Three episodes of "Torchwood: Miracle Day" have now aired in the U.S., and I thought I'd do a review of episodes so far. Because the U.K. is for once having to wait until after it broadcasts in the U.S. to see episodes, I'll try to keep spoilers to a minimum. (Usually, it's Doctor Who airing in the U.K. first and we across the pond who have to wait until later)
The premise is this: One day, without warning, people stop dying. They still grow older, still get sick and injured, but they absolutely cannot die. While for some this is seen as an opportunity, the disastrous implications quickly become very clear — exponential population growth, diseases running rampant, violence intensifying as people snap under pressure and resources dwindle. That is the situation the world faces. No one is able to figure out why.
Naturally, this being "Torchwood", Gwen Cooper and Captain Jack Harkness must reunite in order to solve the mystery of Miracle Day and set things right again.
So far so good from writer-producer Russell T. Davies. All the elements that made "Torchwood" great are still present. Davies offers us a cast of disparate characters, all of whom are driven to do things for their own reasons. CIA operative Rex Matheson (played by Mekhi Phifer) is mortally wounded when his car crashes into the back of a semi truck and a pole impales him, but does not die. His co-worker Esther Drummond (Alexa Havins) was on the phone with him when it happened, telling him about a single word that has popped up on CIA monitors: Torchwood. Blaming herself for Matheson's accident and driven by other stresses, she seeks out information on Torchwood in hopes of unraveling the mystery. Doctor Vera Juarez, played by Arlene Tur, is an emergency room physician who struggles to help patients, colleagues, and experts from all over the country cope in a world without death. "Six Feet Under's" incredibly sexy redhead Lauren Ambrose plays Jilly Kitzinger, a vivaciously aggressive pharmaceutical rep. who seems determined to push her product and offer her services to people. Finally, Bill Pullman portrays Oswald Danes, a convicted child rapist-murderer whose execution was foiled by the Miracle and who becomes a celebrity on the TV talk show circuit.
Oh yeah, did I mention that Captain Jack is suddenly mortal again? Oops. Probably should have alerted you to the spoiler. Oh well. It's like the temporal thingamajig that Rose Tyler did to him when she'd absorbed energy from the Time Vortex that resurrects him every time he dies, but allows him to grow old at an incredibly slow rate, was transferred from him to everyone else on Earth. You just knew Davies was going to throw something like this in just to mess with what I am sure is his favorite character of all the ones he's created. This makes for some intense emotional scenes, especially in episode three.
Eve Myles, reprising her role as Gwen Cooper, does a splendid job playing a new mother trying to protect her family while plunging herself headlong back into the Torchwood fray. SPOILER: take a look at the expression on her face when she brings down a helicopter chasing her, husband Rhys Williams (Kai Owen), Captain Jack, and Rex Matheson. Do NOT mess with this MILF! (By the way, Eve Myles is a MILF in real life.)
Perhaps the most mysterious characters are Jilly Kitzinger and Oswald Danes. Jilly shows up at just the moments when people like Dr. Juarez and Danes seem to most (or least) need someone to guide them. Who is she really, and what is this Phicopr pharmeceutical company she works for? And then there is Oswald Danes. Actor Bill Pullman's portrayal of a convicted child rapist and murderer is surprisingly layered, considering I never really thought much of his acting abilities. Sorry, Bill, but that's just how I feel. No offense meant. Anyway, Davies wisely writes the character of Danes as having motivations that come off looking like they're never really what we initially think. Is he simply having fun rubbing salt in the wounds of his victim's family by doing the talk show circuit? Is he simply caught up in the mania surrounding Miracle Day and trying his best to survive out of prison, having lawyered his way out on the technicality that since his sentence was successfully carried out, he is no longer bound? Or is he looking for someone to finally put an end to him for his crimes? A confrontation with Captain Jack only adds to our confusion on Danes' motivations, and that is perhaps the most enjoyably irritating thing Russell Davies is doing so far with this story.
Alrighty then, that's about all I have to write so far about "Torchwood: Miracle Day". Keep an eye out for further reviews.