It is two months later and the penultimate episode of Torchwood: Miracle Day opens with the planet in the midst of a global economic crisis as the Great Depression enters its 61st day. In a move described by detractors as “institutional murder”, governments are instructing that all Category 1 patients are to be taken to overflow camps for immediate disposal.
The Torchwood team are seemingly defeated and scattered across the globe. Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) is living in Swansea, Wales with her husband Rhys Williams (Kai Owen), daughter Anwen and her parents. She has resorted to raiding pharmacies to secure morphine for her Category 1 father and is selling stolen medication to supplement the family income. Knowing the risks incurred in housing a Category 1 patient, Geraint Cooper (William Thomas) is kept in the basement for his own safety and that of his family, while a spy watches from across the road.
Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) and Esther Drummond (Alexa Havins) are holed up in Scotland. Jack has mostly recovered from the gunshot wound that he sustained in “End of the Road” telling Esther “yeah, the gunshot didn't kill me. But I think you will”. The two months have taken their toll on the pair but Esther has emerged more confident and daring, no longer frightened of her own shadow. It’s about time they wrote a backbone into her character. Esther has begun taking daily collections of Jack’s blood in the belief that if the Families want it, it must be truly valuable.
Back at C.I.A. headquarters in Langley, Virginia, Rex Matheson (Mekhi Pfifer) is leading the team and has imposed long hours and strict working conditions on all staff. He is reporting directly to Allen Shapiro (John de Lancie) and still has no idea that Charlotte Wills (Marina Benedict) is in the Family business.
Rex believes that he has a lead. Now that they know that every trace of the family has been erased, Rex believes that they must look to popular fiction and folklore. He refers to a 1935 work of pulp fiction, The Devil Within, written by a man called Victor Podesta. There are five points of reference in the book that are identical to Harkness story, proving that the author was in that cellar, that he saw Jack Harkness. Like the Ablemarch, Costerdane and Frines families, the Podesta family line also disappeared but Victor’s brother John was murdered, and the murder weapon, a bloody knife, is still in possession. So far, so good until Rex agrees to give the knife to Charlotte for DNA testing.
Meanwhile, Jilly Kitzinger (Lauren Ambrose) is none too happy with her new position within the family and expresses her frustration to the Blue-Eyed Man (Teddy Sears). Surprisingly, he agrees and tells her that has been invited to Shanghai to meet the Families. She is sceptical, stating that China closed their borders months ago but the Blue-Eyed Man says yes, but not to them. He tells her that her name is now Lucy Statten Meredith and that they will not meet again.
Back in Swansea, there is a knock on the door and possibly the creepiest police officer of all time, Finch (Ian Hughes), forces his way into Gwen’s house, citing the Emergency Powers Act as a reason for not needing a warrant. In what must surely be the most tense scene in television history, we watch as the police search the house and Finch personally conducts a search of the basement, sweeping his torch across the wall behind which Geraint and Mary Cooper (Sharon Cooper) are hiding. He does not find anything but before he leaves, he tells Gwen to take great care of her family. Is he giving her a message or simply threatening her?
Once again the affairs of the Torchwood team begin to converge. In Langley, Charlotte reports that there is no DNA lead from the blood on the Podesta murder weapon and Rex slowly realises that he is dealing with a mole, although he doesn’t quite realise yet that it is Charlotte.
Oswald Danes gains access to Gwen’s house by posing as a delivery man, prompting Gwen to take a saucepan to the most recognisable face on the planet. It turns out that Oswald wants Jack, that he knows Jack was smuggled into country and that Gwen provided him safe haven. In return, he says he has the name of the miracle.
Jack and Esther are reunited with Gwen as they Retcon the spy from across the road and gain access to Gwen’s house. Matters reach fever pitch as the team process the fact that Danes really is a monster and that he really did say that his victim "should have run faster". The newly emboldened Esther intervenes and Danes tells them how he stole Kitzinger’s laptop and tracked her online, and that she disappeared the previous day. Thinking he knows the name of the person behind the miracle, he tells them that Kitzinger was employed to send information to Harry Bosco. Esther laughs and says Harry Bosco is not a man, but a process.
It refers back to the Vietnam war when Harry Bosco altered information and manipulated translations. Kitzinger has been creating smokescreens.
Finally, Rex is brought back into the fold as Esther calls and asks for the C.I.A.’s help. Unfortunately, Charlotte witnesses Rex taking the call and realises something is up.
In Shanghai, Kitzinger fails her first test by forgetting to use her new name of Lucy Statten Meredith. The Young Man (Adam Silver) tells her that she is a storyteller, that she tells a story the minute she walks through a door. He tells her the story of the three Families, how they went out into the world and entered politics, finance and the media. He tells her that they need her to rewrite history and we realise that Jilly Kitzinger is central to the events in Torchwood: Miracle Day.
The Torchwood team begin to identify a series of strange events across the world and watch a news item that has been translated twice, each time moving further from the truth. A badly injured man on a gurney supposedly tells reporters that it is a godsend that his life was saved, which was translated from the Mandarin “it’s a blessing my life was saved” and in the original, it was “The Blessing saved my life”. It seems Jilly Kitzinger and the Bosco-effect have been in full force and the Torchwood team realise that The Blessing is either in Shanghai or Buenos Aires.
Gwen’s father Geraint once again becomes the centre of a tragic and painful scene as Finch and his team break down the door and use thermal imaging to find Geraint in the basement. As Geraint is taken away on a gurney, Jack asks Gwen what she wants to do next. Between clenched teeth, she says, "Go to Shanghai, I don't care if we have to walk. I will travel the whole bloody world to put this right, Jack". Could this really be the end for Geraint Cooper?
In the midst of all of this heartbreak, Rhys tells the team that The Blessing is in both Shanghai and Buenos Aires, that they are two cities on opposite sides of the planet. And so it is that the Torchwood team splits up once again. Oswald Danes weasels himself in on the mission and joins Jack and Gwen in Shanghai, while Rex and Esther fly to Buenos Aires, tipping Charlotte Wills off in the process.
In Shanghai, Kitzinger arrives at a secure facility and is met by a grey-clad woman, The Mother Colasanto (Frances Fisher). The woman states that Jilly must feel terrible, that the Blessing does this the closer one gets to it. She explains that the theory is that The Blessing shows you to yourself, that people often look upon it and end their lives. She says that it is something beautiful because each time they were hiding something vile.
As Kitzinger approaches The Blessing, the expectation is that she will feel terrified but I knew that would not be the case. I absolutely expected that she would look exhilarated as she exclaimed that it tells her she is right. I really enjoyed this scene as I enjoy Kitzinger’s particular brand of moral ambiguity and ruthless ambition but I have to admit that I was disappointed by the visualisation of The Blessing. It looks like the inside of a mouth or a giant trachea which presumably leads all the way to the other side of the world. Could it not have been a tiny bit magical and look more like a black hole or something? Perhaps we will find out next week that the Earth is really nothing more than a fancy alimentary canal.
Elsewhere in Shanghai, Jack is seriously ill. He tells Gwen that he is tired and that "this mortal life, it hurts so much". He is bleeding from his gunshot wound and as Gwen tends to him, Oswald notices that his blood is being drawn across the floor. They realise it is being drawn in the direction of The Blessing and that whatever it is, it is calling Jack.
What does the title “The Gathering” mean and could it be that the Torchwood team have waded into a trap, gathering at the two sites as planned by the Families? Why is The Mother Colasanto involved in this when Angelo worked against the Families, when he was in fact marginalised by them? Why is Jilly Kitzinger so important to the Families? Surely there is more to her than just her beautiful hair and ambitious nature? Will Jack Harkness die and will Gwen Cooper save her father? Will the Dead is Dead marchers make a return this season as was previously hinted? Will the inhabitants of planet Earth ever regain their humanity after slipping so easily into the mass extermination of living beings?
There is just one episode of Torchwood: Miracle Day left and I certainly hope to see all of the questions answered next week. So much has happened in the past three episodes and I am glad that the season finally seemed to pick up the pace and step up the action. The writing has certainly improved and I feel that writer John Fay did a sterling effort on this episode.
Russell T. Davies and Jane Espenson have written the finale, “The Blood Line” and this makes me slightly nervous. I was not a fan of Espenson’s episodes “Dead of Night” and “The Categories of Life” but I loved “Immortal Sins” and liked “End of the Road”. Russell T. Davies hinted earlier in the year that he might step down from the show after writing this season and this also makes me wary that he will aim for the big, ridiculous, unbelievable finale for which he is so renowned across the Whoverse.
As it turns out, Torchwood: Miracle Day has proved a lot of my fears and expectations to be unfounded so we can only hope that next week will be a resounding success. I certainly wouldn’t want this to be the end of the Torchwood franchise but I have to wonder how the series will remain true to the Doctor Who canon with the departure of Russell T. Davies. Perhaps it would be fitting if the series were to end now?
All images © 2011 BBC Worldwide Limited.
Article first published as TV Review: Torchwood: Miracle Day – “The Gathering” on Blogcritics.