TORCHWOOD: MIRACLE DAY Recap: 'The Middle Man' - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

TORCHWOOD: MIRACLE DAY Recap: ‘The Middle Man’

August 13, 2011 by  

Friday’s tedious episode of TORCHWOOD: MIRACLE DAY hit several speed bumps on the road to answers. Mostly providing follow-up to last week’s incendiary hour, “The Middle Men” gave up a few clues about the mystery, while primarily demonstrating some outrageously bad spy skills and wayward logic. Let’s recap.

We spent most of the episode stuck at the San Pedro Overflow Camp, which has now been revealed to Team Torchwood as a government-sanctioned concentration camp. Rex hatches an escape plan for himself: overtake a guard and steal his uniform. While that part of the plan works, his escape is thwarted when the rest of the soldiers get suspicious about the strange face in their buddy’s hat and jacket. Oh, Rex, if only you were up against Stormtroopers.

Rex is delivered to Colin Maloney, the middle man who set Vera on fire, and is chained to a pole in an underground boiler room. Of course, Rex doesn’t know about Maloney’s murderous streak, so he tries to reason with his captor — watch my video footage of my girlfriend being torched alive, see the horror going on at this camp, and stand beside me when we are famous justice-bringers. It’s supposed to be ironic, but this sequence was mostly just awkward. Why would Rex assume that Maloney wasn’t wise to the people-burning? He was running the facility, after all. And why wouldn’t Maloney immediately destroy the video camera? The scene doesn’t end well for Rex, whose exposed heart gets the business end of Maloney’s pen.

Meanwhile, Esther’s back in the admin office, generally being a horrible spy. She is the most suspicious person ever, asking way too many questions and dropping way too many names. Maloney’s initiated a lockdown, meaning that personnel must stay at their desks, but of course this doesn’t stop Esther from trying to talk to everyone about Dr. Juarez, Rex Matheson, and Torchwood. She gets one redeeming moment when she gets the edge on Maloney in hand-to-hand combat, strangling him with her bare hands. But she quickly loses those cool points by forgetting the double-tap rule — while going back into Maloney’s pocket for the keys to unlock Rex, he comes to and turns the tables on her. Luckily, Maloney’s unwilling accomplice, Ralph, puts a finishing bullet in his boss before Esther becomes a Category One.

Jack, who was left out of the San Pedro mission, decides to investigate higher on the PhiCorp chain of command. He’s led to Stuart Owens, the PhiCorp COO. Jack reveals to Owens’s secretary/mistress that her boss is in the process of having her transferred away and is probably not leaving his wife any time soon. This is devastating for Janet, who trusts this information and agrees to help this stranger with some vigilante restaurant justice. Jack interrupts a fancy dinner between Owens and his wife, airs this guy’s dirty cheating laundry for his wife (and presumably nearby diners) to hear, and then tells him that he’s kidnapped Janet and will not let her free until he gets some answers.

Somewhere in the route from page to screen, this scene got totally lost in translation, because what follows is a civil conversation among equals, as Owens calmly tells Jack everything he knows about the Miracle. He doesn’t seem mad at all that this guy (A) just revealed his cliché secretarial affair, (B) is holding said secretary against her will somewhere, or (C) interrupted his very nice meal. Instead, he tells Jack that he’s nothing but a middle man, and that PhiCorp is, as I suggested, just doing the bidding of a much larger entity. Owens doesn’t know what this is, but he’ll share his one lead with Jack: “the blessing.”

Across the pond, Gwen is still utterly failing at getting her dad out of a Welsh overflow camp. She, too, is holding onto her cover by a thread. Last week, I overlooked her luck as the product of overflow camp inefficiency, but this week, it was kind of embarrassing that no one caught on. With the help of a silent but helpful (and real) nurse, Gwen and Rhys get her dad out of the camp.

Gwen does a quick costume change — from scrubs to black leather — and sets the whole place on fire. I’m not certain if she just killed all the people at the camp, or if her explosion was contained to the modules, but I do know that it was badass and that, like all the cool guys, she didn’t turn back to look. Never mind that without an over-the-shoulder glance, I have no idea why she needed Jack to record her lens-view — did I mention she was on a motorcycle? That explosion was also pretty risky, considering Rhys could’ve gotten held up in the rescue and been blown up, but whatever.

Gwen comes back to America to rejoin Torchwood (finally), but she’s sidetracked at the airport by a call on the courtesy phone. The message is simple: “Lenses.” In the bathroom, the mystery jerk who’s accessed her Torchwood lenses tells her he’s kidnapped her mother, husband, and (yes, people) her baby. All they want in exchange is one thing: Jack.

Overall, this episode was, I think, meant to be a cautionary tale about blindly following rules, and the evils that you perpetuate when you don’t ask questions. The real heroes in the story are people like Ralph and the nurse who quietly helped Gwen liberate her dad — people who try to do what’s right in the face of things that are unbearably wrong. But it turned out pretty clunky when our own heroes went about things totally thoughtlessly. It was really hard to root for Esther and Gwen throughout most of that episode, because they seemed incapable of thinking through a plan and carrying it out.

Also, the Miracle Day logistics are starting to fall apart now that this burning idea has been introduced. What makes baking somebody any different from crunching them into a tiny little block inside a compacted car? At the beginning of the season, the question that I hoped TORCHWOOD would ponder on wasn’t, “What is death?” It was, “What is life?” What happens to a person’s identity — or a person’s soul — when his head’s been detached from his body but his heart keeps ticking? That’s what was so terrifying about Ellis Hartley Monroe’s fate: her blinking eye in that car suggested that her soul was persevering, and to continue “living” like that was surely the definition of Hell. So for TORCHWOOD to say, “No one can die. Not ever. There is no death. Oh, until we burn you. Then you’re dead,” seems cheap. If we are truly living in a world without death, then Vera Juarez’s soul is still out there — and that’s an extremely troubling possibility that I’d hate to see ignored.

With four episodes left, it’s also time for them to start pushing out answers. The chase is starting to get tedious, and the truths are being meted out far too slowly. All we got this week in terms of forward motion on the mystery was the word “blessing.” I need more.

Also, I need for Anwen to be okay—if a hair on that kid’s nearly-bald head is touched, I will revolt. Luckily, the only person madder about her capture than me is her mom, and let’s hope she’s ready to conduct a more efficient rescue mission this time.

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3 Responses to “TORCHWOOD: MIRACLE DAY Recap: ‘The Middle Man’”

  1. distracted on August 15th, 2011 6:31 am

    I haven’t watched this episode yet (tonight hopefully), but for me, the burning thing still leaves the question open. If you can have your head severed off and remain alive and feel pain, how would be burned alive be different? It’s horrific to think. I doesn’t solve the how to deal with people who are dead but living question, but it does remove them from view.

    Maybe PhiCor/evil overlord need their ashes for something. Yuck.

  2. Allie on August 15th, 2011 9:39 am


    Jane Espenson, one of the writers, tweeted that “burning means you really really are dead.” (!/JaneEspenson/status/101759723438751744)

    I agree with you that it’s an issue worthy of discussion–and maybe it will come. I found it a little frustrating for Rex to just accept that this guy killed Vera, when in my opinion, via the miracle logistics presented, she’s suffering a fate far worse than death.

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