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TORCHWOOD: MIRACLE DAY 1.05 ‘The Categories of Life’

Gwen attempts to save her father as Jack makes a desperate pitch to Oswald. And a member of the team falls to a fate worse than death.

Episode Title: "The Categories of Life"

Writer: Jane Espenson

Director: Guy Ferland

Previously on "Torchwood: Miracle Day":

As  Dr. Vera Juarez (Arlene Tur) began overseeing a new hospital hopelessly overwhelmed by the patients who should have died prior to Miracle Day, the convicted child murderer and pedophile, Oswald Danes (Bill Pullman) used the new hospital to carve out a place for himself in the media as the spokesperson for the people who should be dead. Meanwhile, Esther Drummond (Alexa Havins) accidentally allowed herself to be followed, exposing the Torchwood team's presence in Los Angeles. The forces behind PhiCorp and the Miracle Day dispatched an assassin (C. Thomas Howell) to take out the team on their next mission.

However, the assassin took his time with Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) and Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), not wanting to waste the chance to kill the last mortal alive. But just when the assassin was about to blurt out who was behind Miracle Day, former CIA Agent Rex Matheson (Mekhi Phifer) shot the man in the throat to save Gwen and Jack. With his teammates annoyed at him for not waiting a few more seconds, Rex retrieved the stolen PhiCorp servers to discover more of their plans. Gwen also heard from her husband Rhys Williams (Kai Owen) back in the U.K. that her father had been removed from the hospital to a relocation camp.

Story:

In Washington, Vera is stunned that the PhiCorp has pushed through new categories of life to separate the Miracle Day survivors from everyone else. Disgusted, she calls Rex and tells him that she wants in on Torchwood to help them end the Miracle. In the U.K., Gwen sneaks back into the country under an assumed name and she meets Rhys at the airport. They return to her mother's home where Gwen is reunited with her daughter, Anwen. She also goes over the plan to retrieve her father from the relocation camp. With Andy's (Tom Price) help, Gwen tries to reclaim her father on force of personality alone.

However, the men in charge of the camp aren't impressed and Gwen is rebuffed. As they leave, Gwen angrily states her intention to break in that night and retrieve her father. Back in Los Angeles, Esther bonds with Jack but she doesn't understand why he won't tell her where he's from. Soon after, Vera arrives and she is formally introduced to the rest of the team. She recognizes Jilly Kitzinger (Lauren Ambrose) and she inquires about her connection to the events. But Jack states that his real target is Oswald Danes, whom he is convinced has a greater tie to the Miracle. The team also makes plans to infiltrate the local relocation camp with Rex's injury as the perfect cover.

Rex is taken away by an ambulance as Jack pretends to be his grieving lover. Esther and Vera also plan to get into the camp with cover stories, but they refuse to let Jack go because his face is known and he's the last mortal alive. But after they leave, Jack notes a Miracle Day rally where Oswald is scheduled to speak later that day. At the relocation camp, Esther pretends to be a temp worker in the office while Vera comes as herself to inspect the camp with the man in charge, Colin Maloney (Marc Vann). Rex is initially diagnosed as a category two survivor, but Esther gets him reclassified as the more severe category one in order to gain access to the hidden modules of the camp.

In the U.K., Gwen returns to the camp disguised as a nurse with Rhys in tow. She finds her father and explains why they have to leave. But just as they are about to get into a truck, her father has another heart attack and collapses. She ends up screaming to the camp doctors for help. In Los Angeles, Rex finds himself in the locked module of category one patients, who are stuck in a state of near death. He begins using a small camera to record his findings there and he manages to get out of the module. Elsewhere in the camp, Vera confronts Maloney over the poor care of his patients and she vows to report him. In response, he shoots her twice and has his guard drag her to the module for category one patients.

At the Miracle Day rally, Jack confronts Oswald and gives him a written speech to deliver that implicates PhiCorp for their role in the Miracle. In return, Jack promises that he will help Oswald die. Moments before Oswald is due on stage, Jilly catches Jack with him and she quickly takes Jack's picture while worrying that Oswald will veer from the script. In the U.K., Gwen learns that her father is now a category one patient and he is placed inside a module. Outside the modules in Los Angeles, Rex notes that they are too small to handle the patients coming in. He soon finds that Vera is locked inside one of the modules as Maloney remotely activates it.

On stage, Oswald briefly falters between what to do or say before stating that mankind has been reborn as angels and he embraces the PhiCorp message, much to Jack's disappointment. In the U.K., Gwen realizes that the modules are giant incinerators designed to burn the inconvenient patients to a cinder and make room for more. And in Los Angeles, Vera is surrounded by flames. Rex tries to get her out, but he can't open the door. Ultimately Rex gives up and tapes Vera as she is burned alive. 

Breakdown:

When I first saw this episode, I was initially pissed off that Vera was seemingly killed off at the end. Vera was by far the best new character of the season and she was easily more compelling than Esther or Rex. But that's exactly why it was the correct decision from a dramatic stand point. If the audience didn't care about Vera then her fate wouldn't have mattered as much. What happened to Vera is truly horrifying not just from the fact the she's burned alive. But imagine somehow surviving that thanks to the Miracle and being aware and in pain for the rest of eternity… or until the Miracle is reversed.

Credit where credit is due, Jane Espenson delivered the first truly emotional moment of the entire "Miracle Day" story with that ending. And if Vera's fate can transform Rex into less of an ass, than that will at least be something gained out of it. I still have a pretty strong dislike of Rex, but I'm hoping that the writers have wanted us to hate him so that he can eventually redeem himself and become a more rounded character. Still, I thought it was pretty cold of him to give up on Vera and start taping what was happening to her.

For the first time, the show has also given us a real villain to hate in the form of Colin Maloney. He's not a mastermind behind the Miracle or even particularly smart. But he is a middleman who is complicit in a new genocide and he feels nothing for what he did to Vera. I can't wait to see the Torchwood team get their revenge for that, but if he got away it would make Vera's loss sting even more.

Jack's sense of desperation when dealing with Oswald was an intriguing development. We're so used to seeing Jack operate with swagger that it's almost stunning to see him reduced to bargaining with Oswald for his help. Oswald's sense of frustration was also palpable and for a few moments it actually seemed like he might side with Jack. Instead, Oswald's declaration just made him a hero to the people who want to believe that the Miracle was a divine event. And if you think people can be scary now, imagine what they'll do now that they think they're angels… 

There's also the first glimpse of someone directly connected to the Miracle when Jilly is approached midway through the episode. Thus far, Jilly hasn't really had much of a character arc. She's just been the amoral P.R. girl working for Oswald and PhiCorp. Lauren Ambrose has made her an entertaining character, but I'd like to see Jilly actually play a meatier role in the story, for good or ill. And if the writers can make us care about Jilly the way that they did for Vera, that could be an interesting way to do it.

Up until now, "Torchwood: Miracle Day" seemingly had trouble finding the same intensity that made "Children of Earth" unforgettable. This episode was a great step in the right direction and should hopefully lay the course for the rest of the season.

Crave Online Rating: 9 out of 10.