Episode 2 - Rendition


456 Classification - No sensitive information revealed

So then, after last week’s hybrid beast - half season opener for the UK and fans, half pilot for the general audience in the US, I was hoping this second episode would see Torchwood picking up the pace now all the introductions were out of the way.

And indeed, we do get more action this week and best of all Captain Jack and Gwen back together and in the thick of it. However this is very much a episode of two halves, rather than continuing in the high gear that delivered up a car vs. chopper race in the closing minutes of last week, the show sort of slips back into first for the first half and restarts building the pace.

Now it does build up over the running time nicely and went it hits the half way mark the entertaining, fast paced thrills, spiced with snappy dialogue come thick and fast. However before then we have an awful lot more scene setting and slightly clunky info dumps. Now I appreciate this is a ten part serial and often in such epic length on-going stories the narrative can seem to be a bit slow and draggy for the first few episodes as it lays out all the details that the narrative is hopefully going to weave together into a satisfying gathering storm and drive towards a resounding crescendo. For an example see Game of Thrones for a recent and very brilliant example of this kind of long format story telling.

However I can’t help feeling that Miracle Day is currently falling into the trap of too often telling rather than showing. The wider and worrying consequences and implications of nobody on planet Earth dying are too often not being delivered as dramatic scenes that illustrate the points the plot is trying to make in a gripping and elegant manner. Instead Dr Vera Juarez (Arlene Tur) is being used as a kind of human coat peg to hang various scenes of anonymous medicos discussing expository detail, which is rather a shame as her character could be being used more to illustrate the catastrophe rather than just hobnob with talking heads. Now obviously there’s alot of information that needs to be communicated but we need stronger character action and situations to bring said details to life. It is still early days, but the show needs at some point to start more vividly portraying the effects of Miracle Day rather than just keep on verbally sketching them in.

Now that not to say that this episode is simple dulls bits followed by exciting stuff as there is some interesting drama going on through the first half. Without giving anything away, Oswald Danes becomes a far more intriguing figure this week, becoming a more rounded and interesting character than the sub Lecter Evil Clever Nasty Man we saw last week, with Bill Pullman getting some decent drama to sink his teeth into. Plus we get an introduction to CIA Director Brian Friedkin, played by cult favourite Wayne Knight, who is reliable as ever. And there’s also the introduction of a new face, PR agent Jilly Kitzinger (Lauren Ambrose) who looks to some one to keep a close eye on...

Of our heroes, Esther Drummond (Alexa Havins) gets promoted from audience viewpoint duties into some action of her own, whereas Rex Matheson (Mekhi Phifer) thankfully get more to do than just bark and wheeze, although his character still isn’t much more than a cookie cutter gruff tough guy at the moment. But judging by the shape of the storyline, I’m hoping next week we might get to see him become a more well rounded figure.

So then, that leaves the real star turns to come from Barrowman and Myles as Jack and Gwen. Now as I alluded to earlier, it’s great to see the old team back together and in peril again. But undoubtedly Eve Myles takes the crown this week, scoring highly in the categories of Smart, Funny and Right Hooks.

Overall, this was a much more fun outing that last week’s opener, however I still have a fair few niggles about the plotting.  It’s not operating like the well oiled mean machine that was Children of Earth, rather it has the lashed together jalopy feel of Series Two - it gets from A to B but but it’s not a smooth and stylish ride and you can feel the wheels of the script bumping over a few plot hole potholes in the road. I have other lingering questions too about how Torchwood, as an organisation is being used in this latest series, but I won’t go into these just yet as the next few weeks may pacify them or possibly exacerbate them further. So right now it’s a case of wait and see...

...Which isn’t actually a bad way of summing up my feelings on this series so far. Yes, there’s potential here but it’s for success and failure in equal measure. However there’s enough good stuff to keep me watching but at the same time I rather doubt that it’s going to scale the heights of Children of Earth as considering the first two episodes together we have a seemingly somewhat rickety first fifth. I say ‘seemingly’ for as yet we don’t know how the pieces we do have are going to fit together in the finished story. But right now, my view is that Miracle Day is proving entertaining but at the same time that old teacher favourite ‘Could do better’ keeps appearing in the margins of my mind...

Further reports to follow....

Click here to go to the report for Episode 3 - Dead of Night

JIM MOON, 21th July 2011