‘Torchwood: Miracle Day': Episode 5 spoiler-free review

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If you’re expecting answers and resolutions after last week’s electric showdown then you may want to recalibrate your expectations.

SPOILER WARNING FOR EPISODE 4…

The hints of The Families, who “they” were (remember, they’re everywhere) and the miracles to come take a back seat in this episode, leading to even more questions and mysteries.

In fact, last week’s Man In Black (80s pretty boy C. Thomas Howell) is completely absent here as is any reference to him, while last week’s woman of the hour, the ‘Dead Is Dead’ campaign’s recently-compacted Ellis Hartley Monroe, is also conspicuously unmentioned. So, as quickly as the writers did, let’s move on.

Jane Espenson’s ‘The Categories of Life’ wastes no time in introducing us to the titular “categories” – the administrative way the governments are now dealing with those who “died”. Captain Jack and the gang are more than suspicious of the scheme and the “overflow camps” – especially as those involved seem to be going to great lengths to hide certain parts of the camps, referred to as “modules” – leading them to infiltrate and discover just what is going on.

Joining the newly-formed Torchwood team in their attempts to unravel the truth is Doctor Juarez (played with her usual blandness by Arlene Tur) as she travels from Washington to LA, but departing is Gwen, who has popped back to Wales to find her father, last seen by Rhys being taken to an overflow camp.

Now, without wanting to get bogged-down in plot holes, after Episode 1 where we witnessed how closely Gwen was being monitored, we’re meant to believe that she can just fly back into a major airport without being detected? (Even under a false name?). We won’t even start on the fact that Rhys’ name remains unchanged; a tad lazy (considering they’d made such a big play of it in the series opener).

Anyway, Juarez meets camp administrator, and Phil Collins fan, Colin Maloney (Marc Vann) who looks like he’s straight of a comic book and displays the kind of sexism not seen on the small screen in a very long time. Maloney is larger than life and appears to take nothing seriously, which neatly juxtaposes the wealth of misery and death surrounding his job. He’s also been a bad boy, trying to keep under budget at the cost of humanity.

The administrator-turned-bastard is a familiar trope in the work of showrunner Russell T Davies, as is the notion of the governments ruling life and death over the population (see Children of Earth). All rather chilling. As is the revelation of the “modules”; though those paying attention will have sussed it out before its shocking reveal.

Keeping up the lighter side are the terrific twosome of Jilly Kitzinger (the superb Lauren Ambrose) and child-killer Oswald Danes (the magnetic Bill Pullman). Thankfully we’re shown that Danes isn’t quite loved by all and Kitzinger is back to giving him the cold shoulder again, bossing him around. Pullman is sensational in the final scenes, delivering a speech to 20,000 at a ‘Miracle Rally’ where he proclaims his own theory on the miracle (which could be a lie, however) and once again demonstrates he’s more than a little bit nuts.

Like the previous instalments, the pace and tone jump in the oddest of fashions, pitting the grotesquely serious and horrid up against laughs and fun. There’s also some amazingly clunky dialogue like “officialdom gone mad” and “Category One is bad, right?” with a poorly directed (and motivated) scene that awkwardly sparks the three-way finale. Halfway through the series and Miracle Day is still threatening to become brilliant, but it’s not promising.

Airs at 9pm on Thursday 11th August 2011 on BBC One (UK) and at 10pm on Friday 5th August 2011 on Starz (US).

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