The Torchwood chappies in “Escape To L.A.”

Before we launch into the first Torchwood review in a fortnight, I realised something unusual tonight: I’d rather be watching anything else than this series right now.

It was that sweeping shot down Venice Beach. I had an overwhelming urge to go and watch an episode of Californication. Gratuitous sex, funny, messed-up characters and at least half an hour shorter than an episode of Torchwood. It would have been a huge improvement. And then I saw that trailer for the new season of Spartacus, which reminded me that Starz can churn out epic-quality entertainment when they want to.

Anyhow, with all of that said, Escape To L.A. was an improvement of sorts over last week’s Torchwood. Esther screws up royally when she visits her sister, only to discover she was followed by a hitman which compromises a mission for Jack and Gwen. Which – naturally – draws harsh criticism from Rex, because Esther visiting her relative was totally stupid and dangerous and did I mention stupid? Now, what else does super CIA agent Rex do during this episode? Oh, that’s right, he visits his own father. Twat.

However, watching both Esther and Rex attempt to contact their family a third of the way into the season comes off as a bit banal. I understand Rex has a strained relationship with his father, but Esther went off the grid and suddenly she remembers her sister and nieces? Meh.

Oswald Danes continues to intrigue me while still being utterly repellant. Firstly, he’s done some Googling around the mysterious Phicorp and recognizes the lengths they’ve gone to to hide their background online. But he’ll happily work with them for the time being, even if he’s suspicious of their motives.

Danes is almost ousted in the public eye by an imflamatory Tea Party members’ Dead Is Dead campaign, which is striving to segregate the “Shoulda-Been-Dead” people from the rest of society. The infuriating woman seems to turn up and steal all his interview opportunities. So, Oswald raises the stakes by walking into an “Overflow Camp” – the latest development in how the Miracle Day universe handles sick and vulnerable patients – in order to visit the people there and show sympathy for their cause. It’s not necessarily that Danes feels for these people, but the fame he gains from it acts as a buffer for the beatings he’d receive if he was a regular member of the public. We saw this last week as two policemen beat him up in a secluded alley.

However, was anyone else slightly sick at the sight of Danes holding up the baby girl who’d been abandoned at the hospital? The image of the convicted sexual predator being the only person to give a damn about a baby – whether his motives were pure or not – was repulsive. But was it as repulsive as the parents who abandoned her in the first place, or the medical staff who’d largely ignored her? There was an interesting point being raised there, I think.

The Torchwood Two (aka Jack and Gwen) went on a mission to rob some information from a Phicorp data center. Oh how I laughed at Gwen fiddling with CAT5 cable in a switching box and Jack thrusting blade servers into a cabinet with (dare I say) gay abandon! Let’s overlook the fact that Gwen’s a glorified copper for a minute – where the hell would she learn about data cabling? They were the most efficient server admin team I’ve ever seen. If Torchwood never reforms, they’ve got jobs for life as sysadmins!

EVERYTHING about Jack and Gwen’s storyline was ludicrous – from the masquerading as a cutesy American couple to steal biometric information from a Phicorp exec to the risible scene in the server room where both ended up tied to the server cabs with the aforementioned CAT5 cables! And to add insult to injury, Rex walks in an shoots their captor in the throat, just as he’s about to reveal the very names of his mysterious bosses!

As I said, Escape To L.A. was an improvement. But it still kinda sucked.

Why do we keep watching? Probably for the thin strands of conspiracy that we can read in each episode. Even though a lot of what was exposed in this episode was delivered through a curiously loose-tongued hitman. We know that whoever’s behind this miracle is connected to Jack, and “They are always. They are no one. They are everywhere.” And presumably they communicate through animated triangles built into car dashboards. (Shades of The Sontaran Stratagem there, Doctor Who fans?)

But even at that, I find myself groaning at the bogus, vague ‘clues’ that were being dropped in this episode. Torchwood has become incredibly contrived. I’ll leave you with a quotable from Alan Sepinwall:

More and more, “Miracle Day” is starting to feel like “24” in a couple of key ways:

First, it’s allegedly one continuous story, but Russell T. Davies doesn’t have quite enough material to fill out the long running time, so we get these weird self-contained missions and one-shot villains, like Dichen Lachmann…[truncated]

And second, it’s trying to make a bunch of political points in the middle of a serialized action thriller, and is making them in an incredibly obvious, ham-fisted style…here’s a case where I imagine I agree with a number of Davies’ positions in the abstract, yet cringe at the way he presents them here.

Does anyone else feel that Torchwood is slowly committing televisual suicide right before our eyes?

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    1. Gerard McGarry

      There’s a reason why you’ll never see Matt Smith’s Doctor in an episode of Torchwood and that’s down to licensing. Likewise the Daleks. Purely a Doctor Who creation, I seriously doubt that they’ll allow the Daleks to cross over to another show. I think that’s why the Slitheen and Judoon can show up on the Sarah Jane Adventures, but not more classic monsters.

      Oh, I should have noted that they’re starting to drop in geeky Doctor Who references now: like the “bigger on the inside” in the warehouse last week. And Jack introducing himself as John Smith in the latest episode.

  1. Tam McLaughlin

    Regarding the data centre. I also had to laugh:

    1. I did not recognise the “blue” disks. I thought netapp but not sure.

    2. They listed the disk arrays without much trouble

    3. They seemed to have a lot of DEAD disks with red LEDS

    4. No flashing LEDS

    5. When the CIA guy fell against the cabiner, it shook a little.

    6. Who uses monochrome displays these days with running programs on display

    7. coloured cat 5 cable for different cabinets?

    8. it all looked the same, not that I have worked in many data centres, but I am sure there are a mix of storage arrays

  2. jefft

    So they spent the whole episode doing “Mission Impossible” to find out the name of ‘Overflow Camps’, then they call Rhys :who tells them in his first sentence?

    And did the shot guy look dead to anyone? Shouldnt he have been wandering around with his gun , pointing at his throat and holding up ‘Ill get you for that!’ placards?




  3. pirho

    Well he was still twitching.  I really hope Miracle day has already been filmed in full, it doesnt look like its going to last.

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