Tuesday, August 2, 2011

TV Review: Torchwood: Miracle Day Episode 4 (Escape To L.A.)

Today’s review of the latest (4th) episode of Starz TORCHWOOD, titled ESCAPE TO L.A. is going to be quick and fairly scathing so prepare yourselves.

I’m going to ignore the first 35 minutes or so of the episode, as it mostly amounts to not worth your time fluff that isn’t going to matter down the line once everything is revealed, and character building stuff that concerns aspects of certain characters that I really don’t need to see. Gwen gushing about seeing the West Coast and the Pacific feels utterly cheesy. Do I need to see Rex Matheson’s drug-addicted, lowlife of a father and they have a moment of introspection? Not really, that’s not why Matheson is here. Same goes for Esther and her crazy sister and mistreated nieces…we already have insight into Esther on that level I don’t need to see her pull the trigger on calling the cops on her sister for keeping her kids inside. I mean this is a show where travesties are being visited across the board around the world, so showing me Esther having to deal with it on a personal level like that is just icing on a cake that’s already been iced. It’s like singling her out because she’s a lead but why the heck should I care more about this situation with her sister than I should with all the others suffering…which they show us as well? It’s a waste.

In the last 10-15 minutes of the episode things finally start to happen and so that’s what I’d like to concentrate on if I might. The revelation in a previous episode that a pharmaceutical company had been stockpiling pain meds before Miracle Day in preparation for it (and therefore had prior knowledge of the forthcoming undead/not-dying event) was kind of a non-starter. It’s like watching a police procedural show and realizing that the person you refused to think committed the crime in that episode because that would just be easy and lazy…actually DID do it and you feel like you wasted your hour. That was what finding out Phi Cor did what they did was like for me…anti-climactic and lazy. And of course they are then not the ones behind everything but are only the end result of a bigger plan, so someone or many someone’s are, of course, shadily behind things. Do we get to find out who? No. Do we get an inkling? Sort of, in the form of a nasty thug who tries to off both Gwen and Jack and then does a long ass villain monologue (Really Torchwood? Really? A time-giving, boneheaded, villain monologue that allows Rex to stumble up the stairs to save the day?) Wow. Is this the 1970’s and is this a genre spy flick? Come on! In this day and age we (the audience) require a little more goddamned credit. This is Torchwhood, not the A-Team…the Doctor would be ashamed. I digress. The speech gives a twinkle of insight into who’s behind things, but of course isn’t fully revealed and it has something to do with Jack’s past. Wow. I’m so mystified! ( <--sarcasm) Look, unless they raise Toshiko or Owen or Ianto from the dead and make them responsible then I’m not going to be impressed.  I might be more amenable if the daughter whose child he sacrificed in Series 3 shows back up in revenge, but even that might be hackneyed. Inventing an enemy from Jack’s past that we’ve never met isn’t really going to fly with me. This show is usually about how Jack has made rough decisions in the past and how they come back to haunt him, but we can't keep going down that road every season. If that menace is something we haven’t seen before, how is that meant to be interesting…even when it is revealed? Series 3 Children of the Earth was riveting from almost episode 1 through all 5 eps. It had an enemy in it that we found out about relatively quickly, conflict amongst the members of TW from the outset, and an eventually unsolvable, un-day-saveable issue. It was tense, compelling and edge-of-your seat television. Finding out who the 456 were and hearing from them and their conversations early on was riveting...so that even though we didn't know why they wanted children I was enthralled until they told us...and at least I knew who the menace was. A faceless menace can get REALLY annoying if it draws out too long. BBC and Davies should be ridiculously proud of the 3rd series for things like that. In juxtaposition, so far, Starz should be utterly ashamed of their output. At 4 episodes in, big TW fans like myself and others I know should be loving this series and it should really be finding its niche with viewers, most hopefully American viewers. It’s not though, and I actually feel that Starz is totally failing the show. As they did with their other genre shows (SPARTACUS and CAMELOT) they treat them like fluff filler for the most part, and while a few cast members (Mostly John Barrowman) turn in their very best performances, the writing is lazy, the music is poorly arranged and most of all…the show is just plain BORING. I shouldn’t want to fast-forward a show, but I find myself wanting to. I was going to get my gf and her sister to watch, but at 4 episodes in and seeing how it’s going I can’t bring myself to subject them to something that has been relatively mediocre so far.

We are almost at the midway point of the show and it should be winning viewers, not losing them. At this point I could almost call it a wash…because even if the next 6 episodes are incredible it doesn’t justify the first 4 being tepid. We still don’t have a clue about who is behind Miracle Day, and we really should. Jack and Co. need something to strive for/against and not still be picking at threads. The Torchwood of the past was able to solve things quicker than this. I’m also tired of the USA/British terminology jokes. Can we be done with that already? Having Rhys be at home in Wales may give it some of its global flavour but he’s totally wasted there and that disconnected telephone relationship between him and Gwen gives us the catalyst for something that happens concerning Gwen at the end of the episode which to me…again…feels lazy.

I liked a number of Series 1 eps of TW, and even more of Series 2 in fact…and I think Series 3 was the pinnacle of their tenure so far, but the 4th series (whether it is Starz fault, the writers they chose, or Davies himself) has been like luke warm water and it’s driving me nuts.

I am actually now starting to pray that Starz abandons the show and it somehow finds its way back to the BBC….but the problem with that is that if it flops now, who’s to say Davies won’t leave the show to go on to other things (no one could fault him). It’s his baby and without him it just wouldn’t be the same (See current Doctor Who), so I’m kind of double-edged about that thought. Still, anything is better than lazy writing and evil villain stupid ass monologues.

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