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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Torchwood: Miracle Day: Episode 4: “Escape to LA” (review)

Torchwood Miracle Day

Previous: Episode 3: “Dead of Night”
What other tricks do the people behind Miracle Day have up their sleeve? More miracles? What do they want with Jack? What do they want with all the not-dead people that they need to stash them in “overflow camps”? Was Oswald Danes merely in the right execution chamber at the right time? Or could Phicorp have had some nefarious reason to have ensured he survived his execution?

So many dull yet dreary questions raised by this episode! But perhaps the most pressing one is this:

Is Esther the dumbest CIA agent ever?

She doesn’t see the menacing black sedan parked right outside her sister’s house? Look! There’s Esther, with the sister’s boarded-up house:

Torchwood Miracle Day

There’s the menacing black sedan, again with the sister’s house:

Torchwood Miracle Day

Esther would actually have to be actually blind not to see that she has pulled up right behind this car. It gives her no pause? None? Really?

Later, she is stunned — stunned — to learn that her nieces have been taken from the crazy sister and put into foster care. In what universe does this make sense? She’s the one who told social services on the phone that:

there are two children I believe might be in danger.

What did she think was going to happen?

Related question:

Could we maybe have an episode that does not revolve around Esther crying and Esther apologizing for not being a supercool secret spy lady like the rest of them?

More questions that I shouldn’t care about… and well, don’t really care about, in fact:

What the hell does Juarez see in Rex? And is that bit with his estranged dad intended to make us like him more?

Why the hell did C. Thomas Howell not go after Torchwood on, oh, that days-long drive across the United States, which would have consisted of stops at lonely service stations, cheap motels in remote areas, and other places extremely suitable for an ambush, but instead waits till he has to break into a secure facilty to confront them for reasons that don’t appear to have anything to do with that secure facilty?

Why is Jilly Kitzinger sour on Oswald Danes all of a sudden? When did that happen? She was trying to scoop him up as a client, and now she’s disgusted by him?

Why is Gwen’s American accent so terrible, and why bother with it at all if it is?

Could there be a more distasteful way of framing this story than as the rise of Oswald Danes? Were we supposed to root for Danes against Ellis Hartley Monroe? Is anyone here meant to be even the slightest bit interesting or sympathetic? Besides Juarez, that is (aside from her unlikely attraction to Rex)?

When the anonymous woman who dumps her father in the “plague ship” hospital out of frustration and exhaustion is the character who elicits the most compassion, something is wrong with your TV show.

Next: Episode 5: “The Categories of Life”

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  • LaSargenta

    I am so glad I’m not watching this. 

  • bkw

    Damn. And I can’t argue with any of that.

  • I hate to be nitpicky, but Esther is an analyst, not an agent. And yes, that’s exactly how an analyst would act, precisely because they aren’t agents.

  • Crochetowl

    My interest is waning more and more.  Really didn’t care one bit about Esther’s sister and am still having issues with Rex.  And don’t even get me started with pedophile Oswald and his following.  That leaves only Jack and Gwen to watch. 

    The show needs to concentrate on self-contained episodes rather than an entire season on one story arc (same issue with Doctor Who which is now a space opera more than anything).  That is part of the main problem for me and it not being filmed in Cardiff.  Give me the old gang anytime.

  • Surely she’s seen a Bourne movie or two. I mean, come on: She’d be stupid even if she didn’t work for the CIA.

  • I_Sell_Books

    We have decided to take a break from Torchwood.  We’re going to read reviews and if it doesn’t get better, then we’re (finally) done.  Terrible.  Terrible, terrible, terrible. 

    Thank the gods for good sf like Falling Skies, it soothes my fangirl’s heart.

  • It breaks my heart that Torchwood has come to this.

  • Guest

    Anyone else squicked out by Danes holding the baby for his big press scene?

  • I gave up after last week.

  • Yes. Also bothered by the fact that if we were meant to understand that the cameras could see Danes — as they must have, because the picture of him with the baby ends up on the news — that is not at all clear from the way that sequence is shot. It seems like he’s out of their view.

  • Yes, *Falling Skies* is wonderful. Thank god.

  • Bracyman

    Children of Earth was some damn good television. I’m not willing to say that Torchwood (and SciFi in general ) should go with a monster of the week format. Done right it blow your socks off. Or in the case of CoE, cause you to sob drunkenly at the screen while a fictional butler dies.

  • Killara29

    Yeah it was incredibly silly   even I was going no Esther NOOOOOOOOOOO.  Can’t blame her when Gwen’s always on the phone to Rhys.  The whole getting into the Phi Corp (keeping wanting to say psicorp but’s another show)  was amateur hour.  That’s when super mysterious hitman guy attacks?  I hate the way they play that crap music all the way through it – it’s driving me insane.  The Oswald Danes story does not make sense –  him holding the baby was a whoa that’s just not right moment.

    Really liked the tea party woman getting crushed in the car though – that was enormous fun.  For a member of that party, she was kinda mild and restrained, no?  Liked Rex’s Dad too – made some valid points about the CIA, is smart enough to stockpile painkillers and hates his son. 

    Gonna watch it to the end though – I wanna see how this thing turns out and episode 5 was being talked up at Comic Con as being one of the really good ones. 

    Falling Skies is good?  Colour me surprised – it’s not getting the greatest reviews!

  • Taffy

    I agree with MaryAnn.  I work as a (not CIA or security-related) analyst.  Analysts take information and put it together in different ways, to see what the various outcomes are.  Just because she’s an analyst and not an agent doesn’t excuse the fact that she’s frequently dumb as a box of rocks…with apologies to boxes of rocks.

  • Judy

    Not only is Esther a complete nitwit, but so is Gwen in this.  I hate it when women in movies or tv do “stupid girl stuff”.  It’s insulting.

  • Judy

    Did they say something about the “family” coming?  Is it possible that it is the Slitheen and they want to sell the dead people for parts or something?  Where is the Doctor when you need him…

  • Excellent analysis of “Miracle Day”!
    I’m so glad there are people with brains around who see the shallowness and bad writing of this Series.
    Sulamite Tepfers

  • Slitheen = now that would be silly: the Slitheen appearing in Torchwood, but then…. this series is like that!

  • Der Bruno Stroszek

    Maybe I am very, very bad and wrong, but the negative reviews are making me want to watch it now.  With some snark-minded friends and several bottles of wine, of course.

  • Eve

    Weirdly…. When I asked my mum over breakfast who she was behind this all on Torchwood, she went ‘Slitheen!’.

  • Johnny S.

    I notice Esther is always crying too. First she finds out the kids are getting taken away, next thing shes getting yelled out for how stupid she is and how its her fault by Rex, so she crying double time and shaking like a jelly fish because she doesn’t know what to do. Every episode shes crying lol.

    This last episode seemed like the best one. It clearly answers how a guy like Oswald Danes can be a guy in power event though he was a criminal. Then Kitzinger says ” I don’t care what they see in you, all I see is those hands, and what they did”. 
    Not sure if we’re suppose to route for Danes, but to me hes the most interesting character. When he picks up the the baby, that a major ” put the baby down” moment”. Yet I can’t help think he’s a small part of something worse then what he is. Maybe in away he can change into a gooder guy.

    No one seems to like Rex, but I like him . He’s from the streets, thats why he’s such a hard nosed trash talking person. 

    I never really watch these BBC shows, so when I heard of one of them getting a fresh start, I figured this Torchwood in USA would be a good jumping on point. I can’t really judge whats missing so, far its been alright hopefully it gets better, hopefully Esther cries less, and hopefully  some signs of what made the BBC good start to develop.but yeah at least Falling Skies has been damn good.

  • Bob

    I have only recently discovered your excellent site, and now look in on it regularly. My wife and I were really looking forward to this series of Torchwood, and it’s amazing how quickly our feelings changed, as the first episode began, from ”Great! Torchwood’s back!” to  ”Oh no-there are nine more hours of this!”. We did genuinely intend to watch the second episode, but missed it, and then couldn’t be bothered making the time to watch it on the i-player. Thanks to your devastating-but highly entertaining-weekly dispatches I feel we made the right call. Keep up the good work.

  • cal

    I agree with your review points, and I also wonder what was the purpose of getting ‘name’ actors like Mare Winningham and C. Thomas Howell to come in for one episode before ‘killing’ them off.

    One thing that I find very discouraging is the tone of the show. They have already explored the depths that humans can go to on “Children of Earth” and that was terrifying and greatly disturbing. This time around they are exposing the same kind of enormity and it just feels so empty and soulless. It doesn’t help that the only characters in any kind of honest jeopardy are ones that were just recently introduced to the viewers. 

    I also feel a lack of – I don’t know – focus? with this story.  There’s the Danes plot, the Phicorp plot, the families of the new Torchwood folks, the CIA…it’s all spread a bit thin. Toss the crappy writing and plotting in there and it ends up being such a disappointment.

  • OK no spoilers for Part 5 … but, honestly, who *didn’t* see that coming???

  • Judy

    Yes — how could the cameras have seen him?  Not only far away and inside too?  Annoying when they ask us to suspend disbelief about things that could have been staged so they appeared remotely believable.

  • Just watched Ep5, having missed Ep4 and deciding I don’t care enough to try to catch it online somewhere.  Read a synopsis and I’m good to go.  My thoughts in watching Ep5 (no spoilers!) are primarily that we are seeing what RTD thinks of Americans, and it sure isn’t pretty.  Stereotype doesn’t begin to cover it–caricature comes closer.  And he never misses a dig at our culture and system.  Imagine how well it would work if a US show moved to England and all of the English characters were constantly drinking tea and saying, “Righty-ho!” and “Stiff upper lip” and “What? What?” and such. And not in a parodying way, but deadly serious.   Yeah, that’s what it’s like. 

    As Cal said:

    I also feel a lack of – I don’t know – focus? with this story.  There’s
    the Danes plot, the Phicorp plot, the families of the new Torchwood
    folks, the CIA…it’s all spread a bit thin. Toss the crappy writing and
    plotting in there and it ends up being such a disappointment.

    With which I totally agree and only want to add that I read an interview with RTD that says it all comes together in episode 5 and really takes off.  And I call amazing, supreme arrogance on a writer who thinks he can futz around for four out of ten episodes, leaving his audience confused and (worse) bored, assuming that we’ll stick around for Ep5.  And, of course, having now seen Ep5, I can honestly say–it didn’t happen.

    I will be forever grateful to the man for bringing the Doctor back.  But…

  • Tonio Kruger

    With which I totally agree and only want to add that I read an interview with RTD that says it all comes together in episode 5 and really takes off.  And I call amazing, supreme arrogance on a writer who thinks he can futz around for four out of ten episodes, leaving his audience confused and (worse) bored, assuming that we’ll stick around for Ep5.  And, of course, having now seen Ep5, I can honestly say–it didn’t happen.

    Well, it’s tempting to say that same technique worked for Joss Whedon for Dollhouse; after all, he too was very good at playing the “don’t worry, it’ll get better” card when that series was on the air too. But unfortunately, it didn’t, and while it was a more interesting failure than most TV sci-fi failures–at least when it wasn’t focusing on Eliza Dushku and her obligatory woo-hoo fight scenes–it was still a failure.  (Then again I was a fan of The 4400 and that managed to last four seasons. Please don’t ask me how.)

    Perhaps Torchwood was better suited in its original format because it seems obvious from the commentary here that the new format isn’t doing the series any favors.

  • Karl Morton IV

    In addition to all your stuff-I-should-be-too-engrossed-in-the-drama-to-think-about-but-I’m-not questions, why did they drive all the way across the U.S. when Gwen could hop a plane back to England at the drop of a hat?  To give Rex a hilarious line about everyone’s ugly faces?

    I’m starting to have difficulty mustering the will to tune in each week, but one thing that helped was what happened to Ellis Hartley Monroe.  REALLY liked the execution of that bit of business.  :D

  • bronxbee

    exactly.  i said in my comments to episode 3 (i think) that it’s not just that i feel the show is making fun of americans — nor do i think we’re above that  — but isn’t not even doing a *good* job of it!  i said i feel like they got some disgruntled american to write what they thought a brit would do to make fun of americans.  it’s not even discomforting because it’s so… blah.   i feel like someone plastered RTD’s name on it, because it has to be there, and then everyone started throwing in lines and bits of dialogue into a hat and pulled them out at random and started pasting them onto another piece of paper and that’s the script.  i *loved* Torchwood before it went all explosive in CoE… it had humor, it had smart sexiness…

    also, i feel an awful lot of preachiness in this series:  when did jack go *completely* gay?  what happened to the omni-sexual (or pan-sexual, or whatever) jack, who fell enough in love with a woman to have children by her, or to say the last person he’d kissed was “an alien”?   he was fun.   and the line “I used to be a Catholic, but I got better…” could have been funny but it wasn’t — it was just flat and mean.  (and i’m a recovered catholic myself).  where are they going with all this?  what’s the *point* of what happens in episode 5 (NO SPOILERS) if no one can die?


    i’m furious — because i used to care so much.

  • Henry

    I just finished Episode 5: “The Categories of Life” and I’ve
    come up with 3 reasons why I’ve been struggling to enjoy the new Torchwood


    1. Having multiple writers for a central themed “nobody
    dies” series is causing the show to feel unbalanced or disjointed.

    2. The move of location to the U.S.
    is all too apparent.  Only Gwen is from Wales
    and the story has lost some of its charm of not having British actors in a
    British setting.

    3.  Although I’m getting
    used to the new American Torchwood team, there just isn’t the same chemistry
    with this unit as with the original group.


    (*Honorable mention: 
    I don’t like what they’ve done to the Torchwood’s theme song.  The original tune was so unique and now it’s
    barely audible with the different tempo.  Come on Murry!!).


    As I’ve stated before, I keep watching because I missed
    seeing Jack, Gwen, & Rhys.  So I’m
    still holding on to see if the 2nd half improves or unites the 1st half. 


    Come on Russell T …. Bring back some of the original magic
    that was Torchwood …. Please.

  • Bec

    wasn’t there a guy with a cellphone in the hospital filming and or taking pictures?

  • terrific information. Thanks to you for the interesting discussion. I like the issues spoken of.

  • Radek Piskorski

    When I close my eyes and think of good Torchwood, I picture Toshiko. Don’t know why.

  • James Conal


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