“The Middle Men” – Torchwood: Miracle Day

I’m going to just fire through some key notes I took along the way during this week’s episode of Torchwood, as I think they fairly accurately convey my opinions on the subject.

“Now THAT’s a cold open.”

Which I stand by. The introduction of the Pficor head without him being a monster, the mysterious calls to China, the nod to the 45s before the eventual unexplained suicide after SEEING WHAT CANNOT BE UNSEEN. Charming stuff all round, and a nice jump forward in the narrative instead of wallowing in Vera’s death or the camps for another week.

Oh, wait.

“I don’t want to spend any time with this doctor guy.”

This is true. I know he killed Vera, possibly my favourite character on the show. But this isn’t Dawson’s Creek, where death is MAJOR LIFE EVENT, this is Torchwood. People get killed all the time (I’m going to use the word killed for the incineration as it’s for all intents and purposes accurate) in this universe, so the shock of her death was effective enough to be effective enough.

Look at Esther, there. She's genuinely killing him. MODERN WOMAN.

Watching Dr. Bigot (“the ‘T’ is silent!”) running around the base and panicking had no dramatic flair to it, mainly because we were watching a character we didn’t care about fight for his survival. It did offer us one of the more powerful moments of the series so far with Esther strangling him to death, and the image of Alexa Havins wrapped around his neck is one that is seared into my memory – but it would have been far better served to dispatch with this in the first ten minutes before swiftly exiting the base.

Instead…

“God. Rex telling him about the camera. GOD.”

That sort of speaks for itself. CIA agents who are tied up do not reveal their only bargaining chip to men they don’t know. But if my parallel universe theory from last week turns out to be true, then that’s not our CIA. And this world is really populated with government agents who would do that.

And this woman.

“The Holocaust parallel is a bit too on the nose.”

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good allegory. I love when they’re done in a standard manner – like the very strong Star Trek: Voyager episode “Nothing Human” where a crew member refuses medical treatment because the methods were derived from torture and experimentation on an innocent species. I like when it’s inverted – such as the fantastic opening episodes of Battlestar Galactica’s third season where our beloved crew are reduced to terrorism and suicide bombings to achieve their goals.

And to be honest, science fiction is the only place you really can do allegory of such major events. You won’t see a mass firing at Barney’s firm on How I Met Your Mother compared to the Holocaust, and rightly so. But in other worlds, where truly global events are happening, you can do that.

But beginning with the flame chambers last week and Gwen’s blunt assertion this week that we’re all taking part in an off-Broadway production of Holocaust II, it’s too much like being slapped in the face. Her speech to Dr. Patel was pointless and risky, but also a little off the mark – this isn’t the Holocaust just because Gwen says it’s so.

"What's that burning smell?" said the Straw Man to the Welsh Lady.

If Torchwood is going to insist on having characters like Dr. Patel believe that what they are doing is right, then they need to show that what they’re doing is right. At least to them. It’s a good rule in fiction (and in life) that every person thinks they are doing the right thing all the time – even if it’s just the right thing for them, or if they’re misinformed, or misjudging the situation. People don’t, en masse, commit evil acts knowingly. Torchwood has yet to address this with anything more than lip service.

“UGH – the waiter.”

A brief reference to Jack’s coming on to the waiter. Let’s all imagine if he was straight, and then shudder at the sheer skeeziness.

“How does Pficor head get Jack on side SO easily? Why does Jack not have any other demands?”

A fair point, I believe. It’s not that I don’t like the idea of Pficor being a pawn in this game, it’s not even that I don’t buy the idea of the CEO being a good guy at heart (even though that’s fairly unlikely), it’s that I can’t buy the idea of Jack believing him this quickly.

"I was a prison warden in Oz, GODDAMIT."

It’s especially unnecessary because Jack could have gotten all this information from Johnny Pficor without being chummy – he already had leverage. It seemed like a way to sweep the Pficor story out of the way as quickly as possible, again not problematic but could have been handled more deftly.

Don’t make our hero’s enemies their friends, instead give them a common enemy – that’s good drama, as anyone who’s seen X-Men 2 will attest.

Friends don't let friends date women who TEXT IN ALL CAPS BABY YEAH LOVE YOU UNGH.

“Find out who the set designer or production designer is and destroy them.”

Not that many read this blog, but if you DO this isn’t a genuine threat. I mean “destroy” in a “ruin their career” manner – if death by syphilis and gangrene should happen thereafter then it is simply an unfortunate side-effect.

What I mean here is not necessarily that the locations and context are poorly fleshed out – which they are – but that there are so many distracting mistakes throughout that a steady hand should be controlling. I’ve said it before with the gay biker and the suddenly revealing hitman and any other number of errors, but tonight’s episode had a clincher:

“Gwen’s hair is hanging over her eye in the explosive finale.”

She was broadcasting using contact lenses, and everybody on set that day didn’t spot the huge problem with her hair covering her eyes.

And that’s all I want to say about Torchwood for now.

Free Radicals

– No Jilly or Oswald. I miss Jilly. That is all.

– Lauren Ambrose is starring in a show where death doesn’t exist. Interesting.

– I hope the 45 Club isn’t just another Soulless, not really going anywhere.

– Just one sustained shot of Rex at the beginning, doing nothing, just reacting to Vera’s death, would have worked wonders for the character. But the crew still apparently believe that the solution to over-acting is MORE ACTING.

– That’s true of everyone. Give us some time alone with them.

– Why is everyone in California a racist?

– Rhys and Gwen’s goodbye kiss was wrong, and sucked all tension out of the scene.

– I stand by Esther’s choking of the doctor being very effective.

– And on a final note about the production this week…

REALLY.

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About alfla

Playwright, screenwriter, sometime improv enthusiast and full-time television lover. You know, in THAT way.
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