Torchwood: Miracle Day confounds and delights reviewer David Chute, in equal measure:
An embarrassment of riches, in narrative terms, as Torchwood: Miracle Day continues. If the show has a single defining problem, so far, it’s overcrowding — it races through so many complicated plot twists, and downloads so much information on the fly, that we’re distracted from big moments that should reverberate a lot more.
Case in point, this week: the arrival of our heroes, Jack and Gwen, a pair of world-savers from drizzly Britain, on the sands of Venice Beach, “at the edge of America,” accompanied by a graphic representing their creator.
This would have been a wonderful moment; a memorable landmark for the program, if a real cleansing breath had been taken to savor it. Instead it’s just an antsy pause on the way to the next urgent development, brushed aside and quickly forgotten.
Among the spoiler-ish pieces of information that were barked at us along the way this week were a few further tantalizing details about the connection between Captain Jack, who used to be immortal, and the rest of us, who became immortal on Miracle Day. Actually these details were growled at us, by a startlingly grizzled and effective C. Thomas Howell, as a disgruntled hit man whose livelihood is threatened by the Miracle. (Try as he might, he can no longer kill anyone.)
All we were able to glean, before Rex “Jack Bauer” Matheson splattered the saturnine thug against the wall, was that it was something Captain Jack said to someone powerful a few centuries ago that set this whole Miracle thing in motion. There are forces at work even more deeply behind the scenes, it seems, than previously imagined, manipulators who have been present “always and everywhere,” puppet-mastering even the apparent masterminds at the evil drug company, PhiCor. They are stockpiling not just pain killers but the real estate that will be used to create UN-sanctioned “overflow camps,” where the people who should have died but didn’t will now be locked away. (Mare Winningham has a wicked cameo as a Sarah Palin-style small town mayor campaigning for the camps.)
Creator Russell T. Davies created a memorable internment camp scenario once before, in the Doctor Who episode “Turn Left”). We know he has sharp apprehensive instincts for this sort of thing. If T:MD does turn out to be moving toward a dystopian vision on a global scale, establishing a fascist New World Order on the back of the current health care crisis, that development would be both eye-rollingly naïve and thrillingly ambitious – in other words, a perfect Torchwood scenario.