Torchwood: Miracle Day 2 "Rendition" Review

A column article, Shot For Shot by: Paul Brian McCoy
As the Torchwood team is reunited, Jack realizes he's the most vulnerable man on Earth. A flight to the United States turns into a desperate battle for survival.

Torchwood airs on Friday nights at 10PM on STARZ. In a bizarre marketing move, the BBC will air the episodes the following Thursday nights, with the cable channel's naughty bits cut and replaced with longer character bits.

As the BBC airings will have approximately 5 or so minutes of different material each week, I will try to update these reviews when I can, so check back this weekend for more Torchwood talk!

After reading the riot act last week, I'm gonna try to relax and just concentrate on Torchwood this time out. Although I will take a moment to note that you just can't please the haters. Now the main complaint is that the pacing is way too slow and the show is boring.

Of course, this flies in the face of all the anxiety over Americanizing the show with all our guns and explosions and whatnot.

Anyway, the pacing is not off. We are just where we need to be after wrapping the second hour of a ten hour story. And if anyone throws out the "the whole episode took place on a plane" complaint, just smack them in the head. Lord knows you can't have action, intrigue, or drama when you're confined to one set.

And it didn't all take place on a plane. The Jack (John Barrowman) and Gwen (Eve Myles) story mostly does, but we're also following Esther (Alexa Havins) as she discovers that she and Rex (Mekhi Phifer) are being set up to seem like traitors, Dr. Juarez (Arlene Tur) as she goes to an emergency conference to figure out how to respond medically to Miracle Day, and Oswald Danes (Bill Pullman) as he makes his first television appearance and begins to figure out how to play the media to his advantage.

In fact, I'd say that we were almost overstuffed with plot developments and fifty-three minutes only barely allowed for all the action to unfold.

This week's screenplay was written by Doris Egan, a co-executive producer and writer for House M.D., and this episode plays to the strengths that working on that show allows her to bring to the table. We don't only have a lot of medical prescience being tossed around as Dr. Juarez and her companions begin to truly realize the scope of danger involved when nobody dies but they continue to age and suffer, but we also get a medicinal scavenger hunt on-board the plane as Gwen and Rex scramble to synthesize an antidote to cyanide poisoning.

Who's poisoned, you ask? Why, the only Mortal Man on the planet, that's who.

So far, Eve Myles is the real stand-out for me. This episode she cuts loose with abandon during the opening scene by completely freaking out as Gwen is separated from Rhys (Kai Owen) and their baby, Anwen. She's an emotional powderkeg throughout this entire episode, and not only does she take complete charge when Jack's been poisoned, she also gets the best line of the show.

When the evil CIA agent, Lynn (Dichen Lachman, of Dollhouse fame), condescends to her face, saying that is she's the best England has to offer then they're in trouble. Gwen frowns, says "I'm Welsh", and decks her with one punch.

My only complaint is that it wasn't a head-butt.

This episode also gives us our first glimpse at who may be responsible for Miracle Day, as Esther's and Rex's boss, Brian Friedkin (Wayne Knight) turns out to be the one ordering the hits on the Torchwood team, and now his own agents. And just who is he contacting with his mysterious Triangle phone and why?

There was only one real moment where I didn't really buy into a plot development, and that's when Oswald Danes suddenly sees a surge in popularity and sympathy after breaking down crying on television and claiming to be sorry for murdering (and whatever else he did to) that little girl. It seemed a bit much, but I admit, in a world where nobody can die, one may begin doubting one's belief in absolute punishment and veer toward embracing forgiveness.

I wouldn't, but maybe some would.

Anyway, it was a weak spot that kind of bugged me, but was easily set aside when we get the added bonus of a fight scene between Rex and Lynn that is just brutal. Lynn keeps punching Rex right in his chest hole until he's had enough and twists her head completely around. Of course, this doesn't kill her and we are treated to a horrific, if awkward-looking special effect, as she continues to pursue them out of the airport.

It just didn't look real and took me out of the scene, but the concept itself was solid.

All in all, though, this was another solid episode. There were a few more narrative glitches this time out than last, so I'd score the episode an easy . I would probably have gone higher if I thought the Danes storyline wasn't taking shortcuts. I allowed for them last week, but this week's was difficult, and I'm worried it may undermine the rest of the show.

Pullman's performance is excellent, though, which makes it a little easier to forgive. Plus, the extrapolation of just how bad life is going to get when all the sick people in the world are living breathing germ incubators and our antibiotics no longer work is terrifying. Add to that the fact that organ donation is a thing of the past and all previously terminal illnesses have become ongoing chronic conditions, and you've got one huge nightmare scenario. It's a scenario that by itself is worthy of .

It's also the makings of very intelligent and socially conscious science fiction. So while a few moments pulled down the overall score, this is still on the path to greatness, as far as I'm concerned.

For more Torchwood action, check out our review of Episode One, "The New World"!

Paul Brian McCoy is the writer of Mondo Marvel and a regular contributor to What Looks Good and Shot for Shot. He currently has little spare time, but in what there is he continues to work on his first novel, tentatively titled Damaged Incorporated. He is unnaturally preoccupied with zombie films, Asian cult cinema, sci-fi television, the original Deathlok, Nick Fury, and John Constantine. He can be summed up in three words: Postmodern Anarchist Misanthropy. He can also be found babbling on Twitter at @PBMcCoy and blogging occasionally at Infernal Desire Machines.

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