Sunday, 31 July 2011


Sunday, 31 July 2011

The best episode of Miracle Day so far, by some distance, thanks to overdue back-story to humanize Rex (Mekhi Phifer) and Esther (Alexa Havins), and tangible development about exactly who, or what, is behind the Miracle Day phenomenon itself. Buoyed by an entertaining moment of espionage for the Torchwood crew in the second half, "Escape To L.A" was breezy and decent fun, showing signs of improvement I hope will continue into the remainder of this miniseries.

Oswald Danes (Bill Pullman) remains a real headache for the show, which is a shame because the core idea behind his arc has some merit. I just don't see why they decided to make him a paedophile (the least forgivable crime in human society), when having a serial-killer instead become an unexpected figurehead for tolerance in this New World Order would have worked equally well. Nevertheless, the idea to give Oswald a rival in Ellis Hartley Monroe (Mare Winningham), a mayor who's pushing a"Dead Is Dead" campaign that wants to brush the world's problem under the carpet by segregating the "dead" from the living was an intriguing development. It's just a shame the details don't feel very plausible, with Oswald victorious in this political war by giving a supposedly rousing speech to a makeshift hospital of sick people. (Incidentally, why would anyone ask a convicted paedophile to take care of a small abandoned baby girl?)

Team Torchwood are beginning to form a tetchy dynamic now, too. I was pleased to see Rex becoming less annoying, although his understandable frustration with the amateurism of Torchwood dragged his character back to being unlikable towards the end. This was also the hour where we learned something about the show's new characters: Rex is estranged from his vagrant father and trying to heal their relationship because he's starting to suspect he'll die when the "miracle" ends; and Esther has a sister called Sarah (Candace Brown) who's incapable of looking after her two kids, meaning Esther had to call social services to have them taken into protection. Both stories didn't take up much time and weren't hugely compelling—although Phifer gave a decent performance in the scene with his cantankerous dad and Esther felt more human. Considering the difficulties of fleshing out characters when there's an urgency to a story being told, I've seen it done a lot worse.

One thing that's becoming more of a noticeable issue is how extraneous and, frankly, boring Captain Jack (John Barrowman) has been on the show so far. Has removing his immortality neutered the dashing hero of the previous three series? It certainly seems that way. Here, Barrowman's given a few awkward speeches and a key role in an operation to steal information from PhiCorp's servers with Gwen (Eve Myles), but other than that he's almost surplus to requirement. Very little about Miracle Day is working because of what Captain Jack's bringing to the table, in terms of knowledge, expertise or attitude. It's perhaps one of the reasons Miracle Day hasn't gone down so well with fans. And why is the show still making cutesy references to the fact Jack's lived thousands of years? If you're new to the show (and this Starz miniseries was partly designed to introduce Torchwood to newcomers), it must feel very strange.

Overall, most of "Escape From L.A" worked well enough and it was a more capable hour than we've had so far. It's still not especially gripping, but at least we've been given big clues about what's going on: the unseen villains (their "organisation" symbolized by a rotating triangle) are referred to as "The Families" at one point, so are there three alien families behind this? They've also given Oswald Danes this platform intentionally, and must therefore have infiltrated PhiCorp to do that, so there's a feeling this episode has started to draw a few of the subplots together. We'll have to see if Miracle Day manages to resolve the story in a satisfying way, and I'm still not convinced it can, but I'm prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt for now.


  • Love the scene with Monroe being crushed in a car compactor, ending up trapped alive inside a metal cube, with just her eye blinking. That's quite a horrific fate to be given, and a more imaginative twist on the common scene of someone immortal being buried alive in a coffin.
  • Does anyone care about Gwen's family? I know Rhys (Kai Owen) has his fans, but every time Gwen has to dash off to call her husband while on a mission my attention wanders. And putting her sickly father in jeopardy doesn't feel like a good move, considering all that's happening in Wales. Are we going to see Gwen fly back to Wales for an episode of two to save him? If so, maybe this subplot only exists to stretch the miniseries out? I have a feeling Miracle Day doesn't need 10 hours, and we'll see more padding in the future, like episode 2's plane journey shenanigans.
written by Jim Gray & John Shiban / directed by Billy Gierhart / 29 July 2011 / Starz