Torchwood series 4 episode 2 review “Rendition”

Posted: 30 July 2011 in television
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Torchwood Miracle Day - Rendition “Everything mortal becomes immortal, everything immortal becomes mortal”. Rhys neatly sums up what happened in “The New World” and for once shows himself to be on Jack’s side, an extremely rare occurrence for the two most important men in Gwen’s life.

“I’m Welsh”…From the heart-breaking separation from Rhys and Anwen at the beginning, via the fiery “You stupid, tiny, bloody little man” directed at Rex, to the final line to Esther of “Welcome to Torchwood”, this is most definitely Gwen Cooper’s episode with a powerhouse performance from Eve Myles. Since being the wide-eyed audience surrogate in series 1, struggling to cope with the bizarre world of aliens and monsters that she’d been thrust into, Gwen has evolved into a moral warrior who accepts that the world needs Torchwood, even if at times she wants to walk away from it all. She is desperate to reunited with her husband and child but at the same time is overjoyed to be once again involved with Captain Jack Harkness and the never-ending chaos that constantly follows in his wake.

From the very first episode Eve Myles has shared a fantastic chemistry with John Barrowman borne out of a close friendship (once during the filming of “Countrycide” in the Brecon Beacons she stayed in his hotel room with him because she was convinced there were ghosts in her own room). As angry as Gwen gets with Jack she can’t help but love and respect him. And in “Rendition” her devotion to him extends to her literally ripping a 747 apart at 30,000ft with her bare hands to save him from death by arsenic poisoning at the hands of a duplicitous CIA operative (who gets decked by Gwen in an “audience-punches-the-air-and-shouts-YES!-moment”).

John Barrowman is getting to play Jack differently so far this series. For the first time since his resurrection on Satellite 5 Jack is having to face up to the dangers of being mortal – currently the only human out of nearly 7 billion (and climbing) who is. Why are unseen antagonists so desperate to eliminate him and any trace of Torchwood? And who sent the message alerting the authorities to the existence of Torchwood? Clearly Jack has an inkling of the mechanics of the sudden halt to humanity’s natural expiration times. All that babbling about “morphic fields” and “Sheldrake theory” isn’t “Star Trek”-style technobabble either. It’s from the mind of Rupert Sheldrake, an English biochemist.

So far Rex has treated Torchwood with disdain. He views the institute, together with Jack and Gwen, as a sideshow – the dusty remains of a British black ops outfit that can’t possibly be a major player in the events surrounding “The Miracle”. That all changes once his colleague tries to murder his prisoner and he and Esther are framed as traitors working for the Chinese.

If Gwen was the audience surrogate in the early days of Torchwood then for “Miracle Day” that baton has been well and truly passed to Ester Drummond. The one-word message “Torchwood” has intrigued her from the very beginning and the encounter with Captain Jack in the CIA Archives only served to further her curiosity more. Her eagerness to get to the root of the mystery puts her squarely in the sights of CIA Director Brian Friedkin (a suitably slimy and worried performance from Wayne Knight) and his mysterious paymasters. Yet in a bizarre way she actually seems to be enjoying herself – even if Gwen is critical of her choice of a Blue Mini as a getaway car (a joke referring to “The Italian Job” missed surely?).

With violence and conspiracies holding the attention of the Torchwood and CIA characters it’s down to Dr Vera Juarez and other members of the medical community to realise that the rules of healthcare system need rewriting in an instant. Rather than treating the most hideously injured and sick first the priority is to deal with the walking wounded so as to free up hospital space. After all the most worst off aren’t going to die before they can be examined and treated. But that’s the least of the problems facing doctors…In common with the legend of Tithonus (nice to have a classical reference) the human race is continuing to age, not remaining fixed in time. Death may have been halted but decay hasn’t. Humans are becoming germ incubators. Carriers of infection are not dying and allowing corpses to be fed upon. New forms of disease will be rife across the planet with normal antibiotics and painkillers becoming obsolete within a matter of months. Radical new medications are needed for the human race – and fast.

And into the narrative steps PR guru Jilly Kitzinger, acting on behalf on PhiCorp, a major pharmaceutical conglomerate. Their triangle logo tips them off as being the instigators of the frame-up of Rex and Esther. The chances are PhiCorp does not have philanthropic plans for the human race with any forthcoming machinations. Lauren Ambrose endows Kitzinger with an endearing klutziness that is most likely an act to ingratiate herself with her prey, firstly Dr Juarez and then the repulsive Oswald Danes. With her flaming red hair and equally red clothes the character certainly stands out from the background. Now could the redness being a subtle hint as to her employer…Or I just have a weakness for slutty redheads…

Now it’s understandable that PhiCorp would want an intelligent forceful set of medical practitioners such as Juarez on their payroll but less obvious is why they would want to be associated with a repulsive creature such as Oswald Danes. Don’t 21st century villains have standards anymore? There must be more to their motives than simply the fact Danes is trending well on Twitter?

Bill Pullman’s performance as Danes is already standing out as one of the premier performances ever seen on “Torchwood”. When Danes commences his public rehabilitation via a tearful performance on a television chat show Pullman treats us to a masterclass of remarkable acting. He is able to appear truly repentant to the other characters for his pedophiliac crimes yet conveys to us that he clearly doesn’t have a single regret for his horrific acts against his 12 year old victim. With his reptilian charm Danes is simultaneously sympathetic, repellent, and truly dangerous. He is everything a great villain should be: intelligent, vile, and yet utterly convinced of the rightness of his actions. You just know that Gwen will want to kill him the second she meets him.

But let’s remember that in “Children of Earth” Jack himself condoned the murder of a child. His own grandson in fact…

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