Thursday 1 September 2011

TV Review: Torchwood: Miracle Day – “End Of The Road”

Torchwood Miracle Day Promo PhotoTorchwood Miracle Day Promo

As the season of Torchwood: Miracle Day begins to draw to a close, the Torchwood team uncover a terrible secret that could mean the end of the universe as we know it.  The various clues that have been dropped throughout the season begin to fall into place and it seems that we are finally getting to the bottom of the Miracle.

At the end of “Immortal Sins”, the Torchwood team seemed to get the upper hand against the people that had kidnapped Gwen’s family and forced her to turn Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) over to them.  The victory was short-lived as Olivia Colasanto (Nana Visitor) informed them that it changed nothing, that they would certainly want to leave with her as she could take them to the one person who could explain the Miracle: Angelo Colasanto.

“End Of The Road” opens at the plush Colasanto residence in Nevada, USA.  Ever conscious that this might just be a trap, Esther Drummond (Alexa Havins) remains outside, maintaining a communications link with Jack, Gwen and Rex as they follow Olivia inside.  Jack asks if Angelo is still young, still alive and Olivia answers that yes, he is alive.  For those of us that fell in love with Angelo in “Immortal Sins”, our disappointment at seeing the bedridden and dying Angelo must mirror Jack’s own, as he was no doubt expecting a joyous reunion. 

Olivia explains that Angelo did not cause the Miracle but he did find a way to prolong his life.  She says that it started with three men, each representing a different family.  Jack remembers the three men that had stood before him, negotiating a deal, as he was repeatedly killed in “Immortal Sins”.  Olivia explains that they came to view Jack as the resurrection and this is why his blood was collected. 

Suddenly it all falls in to place and we realise that these are the very same families who proclaimed in the final, terrifying moments of “Escape to L.A.”, “we are everywhere, we are always, we are no one.  And soon, The Families will rise”.   The three families are identified as the Ablemarch, Costerdane and Frines families.

According to Olivia, Angelo was shunned by The Families but he did monitor them (as he monitored Jack throughout the years) and he uncovered significant events in 1998 relating to the Blessing.  This was the same set of events that Stuart Owens told Jack about in “The Middle Men”.  Whatever the Blessing was, the family found it.

Up to this point, the episode had seemed quite interesting, though I was disappointed that we did not have further opportunity to interact with the vulnerable and tragic Angelo Colasanto.  It then descended into chaos as Esther was attacked and the Colasanto residence surrounded by the C.I.A.  Enter Rex’s old boss Agent Brian Friedkin (Wayne Knight) who was responsible for burning Rex in “Rendition”, causing him to go on the run and join Torchwood.  It seems that Rex engineered this whole scene, earlier making a phone call to Vera Juarez’s family, knowing it would be traced.  Using the special Torchwood contact lenses, Rex extracts an admission of complicity from Friedkin which is broadcast on screens across the residence and witnessed by the “real” C.I.A. 

It is a strange scene and the dispatch of Friedkin, obviously a pawn of The Families, seems altogether too easy and convenient.  I have no doubt that we will discover that he was not the main threat after all.  Nevertheless, the scene sets the stage for the entrance of C.I.A. boss Allen Shapiro (John de Lancie, Star Trek) who instantly takes a disliking to Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles). 

John de Lancie is Allen Shapiro

The banter flows thick and fast as Shapiro belittles Gwen and threatens to deport her, to which she retorts "I'm not English and I'm not a girl".  He moves on to Jack, asking "what is it with you, Red Baron, you got Snoopy up your ass?".  As entertaining as this scene was, Shapiro’s disregard for Torchwood is firmly established and we have to wonder if Rex made a mistake in calling them in.

Agent Friedkin decides that he would rather die than face the wrath of The Families, ominously remarking on how many times he refused their sinister plans before.  He blows up the car, taking Olivia Colasanto and Agent Wilson (Nayo K. Wallace) with him to category 1 status, and drawing the rest of the agents outside.

Jack is left alone with a dying Angelo, and makes a touching (if not cheesy) soliloquy about lost loves, telling Angelo that he would have been jealous of Ianto.  At the point at which he kisses Angelo on the cheek, Angelo dies.  That’s right, in a world where nobody can die and Jack is the last remaining mortal man, Angelo Colasanto’s heart stops beating and he dies.  This changes everything.

Meanwhile, an utterly repulsive scene unfolds in which Oswald Danes (Bill Pullman) asserts his normalcy and demands that Jilly Kitzinger (Lauren Ambrose) secure him an adult prostitute.  He cranks his music up loud as Jilly attempts to brief him on their next engagement and the audience’s sense of irritation surely rises in line with hers. 

Lauren Ambrose is Jilly Kitzinger  Bill Pulman is Oswald Danes

As a furious Jilly exits Oswald’s room, she is cornered by an ambitious young intern by the name of Shawnie Yamaguchi (Constance Wu).  When Shawnie commiserates with Jilly, asking how she can put up with Danes, Jilly mysteriously states that she will not have to put up with him for much longer.  We have to wonder what she knows. It soon turns out that Congress are pushing through an emergency mandate to create a new category: category zero. It is for those people who have earned a place in the ovens, who deserve to die.

Back at the Colasanto residence, Esther speaks to her sister Sarah (Candace Dean Brown) who tells of her intention to volunteer as a category 1, taking her daughters with her.  It is a very real threat and Esther realises more than ever that she has to work to reverse the Miracle.  Gwen speaks to Rhys (Kai Owen) and they talk of the isolation policies and stock markets failing.  They realise that 2008 was just a trial run.

So much of this season has been dedicated to setting the scene for a new world order, raising endless questions about the significance of the Miracle and the powers behind it.  In many ways, this episode is strikingly similar to the first three episodes of the season.  It is then that the significance of the title of the episode becomes startlingly clear.

Alexa Havins is Esther Drummond

The Torchwood team discover a unit under the floor where Angelo’s bed had been situated.  Jack begs Esther not to pursue it but she mentions it to Shapiro.  Jack confirms that it is alien technology and reiterates his theory that the Miracle has been caused by a morphic field.  He says it doesn’t mean anything as he still doesn’t know who is causing it or where those people are.  He warns that the unit is a proper null field, that it is alien technology that Angelo could only have retrieved from the ruins of the Torchwood headquarters in Cardiff.

Shapiro does not believe that Jack cannot tell him anything further and finally orders that Gwen be deported. 

John de Lancie is Allen Shapiro and Mekhi Pfifer is Rex Matheson

Jack finally tells Esther that he is from the future, and that this technology would be the end of us.  Warning that humans cannot get their hands on a true null field, he warns that this timeline would be terminal and begs Rex and Esther to get him and the controller for the field out of the house.

You really need to pay attention at this point as clue after clue is finally solved and the various parts of the Miracle Day puzzle begin to fit together.  The mysterious blue-eyed man (Teddy Sears, The Defenders) from “Categories of Life” returns to offer Jilly Kitzinger a promotion, stating that he is far above PhiCorp and that this is family business.  Strangely enough, that is precisely what Esther’s trusted colleague Charlotte Wills (Marina Benedict) says when she finishes speaking to him on the phone.

The episode closes with a bleak outlook on the future of the Torchwood team as they are separated, injured and in serious peril.  Will they manage to pull together in time to reverse the Miracle and save the world?

Mekhi Pfifer is Rex Matheson and Alexa Havins is Esther Drummond  Alexa Havins is Esther Drummon John de Lancie is Allen Shapiro and Mekhi Pfifer is Rex Matheson

“End Of The Road” is certainly an exciting episode and I am glad that we’re finally being given some answers.  However, this episode does seems to embody so much of what I have not enjoyed about this season.  After eight episodes, I still don’t like Rex and Esther and I am convinced that I enjoyed “Immortals Sins” so much because Rex and Esther had such small parts plus Jilly Kitzinger and Oswald Danes were completely absent from it.  I continue to find the writing extremely weak and cannot help but despair at how C.I.A. protocols are ignored, to the point that it feels like a parody. 

Many of the scenes in “End Of The Road” felt formulaic, as if the writers were simply ticking boxes.  They made sure that we were aware of how real the threat of the Miracle became for Esther, how the collapsing stock market hinted once again at the involvement of big business and big money, how easy it is for governments to erase human rights in the face of such a catastrophe, and finally, how the Miracle reaches right to the top, far above pawns such as Kitzinger or Friedkin. 

It hangs in the balance then whether the remainder of the season will be as magical as “Immortal Sins”, as terrifying as “Escape to L.A.” or “The Middle Men”, or simply a neat wrapping up of the various story threads, leading up to the big battle where Torchwood save the planet.

All images © 2011 BBC Worldwide Limited.

Article first published as TV Review: Torchwood: Miracle Day – “End Of The Road” on Blogcritics.


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