For its fourth episode, Torchwood: Miracle Day went California or Bust to deliver its best episode since the season 4 premiere. And how did they do it? With a deft combination of the show's trademark humor, a grisly death, and putting people's lives on the line in a way that was much more tense than seating them on a plane (still not over the episode 2 plane ride).
"Escape to L.A." featured a caper ripped out of Danny Ocean's playbook, a war of words between two psychos with different ideas on what it means to be dead, and a car crusher that put an end to an evil consortium's problem. But the most exciting moment saw our heroes Jack and Gwen tied up with Ethernet cables. Someone call IT!
An assassin who had been tracking Gwen and Cap'n Jack all episode finally caught with them in Phicorp's sparkling white server room and had our heroes dead to rights. He was 99 percent done with his villain's speech when Rex finished his own hero's journey–a wheezy trek up 33 flights of stairs–and
killed made the rest of the assassin's long life incredibly painful. It was a moment that had to happen. Rex had to, at some point or another, prove his worth to Jack and Gwen by saving their lives. Unfortunately, he did it RIGHT BEFORE HE WAS GOING TO SPILL THE BEANS! This being the cheeky Torchwood, everyone's reaction to that was great.
This wouldn't have happened if Esther hadn't been such a moron and visited her sister. Esther! How could you do that? Why didn't you-- Oh, I can't stay mad at you. You're too adorable! You're like that little Golden Retriever puppy that pooped on the carpet. Aww shnookums, it's okay. Here's a treat. She'll redeem herself down the line.
Elsewhere, creepy Oswald Danes (Bill Pullman) was seeing his newfound popularity decline thanks to Ellis Hartley Monroe (Mare Winningham) and her "Dead is Dead" campaign. So what does a convicted murderer and child rapist do to get back some of the limelight? The just-so-crazy-it's-brilliant move of walking among the undead, something no one else in the country seemed willing to do. It's a genius step for Oswald as now he can win the favor of those who should be dead, which as I see it, is the fastest growing population on the planet. Of course it also helps to have whatever shadow organization that is pulling your strings literally crush your competition by squashing her in a junkyard's compactor. Awesome! Creating a world where no one dies must be a lot of fun for writers.
So we don't know who is behind all this, but we do know they want Captain Jack dead as we thought from the first episode. We know that someone from Jack's past is involved, and if anyone has any guesses (I never watched the first two seasons of the series), let's hear 'em in the comments section below.
We also know that the bad guys or gals or aliens or time-traveling hermaphrodites have a huge plan in place. It involves Phicorp–either in cahoots or as a puppet organization, it involves the government–which is setting up overflow camps for our perpetually dying and is silent on the whole "Miracle Day" issue (very suspicious), and it involves people with some sweet-ass phones and connections to everything. Miracle Day is still very much a mystery. But the clouds over it are slowly dissipating and now things are getting interesting; at least I'm more invested in the series more than I ever was. It's the old TV.com four-episode test, and Torchwood: Miracle Day has passed.
–Some great humor in this episode, led by Torchwood's leather-bound landlord and his love of guava jalapeno cheese tarts. I love how the openly gay Davies is okay with poking fun at the culture and stereotypes; that's a sign of a confident man.
–Not a huge fan of Rex reuniting with this dad so far. What's the point? Seems like a shoe-horned storyline. Ditto for Esther's sister (though her situation is quite tragic).
–Have the years been unkind to C. Thomas Howell? I barely recognized him as the assassin. It's been a longtime since Soul Man.
–Anyone else cringe when child rapist Oswald Danes held the baby? Do people really have such short-term memories? Also, he was totally copping a feel on that baby girl.
–Wouldn't the world be a little bit more in a state of panic if no one died? People seem way too calm. I'd be buying canned goods and shotguns and heading for a nice air-conditioned bunker in the woods. Wi-Fi enabled, of course.
Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom