, but it was undercut by the end of the episode that recast her from an action heroine into a potentially reluctant traitor. That cliffhanger would have been more effective if there was a visual of her family being held hostage. Note to Hollywood: onscreen text is never as compelling as an image!

There was also something empty about the measure of revenge that the team got for Vera's death. When Maloney went down, it wasn't Rex or Esther who pulled the trigger… it was the guy whose gun was used to shoot Vera in the first place. There's no better way to make your heroes seem useless than when random characters have to save their lives. Rex and Esther remain the biggest problems of the entire season. Even with six episodes under their belts, neither character feels like they belong in the world of Torchwood. They simply feel tacked on to the story to give it some American heroes.

At this point in the season, "Miracle Day" should be hitting its stride. I thought that the show had turned a corner in last week's episode, but instead "Miracle Day" remains in neutral and in danger of slipping backwards in quality.

Crave Online Rating: 6.5 out of 10.