Episode Title: "The New World"
Writer: Russell T. Davies
Director: Bharat Nalluri
Previously on "Torchwood":
In the aftermath of "the 456" crisis, "Torchwood" was on the run from the British government with only two surviving members, the immortal Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) and Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles). However, Jack was despondent over the deaths of his lover, Ianto Jones (Gareth David-Lloyd) and his own grandson, whom Jack sacrificed to drive off the aliens known as "The 456." Jack ultimately decided to flee the planet in an attempt to forget his despair, leaving Gwen and her husband, Rhys Williams (Kai Owen) behind to rebuild their lives.
In the early morning, convicted child murderer and pedophile, Oswald Danes (Bill Pullman) faces execution for his crimes. The state administers a lethal cocktail of drugs, but to everyone's astonishment, Oswald survives in agony. Oswald turns out to not be the only one to escape death. Around the world, not a single person dies during the course of the day. In the CIA, the burgeoning miracle begins to pop up on their proverbial radar around the same time an e-mail containing the word "Torchwood" was sent to their private addresses. CIA analyst Esther Drummond (Alexa Havins) discusses the Torchwood e-mail via phone with Rex Matheson (Mekhi Phifer), who is soon impaled during a violent traffic accident.
In Wales, Gwen and Rhys live a life of peace and quiet paranoia with their new baby girl, Anwen. The couple regards any encroachment on their property with suspicion, as the British government is still hunting Gwen over the 456 incident. But Gwen soon receives a call from her friend, Andy (Tom Price) that tells her that her father has just survived his fatal bout with cancer. As she and Rhys learn that people around the world can't die, Gwen wants to investigate but he angrily forbids it. Back in the states, Rex survives his ordinarily fatal injuries, but his body isn't healing.
Convinced that the Torchwood e-mail is connected to the sudden bout of worldwide immortality, Esther tracks down some hard copies of the deleted Torchwood files and runs straight into Captain Jack Harkness; who saves her life from a gunman's suicide bomb by leaping with Esther into a water fountain below. He then explains to Esther that he only came back to Earth to protect Gwen before drugging Esther into forgetting the encounter. The next day, the still bed ridden Rex taps into the hospital's security feed to observe Dr. Juarez (Arlene Tur) investigate the body of the bomber, which is also still alive.
While undercover as an FBI agent, Jack suggests cutting off the bomber's head to see if he will still survive. And the bomber does indeed survive when it is tried. Rex is now also convinced of the link to Torchwood and he stubbornly leaves the hospital and flies to Wales to find Gwen Cooper. Meanwhile, Jack is disturbed that his injuries are not healing nearly as quickly as usual. At the same time, Oswald Danes convinces the government to release him after his failed execution. In Wales, Rex tracks down Gwen and Rhys fairly easily before a helicopter attacks them. Captain Jack soon shows up with a getaway vehicle conveniently packed with enough firepower to take out the helicopter.
As the former Torchwood team recovers, Jack realizes that he's become mortal again. And while the team is vulnerable, Rex calls in the police and has Gwen, Jack and Rhys arrested and prepared for rendition back to the United States to answer questions about the Miracle Day incident.
After a long two years, "Torchwood" is back in action.
This episode had a lot of ground to cover as it was essentially a new pilot for anyone who hasn't seen "Torchwood" before. Russell T. Davies usually seems to have some difficulties writing the first part of a long storyline. But in this case, the episode was paced fairly well, even if Captain Jack didn't appear for the first 20 minutes.
The larger budget for the series was immediately apparent in the beautifully filmed establishing shots and some genuinely exciting action sequences. "Miracle Day" felt like it had a sense of scope and it even took the time to follow the media's response to the crisis. If this had been "V," there would have been nothing but Chad Decker all over the place.
Where "Miracle Day" initially falters is with Mekhi Phifer's Rex Matheson. For starters, the first time we see Rex, he's gloating because an agency rival has a wife stricken with cancer; which will allow Rex to advance his own career. So that should demonstrate that Rex is out for himself more than anyone else. I don't think we're meant to like him at this point, but here's where it falls apart. If Rex is that self-centered, then his sudden drive to find Torchwood really does come out of nowhere. Within the world of the story, it's an incredibly huge leap of logic to assume that the effects of Miracle Day are related to Torchwood thanks to one e-mail chain.
Of course, Torchwood probably will end up being tied to the cause of Miracle Day; making Rex's assumption correct by the end. Regardless, it still seems like a flimsy notion to hang the series on. Rex's colleague, Esther comes off a little bit better, even if she shares some of Rex's dubious assumptions. Esther's introduction to Jack was well staged, and I'm sure if she was a guy that Jack would probably have bought her a few drinks before drugging her. The downside to wiping Esther's memory is that there's almost no way her second encounter with Torchwood will be as memorable as her first.
Gwen Cooper is still the heart of this show and she even had one of the best moments when she pulled out some earmuffs for her child before carrying her daughter into a firefight with the attacking helicopter. The idea that Gwen and Rhys became incredibly paranoid after "Children of Earth" is an interesting turn for their characters. The familiar Gwen and Rhys arguments over Torchwood are less welcome and they didn't seem as genuine. Andy's betrayal of Gwen on behalf of Rex also came off as flat. Sure, Andy was a recurring character on the original "Torchwood" seasons. But he was used so infrequently in this episode that what should have been a powerful moment of heartbreak for Gwen and the team seemed much less important than it should have been.
As for Jack, it's good to see John Barrowman easily step back into his iconic character. And given Jack's sudden mortality, there may actually be something to the idea that Torchwood is connected to Miracle Day. My theory is that somehow Jack's limitless immortality is keeping every one on Earth alive, with the added benefit of making Jack vulnerable in the process. That would imply that whoever is behind Miracle Day is out to destroy Jack and Torchwood as well as humanity. A couple of names from the show's past would make ideal candidates for the big bad, but there's no indication yet that the villain is anyone we've seen before. Aside from Oswald Danes, there isn't a clear adversary.
Bill Pullman was pretty creepy in his appearances as Oswald, but it's kind of hard to buy that the government would let him out of jail. I would have thought that his death sentence would be commuted to life or even tried again. At some point, Oswald is probably going to play a larger role in this series. However, Oswald's story in this episode wasn't very fulfilling to watch.
Overall, the first episode of "Miracle Day" was entertaining and intriguing enough to justify Torchwood's new lease on life. But it's going to need a more substantial story to hold the audience's interest.
Crave Online Rating: 8 out of 10.