It’s a family affair
Writers: Jane Espenson & Ryan Scott
Director: Gwyneth Horder-Payton
THE ONE WHERE Somebody dies… and the CIA wants to know why.
VERDICT Watching Torchwood: Miracle Day is increasingly like watching Andy Murray play tennis. Just before it comes on you hope for the best, but can't help getting anxious. Occasionally, after a wobbly start, it can come good in the final set (as with “Categories Of Life”). But more often you get an episode where impressive rallies are followed by silly unforced errors that just make you wince.
“The End Of The Road” falls squarely into the second category.
It doesn’t start well, with Major Kira Nerys brought in for a ten-minute info dump before being Category Oned, having outlived her usefulness. It’s amazing how little she actually reveals with so much verbal diarrhea. Then Rex pulls off the most-unlikely-to-succeed scam of the century just so he can meet his old CIA boss, who shouts a lot and forces Torchwood to play what looks like a game of Blockbusters on the floor (“I’ll have a Q please, Bob”).
Once again, it feels like an exercise in delaying tactics, so that we don’t get to any real answers too soon. The arc plot is inching forward at a point when you'd hope we’d be moving into an endgame. Indeed, some of the better moments in the episode are when events do make significant leaps: Angelo dying and the discovery of the null field. But we also have to endure character scenes either lack emotional clout (Esther’s phone call with her sister, Jack’s oddly stilted bedside monologue to Angelo) or outlive their welcome (Gwen’s chat with Rhys is great to the point where her mum says, “Go get ’em!” but then drags on for ages afterwards). And how long did that conversation inside the null field go on for? How come the guards didn’t get suspicious after the first three minutes of Jack, Rex and Esther looking like they were on the starter blocks waiting for a gun to go off?
Luckily we had Oswald back after too long a break, and he’s more delusional than ever – dad dancing in hotel rooms and trying to pay a prostitute to be his girlfriend. All the Oswald and Jilly scenes are great – especially the introduction of Category Zero. The way Oswald finds out (Jilly realising she’s made a mistake procuring a prostitute who sleeps with senators) is a clever, witty piece of economical writing, while her chilling warning to the child molester ("Poeple love me!” “TV loves you - that’s something different…”) makes you wish we’d been following Oswald’s rise and imminent fall more closely. It’s certainly been one of the more thought-provoking strands of Miracle Day and could have afforded to be have been explored in more depth.
The twist with CIA agent Charlotte Wills being in with the families was a well-placed shock as well. Didn’t see that coming. In fact, once again, the show manages to rally (in a non tennis sense) in its closing minutes, With Jack shot, Gwen deported, Jilly promoted and Charlotte ready to put a spanner in the works, the episode pulls off a cliffhanger that does its job, and makes you want to know what’s coming next.
A quick word about the direction, too. Whatever your thoughts on the scripts for the past two weeks, it’s hard to deny that Gwyneth Horder-Payton has given the episodes an exquisitely lit, refreshingly cinematic gloss that’s helped paper over some of the cracks. Some shots are nothing short of beautiful, and she’s also managed to give the performances a more unified tone (certainly Jilly this week felt less of a caricature).
At the moment, it feels like we’re in a tiebreaker in the fourth set, and the match could go either way yet.
EH? Did anyone swallow Olivia Colasanto’s reason for kidnapping and threatening to kill Gwen’s family when, for example, she could have just phoned Gwen and gone, “Hey, does Jack wanna meet his old lover? Oh, by the way he’s connected with Miracle Day. Give Jack this address, will you? ” Apparently she did it to “protect” him? Really? As Gwen put it: “So why the hell did…? You know? Bollocks. Start again. Any chance of a drink?” It’s a feeling the audience knows all too well…
GO ON, ADMIT IT You went online and Googled Ablemarch, Costerdane and Frines.
STAR TURN John de Lancie was great as CIA boss Shapiro. One of the best things about the episode he also got some great lines: “Tell her to line up her lawyers so I can piss on them, long and hard,” and, “Can we deport her? Let’s deport her.”
Rex: “You telling’ me the whole world got screwed because two gays had a hissy fit?”
Gwen: “Rex, get back in your cave.”