Torchwood: Miracle Day 6 "The Middle Men" Review

A column article, Shot For Shot by: Paul Brian McCoy
Gwen still works on getting her father out of the overflow camp, while Esther and Rex remain trapped in the San Pedro Overflow Camp. Back in L.A., Jack approaches PhiCorp in hope of finally finding answers.

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.

After watching this latest installment of Torchwood: Miracle Day, written by John Shiban, who I praised two weeks ago for writing the best episode yet, I can only think of one phrase that effectively describes this week's adventure: You can't polish a turd.

And I don't care what the Mythbusters say. You can try and try, but it's still going to be a turd.

I admit, however, that at the sight of Ernie Hudson in the opening moments, I thought that maybe we were back on track. I loves me some Ernie Hudson. And his character, Stuart Owens, had a hot secretary who was a little too intimate, and an urge to find out the truth behind Miracle Day. And Hudson gives it his super-serious voice so we know he's super serious.

I thought calling up his Chinese agent, Zheng Yibao (Eric Steinberg), to try and find some answers was an intriguing premise. Until Yibao ends up in the cheapest Shanghai back-alley stand-in set I've seen in years. Until Yibao ridiculously shoots open a gate and "sneaks" into the secret area. Until Owens calls him back just in time for Yibao to jump off of a building, thereby joining this week's latest Miracle Craze, "The 45 Club".

You know, where if you jump off a building 45 floors high or higher, you don’t die, but you lose consciousness forever. It's the New Suicide!

So the whole thing serves no point, but to establish, however vaguely, that there's trouble in Shanghai, Ernie Hudson is curious, and the writers have moved on from both "The Soulless" and "Dead is Dead" to this new thing that is never mentioned again.

I'm sure in the writers' room this all sounded cool, but in practice it just seems unfocused, sloppy, and half-assed.

Jumping back into the story that at least seemed to matter at one point, we find Rex (Mekhi Phifer) still hiding out, recording shit on a huge video camera while creeping around popping pills and clutching the open wound in his chest, but somehow never being noticed. We are then subjected to two of the worst performances I've ever seen on this show in the four years it's been running.

Marc Vann seems to be trying to do something with the role of Maloney, giving the character some quirks in an attempt to humanize him, however all it does it make him seem more and more like a walking mass of affectations capped off with a bad accent.

And Ralph... Poor Ralph (Fred Koehler). I can't remember the last time I saw a performance as horrifyingly un-subtle as his. It's like he thinks he's in a silent film. That's not on him, though. The director, Guy Ferland, should have reined him in. He's a good director, and this is the first thing I've seen him direct that has just fallen apart.

But to be honest, at this point it feels like nobody involved really gives a shit anymore. Everyone has given up.

John Barrowman just can't pull anything interesting out of the way Jack is being written in this show. He's not threatening when he tries to be. He's not sexy when he tries to be. He's not clever when he tries to be.

This is a meltdown.

Eve Myles is a bright spot, but only out of sheer absurdity at this point. I tried to enjoy Gwen on a motorbike blowing shit up, but really? As with Rex earlier, how is she just running around doing anything on a closed base filled with troops?

It's all just ridiculous.

And what is it with these Torchwood idiots using their real names all the time? They're being hunted by at least two governments and Gwen runs around a freaking concentration camp shouting to every single person she talks to about how Garaint Cooper (William Thomas) is her bloody father!

Surely if they're keeping an eye on Esther's (Alexa Havins) crazy sister, they're keeping an eye on Gwen's freaking dad who's already in their custody!

It's just too much for me.

If there's anything even slightly salvageable from this episode, it's the scene where Maloney is torturing Rex until Esther stumbles onto them. You know, after Esther gets away from super-bigot-tattletale back at the office.

Seriously? That's a character you're going to work into your script? I'm sure it seemed amusing on-set, but Christ on a Crutch, it just dragged this episode down that much farther.

Anyway, Esther interrupts the torture session, where the titular Middle Man Bureaucrat uses his pen (It's symbolic! Get it?) to poke holes in Rex's heart. Then he and Esther take turns strangling each other. Until Ralphie shows up and shoots Maloney.

Ha ha ha! It's a hoot.

I swear, when the feeble attempts at lightweight torture porn aren't even entertaining, the show's got to do something to save itself.

Something like end on a huge downer where Vera's (Arlene Tur) death was for nothing at all and nothing is changed for better or worse at the end of the hour? No, that's a horrible idea.

Oh wait. That's what they do.

Luckily, Ernie Hudson gave Captain Jack a new stupid one-word bullshit lead that we're supposed to care about. Now we're supposed to be intrigued by just what "The Blessing" is, was, or is going to be.

Oh, and did I mention that Danes (Bill Pullman) and Jilly (Lauren Ambrose) didn't appear in this episode at all? They don't.

And at the end, the mysterious bad guys have captured Gwen's entire family and demand she give them Jack in exchange. You know, after she flies back to America from Wales with no trouble whatsoever. And when she's paged by her real freaking name at the airport, she answers the white courtesy phone with "I'm Gwen Cooper".

It's no wonder Torchwood was shut down.

But I just don't give a shit anymore. This episode was turd, though and through, and nothing Shiban and Ferland could do could make it shine. I blame Jane Espenson, personally. She scuttled us her first time out, was responsible for last week's barely serviceable script, and is having a bigger and bigger hand in the proceedings as we move into the home stretch.

I have zero confidence in this show from here on out.

I give this one .

'Nuff said.

For more Torchwood action, check out our previous reviews:
Episode One, "The New World"
Episode Two, "Rendition"
Episode Three, "Dead of Night"
Episode Four, "Escape to L.A."
Episode Five, "The Categories of Life"

Paul Brian McCoy is the writer of Mondo Marvel and a regular contributor to Shot for Shot. He currently has little spare time, but in what there is he continues to work on his first novel, The Unraveling: Damaged Inc. Book One. He is unnaturally preoccupied with zombie films, Asian cult cinema, and sci-fi television. He can also be found babbling on Twitter at @PBMcCoy and blogging occasionally at Infernal Desire Machines.

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