Torchwood: Miracle Day: Episode 2: “Rendition” (review)

Previous: Episode 1: “The New World”
Here’s what I think. Someone wants to kill Captain Jack Harkness. But how do you kill an immortal guy? You change the laws of the universe that make him immortal by, you know, flipping a switch or something so that he becomes mortal again. Which has the unfortunate side effect of making all the formerly mortal people on the same planet immortal. (Or perhaps the effect extends to humanoids throughout the universe. Quick, someone run over to Vulcan and see if they’ve stopped dying. Hello, Vulcans, could we borrow a cup of mortality?)

But who could do such a thing? Aliens, that’s who. Aliens who have infiltrated the CIA. When Wayne Knight turns out to be a Slitheen, I’ll be serving up a bit heaping spoonful of I told you so.

Look, I’m struggling here to have some fun with “Miracle Day.” Because otherwise I’d be crying. I can’t believe this is alleged to be the same show that gave us the radical and terrifying “Children of Earth” two summers ago. I had predicted back then that if Torchwood returned after “CoE,” it would have to be a drastically different show after what happened there. But I meant that it would have to be drastically different in the other direction, toward more darkness and more pain and more awful truthfulness.

I did not expect it would move in the direction of painfully awful “I’m not gay!”/“It was just one time!” jokes. The postgay Torchwood took an enormous — and enormously disappointing — step backward with the idiotic attempts at “humor” surrounding the male flight attendant here. That’s the kind of Americanization I was afraid Torchwood would come under, and here it is shaking its hetero gay terror at us. How Russell T. Davies let this happen, I cannot begin to imagine.

But that’s just the beginning. The mounds of preposterousness here are making me ill. Nothing about Oswald Danes makes any narrative sense at all. His rationale for stealing green-room food is absurd. His rationale for appearing on TV at show is nonexistent, particularly when he insists he has “nothing to say.” His sobbing apologetic breakdown is ridiculously unconvincing — that’s not Bill Pullman’s fault, because he is awesome, it’s simply not supported by the script — particularly if “it wasn’t a performance.”

Whether it was a performance or not — and I’m inclined to believe it may have been a performance, but that could just be me trying to be generous again — it’s bizarre that it would instantly change the hearts of everyone so dramatically. That TV PA who swings wildly from being disgusted by him to apologizing to him? Nonsense. The CIA agent who goes from calling him a “monster” to deeming him a “poor bastard”? Ludicrous. And then she has the gall to tell Esther she has to “take sides”? I wish I could feel that there was some satire here, but I don’t.

Esther? I’m not sure I care enough about her to get caught up in an extended Bourne again chase sequence as she escapes CIA HQ. I sure as hell do not care what happens to Mekhi Phifer. If his obnoxiousness if meant to represent the constant pain he’s in, I’m not feeling it.

Esther’s bit about Hindus probably gonna cut loose since reincarnation is off the table… Is anyone worried about Christians doing the same? Lauren Ambrose later says that “the churches are empty,” and with the threat of eternal hellfire off the table, too, what’s stopping anyone from going on murder sprees? This could be a genuine opportunity to explore the notion that people don’t need religion to be good, but apparently that’s only worth mentioning when it’s India. If there’s been a mass change in people’s perceptions of the world, we’re not seeing it.

Most absurd thing here, maybe ever? MacGyvering an antidote to poison out of stuff you can find on an airplane, and then injecting it into someone’s bloodstream.

Are you fucking kidding me?

Good things:

The relationship between Gwen and Jack is nicely done. Gwen’s love/hate approach to Jack is just right.

Juarez and her reworking of the way medicine is done is interesting. Too bad it’s removed from any interesting story.

“The world’s screwed up. You wanna help, or not?” says the check-in guy at the medical panels in DC. Are there any other movements in the larger culture to “help”? If so, could we glimpse them, just briefly?

“If the devil himself walked the Earth, he’d surely be working in PR.” –Oswald Danes. Obviously a smart man.

Lauren Ambrose. She is a giant helping of scene-stealing awesome. Also: she’s so pretty, omg.

But then there’s some just plane laziness: If a rendition flight leaves Heathrow at 11am local time, and arrives in Washington DC at 5pm local time, what the hell kind of detour did it take for four hours? It should have arrived at around 1pm local time in DC.


Next: Episode 3: “Dead of Night”

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