Torchwood: Miracle Day premiered this past Friday on Starz, and since it was on a new channel in a different country, I thought it would most likely be new viewer friendly and the perfect time to start watching. Considering I have so many friends who regularly sing the series' praises, my expectations were pretty high. I hoped to fall in love with a whole new television series. Instead, I fell asleep about halfway through it. After that my enthusiasm was way down, but I decided to give it another shot on Sunday. After the jump I will let you in on what I thought of the episode as a whole, which turned out to be slightly less sleep inducing in the second half. If you want to avoid any spoilers at all, you might want to stop reading now. I try not to give away more than I have to though.
The premise of Miracle Day is that everyone has stopped dying, which might seem like a good thing to certain, exceptionally stupid people who couldn't immediately see the eventual problems that would arise from this, but mostly just sucks because no one is actually getting better from any of the things that were supposed to kill them. For example, when Mekhi Phifer gets impaled by several metal poles, his wounds don't heal. He just doesn't die, so he's going to have to live with the excruciating pain of massive injury that should have killed him. Likewise, a nameless and faceless gunman who gets charred in an explosion to the point that he's mostly just bone and some connective tissue doesn't even die after his head is detached from the rest of his partial corpse. It's the late Jack Kevorkian's worst nightmare.
Meanwhile, an email of just the word "Torchwood" is sent to everyone in US intelligence, and then is erased, along with all electronic records pertaining to Torchwood, shortly thereafter. One intelligence officer, Esther Drummond, senses a connection between the two events and investigates by seeking out hardcopies of the Torchwood records, after which she is intercepted by Captain Jack Harkness, who, if you are unfamiliar with the show, appears to be immortal. They are attacked by the aforementioned gunman (who suffers his injuries in an explosion he causes trying to kill Jack). Then Jack gives Esther a drug called "retcon," which erases her memory of everything Torchwood related.
The above is a lot more spoilery than I usually like to be in my reviews, but it was necessary to explain all that so that I can explain why it is so utterly frustrating. You see, the next day, when Esther gets to her CIA office late, completely confused as to what happened to her the previous night, she is handed the last remaining copy of the Torchwood file by a coworker. She then mentions Torchwood to Mekhi Phifer, who calls her after letting himself out of the hospital, and he immediately figures out that since the time on the Torchwood email was the exact same time as the last recorded death there must be a connection between the two. So I ask you, what the hell was the point of showing Esther's investigation if she was going to forget everything and Mekhi Phifer's character is going to put it all together in two seconds? It wasn't that interesting. It wasn't interesting at all. Sure it introduced Jack, but frankly, Jack wasn't worth it.
That made up roughly the first half of the episode, but there was set up of other characters as well. Namely, Gwen Cooper, a member of Torchwood who is now hiding out in Wales with her husband and child, but is naturally drawn back into things by everything that is happening. I imagine fans of the series are probably going to hate me for this, but I could not stand her or her husband. Their paranoia was understandable, I guess, but mostly I just thought they were dumb. This is because when Gwen starts investigating the whole "Miracle Day" nobody dies phenomenon, her husband quickly talks her out of getting involved by positing the idea that their daughter might live forever. This is right after she is given the statistics on how quickly the world will become overcrowded and run out of food, not to mention while her father is in the hospital desperately ill but unable to die. What parents would want that kind of life for their child? I wanted to smack them.
There is also convicted rapist/murderer/pedophile Bill Pullman who fails to die by lethal injection. Despite the fact that he may have completely ruined While You Were Sleeping for me forever, he was probably the best thing about the episode because he gives the by far the best performance. And while I question a lot of the set up and legalities of what the writers are doing with the character (a problem I have with almost everything that happens in this episode), it's the one storyline that I don't think I can already guess where it is going. There are a number of possibilities, whereas everything else seems much more straightforward.
Since I noted at the start that the first half of the episode put me to sleep, I will wrap up by pointing out that the second half did get more exciting. This was probably because of all the guns and explosions. There were a ton of firearms, including rocket launchers. Is that the norm for Torchwood, or something added for US audiences? Also, I learned that Wales "is like the British equivalent of New Jersey." However, I kind of doubt that, since Mekhi Phifer's character keeps complaining that he has to pay for the bridge to get there. 1) I'm pretty sure most Americans are used to bridge tolls; and 2) everyone knows you have to pay to get out of New Jersey, not to get into it.
The big question is, after all that complaining, will I be watching the next episode? I might give it one more try. I'm willing to chalk up a lot of the episode's flaws to having to deal with a lot of set up, though I can't help but think it all could have been handled better. This episode was written by Russell T. Davies, the series' creator, but I am eager to see how Jane Espenson does when she writes an episode. She has a habit of making things much better, even when she writes an episode of a show that is already pretty great (see Game of Thrones).