This review contains spoilers.
6. The Middle Men
After the haunting ending to the last episode of Miracle Day, The Categories Of Life, The Middle Men inevitably picks up with the aftermath of the quite horrific ovens we saw for the first time. And what the episode explores is a collection of people who refuse to challenge the system, thus allowing the horrors around them to carry on as a result.
The first we’re introduced to, and perhaps the most ambiguous, is Stuart Owens, played by former Ghostbuster Ernie Hudson. He’s one of the middle men that the episode title hints at.
He’s PhiCorp’s chief operating officer, who doesn’t seem comfortable with what the company he works for is up to, but as of yet, isn’t rocking the boat. At least, not too much.
He kicks off the episode by getting a contact in Shanghai to investigate a land purchase made by PhiCorp, and what said contact sees drives him to commit suicide. We don’t see what he saw, but let’s assume it’s not nice.
Still, when confronted by Captain Jack, Owens stays close to the fence. Owens is clearly a character drawn in shades a grey, as his extra-martial affair is revealed early in the episode. His protestations that “I’m not a bad man” don’t ring entirely true, but there seems to be some truth to his keenness to get to the bottom of the miracle mystery.
Captain Jack doesn’t seem to be making much progress at all, though. Owens doesn’t have too much in the way of concrete information, and once more, we’re left with the impression that Jack has spent several weeks pretty much getting nowhere. It’s as bold as the show has been to make its most effective and authoritative character so comparably weak, and Barrowman is, as always, playing it a treat.
Jack keeps chipping away, but what he gleans from Owens is that it’s a systematic problem. PhiCorp, insists Owens, isn’t controlling the miracle, but is profiting from it. Again, there are larger forces at work here, and the bread crumbs seem to be leading back at least five years.
Still, Owens’ contribution is not without use, as he throws in “the blessing”. What is it? What’s the significance of that? Is it pointing at some kind of religious conspiracy, perhaps? That’d be a theme that Russell T Davies has played with before, and it’d be intriguing to see if it turns out to be one of the cornerstones of the Miracle Day mystery.
Also playing the middle man card is the creeping-under-your-skin Colin Maloney, who signs the paperwork, does as he’s told, and is adamant that things aren’t his fault. Yet he’s proving to be a more sinister villain than any that Miracle Day has introduced thus far, aided enormously by a tremendous performance from Marc Vann. For us, he’s proving to be the standout casting introduction of the series to date.
It’s the fact that he comes across so cowardly that makes him so effective. He dislikes confrontation, and only gains confidence when he’s got some power. And when he’s got Rex Matheson tied up, and is basically torturing him, any remaining middle man justification for his actions is utterly discarded.
Then there’s Doctor Alicia Patel. She’s firmly part of the system, and is “just following the guidelines”. That means, to Gwen Cooper, that Dr Patel won’t be recategorising her father, which basically means he’s still doomed.
The strange thing here is that Dr Patel knows damn well that those classified Category One are incinerated, and she doesn’t seek to challenge that. In many ways, she’s making the same character decisions as Colin Maloney, only she’s doing it thinking she’s keeping people safe and alive by doing so. This will not end well.
We do suspect, though, that the most important character progression of the episode was, once again, that of Esther. She seems to be on the most substantive and radical journey of all, changing from the wouldn’t-hurt-a-fly, safe and comfortable employee of The New World, to the woman who sort-of kills someone here. How far is Miracle Day going to push her, exactly?
The Middle Men, ultimately, is an episode that makes some fairly apparent points about people’s complicity being vital in perpetrating anti-human practices, and it’s not one that arrests the complaints from some that the pacing of Miracle Day is a little on the slow side.
It’s an interesting criticism, because there’s clearly something to it. The overall story arc hasn’t moved on at quite the pace we were expecting over six weeks, and yet each episode to date has been pretty much packed with work. Each time the credits roll, we’ve never felt short-changed by the show, and it has evolved a lot these past weeks. But with four episodes to go now, the foot perhaps needs to be eased a little more onto the accelerator.
Still, this was another very good hour of telly. Those yet to be convinced by Miracle Day aren’t going to have their opinions altered by it, but writer John Shiban has fashioned a tight hour here.
And he’s left some teases, too. Who is it, after all, who rings Gwen at the end, and is demanding that she deliver Jack in exchange for her loved ones? Is this the force above PhiCorp, that hasn’t been seen yet? That’s certainly the tease, and the stakes are escalating, too, and we look forward to seeing what happens next.
One final thing: someone cast Eve Myles in a big action movie. You know it makes sense.Read our review of episode 5, The Categories Of Life, here.
Torchwood: Miracle Day airs on BBC1, Thursdays at 9:00pm.
Read more about Torchwood: Miracle Day here.