Stars: John Barrowman, Eve Myles, Mekhi Phifer, Alexa Havins, Kai Owen, Bill Pullman, Lauren Ambrose, Candace Brown, Sharon Morgan, Marina Benedict, John De Lancie, Wayne Knight, Paul James, Teddy Sears, Nana Visitor
Writer: Ryan Scott and Jane Espenson
Director: Gwyneth Horder-Payton
Network: Starz, airs Friday nights
Original Telecast: August 26, 2011
In the eighth episode of the all-new BBC/Starz co-production of TORCHWOOD: MIRACLE DAY, “End of the Road,” Jack (John Barrowman) is reunited with a long-lost love that may have discovered a way to defeat the Miracle, Oswald Danes (Bill Pullman) learns of his intended fate and lashes out at Jilly (Lauren Ambrose), and the Torchwood team joins forces with the CIA to track down the Families and find out the truth once and for all.
As we enter the end game things are ticking along nicely, although at times it does feel as if the series slipped a groove somewhere midway through the arc and coasted for a while before recovering with an excellent episode last week that felt more like the TORCHWOOD of old.
The loss of the Vera Juarez (Arlene Tur) character was also a pretty big blow since she was our conduit to the medical industry and all the fascinating explorations of how the Miracle was transforming our society. A lot of that world-altering storytelling has fallen by the wayside now, which is a shame, but with only a couple episodes left it’s time to bring it home.
We’ve had a number of strange but mostly successful sci-fi stunt castings in this series, and this episode we get a STAR TREK double dip with DS9’s Nana Visitor as Angelo’s granddaughter Olivia, who really just gets to rant and be about as annoying as Major Kira always was. Her actions at the end of last week’s episode also don’t bear close scrutiny. Even Gwen (Eve Myles) has a hard time figuring out her motivations, and Myles’ performance as she flubs her way through piecing it together is delightful. It almost looks like an outtake they left in, but either way it’s fun if a bit frustrating that she’s right; it doesn’t make much sense.
The other TREK alum is none other than Q himself, John De Lancie, as CIA head Allen Shapiro. He doesn’t quite reprise his omnipotent imp role from the other SF series but does inject some much needed humor, including his reaction to Gwen’s feisty behavior: “Can we deport her? Let’s deport her.” As for Wayne Knight, who returns as the sadly misled Brian Friedkin, he gets a wonderfully symmetrical confrontation with Rex (Mekhi Phifer) before leaving the series rather explosively. And he takes Olivia with him, so we can thank him for that too.
The revelation that Angelo had managed to retrieve alien technology from the ruins of the Torchwood Hub to nullify whatever morphic field is causing the Miracle finally brings us closer to an explanation for the entire story that grounds it in what TORCHWOOD is supposed to be about – the intersection of the human and the alien. A nod to Ianto also ties us back to the show’s past, but it’s fleeting.
After two episodes in which they went MIA, Oswald Danes and Jilly are back. While there are real-world economic reasons why Pullman and Ambrose may not have turned up for a couple weeks, surely their storyline could have been better paced and edited to not drop away for that long. Nevertheless, they’re both back with a vengeance as Oswald seemingly tries to turn over a new leaf but resorts to old habits when he finds out the ovens wait for him, while Jilly makes a deal with the devil. Both are, as usual, in fine form.
Esther (Alexa Havins) remains the show’s most consistent emotional touchstone with more now to motivate her than before as she learns her deranged sister is planning to volunteer herself and her children as Category 1s, sending them straight to the ovens. It’s a frightening prospect, and one wonders if the team will get to the bottom of it all soon enough to spare their lives? In this kind of show, all bets are off.
The series also neatly plays into our own fears and crises by intimating that the evil Families behind it all may have played a long game that included the 2008 world financial collapse. If only that were traceable back to some sort of alien technology and an Illuminati-like conspiracy out here, but we have no Captain Jack Harkness to save the world in which we live. The simple phone conversation between Gwen and Rhys (Kai Owen) sums up this theme of the show very well – our world is gripped by traumatic, terrifying change, and we all feel so tiny and ill-equipped to fight it.
The end is in sight, friends are turning out to be enemies, and there’s no one to trust as we come closer to the truth. With Gwen heading to Wales and Jack to the grave, it might take another miracle to save humanity.
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Article: Review – TORCHWOOD: MIRACLE DAY – “End of the Road”