Published on September 4th, 2011 | by Patrick Riley
End of the Road
“If you wanna be a changed man, you’re runnin’ out of time. The way I heard it, you’re classified as Category Zero.”
Episode 8 of Torchwood: Miracle Day already! It doesn’t feel like two-plus years have passed since we witnessed the awe-inspiring Children of Earth miniseries and pondered just how the fourth series might top it.
While it may be too early to judge, as we still have yet to see the finale, we pretty much have our answer now: Miracle Day is superior to its predecessor in precisely zero ways. But let’s not argue that it was a total let-down, because Torchwood’s fourth run is still a smashing piece of television, and End of the Road continues to demonstrate this.
I was prepared to start this review with an entirely different argument, that the series was destined to stew in the purgatory of mediocrity, when I saw Wayne Knight’s face at the beginning of the episode; you may recall that I had a bit of a problem with his performance way back in Rendition. But uh-uh-uh, he said the magic word… on live television in front of tens of people. Doesn’t sound like much, but apparently it was enough to blow his cover and blow him up.
The Torchwood team united with the CIA this week, properly this time, to mope around in the mansion of some bloke who’d just kicked the bucket. If this sounds to you like just another day on a cop show, you’ve probably not been watching at all this year, so it’s time to fill you in – people can’t die. So why did Jack’s ex-boyfriend Angelo Colasanto do just that? But of course, a mysterious alien floor panel resting underneath him that was recovered from the Torchwood Hub. Just make one of those things the size of, say, Earth, and everyone can die again! There, problem solved!
Pace-wise, the story slowed down a tiny bit in the middle during Jack’s scene alone with the still-living Category One Angelo. The whole sequence could have been cut down to maybe Jack sitting at Angelo’s bedside holding his hand, followed by the elderly fella’s death. Not so, we had to sit through several minutes of the plot that could have been used for rising action or, better yet, more exploding vehicles, just to see Jack talk to the air for a while, throw in a Ianto reference, and mouth-kiss an old person. Ah, old-person kissing, now there’s something controversial! Jack and Angelo are like Harold and Maude if Harold was a dashing mortal/immortal ex-Time Agent and Maude was a man.
“You tell her from me… I had a gun held to my head. My life was in danger, and her father’s. Right inside our own house, and all because of her. So you tell her: Don’t give up, go get the b*****ds!”
Gwen’s brief phone call home reminded us that she has a family, and specifically, that she has a husband. For someone who’s got his name in the opening credits I really hoped we’d be seeing a lot more from Kai Owen (as Rhys Williams) this season; he really added to Children of Earth‘s splendor in 2009, but in 2011 he seems to have been demoted to something less than a Mickey Smith Tin Dog role. On the bright side, it appears he’ll be playing a larger part in the final two installments, because Gwen’s been deported, and she’s going back to Wales. Again. Seriously, when this is all over, her airline bill’s going to take a massive bite out of Anwen’s diaper funds.
Surprisingly, the most engaging part of the story this week was the Oswald Danes subplot. After a two-week hiatus, it was interesting to see Ozzy and Jilly end up in Texas, which may be the closest a televised Whoniverse story has ever come to my own house. Speaking of Jilly, and Lauren Ambrose who plays her, she’s still growing on me. Originally I didn’t like her. Then I did. Now I think I might be developing a small crush. Just a small one.
Really though, last time we saw her, in The Categories of Life, she was practically insane with happiness about Oswald’s rise to “popularity” and her connection to it. Now she’s physically attacking Oswald (though technically he started it), threatening to have him arrested (because, well, he started it), and calling him
Prisoner Category Zero, informing him that he’s most definitely about to die (this is more or less what caused him to start it). Jilly Kitzinger is either a complex character or a lunatic. My money’s on both.
I’m not sure where the writers are going with this Danes thing though. Are they trying to get us, the viewers, to feel sorry for his character? The escort-rejection scene would almost suggest that this is the case, and I’m not sure I like that. I’m almost offended, actually.
It was a nice throwback to see the undercover agent try to out-Kitzinger Kitzinger, following her around obsessively and fetching meals and prostitutes before she ended up shot by a member of “the family,” who seems to be related to/in cahoots with the CIA blonde, who we saw video-chatting with Esther Drummond, who was/is frightened for her sister but is presently concerned about the croaking Harkness in the back of her van. See how complex and intertwined this plot is? Because I sure don’t.