I won’t deny that I was not looking forward to revisiting Miracle Day. For me, Torchwood ended during that amazing season three, with Children of Earth. However, it’s been some time since last I watched this 10-episode arc and episode one does do more than simply hold the attention. I found myself once again sucked in to the black hole that is good drama. This is another of Russell T. Davies works and that man does know how to pull the heart strings, even if he sometimes ignores a bit of logic in favor of a good story. (Like, the window that Jack and Esther jump through… how did they get through it before it exploded? Ok, I admit, the episode moves well enough that I realized, I didn’t care!)
Now I do wonder about the wisdom of starting a series with a loathsome character like Oswald Danes, played by Bill Pullman. He’s a convicted child rapist and murderer and is about as likable as stepping in something nasty while wearing you best shoes on the way to a wedding. His stunted speech sounds like he’s making up for being passed over for the part of the G-man in the video game series, Half Life. He’s being put to death during the opening sequence and things go wrong. The next person we meet is Rex Matheson (Mekhi Phifer) who comes off as very cocky, but it doesn’t take long for him to rise to the level of charisma of Jack Harkness himself. This is no mean feat! We are also introduced to Dr. Vera Juarez who is assigned to Rex after a horrible car accident kills… sorry, should have killed him. Like Danes, Rex isn’t dying either. Meanwhile, with his typically mysterious entrance, Captain Jack is back but unlike everyone else, he can be hurt. What strange mystery do we have in store for season 4 of Torchwood?
While this episode is primarily setup, it’s a good one! Jack’s return to Gwen and Rhys is punch the air material! For fans of the series, Jack’s alias of Owen Harper is a nice tribute and a brief bit of background gives us all we need to know of the mysterious Torchwood Institute. The episode does rely a bit heavily on news clips in the first half, driving home the fact that people are not dying, but it takes Gwen and her old pal, Andy to help the audience make sense of the real threat: it’s a matter of days before before over population is a problem. As if the news and the discussions don’t make it clear how bad it is, for those people watching who were thinking, “well if you blew a guy up, he’d die, right?”, the writers give us the answer. And the result is hard to watch… and yet, impossible to take your eyes off. The exploded man continues to live in the most horrible way. It’s disturbing to say the least yet it’s must-see stuff.
Once again, Gwen impresses me with her realization that this isn’t happening to other creatures; it’s targeted at humans. She makes the connection that if insects were affected, the human populous would be overrun in days. Jack looks like he’s lost weight, but he’s still the Jack we’ve always known. He’s a force to be reckoned with even if he can die… the one man who can. Rhys is back and is ever the great balance to Gwen, always protecting his family until he knows he’s been beaten. But Phifer’s Rex Matheson is the one who really impressed me. His energy is palpable and his annoyed comments are hilarious especially since he’s disgusted by Wales. In story terms, I loved “the 456 Amendment” which allows the US to take control of the situation even on British soil. The reason for this is the deplorable way fictional Britain handled the 456 conflict in the previous season, but it allows for a great and reasonably logical way to make it all work. Unfortunately, logic won’t play a big part in this story as it relies mostly on “magic” to have any explanation of what is going on, but I’m still sufficiently intrigued to go on this journey one more time.
If there’s on thing I’ve learned since our journey into the Junkyard, it’s that watching a show with a critical eye makes it more of an active event. TV is often so passive, but this activity gives deeper insight into what we’re watching and this might change my impression of the final season. I don’t deny that season 4 of Torchwood had not impressed me when I first saw it, but maybe enough time has gone by that I’ll feel differently, especially viewed with that critical eye. It does happen; tastes change. At the very least, this is a damned fine opener and absolutely has me intrigued to see where things go from here. I’m up for the ride. And let’s be honest, these days we could use a good Miracle. ML