Torchwood: Cloaks, Daggers, and Null Fields

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The eighth episode of Torchwood: Miracle Day, "End of the Road," picked up where "Immortal Sins," a risky episode that left some fawning and others reeling (guilty), left off. Jack gets to visit Angelo, his now-ancient gay lover that he bedded in most of "Immortal Sins"' flashbacks who might have the answer to Miracle Day. But Angelo promptly dies for real, thankfully not before we learn that a trio of families (initially represented by those three mystery men who made the triangle handshake in the 1920s) might actually be the ones behind the whole Miracle Day thing. I'm not sure how that much-spent-time-on love story works into things now; did we just spend all of "Immortal Sins" watching Jack and Angelo fall for each other just to build a bridge to the three mystery families? I guess? Why you gotta play with our emotions like that, Torchwood? I'm not sure, but I'm hoping there's more to it than that.

So now we're after these mystery families, who are pulling more strings than a puppeteer going for the world record for multiple marionettes. Countering them, or attempting to counter them, is the CIA in a game of cloak and dagger. However, the overmatched CIA is more like a handkerchief than a cloak, and this Illuminati-like group of mystery families is a hydrogen bomb. These mystery clans even have a mole inside the CIA: bizarro Esther. (As far as I know, bizarro Rex is still legit.) In short, every organization, secret or otherwise, is on to each other and none too happy about everyone else.

There's also Oswald Dane and Jilly waiting in the wings, and they make their triumphant return after a few episodes off. But really, where are we in their storyline? Oswald is asking for prostitutes, Jilly is over babysitting him, and both of them seem more and more distant from the core of the show. Eighty percent through a season, we should have a solid idea of how main characters fit into stories. I'm still confused as to what their purpose is. How embarrassing if I'm all alone in that department! Don't tell me I'm alone there, guys!

Elsewhere, the show is getting a bit plump. Esther's sister is back in the picture to provide some sort of emotional weight to Esther's plight. But that too seems tangential to what we need to know. Thanks to whoever decided to end Rex's dad plot immediately. Wayne Knight's character comes back as a lackey for the three families and explodes, John de Lancie (Jane's dad from Breaking Bad, Star Trek) joins things as a strict CIA bigwig that poses another obstacle for our heroes, alien technology (the null field idea is pretty cool, actually) is found under Angelo's bed, and a prostitute has the nerve to act entitled after she agrees to have sex with a child molester and murderer for money. And is a potential financial crisis really bigger news than the government burning bodies that aren't quite dead yet? Do we need all this happening and should we really be meeting new characters at this point?

I was also looking forward to seeing the team back together and spending the final two episodes joining forces to take down the big conspiracy, but the team is being broken up... again. Jack and Esther are driving away, Gwen is being deported, and Rex is back at casa de Angelo.

All this (the side plots, new characters, the team going separate ways) happening now seems like a bad choice for a show that should be narrowing things down as it approaches the finish line. But instead, Miracle Day has bitten off more than it can chew, and this season has become a mumbling mouthful of disposable characters and unfocused stories. We may be closer to getting our answers, but the fun and excitement that made the show work at the beginning has given way to convolution.

As we can tell from Torchwood: Miracle Day's declining ratings, it appears that people are hopping off the train with every stop. Were I a casual viewer, "End of the Road" might have been my end of the road, as I'd join others that are calling it quits. But I just can't. In addition to professional obligations (and I say "professional" lightly), It's an odd situation to be in: To be so close to the end and get all the answers we've been waiting for, becoming disenchanted enough by recent episodes to almost stop caring. I still love the main characters. I still care about finding out what happens. And there's still an interesting show in here somewhere, it's just buried underneath the weight of its own well-intentioned ambition.

Notes:
–A couple great moments with Gwen, as usual. She's ridiculous, I know, but at least she's consistently either batsh*t insane or hysterically emotional.

–John Barrowman is doing some great work. His scene where he's hovering over Angelo's bed was fantastic. Lately, these are the scenes in Torchwood that have stuck with me.


Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

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