Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Torchwood: Miracle Day

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. I am just sharing my opinions and perspective. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 1-5. 1, of course, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being good and 5, being epic!

Torchwood: Miracle Day - 5 out of 5

After Torchwood:  Children of Earth aired, it seemed this Doctor Who spin-off about a secret organization out to protect England (and the rest of the world) from alien threats seemed to be over.  The team was killed, their headquarters destroyed and only Gwen Cooper and the charismatic and sexual volcano of an immortal; Captain Jack Harkness, survived to go into hiding.  But the show wasn't over...it was just getting bigger and going global.

Jack is a bad-ass even without that gun.


Starz teamed with the BBC to bring forth the fourth season of Torchwood entitled Miracle Day.  The rules of life and death suddenly need redefinition when it's discovered that people are no longer dying.  The world is thrown into unbridled chaos as those who should be dead aren't.  Explosions, sickness, gun shots...you name it, it isn't killing anyone.  They're just left in a state of perpetual living...even if their body is incinerated by flames or they have a bullet lodged in their temple.

Wayne Knight is here...fill in your own "Hello Newman" caption.

CIA agent Rex Matheson (Mekhi Phifer) learns the scope of this problem as he finds himself still alive after being impaled through the chest by a piece of rebar.  He and fellow CIA agent Esther Drummond (Alexa Havins) stumble upon the existence of Torchwood and realize they either may be responsible for The Miracle or can rectify it.  Gwen Cooper and Capt. Jack are both forced out of hiding as it's discovered that the ones behind The Miracle are out to kill the immortal, former companion of The Doctor.  Even more shocking--what was once mortal can now no longer die and what was once a stranger to death is the only man in the world who can perish.  That's right...Captain Jack is now the only mortal man on the planet.

Another miracle...Hot doctors start coming out of the woodwork when no
one is capable of dying.


While all this is going on, a convicted pedophile and murderer Oswald Danes (Bill Pullman) survives execution and becomes a figurehead of the people preaching The Miracle and becoming a shill for a pharmaceutical company that seems to have had knowledge of the coming event.  Then, as the world sees an explosion in population with the beancounter that is death absent, the governments of the world are force to think outside the coffin and start to build "overflow camps" for those who would be "dead."  Only death is now placed into different categories and what is happening to those in the first category--the ones that would normally be bereft of life--becomes another mystery that Torchowood must get to the bottom of.

He's no longer the loveable war hero president ready to kick some alien's ass.


As a big fan of Torchwood, I was excited to see the show hadn't ended with Children of Earth--although I'm still sad that Ianto is still gone.  However, I feared that the influence of Starz would turn this beloved Doctor Who spin-off into something...American.  Basically, I feared that the humor and wit would be replaced with explosions and, at first glance, it seemed I was right.

Meet Esther...she's distracted by shiny things.


"Today is...our Miracle Day!"
As the season started, it seemed that Torchwood was on its way to being Michael Bay'ed but as the season continued the familiar presence of the show's original tone starts to peak through and a blend of American and British storytelling takes place.  However, there are some American conventions that persist throughout the season and nearly hurt my perfect score.  I speak entirely of Mekhi Phifer's character Rex Matheson.

Gwen's husband Rhys (Kai Owen) plays a big role.  How do you know it's big?
They gave him this hero shot!


Matheson is a prime example of everything that the world hates about Americans.  He's brutish, chauvinistic, homophobic (a big deal considering Jack Harkness is a sexual dynamo who loves the ladies and the lads...even aliens of indeterminate sex) and all around full of insecure macho bullshit.  He overcompensates his desire to be slick, cool and falsely believes himself to be a bad-ass all the while doing nothing to actually be a bad-ass.  As the season moves forward, he evolves slightly but, for the most part, is the type of guy you don't want to represent your country.

Phefier felt like he was seconds away from the generic growling voice that
action heroes now use.


I couldn't tell if Matheson was written ironically or not.  I couldn't tell if he was written to be a bad-ass who just came off laughable thanks to Phifer's unconvincing (and over-acted) portrayal or if he was specifically written (and performed brilliantly, if that's the case) to be a satire--a send up of Americans.  A part of me thinks the latter and, if that's true, I appreciate the annoying intricacies of Matheson more because he becomes such a brilliant work of parody.

Ernie Hudson even looks confused as to why he's in Torchwood.


One of the strongest aspects of Miracle Day comes from the character of Oswald Danes and Bill Pullman's incredibly stellar performance.  Watching the evolution of Danes from a convicted child rapist/murderer to a man who became a free man thanks to the oddest technicality to ever exist to a man for the scared and lost people to rally behind to an unlikely teammate for Torchwood is fantastic on such a level that I wasted my entire Sunday in bed watching episode after episode.  I ignored my girlfriend for this show...I'm kidding...I don't have a girlfriend.

Eve Myles (Gwen Cooper) would you like to be my girlfriend?  I mean I'm not
attractive or in shape.  I don't make a lot of money and tend to get nosebleeds
a lot...actually, I should stop speaking now.


Then, as if Pullman's performance isn't enough, the story arc of seeing Jack suddenly become mortal and the role he unwittingly had in The Miracle was heroin-level addicting as it offered up an added bonus in the form of seeing Jack's post-Doctor, pre-season one of Torchwood years.

Even sick, Jack is infinitely better looking than me.  I'm not gay but...
let's just say I wouldn't hesitate if he asked.


The DVD collection also saw the inclusion of the Torchwood motion comic Web of Lies.  For those unfamiliar with what a motion comic is, it is--basically--a comic book brought to life through the use of crude animation.  Web of Lies follows a moment in Torchwood's past that connects to The Miracle and follows a young woman named Holly (voiced by Eliza Dushku) who's brother was gunned down for his investigation of The Miracle and she sets out to see what he found.

Bill Pullman seems to be doing his impression of my when I watch The Notebook.


The inclusion of Web of Lies is nice because it means I didn't have to take the time to download them from the internet--yes, I know that's easy but I'm incredibly lazy.  However, while the story of Torchwood's unbeknownst involvement in The Miracle is interesting, the story of Holly isn't.  Other than her story being told very sloppily (mostly thanks to the weak animation), all of her events could have been sprinkled into the main story arc of the live action season through the use of dialogue (I realize that's telling and not showing but Holly's story was really that uninteresting).  Holly's tale and her brother's involvement offer up very little in the Miracle Day's mythology.

Is that Jesse Eisenberg on the left?


While the critics and fans were mixed on Miracle Day, I wasn't.  Others saw the cliffhangers that were added as an antithesis to the closed ending that was Children of Earth and others saw it as an American bastardization of a great BBC action/drama.  While all these arguments are valid--and I even agree with them to a degree (and would like to add that I don't think enough was done with the cult that formed from the event called The Souless)--I still found Miracle Day to be entertaining and engaging thanks to an emotionally heavy story (I'm not afraid to admit it but I cried a few times) and killer performances.  Finally, it has Captain Jack Harkness in it and who doesn't love Harkness?  If I could only obtain 1/6th of Jack's charisma, charm and good looks, I would level up exponentially in the eyes of the ladies.       

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