I’m pleased to call this episode of Torchwood an improvement of sorts. Well, with exceptions. The Middle Men picks up after Vera’s burning, and team Torchwood look a tad beaten, if we’re honest.
Except Jack. While everyone’s been busy infiltrating concentration camps, Harkness has been digging up dirt on PhiCorp’s COO. Leveraging the man’s secretary – who, of course, is having an affair with her boss – Jack politely ambushes Stuart Owens (played by former Ghostbuster Ernie Hudson) at a restaurant having a meal with his wife.
When Jack blackmails the secretary in the bar, it’s 50% ballsy and also 50% cheesy. There was really no indication that Jack has been doing anything useful for the last few episodes. So seeing him doing something as sophisticated as hacking into a corporate network and digging up a convenient affair is a bit much to stomach. But it gets worse.
Jack’s approach to Stuart is unsubtle in the extreme. He essentially exposes Stuart’s affair in front of his wife. What’s shocking is that after the wife storms off, Stuart doesn’t rush off after her – he sits and calmly discusses his thoughts on Miracle Day. Now, the notion that the ‘miracle’ has been planned for quite some time is intriguing, as is Stuart’s idea that even PhiCorp is a bit player in a much larger conspiracy. This introduces a much-needed extra level of complexity to the storyline, which will probably tap into the mysterious strangers with the triangles in their satnav systems!
It’s just that the emotional response from Stuart isn’t right. I mean, wouldn’t you be pissed off at the guy who just exposed your affair? And why did his wife call security (and military security, at that) to have Jack removed after discovering her husband was unfaithful?
The emotional disconnect doesn’t end there, either. Gwen tries to reason with a doctor in order to get her father downgraded from Category 1. However, this ‘conversation’ turns into yet another extended rant at authority/bureaucracy. What’s shocking is that the doctor doesn’t talk to Gwen like she’s the relative of a ‘terminally ill’ patient. She’s officious, unhelpful and utterly unsympathetic. The problem here is that I understand what the scene was meant to achieve (people sanctioning inhumane, horrible actions while separated from them by a wall of red tape), but surely people insulate themselves from these things precisely because they know they’re involved in something morally wrong? So from that point of view, I don’t understand the doctor’s response. Or Gwen’s pseudo-political ranting.
Also in Gwen-land, the worst secret-agent ever finally gets her father out of the overflow camp. Helped of course by Rhys, who can walk around tightly guarded bases with incredible nonchalance. Not content with that, she shares a prolonged kiss with Rhys, just as he’s about to get collared by a bureaucrat and two armed soldiers. And then super-smart Gwen ditches a perfectly good nurse’s disguise for a bloody obvious espionage outfit! Oh, and then she blows up the incinerators on the base. Which, when you think about it, probably had Category 1 patients inside who probably also got blown to pieces.
Oh well, at least she saved her own dad. The selfish bitch.
Bizarrely, the only person to have a semi-authentic emotional moment is Rex, suffering incredible remorse after watching Vera die. Which is really funny, because the two were essentially just casually bucking each other. But then nobody wants to see their girlfriend flame-grilled.
And Rex and Vera were such a well-matched couple. When trapped alone in a room with psychotic Colin, both reveal every aspect of their plans to him. Sadistic Colin tortures Rexy for a bit before Esther comes along and, y’know, chokes him to death.
End result? Torchwood gets all the video evidence uploaded to the Internet. End result? Nobody really cares. The government brazenly declares that they intend to keep runnning the incineration scheme because it’s frankly the best option they have. And people don’t seem to be pumped about this enough to complain. Not even the ones who probably have Category 1 relatives. Even though Rex proves that you can transition between Category 1 and 2.
And finally…Gwen is contacted by a mysterious person who’s kidnapped her family. But he doesn’t want Gwen…he wants Jack. Well…we guessed that all along. But why wait this long to kidnap Rhys, Gwen’s mum and the baby? They could’ve done that weeks ago.
In other, actually final news, RTD dumps in yet another random cult. Like those people with the creepy masks a few weeks back, there’s now a cult of people who jump from the 45th floor of high-rise buildings. Hmmm. Why 45 floors? And why haven’t the cities stepped up security on high-rise buildings? My guess is that this is another one of those passing fads, it feels like a conceit left over from Davies’ days on Doctor Who, and it doesn’t quite work in this context – it’s yet more filler in an already overstuffed series.