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Torchwood – Season 4 – Miracle Day

WARNING: series ends with a cliff hanger (-_-). I prefer to think of Torchwood, season 4 as “Torchwood USA”. The season was co-produced by BBC One and the Starz network making it notably different from other Torchwood seasons, but not the full on American remake it was planned to be. Minor spoilers contained within the recap.

Recap

One day, which would become known as Miracle Day, everyone on Earth became immortal. More accurately, no one could die. The patient zero for the event that became known as the “Miracle” was Oswald Danes (Bill Pulman), a pedophile and murderer who was sentenced to death for his crimes. After receiving a lethal injection, he didn’t die and the world became alerted to what was happening. At the same time, the CIA and every other intelligence organization across the world gets a singular message: “Torchwood”. Soon after that, Captain Jack Harkness returns to the planet and just in time to be hunted by the authorities. What makes that even more inconvenient is the fact that while everyone else on Earth is now immortal, Jack is now mortal. The entire world is trying to figure out what’s happening and Torchwood is back in the sights of the world’s authorities. They even come after Gwen and Rhys, who were still living remotely with their little girl after being branded as fugitives in season 3. Specifically, they attract the attention of CIA agent Rex Matheson. Rex has a particular interest in getting to the bottom of the Miracle because he was run through the chest by rebar and survived. He believes that Torchwood is connected to the Miracle somehow and takes them into custody. However, when he arrives back in America, he’s betrayed by his supervisor and almost taken along with Jack and Gwen. Rex is informed by his long time friend and CIA analyst, Esther Drummond (Alexa Havins) that there’s someone in the CIA that that’s set both of them up.

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Rex also has a relationship with a Dr. Vera Juarez, who is at the medical forefront of the Miracle crisis. She’s a friend of Rex’s who’s helping manage his pain as he continues to try to work. Vera ends up joining a huge medical panel that’s trying to figure out how to handle the changing world. She also uses the medical panel to help Rex save Jack by Apollo 13-ing a poison antidote to a poison that Jack is given by a CIA agent which, I think, was the best scene of the entire season which was also in the best episode of the season (episode 2). Meanwhile, Danes starts to appear on television shows and becomes a big focal point for the Miracle. His rise to stardom makes him an influential figure in the events that are transpiring, because he can influence public opinion. Despite his importance, Danes is still treaty pretty terribly by people in his day-to-day life because of his crimes. Both Vera and Danes are approached by Jilly Kitzinger (Lauren Ambrose). Kitzinger is approaching people who are influential in this new world seemingly to ride their coattails as an informant or PR person so that she can be successful. Eventually, she gets Danes and PhiCorp to bring her on and, later, she gets the attention of the people who are truly behind the Miracle.

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Torchwood recruits Esther and Rex to help them investigate the Miracle. Their preliminary investigation  points them towards a pharmaceutical company called PhiCorp, which seems to have been stock piling drugs in preparation for the Miracle. However, with no one to turn to and disagreements on how to proceed, the team has to take some time to actually evaluate their situation; especially the newly mortal Jack who hasn’t had time to really reconnect with Gwen after leaving the planet. There’s also the issue that Esther is an analyst and not an actual field agent. Eventually, they get back on track at investigating PhiCorp and Jack realizes that Danes has become a spokesman for PhiCorp behind the scenes, using his position to further their sales. However, even Danes realizes that the people who want to make him important are going to great lengths to keep their anonymity. Jack comes to Danes and recognizes that he doesn’t truly want to live after killing a child, something that Jack can empathize with. Jack offers Danes the chance to die in exchange for helping them. Danes declines at first, but would eventually come around.

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As Torchwood continues their investigation, the world continues to try to deal with its new reality. The medical panels create “categories of life”, which give doctors the ability to basically classify people that “should” be dead. Those people are shipped off to camps for containment. Secretly, those people are being burned alive. Gwen ends up back in England where she and Rhys stage an attack on one such facility in order to save Gwen’s father. Back in the states, Vera and Esther infiltrate a camp where Vera (and eventually Rex) find the human incinerators and Rex films as he watches them burn people alive. As the Torchwood investigation continues, they continue to find middlemen and not answers. Even when he gets to the head of PhiCorp, he finds a man who’s trying to find out what exactly is going on. All the exec has figured out is that the people controlling the Miracle are completely hidden and subtle and that they’re interested in something called the blessing. When they figure that out Gwen’s spy contacts are hacked and a message is sent demanding Jack in exchange for her family’s safety. Actually, all of the Torchwood member’s families come under attack as they get closer to the truth.

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However, that particular message comes from the family of Angelo Colasanto, a former lover of Jack’s and the one man that Jack actually considered is companion (ala the Doctor). Jack met Angelo in the 20’s but was eventually forced to leave him by faking his own death (Angelo didn’t know he was immortal at the time). Since then, Angelo had become wealthy and had a family. That family was now bringing Jack in to keep him safe and give him a clue as to the nature of the Miracle. It also allows him to say goodbye to a dying Angelo, the first man to die since the miracle. The Torchwood team finds out that everything has been caused by a group referred to as the “Three Families”. The Families were immensely wealthy and, for generations, have controlled major facets of the world from the shadows. Their patriarchs were three men that witnessed Jack’s immortality as he was murdered over and over again back in his past with Angelo. Since then, they agreed to work toward immortality, using his blood. Now, their families are working not just toward immortality, but rebuilding the world.

They found a way to use Jack’s blood with the Blessing. The Blessing is a pole that runs through the earth from Buenos Aires to Shanghai and is the focus of a morphic field that covers the entire Earth. What that means is that it can be used to affect everyone on Earth at once. After collecting Jack’s blood in the past, they fed it into the Blessing, which caused the miracle. Probably the most unexpected thing about the Blessing is that it isn’t alien, it’s actually part of the Earth. No one really knows what the Blessing truly is, including Jack but they figure out that the solution to their problems involves Jack’s blood. So, they come up with the idea to feed Jack’s now mortal blood back into the Blessing. It takes some doing but, with some trickery and a blood transfusion, the Torchwood team is able to get Jack’s blood into both ends of the Blessing and undo the Miracle. The victory does come with some losses. The season ends with the Torchwood members attending a funeral only to be attacked by a former rogue CIA agent. Rex is shot in the exchange but wakes up the same way that Jack normally does, presumably given immortality by the events of the season.

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Episodes

  1. The New World
  2. Rendition
  3. Dead of Night
  4. Escape to L.A.
  5. The Categories of Life
  6. The Middle Men
  7. Immortal Sins
  8. End of the Road
  9. The Gathering
  10. The Blood Line

Chronology

By the time this season of Torchwood premiered, an entire season with a new Doctor (the 10th Doctor, played by Matt Smith) had already come and gone. Without strong production ties to the regular BBC Doctor Who production, the chronology of this series is less apparent and less important. However, it appears that the events of season 4 occur after the Doctor Who season 5 Christmas Special, “A Christmas Carol”, and are resolved before Doctor Who season 6 episode 11, “The God Complex”. Still, given the global nature of the events of this season, it’s unlikely that there was any true tie in to Doctor Who. Just because the events of Torchwood would’ve had to come up on that show whenever they were on Earth.

Commentary

UUUUUUUUUUGGGGGHHHHHHH. This was, in all likelihood, the last season of Torchwood. What makes that especially bad is that they ended it with a cliffhanger. There is a slight possibility that the project may be revived in some form at some point but, for now, it looks like this is it. What an unfortunate way to end the series. The season itself wasn’t terrible, but it felt like the show tried too hard to reproduce the success they had with the 3rd season. Similar to that one, this season tried to tell one consistent story. However, this had to be stretched over 10 episodes instead of just 5. It seemed like that led to 8 episodes of wandering around in the dark and investigating the ramifications of a world were no one can die, and 2 episodes where they tried to wrap everything up. On top of that, I don’t think they really did a great job of explaining what was actually going on. It seemed like a bit of “space magic” that caused the whole thing, but that could’ve just been a side-effect of the season needing a 2nd part.

It’s probably just as well that this is the end of the series though. After so much time and so much change, Gwen and Jack are the only two members of Torchwood remaining. That is, unless you count Rhys as a Torchwood member. I guess he has earned that designation by this point, but he’s still not an original member. By the same token, the season tried to add Rex and Esther as new members of the team, without really having them be brought into the fold. Instead, they were more like accomplices brought on by necessity. Even at the end of the series, they were separated from Gwen and Jack. The good thing is that it allowed for a lot of interaction between Jack and Gwen, which is always highlight of the show. Despite what the show was telling me, I had a hard time viewing them as actual members of Torchwood. Even so, I did enjoy what they brought to the show. Maki Phifer was able to make Rex someone who could stand toe to toe with the other Torchwood members on screen and maintain some of the show’s trademark humor. While Esther gave us someone that we could care about because she wasn’t terribly jaded already. The one character that I didn’t care for was Oswald Danes, the child rapist and murderer turned public figure.

Even though I didn’t like Danes, he was a symptom of what this season did really well; investigating the less glamorous aspects of worldwide immortality. The fact that people can’t die no matter how much they’re injured raises a lot of questions and disturbing scenarios. For instance, people have to live with horrific injuries like Rex’s chest wound or the poor guy who was caught in the middle of an explosion. Given that reality, how would hospitals adjust how they worked and would pain killers become more valuable especially considering that people are still aging? What would happen to diseases and viruses as they continued to incubate in human beings that cant’ die? Then there was the issue of the world becoming overpopulated and running out of resources, leading to the creation of death camps. Danes represented the idea of people’s search for meaning in a world that was suddenly turned on its head. That’s the kind of stuff in this season that was sometimes horrifying, sometimes comical, but really interesting.

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This is a case where I feel like one aspect of something makes it sound like I’m being overly critical of something that I did enjoy. There were lots of fun moments in this, like Gwen trying to use an American accent and some of the back and forth between Jack and Rex. The season turned out to be entertaining while it was happening, even if the ending was disappointing. With that in mind, it’s really only something that should be watched if you’re an absolutely hardcore Torchwood fan. Because, the only thing that you’ll get out of it is the chance to see Rhys, Gwen and Jack back together on screen. Otherwise, it’s a decent season, but really more of an American-style mini-series featuring the Torchwood characters, instead of an actual Torchwood season. Gone are the days of a secret base with pet pterodactyl’s flying around, replaced with investigations of the macabre side of human nature. Even though the format and change in production does allow for a lot of recognizable American guest stars, that split identity is likely to leave you feeling a little bit unsatisfied as a casual fan and confused if you’re not a fan. Which is really unfortunate because the story of everyone in the world becoming immortal and how they deal with it is actually a pretty good story and not terribly executed. I’d almost rather it have been another spinoff and not a Torchwood story.

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