Review: Torchwood: Miracle Day 4.04: Escape to L.A.

By Heather S. Vina

[spoilers ahead]

Story: Jim Gray
Teleplay: Jim Gray & John Shiban

Recap: The episode opens with Esther going to visit her sister, Sarah (Candace Brown), and nieces. The house is boarded up, with “Keep Out” painted on the outside and half a dozen locks on the door. Esther manages to get her sister to open the door but only as far as the safety chain will take it. Esther tells her that she’s going away for a while, but she’ll be back. She just wants to make sure that the girls are okay. Her sister refuses to let her in, or let her see the girls. She’s obviously a paranoid person and Miracle Day has just exacerbated it. Esther ends up being forced away in tears without being able to see her nieces. Heartbroken, she sits outside the house and calls Social Services to report two children in danger. When she drives away, we see a man – a hunter – (C. Thomas Howell) watching and then following her. Oh, Esther.

Television news reports that health care is reaching a state of crisis and that lawsuits are getting out of hand. Ellis Hartley Monroe (Mare Winningham) is calling herself the “speaker for the living”, with her campaign, “Dead is Dead”. Pharmaceutical companies are recording record profits and PhiCorp is pledging a “payback” scheme in LA.

The gang arrives in Venice Beach, California, after a cross-country road trip. Gwen is excited to see the beach and ocean, and convinces Jack to let them set up headquarters on the beach. They’re planning on checking out PhiCorp headquarters in LA.

Rex calls Juarez and asks her about the “Dead is Dead” campaign and where he can get some pain relievers in LA. They flirt a little and she briefly lets him in on Ellis’ campaign. Once she hangs up with him, she checks out an abandoned hospital that the corporation wants to open for housing all of the hospitals’ excess emergency patients. One doctor points out that this plan to put the emergency patients in and close the doors is what they use to call a “plague ship”, but the administrator lady tells him that this is what they’ve always done and they need to do something about the health care system.

The gang set up headquarters in a semi-rundown room on the beach. Jack pays the landlord cash to keep his mouth shut about them and let them know if anyone asks about them. Esther makes plans to order the server that they need and Gwen takes a call from Rhys. She plays down the beauty of the beach, the good weather, and where they are staying. She asks him to get her father out of the hospital, but Rhys tells her that it’s impossible; no one is allowed to move. She pleads with him to do something. Meanwhile, the hunter takes pictures of her and receives a phone call from the mystery organization with the triangle. He lets them know that he has located Torchwood.

Jack is watching a clip of Oswald. Gwen points out that he’s obsessed with him. Jack points out that Oswald is in the middle of it and things seem to be starting to revolve around him. Jack means to find out what is going on.

Oswald is now in a cushy hotel room, paid for by PhiCorp. Jilly visits and tells him that PhiCorp wants her to stick with him full-time. She reveals her dislike for him and tells him she can’t forget what he did, but will do her job. Oswald tells Jilly that he looked up PhiCorp on the internet. He realized that they are hiding themselves on a massive scale. He wonders why. He’s about to head off for an interview, when Jilly tells him that he was canceled and replaced by Ellis Hartley Monroe. Ellis believes that the dead should stay dead and that they’re draining the resources from the living. She’s campaigning to round up all of the “dead” people and separate them from the rest of society, keeping the living safe from them.

Esther has a little moment with Rex where she gently tries to encourage him to visit his family in LA, before he shouts at her and shuts her down. He’s put out by Ellis’ campaign about the “dead” and her belief that death will eventually find them.

Rex goes to visit his father, who can’t seem to stand his son. He’s paranoid and has stockpiled stolen pain pills. Dad blames the government and CIA for Miracle Day, and has no liking or affection for his son. To say that these two have a bitter and estranged relationship would be an understatement.

Back at Torchwood HQ, the gang discuss their plan to steal the PhiCorp server that contains all of the classified and encrypted info on Miracle Day and their plans for it, and replace it with the server that they bought. It’s the only way that they can try and decrypt it. They will fire-damage it so that PhiCorp will think the info is lost, rather than stolen. The problem is that only one man has access to the server via biometrics: the man who designed it, Nicholas Frumkin (Kelvin Yu). It’s a voiceprint, palm print, and iris recognition security design.

Rex comes up with a plan to get their hands on Frumkin’s biometrics. It involves Jack and Gwen pretending to be a married American couple. Gwen does a hilarious American accent that involves the use of the word “awesome” a lot. Fawning over Nicholas and his wife’s baby, they manage to get a palm print from him, a picture of his irises, and his voice saying his name. Clever plan and quite a funny scene. At Comic-Con, Alexa teased Eva about her American accent. Eva gave it a whirl on the panel, but watching this scene was even funnier. She was so awkward with it. It’s nice to see the normally expert Gwen kind of flub something!

Juarez is appalled at the state of the abandoned hospital, which is now filled with patients and getting fuller by the day. There’s an abandoned baby in the sick ward and there’s no paperwork with her. Juarez complains to the woman in charge, who shrugs it off. Both women are distracted by a press conference going on in front of the hospital, with Ellis Hartley Monroe. She approves of the hospital, where the people are locked up and pressed in like sardines, because there they pose no “danger to society”.

Jilly and Oswald drive up. It turns out that the press was there for him, but Ellis has taken it over. Oswald demands that Jilly put it right, because he’s not going back to the doghouse. He sees a news brief on the limo TV, saying that Ellis’ message is overtaking him and his message, and makes a decision. He walks into the hospital ward. The press turn away from Ellis and focus on him instead. He makes a speech to the people in the ward, taking off his hospital mask and claming that he’s the “same” as them, that he won’t abandon them or rest until they are taken care of. The press shout after him. His speech makes it up on the internet, overwhelming Ellis’ message and impressing a lot of people, especially when Oswald picks up the crying baby and comforts her.

I don’t know if the baby was just really squirmy, or Bill Pullman isn’t good with children, or he was just trying to show Oswald being a little awkward with a child. But either way, he held that baby strangely. She sure was a cutie, though, as she waved at everyone when he held her up!

Ellis is ticked off and gets into her limo, saying she refuses to share a screen with Oswald. She is handed a cup of coffee that ends up being drugged and she passes out. Her driver presses a button on the car’s GPS/Control screen and the mysterious triangle shows up.

The hunter ambushes Frumkin in his car. The hunter manages to get his voiceprint, palm print, and iris print. He gets the latter two by cutting them off of the poor guy.

The gang put their plan into place. Rex whines about not being the one involved in the active part of the mission. When he goes to check the road, Esther calls Social Services about her sister and family. She’s horrified to find out that the kids were taken away. She thought Social Services would work with her sister to keep the family together. The social worker says that they tried, but they had to remove the kids and admit Sarah to a psych ward. Considering the way that her sister was when she visited, I’m surprised that Esther is so surprised at this turn of events. If Sarah wouldn’t let her own sister in, she wasn’t going to let Social Services in, or respond well to them trying to involve themselves in her house and her life.

Gwen gets into the PhiCorp building under the guise of being there for a training session. Esther hacks into the phones. She approves Gwen’s entry into the building when the security guard calls and checks on it. She then does the same thing for Jack, when he claims to be a deliveryman delivering a shredder to Human Resources. Both Jack and Gwen head on up and meet upstairs.

Jack sets the fire alarms off. The building starts being evacuated. Gwen uses the biometrics that they stole from Frumkin. She and Jack make it into the server room.

Rex notices Esther’s tears and asks her what’s wrong. He’s ticked off that Social Services have her number, but she angrily tells him that she rerouted it and it’s anonymous. She then tells him that she’s the one who reported her sister.

Gwen receives a call from Rhys, who tells him that he’s made plans to move her dad, but doesn’t tell her where. She’s distracted because she’s in the process of removing the server. She tells him to do it and to give their daughter a kiss for her. Jack takes off with the server. Gwen starts making moves to attach the old one.

Rex sympathizes with Esther’s pain for maybe a minute before he finds out that she went to see her sister. He blasts her for her carelessness, telling her that she could have been followed. He calls her an idiot and tells her that she compromised the security of the entire mission. Considering this is the guy who went to see his dad, he’s being a bit of a hypocrite. And an ass.

But alas, he’s also right, as the hunter comes up behind Gwen and knocks her out. Jack goes to the truck to put the server in. He finds the security guard in the back, strangled. He realizes that Gwen is in danger and rushes upstairs to help her, but ends up being knocked out by the hunter, too. Seeing this through Gwen’s contacts, Rex screams at Esther that this is all her fault and then rushes off to help them.

Rex has to run up 33 flights of stairs. The elevators are shut down because of the fire alarm, causing him a lot of pain. Ha.

The hunter tells Jack and Gwen that Miracle Day has been hard on a killer like him. He says that he is supposed to kill Jack, but it’s nice to see that there’s still a mortal man left in the world. He’s curious and wants to know why they want Jack dead, the only true “human” left. Jack tells him that he doesn’t know. Gwen asks the hunter whom he is working for. The hunter tells Jack that “they” told him it was a “very long time ago” and asks him if he remembers. Jack wants to know who “they” are. The hunter threatens to slit Gwen’s throat unless Jack tells him, but Jack can’t tell him what he doesn’t know.

The hunter eases off Gwen, and tells Jack that “they” trusted him enough to tell him that Jack is “very special” to them. He tells them that he hears rumours of “miracles yet to come,” of a “new society being forged on earth,” and he’d like to guarantee his place there. He wants to know what Jack gave them, so long ago, but Jack has no idea what he’s talking about. Considering how many lifetimes Jack has lived, in how many different times and how many different worlds, that’s not that surprising.

Gwen asks him again whom he is working for. The hunter tells Gwen that Torchwood will never stop them: “For this is who they certainly are. They are everywhere. They are always. They are no one. They have been waiting for such a long time. Searching the world for a specific geography.” Jack asks him what that means. The hunter tells him it means that they found it.

The hunter pulls out a gun and aims it at Gwen, who asks again who they are. He tells her that they once had names, “long ago”, but just as he’s about to tell her those names, Rex comes in, firing, and shoots the hunter several times. Gwen yells at him that he was just about to give them the names and Rex shot him in the throat. Alas, she doesn’t condemn him nearly as much he would have her, if she had done the same thing.

Newscasters all over the world talk about Oswald’s moment with the hospital and the baby. They ask if he is becoming the voice of the people: “Is he the one true representative of this miracle age?”

Jilly praises Oswald for what he’s done, crowing about the fact that he’s trending and replacing Ellis Hartley Monroe now, instead of the other way around.

A TV reporter says that they contacted Ellis Hartley Monroe’s office for a statement, but that her office said that she won’t be making any statements for the “foreseeable future”. That’s probably because she’s currently gagged and tied up in her limo. The triangle of “them” shows up on her limo screen, and a voice comes over to “apologize” to her for this. It tells her that if things had been different, they could have been friends. It hopes it’s some consolation, at the end. “The end” being a car compactor, which she and her car are currently being lifted into.

The voice goes on and tells her that they liked her style, but they already have Oswald and don’t need her. Certain “aspects” of her strategy were “revealing our hand, just a little too soon.” They’ve been planning it so carefully and for so long. “Because we are everywhere. We are always. We are no one. And soon, the Families will rise.”

The screen winks out as Ellis’ car is compacted. But she’s not dead, because this is Miracle Day and, no matter how horrifically you are mangled or your body is destroyed, people don’t die, anymore.

Jack thanks Rex for saving his life. Rex claims that he was just saving Gwen. Esther apologizes again and Rex snottily tells her it was her “final warning”. And really, Mr. Hypocrite Ass, really? It would have been nice if Gwen or Jack had told him to back off.

Rex asks Jack if he has thought any more of what the hunter said. Jack tells him that “it’s not that easy when you’ve lived thousands of years.” Rex scoffs at his claim, disbelieving him. When are Rex and Esther going to realize, accept, and/or learn about who Jack really is?

Anyways, Esther manages to break into the first part of the computer, and discovers land prices that are all linked to a set of construction plans for “overflow camps” for all of the patients in hospital ICUs. They are taking over those patients, as if they own them. Rhys calls Gwen and she apologizes to him for not calling him back. But he’s calling her with good news about her dad: He got him on a scheme to put him into a government-run overflow camp, which, of course, horrifies Gwen. She tells him that he has to stop it, because this is from PhiCorp, but Rhys is too late: Her dad is already on his way in the transport.

Review: Okay, Rex is an ass. I’ve been trying to give him chances, but every episode, he continues to just be an ass to everyone, most especially the other members of Torchwood. The way that he reacted to Esther seeing her sister was complete overkill and hateful. I get being upset with her. I get even being angry with her. But his consistent jerky behavior with everyone, no matter what, is just too much. And the way that he condemned Esther – when he, himself, had gone to see his father and didn’t tell anyone else, either – is just completely hypocritical. There’s been nothing redeemable to Rex for me. Even seeing his relationship with his father made Rex look like a creep. I’m fed up with him.

Speaking of Esther: I don’t actually think that she was wrong for wanting to see her sister. I think her mistake was in not telling Gwen or Jack what she wanted to do, so that they could make it safe for her. Both Jack and Gwen seem to appreciate the desire and need to see that your family is safe. Witness Gwen continually taking phone calls from Rhys. I think that they would have helped her see her family safely. I wish that she had opened up to one of them, especially since they seem to like her. I’m glad she didn’t go to Rex about it, though, since Mr. Hypocritical Ass would have just yelled at her and treated her like crap, like he treats everyone in Torchwood.

Ugh, I just can’t stand Rex. I gave him four episodes. I had an open mind about him, but it’s now firmly closed.

I love Mare Winningham and she was excellent as Ellis Hartley Monroe, who was just hateful and evil. But man, the way she went out? That was horrific to me, because being compacted (in a trash compactor or a baler or a car compactor) like that, is one of those horrific deaths for me. I couldn’t even watch. And then seeing her eye in there, knowing that she’s going to be alive in there until Miracle Day is finally over… *shudders*. I think she was an evil and hateful person, but her non-death was too extreme, even for her. Ugh.

I’m kind of surprised that both Mare and C. Thomas Howell were taken out so quickly. I really thought that they would guest for more than one episode.

There’s a cute little moment when Gwen takes off of her heels and complains to Jack about having to wear them for her disguise. Made me think that maybe someone heard Alexa’s complaint, about the heels that she had to wear in the first episode being ridiculous, and decided to use it in the episode!

The whole “Families” thing intrigues me and the little reveals that they have been planning this for a long time. Having seen a preview at Comic-Con of some upcoming episodes, I have my theories on what kind of connection they might have with Jack’s past, but I won’t spoil it here. Needless to say, I’m glad that we are starting to delve into the people behind PhiCorp and what their plans are. I look forward to getting more information on this mystery.

I really am enjoying the humourous little touches they are putting in this season, such as the scene of Gwen and Jack playing an American couple. There was a cute little moment, as they are walking away, where Gwen blurts out that she is never doing that again, considering she almost made a mess of it! It was fun.

I wonder if PhiCorp will try and use Esther’s family against her? I hope not. I would think that if they would use anyone’s family against anyone, it would be Gwen’s, with Rhys and Anwen.

I hope that Jack and Gwen just tell Esther and Rex the truth about Torchwood and Jack, soon. I am enjoying the little hints, but I realized at the end, with Jack talking about living “thousands of years” and Rex acting like he was still just joking around, that it’s getting a little old for me. Even if Esther and Rex don’t believe it right away, I want Jack and Gwen to tell them, so that at least they know.

Jilly kind of did a 180 in this one, and back again, when she told Oswald that he disgusted her, but then was crowing about how amazing he was at the end. I guess she really is just all about being a media whore, regardless of who is selling the message and who is paying her. But I actually liked it better when she was just that, because her whole “you disgusted me” to Oswald really rang false and looked like a hollow moment to try and humanize a character that has anything but a decent side to her.

There was no preview for the following week, but I managed to find one online. It looks very exciting. Since Episode 5 was the one that John Barrowman was really praising and promised that it would reveal some great things, I’m very excited to see it!

About Heather S. Vina

Heather's been a fan of science fiction since she was five years old and developed a crush on Captain Kirk, while watching reruns of Star Trek: The Original Series. A huge Anglophile, she loves reading and watching (and mocking!) TV, but hasn't figured out a way to make a living doing either, yet. But she lives in hope!

Heather S. VinaReview: Torchwood: Miracle Day 4.04: Escape to L.A.