Review: “Torchwood: Miracle Day” Ep 3: “Dead of Night”

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No, not Ianto. Nor Alonso. I'm Brad. I'll be your one-night stand this evening. Shall we proceed to the bed?

Rating:  ☆ ☆ ☆ 1/2

It’s Pharma’s biggest wet dream come true. The “miracle” that has plagued the world has proven a boon to pharmaceutical company Phicorp, with its non-narcotic painkillers proving to be the only solution for a population unable to die but continuing to experience pain. But the convenience of Phicorp’s suddenly integral role in the whole scheme of things–the company seems to have Congress on its side, with legislation in the pipeline to make drugs accessible without prescription, essentially clearing the way for exponential profit–seems suspect to the new Torchwood team. Not only may Phicorp be simply leveraging the situation, it may have anticipated–and perhaps even instigated–the miracle in the first place.

The “Miracle Day” plot continues to thicken with “Dead of Night,” written by Jane Espenson, though with not quite the thrill of the two episodes that preceded it. But I suppose that’s to be expected in a serialized story line. You’re bound to have “in-betweeners” that help set up bigger bangs in later episodes. Still, I wouldn’t skip over this one (and believe me, I’ll let you know if a waste episode comes along that you can fast forward through).

On the lam in their makeshift HQ, and with no one to trust, the two Americans and two Brits (well, Jack is of questionable nationality…being from the 51st century and all) comprising the new Torchwood team must, out of necessity, learn to be just that:  a team. The opening scenes make for some funny working-out-the-cultural-kinks (“chips” instead of “crisps”; “cell” instead of “mobile”). Oddly enough, I’m particularly liking Gwen these days. I hated the sorta-ingenue role she’s had to take on in previous seasons/series; this time, she’s a veritable pro and a bona fide kicker of arse (as a consequence, I’ve now transferred my annoyance to new rookie Esther Drummond).

How Jack makes love: All clothes off, but with his Vortex Manipulator still on. Just in case he wants to engage in time travel mid-sex, I guess. Not really the best way to, er, "withdraw," but hey, whatever floats your boat, haha.

Amid a relatively blah episode, the controversial gay sex scene (which the BBC had edited out but which was left intact for the Starz broadcast) was perhaps for some the standout moment of the night. “Mortal man, mortal needs,” Jack says, upon spotting a gay bar, where he proceeds to meet, and hook up with, the bartender (and just in case you want to know, his name is Dillon Casey). The sex scene the follows is intercut with a parallel sex scene between Rex Matheson and Dr. Juarez, I suppose to dilute the “gayness” factor of the show and keep the heterosexual contingency drawn in. It is quite hot, though the insertion (pun half-intended…I had to write an accompanying joke to the photo caption to the right) of the Rex-Vera scenes did make it feel like a bit of a de-gaying exercise. (I’m being a little facetious, yes!).

The climactic face-off between Jack and Oswald Danes is perhaps an interesting throwaway moment for those new to the show, but meaningful for those with prior knowledge about what had happened in the previous season/series of “Torchwood.” In “Children of Earth,” we witness Jack take on the role of child-killer. But unlike Jack, full of remorse over the sacrifice of a child’s life, Oswald reveals candidly that the apologies he’s been doling out for his past pedophilic and murderous actions have all been for show. With Phicorp having allied itself with him, even providing him with bodyguards, we now have a clear picture of the “villains” of the series.

We’re watching the “rising action” unfold in this current “Torchwood” series, and I’m eagerly looking forward to uncovering more of the plot–and perhaps a bit more man-on-man action under the sheets–in episodes to come. (Blimey, the sexual innuendo just seems to write itself. Sheesh!).

Review: “Torchwood: Miracle Day” Ep 2: “Rendition”

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Welcome to America!

Rating:  ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

“Rendition” continues where last week’s “The New World” left off, with Jack and Gwen, extradited from Wales, finding themselves on one deadly plane ride to the US. In a world where death no longer exists, the last remaining mortal–Jack–finds himself the target of an infiltrated CIA. But who’s giving the orders for his–and Torchwood’s–execution?

First of all, the serial structure befits “Torchwood,” as evidenced by the success of the third series, “Children of Earth.” “Miracle Day” so far has benefited from the same structure, making for quite suspenseful–if ridiculous–drama. And boy, does “Rendition” get ridiculous, especially when the team tries to save a poisoned Jack via chelation. (Rudimentary chemistry limited to things found in an airplane!) The complications of the “miracle” continue to amp up in intrigue–there’s the need to rethink triage, as well as the decreasing effect of long-term use of antibiotics and increasing need for painkillers (I kept thinking, is all this really just one big ploy by the pharmaceutical industry to rake in the big bucks?)–just as it seems there’s some sort of force controlling death itself, amping up aging and the ironically torturous continuation of life. The cliffhanger structure just keeps me wanting to know more and more.

I don't have gay thoughts...but "Torchwood" still does!

Whereas last week’s series premiere focused on the reunion of Torchwood 3, this week’s episode brings about the formation of what is to be, I suppose, Torchwood 4. How writer Egan brings the episode to its climax is quite good, with the two CIA agents Rex Matheson (played as over-the-top obnoxious by Mekhi Phifer) and Esther Drummond (played as the requisite blonde by Alexa Havins) essentially pushed out of the CIA and into the perhaps more welcoming arms of Torchwood. We also get more on the secondary characters. Dr. Vera Juarez (played by the svelte Arlene Tur, who kept reminding me of a less saucy but still equally attractive Stacy London), continues to be relevant, acting as unwitting drug-pusher and accomplice to the new Torchwood team; she also serves to fill us in on the medical ramifications of the miracle. Oswald Danes (a somewhat convincing Bill Pullman) on the other hand provides an intriguing view of the ethical/philosophical complications brought about by the miracle. Then there’s Jilly Kitzinger (Lauren Ambrose), whose bubbliness seems to mask some other ulterior motive. My interest in all these various story lines has been piqued; I can’t wait to see how they all intermix.

Any concerns as to the dilution of the homoerotic elements of the show were laid to rest by this episode. In the midst of being poisoned, Jack nonchalantly mentions a former boyfriend from the 1800s who took arsenic for his complexion. To camp it up even further is the presence of in-the-closet male steward Danny as comic relief, as well as the (very) possibly gay “Jim” at the medical panel. Death’s taken a holiday, but thankfully, omnisexuality hasn’t.

Overall, “Rendition” provides an entertaining hour of drama. I’m hoping the momentum carries over to next week’s episode, “Dead of Night.”

Review: “Torchwood: Miracle Day” Ep 1: “The New World”

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I bloody love kick-ass reunions.

Rating:  ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

I think life post-Ianto might just be okay. Maybe.

In the series opener of “Torchwood: Miracle Day,” things are not right for immortal Captain Jack Harkness, aka the future Face of Boe (John Barrowman). With a wound not mending, he’s become his normal pre-Satellite 5 self again:  all mortal and stuff. But he seems to have made a trade with every human in the world–they all seem, interestingly enough, unable to die (in one gruesome scene, we watch a bomber’s exploded corpse show signs of sentience). It’s an intriguing scenario that not just brings the last two remaining members of Torchwood Three together again, this time on American soil, but also raises some pretty heavy philosophical questions:  What of executions? (Interestingly, this first episode aired the same day as the execution of Humberto Leal Garcia in Texas). What of pain? What of over-population? It’s not that hard to imagine how the miracle of non-death could in reality be a curse.

This is, for those familiar with “Torchwood,” the show’s fourth series, the first three having premiered on British airwaves. It’s since become a naturalized American citizen, finding a new home on American premium cable tv (the lucky Starz), with a cast of Americans to comprise the new Torchwood team. Creator Russell T Davies–whom, by virtue of having written a “killer” episode, I have forgiven for having killed off the aforementioned Ianto and thereby the coolest and hottest and possibly only male-on-male sci-fi romance ever–seems to have managed the tricky feat of introducing “Torchwood” to a whole new audience (aka potential converts), while still catering to the show’s existing followers (those familiar with the show will undoubtedly have caught Captain Jack’s reference to former TW team member and casualty, Owen Harper). RTD does a great job of reintroducing–and further complicating–the mystery of Captain Jack. Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) has never been my favorite TW character, but she is in such commendable serious ass-kicking form here, that I hoorayed at seeing her once again.

RTD’s script isn’t entirely perfect, but campy imperfection seems almost part of his charm as a writer. When workhorse CIA agent Rex Matheson (Mekhi Phifer) gets out of his hospital bed and gown (and into his suit from a violent car accident that somehow seems to have mended itself during his hospital stay) and slogs all the way across the Atlantic to Wales (paving the way for all sorts of Welsh jokes–watch out for one that deftly references New Jersey), there’s a sense of the comical and ridiculous to it all. (Let’s not forget that “Torchwood” is after all a spin-off of “Doctor Who,” which has admittedly had its fair share of the cheesy through its entire nearly 50-year run. …And please don’t write to me in a huff, fellow Whovians, for I have not blasphemed–only spoken the truth with some endearment!).

Mummy will take care of this, sweetie.

Overall, it’s great to see “Torchwood” back on the telly again. This “Torchwood” seems freer, no longer susceptible to the BBC’s mistreatment. But only time will tell how the American audience will react to this import. (I kept wondering, will we be seeing captions pretty soon, due to complaints regarding accents, every time Gwen or Rhys utters something?). It will also be interesting how the UK audience–which for the first time must watch the show on delay (how the tables have turned)–will behave: Will the Brits resort to piracy, as many Americans have in the past been wont to do? How will that affect ratings, iPlayer and all? And what of the Cardiff rift? (I suppose leave it for the bloody Welsh to deal with, eh?). And couldn’t RTD have waited till this series to kill Ianto? (Sorry, couldn’t help myself).

Here’s looking forward to next week’s episode, “Rendition.”

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