I’ve got a lot to say about this episode, a lot to say about RTD’s approach to series finales and a lot to say about the way Miracle Day as a TV concept. But I’ve got to deal with something first, got to get it out of the way.
“Susie….keep running, I’m comin’ to get ya.”
Danes final moments, and his final speech, were deeply unpleasant and felt surprisingly unearned. I was moaning last week about how inconsistent the character of Oswald Danes had been written and ‘The Blood Line’ took those inconsistencies. It is one thing for the show to almost forget about Danes’ more unpleasant proclivities now and then, it is quite another to frame Danes immorality as essentially absolute as this episode did. Confronted with the blessing, which fed off the psyche of anyone who approached it, Danes vaguely feigned startled horror at the vision of himself that it presented before revealing that he was 100% reconciled with the darker elements of his character. I’ve got two issues with this, the first being that it seemed a stretch to believe that Danes was ever that much at peace with himself. Having Danes as a moral absolute makes little sense when you consider how concerned Danes was about his image and what other people thought of him. Whilst there was an element of politicking in the first half of the season Danes was written as being exceptionally volatile when it came to other people’s perception of him.
The other issue is my continued bugbear with the inconsistent writing of Danes morality, with him drifting from a sleazy, pathetic, villain to a sleazy, repellent, anti-hero, to a sleazy, weasely, emasculated villain. Having Danes as a moral absolute of villainy doesn’t work if he has been presented as being vaguely sympathetic for at least fourth fifths of the season. As such the show using Danes’ absolute villainy as some kind of trump-card really doesn’t work and makes his final lines come across as just odd. You could argue that the Blessing made Danes finally slide into fully blown madness, but the way the scene was presented suggested that this was the ‘true’ Danes. As such Danes starts off Miracle Day as a sociopathic rapist and murderer with no regrets and a sneering attitude towards his upcoming punishment and ends Miracle Day as a sociopathic rapist and murderer with no regrets and a sneering attitude to his upcoming death. The ONLY change to the character is that he gains control of his own destiny, because his final actions are certainly not a heroic sacrifice (his final monologue firmly places him as a villain). In fact they are more the final acts of violence by a man consumed by violence.
In actuality Danes final moments are indicative with my general dissatisfaction with the way Miracle Day ended. The previous seasons of Torchwood all ended with a new status-quo being introduced. Season 1 ended with Jack abandoning the team, without a parting word, to have adventures with the Doctor. Season 2 ended with half the Torchwood team destroyed and a majority of Jack’s personal demons laid to rest. Children of Earth destroyed the very concept of Torchwood, killing Ianto, allowing Gwen a chance at a civilian life and ultimately ending with Jack departing, his last links to earth severed. At the end of Miracle Day the gang is back together and Esther is dead, but because Esther was such a peripheral character her death hardly had the desired effect. Sure Rex is an immortal now, but whilst the ends of the previous Torchwood seasons had an element of finality to them the end of Miracle Day could have only felt more inconclusive if Doc Brown had suddenly appeared screaming about the future of Gwen’s child. Even the main villains, who were still non-entities even when maniacally gloating, were apparently only inconvenienced by the whole thing. If your show is already getting flack for spinning its wheels it is not the best of idea for the final five minutes to suggest that this was all largely a prelude to a bigger story.
One of the general criticisms of Russell T Davies finales is that they are overblown, silly, and often relied on quick-fixes introduced at the last moment. What always saved RTD’s finales for me was how fun and vivacious they were. ‘Doomsday’, ‘The Sound of Drums’ and ‘Journey’s End’ are all overwrought, but they are also stuffed with moments which are big and grand and fantastic. They are spectacles and whilst I appreciate that some people find spectacle repellent I was always impressed by the sheer energy on display. The chief complaint I had with ‘The Blood Line’ is that it all felt surprisingly drab and low-key. Sure we had at least three explosions and some Gwen Cooper flavoured violence, but boiled down to its basic elements the finale involved people talking at the bottom of a pit.
I did appreciate that the episode didn’t strain to try and explain the Blessing, although I found some of the lamp-shade hanging about the nature of the Blessing to be a little annoying. Gwen asking a few logical questions (for example, why isn’t funnelling the molten core of the earth) and getting a response of ‘that’s why it is so magical’ isn’t cute it’s just kind of infuriating. What is also infuriating is that for three episodes Jack has explained that there is nothing physiologically different about him; nothing in his blood should have been able to trigger any kind of change. I’m perfectly happy with Jack being instrumental to the miracle, he has been immortal so long now that even I start to forget the circumstances of his change, but it felt vaguely cheap to have the show spend so much effort denying some link and then admit that in actuality there was a link. The fact that the villains did nothing with blood other than throw it at the ‘Blessing’ just compounded the problem.
In fact the villains in general were kind of a problem. The members of the three families that we saw did very little to actually sell themselves as interesting characters. Aside from a vague evangelical lilt to their dialogue the two members of the Three Families were practically characterless. In fact the main villain of the show, or at least the most active antagonist, was probably Charlotte the world’s most conspicuous mole. In particular I liked her few moments of shock after she set off a bomb in a CIA office before getting up and walking away like a Terminator. I understand that she has to act suspicious to remind us that she’s a mole, but I’ve kind of loved how generally shifty she’s been for the last three episodes. She’s the kind of mole who has to go make ‘personal’ calls after ever major meeting, who looks visibly panicked when they start trying to work out who the mole is, and whom apparently keeps a bomb on her at all times and a derringer as a fashion accessory. My absolute favourite moment had to be her final moments, where she responded to Rex calling her name (with no knowledge of what he knew) by pivoting on the spot and shooting him.
I think Miracle Day has had some bright spots, the last episode was particularly great, but it has been hard to maintain any real enthusiasm for the show due to its generally lousy pacing and awful characterisation. Despite the general scope of the storyline the actual episodes have all felt surprisingly claustrophobic and small scale and this smallness has meant that RTD’s talents have largely been rendered inert whilst his worst tendencies have been allowed to fester. It’s a shame because Eve Myles, John Barrowman and Mehki Phiffer all deserved far better material and had real chemistry in the role. I’m interested in seeing how a second Starz/BBC run of Torchwood goes, to see if they can iron out the kinks and use this new Torchwood team, and their unusual circumstances, in an interesting way. But if Miracle Day has proven anything it is that RTD can’t write long-form narrative to fill ten hours of screen-time. I still feel that Miracle Day would have been better served with individual stories all linking together to tell an overarching narrative with perhaps only the last two or three episodes focused exclusively on dealing with the Three Families. As it stands Miracle Day has been blighted with the kind of wheel-spinning that makes it apparent the writers had no idea what to do with the time they had.