This review contains spoilers.
3. Dead Of Night
“Who’s giving the orders?”
Well, for my money, that was the best of the three episodes of Miracle Day to date. The first two episodes have been furiously putting the blocks of the show in place, both in terms of establishing it for a new audience, and building a major threat to work against. Dead Of Night, though, just applies the brakes slightly, and spends some welcome time with the characters sat down and talking to each other.
Before we get to that, we got a real sense of the greater mystery behind what’s causing the Miracle Day phenomenon. The arrows, thus far, are pointing in the direction of pharmaceutical company, PhiCorp. But how implicit is PhiCorp to the mystery?
What we learned from this episode was that PhiCorp appeared to know that Miracle Day was coming, and had, thus, stocked up accordingly. But we don’t buy it could all be that simple. A drugs company would be a fairly easy way out, but there must be greater forcers at work. After all, in, too, comes the idea of the abandoning of prescriptions. That smells of a conspiracy to us, albeit one with an out of this world feel to it.
After all, Wayne Knight’s Friedkin said at the start of the episode that “They’re everywhere. They know everything.” (It might just be the Silence from Doctor Who, spreading their wings, though). And while, thus far, it’s the character work in the show that’s been the most interesting, the hunt for who made the miracle itself is clearly very much on. It’s interesting, too.
The other side of this episode was the coming together of some kind of Torchwood team, made up of people from the old and new versions of the show. Gwen and Jack have been the constants to date (and it was good that Rhys got a look in), and have been ensured the roots of Torchwood are very much present and correct. And here, Esther and Rex are joining them in a dingy den, with lots of crisps to eat. Sounds like a good night out for us.
Jane Espenson’s script had a lot of fun with the cultural differences between the different sides of the new Torchwood team, but crucially, she also injects an uneasiness about them, particularly Rex, who doesn’t look best happy about being part of it all. The friction between Rex and Gwen is certainly played up, but also, it’s demonstrated to Rex just how much trouble he’s in.
It was good to see a bit of good, old fashioned Torchwood technology reintroduced, too. More of that would be grand.
Elsewhere, there were some really nice, seemingly smaller moments. The chat between Jilly and Dr Juarez, where they’re sat on the steps, was nicely done, especially the latter, arguing “We don’t deserve this miracle.” Even though those two characters are likely to land on opposite sides of the events of the show, bringing them together in this manner was a welcome touch.
Likewise, there was a quiet walk for Esther and Gwen, as the former realises that her life has transformed, and this was strong as well. It even survived the gradually growing trend for quoting poetry in sci-fi shows. Good on Gwen for shooting a hole in that.
Captain Jack, meanwhile, coped with the ongoing crisis engulfing the world with some good, hard sex. Yet, that’s Jack. He can’t sit on the steps easily with another character and unload his problems. Instead, he has to seek solace with a stranger, a bit of drink and some how’s your father.
Equally lonely, and an interesting parallel, is Oswald. We get the parallel drawn by the show that Oswald and Jack have made similar decisions before, albeit for very different reasons. And it’s interesting that Miracle Day is moving Danes to a more heroic role of sorts in the eyes of the world, while it’s Jack who’s having to live in the shadows. These two seem linked, and we’re intrigued to see just how this plays out. We’re left with the impression that Jack has the measure of Oswald, but we’re not quite sure of that right now.
Bill Pullman is pitching the character of Danes really nicely here. The tinge of nastiness is never far away, but he’s acting his socks off to try and make us warm to Danes to some degree. He’s succeeding too, and in a show where many of the cast are on really, really good form, Pullman is proving to be an essential component.
Overall, there was a real sense of confidence and direction to the episode. The slowing down of things certainly helped, and while it wasn’t a simple hour of telly by any measure, Dead Of Night was a slightly more focused one. The conflicts of pretty much all of the characters are given space, while the digging to the core of what Torchwood is actually dealing with was very welcome.
But for the third week running, the highlights are what Torchwood continues to do extremely well, namely, the slower moments, where very good characters are put in extraordinary situations. It sounds a very simple thing to praise Miracle Day for, but it’s something that many, many shows get wrong.
Roll on episode four, because Miracle Day is bubbling up very nicely indeed.
Read our review of episode 2, Rendition, here.
Torchwood: Miracle Day airs on BBC1, Thursdays at 9:00pm.
Read more about Torchwood: Miracle Day here.