Review: Torchwood: Miracle Day 4.05: The Categories of Life

By Heather S. Vina

[spoilers ahead]

Written by: Jane Espenson

Recap: Dr. Juarez goes to the next meeting for the medical panels, but finds out that they’re finished: The information that they gathered has been sent to Congress and they’ve finalized the “categories of life”. There is no longer “dead” or “alive” but three categories, and they become official at midnight, with rollouts planned for America and Europe. Juarez is horrified and calls Rex to tell him that she’s joining the fight against Miracle Day.

News reports from different countries talk about the new categories and that categorization is “compulsory”. There’s an “Emergency Miracle Law”. Anyone who is designated a Category 1 or a Category 2 is to immediately be taken to an Overflow Camp.

Gwen heads back home. She has a happy reunion with Rhys and Anwen, and a tense one with her mom, who demands that she break her dad out of the Overflow Camp that he’s been placed in, since he’s now designated as a Category 2. Mom’s got a board set up with news reports and maps of where Dad is. Taking after her daughter, now!

Gwen, Rhys and Sgt. Andy head to the Overflow Camp, where there is a crowd of people complaining about not being able to see their relatives. Gwen pushes her way in and faces off against a military man, who turns her away. She stands up to him, but he threatens to have her arrested. He tells her that, eventually, they will have the facility up and running, but right now, they have diseases of every kind in there. Until they get everything settled, the facility is on lockdown. Gwen is forced away, but she tells Rhys that they are going to break her dad out. Tonight.

Back in California, Jack and Esther are walking on the beach. She asks him if he thinks that she’s useless. He tells her, no, she’s just new to it all. She points out that both she and Rex are CIA, but he tells her that he’ll let her in on a secret: Rex is just pretending. “Time’s like these, the game goes to the person who speaks with the loudest voice. But pretty much everyone just wishes their mother was here.” She tells him that she lost her mom back in 2003. When she asks him about his mom, he tells her that he doesn’t know. He lost her “long ago and so far away.” Before she can call him on where he’s from, Rex calls them back in.

Juarez has arrived to join the gang. Esther is a little uncomfortable but welcoming. Juarez asks where she’s to sleep. Jack makes a remark about how he thought that Rex and Juarez would just share a room. Since they’d had sex and all. Seems it’s time for a little payback for Rex’s snotty comment about Jack when he introduced him to Juarez!

Later, in the room Juarez is to stay in, she tells Rex that she wants to make it clear that she didn’t travel across the country just to be with him. She’s here to rescue her patients from the Overflow Camps. Of course, she then moves in and kisses him.

Yeah, hooking up Juarez with Rex is just making her go down in my estimation.

The gang have a powwow, with Esther, Juarez, Jack, and Rex in America, and Gwen in Wales. Juarez is surprised that they are investigating “morphic fields” and Oswald. She explains to them about the Categories. Category 3 people are healthy and fine, with no injuries or diseases. Category 2 are the people “in between”, with an illness or injury that is going to persist, but who are functioning. Category 1 are the people who have no brain function. The fact that the government basically has the ability to declare people “dead” concerns Jack.

Esther shows the rest of them what she has discovered: The plans for the Overflow Camps are missing something that’s in the NASA pictures of the camp sites, a building called the Module. It’s on every camp site, but it’s being deliberately hidden. Everyone is concerned with what they are doing with the Category 1 people: using them as “petrie dishes” to cultivate diseases, or to experiment with other things. But no one knows for sure and the only way that they are going to find out is to get into the camps. Gwen and Rhys already have their way in, with Rhys working as a driver and Gwen setting up her “Yvonne Pallister” ID as a nurse. Esther is going to apply for a clerical staff job at the San Pedro camp. Juarez plans on going in as an inspector, since she was on the medical board. Rex plans on using his injury to gain entry as a Category 2 patient.

The plan involves an ambulance being called for a “collapsed” Rex. Jack plays the distraught boyfriend, much to Rex’s annoyance, and the ambulance crew take Rex off to the San Pedro base. Over Jack’s objections, Juarez heads off to go into the base as an observer and Esther heads off as a clerical worker.

Alone in the Torchwood headquarters, Jack sees a news feed about a rally that’s going on in Hollywood to raise money for the Overflow Camps, where Oswald is one of the featured speakers.

In the limo arriving at the rally, Jilly hands Oswald a speech PhiCorp wrote out for him. He wants to say his own words, but Jilly insists on his making the PhiCorp speech. Oswald greets the crowd, but Jilly hustles him away when it’s clear that there are several people in the crowd who are not Oswald fans.

Esther and Juarez arrive at the San Pedro Overflow Camp, but split up before they go in. Esther reminds her that they don’t know each other. Rex also arrives and is processed by a harried doctor who uses clothespins to mark the categories the patients are in: Blue are twos and reds are ones. Rex is a little horrified at how quickly and casually the doctor processes the patients, but the Doctor tells him its triage and “standard operating procedure”.

Juarez meets the man in charge of the camp, Colin Maloney (Marc Vann), who greets her with an insensitive joke (I couldn’t tell if it was supposed to be sexist or racist, but it was definitely offensive), as well as surprise that she’s the person he was waiting for, since he was expecting a man. He continues with the bad impression on her, as he starts to take her on her tour, telling her that the module is “closed”.

Esther reclassifies Rex as “Category 1” in the computers and then goes to see him. She gives him a camera and changes his clothespin to red. She leaves him the blue clothespin, “just in case”, and he lies back down to play “dead”. Or, I should say, Category 1. Before she leaves, she turns him into a soldier as a misplaced Category 1 patient.

Gwen and Rhys make their way into the Wales camp, with Rhys playing the part of a driver (He actually got a job as a driver), and Gwen playing her Yvonne Pallister, Nurse role.

Back at the rally, Oswald is ticked off at Jilly that he doesn’t have a dressing room and mad about the speech she gave him from PhiCorp. He wants to say his own words. She ignores him and walks off to answer a phone call, when he sees Jack standing off in the distance. He follows Jack, but Jack doesn’t stop long enough for Oswald to confront him.

Colin drives Juarez around on a golf cart that he got for his use around the compound. He’s obviously a vain, pompous and superficial guy. He brags that they may be getting more tours, more specifically, Hillary Duff. A soldier named “Ralph” (Frederick Koehler) accompanies them.

The first place that Colin takes Juarez to is one of the tents with Category 2 patients. He tells Juarez that their priority is “efficiency” and she corrects him that their priority should be patient “care”. She tells him that when they change a person’s category, they are effectively “letting them die.” He tells her that everything here is an emergency, so they can’t give out the kind of care that she was used to before Miracle Day.

Back in Wales, Gwen manages to track down her dad. She tells him that they’ve come to get him and Rhys comes along, as well. Her dad is concerned when she tells him that it’s not safe. Between her and Rhys, they manage to get him out to the truck, where he unfortunately has another heart attack. They end up having to call the doctors over and Gwen blurts out that he’s her father.

Rex is transported inside the module, where the patients are all on tables in the dark. They’re all being ignored, with absolutely no care. Rex pulls out his camera and starts taking video of his surroundings. The walls are cold, like a refrigerator unit. The patients are all injured, so he can’t tell if they have been experimented on or not. They’re also warm to the touch. Rex puts on a jacket over his scrubs top and goes outside.

Juarez heads off into a building to explore, despite Colin’s attempts to stop her. She’s sick of him turning her away from anything that she wants to see. Inside, she is disgusted to see that there are Category 2 patients packed in unsanitary conditions. Colin tells her that they are the ones without insurance. He tries to explain that there are a few “glitches”, but Juarez is having none of it when she sees a conscious man with a red clothespin on him, designating him as Category 1. Colin tries to get her out of the building, but she refuses and heads to the back, where she finds piles of dirty, smelly laundry. Even more horrified, Juarez refuses to listen to Colin’s excuses. She rants at him that she is going to have him prosecuted and calls him names. He gets in her personal space and tells her to “arrest him.” She pushes him back and he stumbles into Ralph. He grabs Ralph’s gun and shoots Juarez in the leg. She’s screaming at him, and Ralph is begging him to stop, when Colin shoots her again. He tries to cover the noise of the gunshots by banging the door then gets Ralph to help him carry a moaning Juarez out of the building and into the car.

Together, Colin and Ralph carry an unconscious Juarez into one of the modules and leave her on the floor. Colin reminds Ralph that he’s an accomplice and Ralph wonders what the module is. He reminds Colin that it’s murder, but Colin tells him that it’s a brand, new world. There is no murder, anymore.

At the Miracle Rally, Jilly gives a disgusted Oswald another updated speech. She takes off and is confronted by a mysterious man (Teddy Sears) who tells her that her good work is being noticed, much to Jilly’s delight.

Gwen is upset that she caused her father to have another heart attack and Rhys tries to comfort her. She ends up sending him back to the job, as they might still need him to have it. When she goes to ask a nurse about her father, she’s shocked to hear that he has been reclassified as Category 1. When the nurse explains that his heart is failing and he’s unconscious, Gwen disputes the Category 1 classification, saying that her father doesn’t fit the correct definition under that category. The nurse tells her that she has to talk to a doctor about it, because she’s not the one who classifies patients. But Gwen only has until tomorrow morning, because that’s when he will be taken to the module.

Esther finds out that Colin’s golf cart is sitting outside a building, abandoned, and questions a fellow office worker if she knows if Colin is still on his tour. She’s disturbed when the other worker tells her she doesn’t know, but that Colin called for a car.

Rex snoops around outside the modules and informs the camera that the buildings are sealed off. There are only three buildings. He says that it’s impossible for these small buildings to house all of the Category 1 patients coming in.

At the Miracle Rally, Jack finally confronts Oswald. He encourages Oswald to “use this moment” to expose PhiCorp with the speech that Jack has prepared, instead, exposing on air that PhiCorp knew for years that the Miracle was coming. Oswald realizes that Jack needs help and Jack says he will take any help, that this is way beyond what he has dealt with before. He encourages Oswald to help him “change the world.” Oswald wants to know what’s in it for him and Jack explains to him that if he ends the Miracle, he can die. He’s “cursed with intelligence”: “clever enough to know who you are and wise enough to want it to end.” Jack promises Oswald that if he helps him, Jack will help him to die. At that moment, Jilly comes running up and tells Oswald he’s on. As he’s walking away, Jack encourages him to “do the right thing” and a suspicious Jilly asks Jack what he means. She takes a picture of Jack as he’s walking away.

Jilly runs after Oswald and desperately keeps telling him to use the PhiCorp keyword of “revelation”. Oswald gets on stage and starts off nervously, rambling a bit, but then hits on his own speech, about angels and how humanity has leaped into their next stage of evolution as angels. He gets into the swing of things and, from the sidelines, Jack gets a horrified look on his face, while Jilly gets a gleeful one. Oswald says that there has been one group that has been planning for this and waiting for it, and helping humanity into being angels. The crowd is going wild for him. He uses the keyword “revelation” and the PhiCorp sign comes up, much to Jilly’s excitement and Jack’s horror. Jack’s gamble has failed.

Back at San Pedro, Juarez wakes up in the module and Colin starts it up. Rex sees the buildings lock down and runs to one of the windows to see what is happening. He sees Juarez sitting on the floor, crying. He calls out to her, but she’s incoherent with pain and fear. Esther is trying to call Juarez, but Juarez is too distraught to answer the phone.

In Wales, Rhys calls Gwen and tells her that he was running patients from the burn center. He tells her that’s what they are setting the modules up, for burn patients.

San Pedro. Inside the module, fire starts shooting out from the holes in the ground, much to Rex and Juarez’s increasing horror. Rex desperately tries to open the door, but he can’t. There’s a montage of scenes between Oswald’s glory over the crowd calling his name, and Rex’s horror over Juarez and that he can’t save her. He starts to film it, instead, as Esther’s call to Juarez is cut off as “call failed.”

In Wales, Gwen is horrified when she realizes what the modules are: “They built ovens all over the world. That’s what the modules are. They’re ovens. They’re burning them. The patients, they’re burning them alive.”

Review: After watching this episode the first time, I just thought it wasn’t good and that I was disappointed with it because I had expected more from it than it had delivered. But after watching it again for this recap, I realized that it’s just a bad episode. With a lot of annoying and badly written scenes.

First off, the “big” revelation. I thought that the cast had hinted at Comic-Con that episode 5 was really amazing, and some cool and revealing things happened at the end. I don’t know if it was because I had my hopes up for something really exciting and revealing to happen, or what, but I was a little let down by what they did reveal. To me, nothing really cool or shocking was revealed. By the time the credits rolled, I was still sitting there, waiting for it to happen. It could be that I got the episode number wrong. Or it could be that the reveals that they did have in this episode really were something the cast was promoting as cool and exciting. I’m not quite sure. All I know is that I was pretty “meh” by the end.

I know that PhiCorp burning to dust the Category 1 people is pretty horrible. I mean, do the dust remains have consciousness? Are they really dead, since no humans seem to die? So, when you look at that, it’s pretty horrifying. But as to it being a big reveal…it wasn’t to me. Not that I knew it was happening or anything. With the exception of previews, I’m spoiler-free for this show. But still, it felt fairly…prosaic. I was waiting for something more dastardly and disgusting to be happening with the Category 1 people. Like a “Soylent Green is People” kind of reveal, where you found out that they were burning them to use them for some kind of freaky lotion that is going to keep them all young, or something twisted like that. Just burning them to get rid of them seems harsh and horrible and cruel, but it still was lacking some twist in favour of PhiCorp’s sinister goals other than just getting rid of the world’s “dead” weight.

Maybe there will be something more later on. I hope there is! But at the end of this episode, I just felt like the big reveal of what they were doing with the Category 1 people was unimpressive.

Oh, Dr. Juarez! Well, I don’t think you deserved to go out that way, but I have to admit that, by the time your demise did come around, I wasn’t going to miss you, anymore.

I had come to appreciate Juarez over the course of the first three episodes. She was a smart and strong woman. Then they hooked her up with Rex and my estimation of her went down. And then they had this episode, where she played the coy “I didn’t come here for you; I came here for the cause!” with Rex, right before she kissed him. And then there’s the scene where she’s shot. I get that she’s a strong and independent woman who believes in herself, but at no time did her instincts scream at her that maybe she should be more cautious and get away from the psycho guy with the soldier (and the gun) on his side, instead of ranting at him and ranting at him and pushing him over the edge? That was annoying. By the time she was gone, they had made it so that I wasn’t going to miss her, anymore.

And Colin was just over the top in his smarminess, and his disgusting racist and sexist comments. A little too much, in my opinion. It would have been more interesting if he weren’t such a caricature, and was doing all of those horrible things just because he wanted to get ahead, instead of him being so disgusting.

Loved the nice little scene on the beach between Jack and Esther (though the later one, where she told him he was “Category Jack”, was forced). I still don’t understand why he doesn’t tell at least her about himself. He sure hints at it enough! But I really am enjoying her bonding with the Torchwood duo. Alexa Havins has nice chemistry with both Jack Barrowman and Eva Myles. It might be that Rex is so unlikable that I’m more open to the general likability of Esther, but either way, I am enjoying her addition to the team. She’s not my favourite, but then, the only favourite in this series I’ve ever had was Jack. But I do like her character. I like how she bonded with Jack and is concerned that she’s a liability. I like that she was worried about Juarez, trying to look out for her and back her up. It’s nice that there’s actually one likable/rootable new character on this show for me. For the most part, they have varied from the okay (Juarez) to the unlikable (Rex) to the deliberately reprehensible (Jilly, Oswald, Ellis, the Hunter).

Speaking of unlikable characters – or formerly unlikable ones…normally, I don’t care about Gwen’s story if it doesn’t have anything to do with Jack, but I was interested in her stuff with her father and not just because it involves the main story. She really is a better character for me this season. I never thought that would happen, but they actually managed to make their Mary Sue heroine rootable for me! Granted, her storming into the Overflow Camp ahead of everyone else, and trying to pull her dad out, was pretty arrogant. But it actually worked for me this time. And I felt for her when she realized that she might have pushed her father’s precarious health over the edge, just because she was trying to save him. The only thing that seemed forced was her realizing that the modules were ovens. I really don’t understand how she went from Rhys mentioning transporting burn victims to her realizing that they were burning Category 1 patients.

Just another little writing flaw in this episode, that added up to too many.

I had real issues with Oswald’s speech. Mainly, that I didn’t at all find it compelling, rousing, or inspiring. They’ve written some good speeches for him before, but this wasn’t one of them. And considering it was supposed to be his to-date “biggest” speech, it was a letdown. I especially had a difficult time believing that so many people would cheer and clap for a man who is saying that humanity are now “angels”. I’m not a religious person, nor was I raised one, but I have been around practising Christians and Catholics for large chunks of my life. I have a really hard time believing that any of them would cheer on a man proclaiming that. Even setting aside the fact that everyone is confused and disillusioned over what has happened, and even setting aside the fact that a lot of people seem to be wondering if God has forsaken them, I still don’t buy it. It was, quite frankly, a lousy speech and it made hollow for me the whole idea that Oswald managed to sway to his side so many people.

Lastly, Jack. I think Jack is projecting way too much of his own feelings of guilt over his grandson’s death, and how he feels about being responsible for the death of a child, onto Oswald. Hopefully, watching Oswald choose the dark side when given the chance will make Jack stop believing that there is something human in Oswald that will take over. While they have done a good job of showing that there is a small part of Oswald that is sickened by what he did and thinks he deserves to die, it’s clear that the much-larger evil and selfish side of him will win out every time. Much like with Jilly, those occasional flashes of decency are the rarity: The consistent and real side of him is an evil, sick, twisted person who is more concerned with his well-being, and what he wants and needs, than with common decency and morality.

Overall, this is the first episode of this season that I have been disappointed in. I know that, normally, Jane Espenson is considered to be one of the better writers, but I felt she was really off her game with this one. There were too many clichés and stupid character moments that annoyed me. There were too many leaps from Point A to Point D, with no logical steps in between. By the time Juarez died, I didn’t much care about her, anymore. I didn’t believe Oswald’s big speech and the rousing reaction to it. Gwen’s leap to figuring out what the modules were was a stretch. Jack’s only contribution to the episode was getting shot down by Oswald. And the big ‘reveal’ with the Category 1 patients was a bit of a letdown.

Hopefully, next week will be better!

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 4.05: The Categories of Life