Torchwood: Miracle Day, Episode 8

End of the Road


It’s exposition week for Torchwood! After last week’s virtually standalone episode which seemed to do little more than touch on the main plot, this week it was answer after answer in an episode which veered from occasional action through character development to mountains of infodumps. Still, at least some answers were finally forthcoming.

Chief expositor was Nana Visitor as Olivia Colasanto – as it turned out, the granddaughter of Jack’s ex Angelo, who this week was found to have lived this long by virtue of a sensible lifestyle and no immortality particularly. While it’s great to see Nana Visitor in anything, Olivia wasn’t given any kind of character as such; her function was simply to spew information as to what was happening, how it had happened, and who did it. This barrage of exposition came so thick and fast in the early part of the episode that my sleep-fogged brain had a hard time taking it all in.

Among the salient points that I did manage to discern were that Jack isn’t actually responsible for the Miracle – he just gave the rotating triangle people the idea for it, which seems like a bit of a swizz given all the hints dropped previously. And the rotating triangle people now have names – Ablemarch, Costerdane and Frines. Three weird names, to be sure, and a pain to type over and over again, which may be why they’re usually referred to simply as The Families; you can almost hear the capital letters in the dialogue. Angelo wasn’t working with them, because they don’t like the gays. That’s not unusual for people in the late 20s, though it did seem incongruous that their properly contextual homophobia wasn’t matched by any equally period-accurate racism – there weren’t that many rich black people accepted so casually in society at that point. Which, if nothing else, should make them easier to track down, despite the fact that they’ve managed to wipe their names from the entire internet – perhaps with a virus similar to the one Jack used to erase all references to Torchwood.

Esther, listening in with a phone and a laptop, had the fun task of transcribing the infodump while Googling everything that came up in it. She really is turning into this show’s Chloe O’Brian, albeit without the endearing lack of social graces. Unfortunately for her, this meant that she had to endure the indignity of having a gun shoved in her face by Dennis Nedry Friedkin as Wayne Knight made a welcome return. After a succession of single episode guest shots, it’s refreshing when a character actually turns out to be more than a gimmicky cameo, and Knight’s trademark sweating panic was nicely consistent with the out-of-his-depth character we’d seen previously.

This all turned out to be due to a fantastically elaborate scheme by Rex, of all people, a man who hasn’t previously displayed much aptitude for anything beyond surly anger. Apparently his ‘careless’ phone call to express his condolences to Vera’s brother was actually part of a masterplan by which, when the time was right, he would bring Friedkin and his betrayals to book using the magic contact lenses – which begs the question of exactly when he got Gwen to give them to him and why she then seemed so surprised that he was using them. Perhaps Torchwood have lots of them, but if so that was a detail missing from the general flood of exposition. Additionally, the ones Rex was using seem to have a microphone built into them somewhere, as Wayne Knight’s distinctive voice was transmitted to the monitors watched by Jack and co, rather than the usual lipreading software/bland expressionless voice combo.

But we can forgive these little questions about detail and be thankful for the arrival of John De Lancie as CIA head honcho Allen Shapiro. De Lancie toned down the massive excesses of camp we’d come to expect from his years in Star Trek (or perhaps it just seemed that way because he was standing near John Barrowman), but this was still recognisably the guy who played Q in the same room as the woman who played Major Kira, which was kind of cool. It’s just a shame that he immediately bundled her out of the room before they’d had a chance to exchange more than about two lines. Still, Nana Visitor had spewed all the exposition required, and with no further function in the narrative, Olivia was conveniently blown up when Friedkin carried out the rotating triangle people The Families’ last instruction. They’re presumably no more dead than the guy who was blown up in part one, but their exploded state pretty much rules out any question of Visitor and Knight popping up in any future episodes.

The episode did seem a little unbalanced as this brief flurry of action and excitement was over with by about halfway through, at which point we got acres more character development as our heroes cogitated on the mountain of exposition they’d just heard. And took time to catch us all up on the well-being – or not – of their families. The trouble with this is that I don’t really care about them. A little family background for your characters goes a long way – as we saw in Children of Earth, it’s possible to give your heroes families that are only slightly involved in the action, without overloading the narrative to the extent that the thriller keeps pausing to catch us up on the soap opera.

And so it did here. While the revelation that you can ‘volunteer’ for the category 1 burning procedure (along with your children, somewhat improbably) was chilling, I really don’t particularly give two hoots about Esther’s sister, and think far too much time has been spent on her. She’s not a particularly convincing character, and she could have served the same plot functions in about a quarter of the time. Gwen’s morale-boosting chat with Rhys and her mum was nice, but really served no particular purpose other than to remind us that Wales was still there. At least Rex didn’t take time for a heartfelt chat to his dad, though given the general indulgence to script flabbiness of this kind, that was rather a surprise. As it is, if we don’t see Rex’s dad again, I’d say that scene between them in episode four was another bit of unnecessary padding that could have been cut to make this series overall as lean and fast-paced as Children of Earth was.

The soap opera part that did work, though, was a genuinely touching scene with Jack finally facing up to his former lover, trying to explain to the comatose Angelo how he felt. It was well-written dialogue – as Jane Espenson co-wrote this episode, I’d say this scene was hers – delivered surprisingly well by John Barrowman. It’s nice to be reminded every once in a while that he can actually be rather a fine actor. His rueful speech to Angelo also featured a fanboy-pleasing reference to Ianto Jones, which seemed also to underline that while Jack may now be several thousand years old, he’s only ever genuinely fallen for these two people. Perhaps behind all the rampant shagging, he’s a man of considerable depth after all…

But the plot kicked back to action as Angelo died. Yes, actually died – as our heroes later discovered, he had a handy bit of alien tech – probably nicked from the ruins of the Torchwood Hub – hidden under his bed, a ‘null field’ generator that neutralised what now seems conclusively to be a ‘morphic field’ used to create the Miracle. Cue Shapiro eagerly wanting to nip it off to CIA HQ for some analysis, and Jack’s now-familiar “humanity isn’t ready for this technology” speech – that part really did feel like the Torchwood of old. I’m not sure the ‘comic’ business about the null field making their conspiring inaudible really worked, mind.

So that part of the plot climaxed with Rex and Esther helping Jack to nick the vital bit of the null field generator, during which Jack was unfortunately shot, and now seems incapable of helping out. It was a curiously static episode in terms of setting, with basically only two locations – our heroes spent the entire time in Angelo’s luxurious mansion, but to enliven the proceedings they were intercut with what Oswald and Jilly were getting up to in, basically, a hotel room and a corridor.

Mind you, it was good to see Oswald and Jilly again after two episodes away. I’ve become inexplicably fond of Bill Pullman’s totally non-naturalistic, oddly mannered performance as Oswald, and he was in fine form this week, his delivery peppered with strangely placed pauses and veering from stuttering unconfidence to sudden outbursts of psychotic rage. It’s still not clear what function in the overall narrative Oswald has – unless it’s as a kind of moral barometer by which to judge everybody else’s actions – but if we have to have unnecessary padding and character moments, at least Oswald and Jilly’s are entertaining.

It was a kind of black comedy as Oswald tried rather improbably to reform himself into a normal human being by means of hiring a prostitute just for her ‘company’, and it was like watching a classic farce waiting for the inevitable moment when that was all going to end in tears. But the comedy went out the window as Oswald finally turned on Jilly, and actually gave her what looked like a really nasty punch in the mouth. It was a bleakly convincing bit of violence that served to underline how truly nasty Oswald is, but also to reinforce Jilly’s ‘ruthless bitch’ persona. She’s not one to be crossed easily, and her ranting threats to Oswald as he walked off had the convincing ring of Piers Morgan threatening someone with a long lens.

Not that she seems likely to make good on her threats though – the not entirely unexpected reappearance of the mysterious, hunky young guy from the Families took her off at a tangent by offering her a job and shooting that nice young CIA agent who was pretending to be her intern. And while our heroes are – sort of – back in the CIA’s good graces, it was hardly a surprise to discover that Friedkin wasn’t The Families’ only CIA mole. With 24 a clear influence on parts of this, that was exactly the kind of ‘twist’ we’d become familiar with after eight increasingly improbable years of following Jack Bauer around.

So, another episode that very much encapsulated Miracle Day’s strengths and weaknesses – some good character development, a bit of action, masses and masses of exposition, but none of it particularly well balanced out, either within the episode or the story overall. Nana Visitor seemed rather wasted as a non-character whose only function was to deliver concentrated information, but John De Lancie was on fine form as Shapiro. And the Oswald/Jilly storyline is still entertaining, but its payoff to the main narrative had better be good to justify so much time having been spent on it over the series as a whole. The conspiracy stuff got a nice real world beat as we discovered that The Families were responsible for the economic collapse of 2008, along with the information that, in Miracle Day world, Greece and Ireland are about to default on their national debts and send the global economy into freefall. Mind you, with current events, this seemed uncomfortably close to reality.

Only two more episodes to go, which may be a relief to some and a shame to others. I’m finding it hard to have strong feelings either way though – this is a generally entertaining and intriguing show, but its script flabbiness and uneven structure have made it far from compulsive viewing. Fortunately, though, tonight sees the return of a show I genuinely do love, even if it is currently causing a similar love/hate reaction among fanboys. Yes, Doctor Who is back tonight! Which means much more writing on this blog as I try to keep up with reviewing that and Torchwood each week. Stay tuned…

Torchwood: Miracle Day, Episode 7

Immortal Sins

With Jane Espenson back on scripting duties this week, we get a bit of an oddity. Clearly the information passed on in this episode is vital to the overall storyline. Equally clearly, this is a beautifully written little story, which puts Captain Jack front and centre for the first time this season, really. Yet given its place in the overall narrative arc, and the way it effectively ‘pauses’ the storyline, it still kinda looks like filler to me.

After my comments last week about missing Oswald and Jilly, I was rather surprised that this week’s episode actually narrowed down the cast even further. Rex and Esther get a bit of business at the end of the ep, cleverly working out that Gwen’s acting under duress (well, more by luck than judgement), and staking out the rotating triangle people’s hostage handover site. But other than that, this episode is really only about three people – in the present, Jack and Gwen, and in the past, Jack and his newly introduced ex, Angelo Colasanto.

It’s all about character development rather than progression of the Miracle storyline – though there are some vital clues here – but Espenson excels at this kind of thing, so it’s actually quite an affecting look at all three characters. The present day part of the story may have been very frustrating for viewers eager to move the plot along, consisting as it did of nothing more than a long drive to an unspecified location. But along the way, we got some great deconstruction of Jack and Gwen’s characters and relationship over the years.

Gwen’s guilty exultance in the mad and dangerous world of Torchwood was enlarged on, as was her increasing concern that this lifestyle is totally incompatible with having a family. She also overturned some of Jack’s – and the viewers’ – assumptions about her relationship with him. They may have chemistry, but it’s in the past where her family’s concerned. And she’s totally willing to hand Jack over if it means saving her family, despite, as a former police officer, presumably being aware that kidnappers are notoriously untrue to their words. Jack, for his part, gave back as good as he got with his affirmation of just how much he loves living – despite the fact that he’s been zipped through time often enough now to have experienced most of human history twice over.

And as they drove, we got a bit of cat and mouse as Jack tried to persuade Gwen to untie him, by promising to use his Vortex Manipulator (named for the first time this series, I think) to trace her family. Gwen wasn’t persuaded for more than a minute, though the question of whether he was telling the truth was left ambiguous for the viewer. The rotating triangle people chipped in with their judgement – “he always lies”. As Gwen comments, “whoever they are, they know you well”. And indeed, looking back on it, doesn’t that sound exactly like the sort of comment you’d expect from an embittered ex?

And it seems that it may be exactly that. We got our first real clues as to the identities of the rotating triangle people this week. As Deep Space Nine’s Major Kira (well, Nana Visitor – I’m sure she’s trying to avoid typecasting) turned up to collect Jack, she let slip that even Rex’s somewhat dubious marksmanship (really, how did he miss that bloke?) wouldn’t change things. Jack was going to want to meet the man at the top, because he was the man that Jack used to top! (Sorry, bad gay sex joke)

And so onto the part that took up most of the episode, with the Gwen/Jack car chat being little more than a framing story. Basically, we were looking at one long, extended flashback about a Torchwood mission Jack undertook in 1920s New York – and how he fell in love while he was there.

Given Jack’s propensity to flirt with, and shag, anything that moves, it seemed a little out of character for him to fall so heavily for one guy. Particularly when he was presumably out of time and should be returning to our present day. Actually, the script was rather vague on what he was doing there and how it fit into his established personal continuity. We know that the Vortex Manipulator can enable the wearer to travel in time, so did he just make a quick jaunt to the past to sort out the Trickster Brigade’s history meddling? Or was this one of the several times he was catapulted into the past and had to get back to the 21st century the long way?

It was actually continuity geek heaven this week, as Jack explicitly mentioned the Doctor, placing the show firmly in the Doctor Who universe just as Gwen did with her video message in Children of Earth. He also explained his immortality as being due to having become “a fixed point in space time”, which must have left a few fanboy geeks scratching their heads – if this is the first time he’s had to live through Earth history, after Rose resurrected him and deposited him in the past, he can’t have known that, as he only found out when Doctor Ten explained it to him later. Of course, if he used the Vortex Manipulator to travel there from some more recent point, that might explain it. Except, didn’t Doctor Ten deactivate the Vortex Manipulator’s time travel capacity just after explaining the “fixed point” thing to Jack? Neither really makes sense, and I suspect Russell doesn’t want us dwelling on that at too much length…

Continuity confusion aside, this was really the first episode this series that filled in Jack’s back story and explained important matters like his immortality. This seems an oddly long time to wait to foreground and explain, basically, the series’ main character – especially for new viewers. Although, it’s equally possible that new viewers might have found Jack’s mysterious nature more enthralling without early explanations.

Either way, this was Jack’s episode, and the story of his romance with Italian immigrant Angelo Colasanto was very sweetly written and played. It didn’t hurt that Daniele Favilli, the Italian actor playing Angelo, was rather easy on the eye – and due to yet another round of gratuitous sex, we got to see pretty much all of him. Actually, I’m being a little unfair – the sex scene wasn’t gratuitous, but integral to the building story of Jack and Angelo’s relationship. And it was actually quite a good sex scene. If only Daniele Favilli had been with someone rather sexier than John Barrowman, it might even have qualified as great soft porn!

As Jack has seemingly gone totally gay this year (perhaps the concept of omni-sexuality was deemed too controversial for US audiences to cope with), we got a pretty good depiction of how it must have been to be gay in 1927, both in Italy and New York. There was also a still relevant examination of how difficult it is for a religious gay man to reconcile his nature with his faith, as Angelo came to grips with the idea that his sexuality could include love along with sex.

In fact, the episode showed a great grasp of time and place in many aspects. If memory serves, Jack has been to Ellis Island before, but this time we actually saw a vivid depiction of how it may have been to be an immigrant waiting, sweaty-palmed, to find out if US authorities would let you enter and stay in the country of your dreams. And that country was shown not to be so dreamy as Angelo got used to it – with Prohibition in full swing, we saw a priest bootlegging and had a guest appearance from legendary (real) mobster Sal Maranzano.

Indeed, Angelo’s dreams were shattered in a particularly cruel way. As a naïve innocent, he’d finally found love with a man who wanted to show him a wider world of miracles, to take him on as a Doctor-style ‘companion’ as well as a lover. And then after his very first alien encounter, with an icky brain parasite thing, he finds his lover shot in the head, gets sent to Sing Sing for a year and emerges to find that his lover isn’t dead – and therefore must be the Devil. Boy, that guy has some really bad luck.

It was a genuinely shocking scene when we what we thought was going to be more rumpy pumpy turned into a stab fest as Angelo tried to ‘kill’ what he thought must be a devil from Hell. And that progressed into a truly nightmarish sequence of the Brooklyn locals ‘killing’ Jack over and over again, in some pretty brutal ways. It was basically the sort of thing the Master threatened to do in Last of the Time Lords, but was never actually shown. This time, we saw every wince-inducing moment of it – along with Angelo, whose horrified expression suggested he’d worked out that Jack wasn’t the Devil after all.

While all this was going on, we got our first real glimpse at the rotating triangle people – or at least their antecedents. And it looks like they really are people, not aliens – three anonymous looking business types wearing perfectly normal late 20s clothing. But when the three of them clasped hands to cement their partnership, it made an unmistakeable triangle shape.


Jack, semi-conscious, heard them talk of paying $10,000 to own ‘it’. Note, not ‘him’, ‘it’. Either this was yet another example of how low people can stoop, treating another human as an object, or they meant something more significant, some ‘property’ which they’d obtained from Jack. It was also highlighted that an old lady took a vial of Jack’s blood – although whether being a fixed point in spacetime is contagious is questionable.

Nevertheless, it looks like at least one person worked it out quickly enough. Angelo didn’t seem connected to the rotating triangle people in 1928, but if he’s still alive now that would put him at over 100 years old. Not impossible, but so much easier if you can’t die. Next week will presumably give us a clearer view…

So, a curious one. This was, by any standards, a pretty decent standalone episode, with some excellent writing and characterisation and a really evocative sense of period. And yet it barely moved the storyline along one iota. This, if anything, is the real problem I’ve had with Torchwood this year; it doesn’t know whether it wants to be a serial or an anthology show. This is a good episode – but it doesn’t seem to belong at this point in the story. For a properly crafted multi-episode narrative, the plotlines here might have been better threaded throughout all the episodes up to this point, rather than pausing the story proper to fill us in in an admittedly well-crafted load of backstory. That would have sacrificed a fine standalone episode, but given a far better balanced serial.

Still, despite my problems with the story structure, I’m finding each episode entertaining enough to hold my interest (though to judge by some rather venomous internet threads I may be in a minority). It’s still no classic, but there’s some interesting stuff here – Jack’s repeated ‘killings’ show yet another aspect of how low humanity can stoop, and there’s some surprisingly mature musings about sexuality, love and family. Next week though, let’s get the actual story moving along again. Please?

Torchwood: Miracle Day, Episode 5

The Categories of Life

Torchwood: Miracle Day 2011; Episode 105

Thank heavens, this week Torchwood stopped pussyfooting around and got to some really dark stuff, more in the vein of Children of Earth than the previous four episodes of running around and ‘character development’. The events this week were somewhat signposted at the end of the previous episode, but still gave a few nasty shocks on actually seeing them. This was signalled last week by the ‘Next Time’ sequence, which as in episode four of Children of Earth had Gwen talking to camera about how terrible things were going to be. As it turned out, she wasn’t exaggerating.

The various plot strands do seem to be drawing together into something more coherent, but this week was less about the Miracle and its causes than about its effects – and about how humanity deals with them. Consequently, we had less evidence of the rotating triangle people this week, though Phicorp was everywhere. We still don’t know what, if anything, Phicorp has to do with the rotating triangle people, but for this episode they were almost irrelevant. Pretty much all the nasty stuff here could be laid squarely at the door of humanity, in a similarly bleak look at our ability to stoop to the lowest moral depths in the name of pragmatism to that which is often seen in George Romero’s zombie movies. Or Children of Earth, for that matter.

Back on scripting duties this week, Jane Espenson acquitted herself rather better than previously. Unlike her last episode’s clumsy ‘British/American slang misunderstanding’ character comedy, she actually gave us some much less contrived moments of fun in the early part of the episode. John Barrowman and Mekhi Phifer in particular are starting to have some rather good buddy chemistry (or is it something more?). Captain Jack’s snidey remarks about where Vera was going to sleep (“I mean… you did… didn’t you?”) were followed up by a bit that actually made me laugh out loud, as John Barrowman affected even greater levels of camp than usual to pretend he and Rex were boyfriends. “I really love him. My crazy boyfriend!” Rex flipping him the bird just out of the paramedics’ sight was priceless.

But the humour didn’t last long, as the episode veered determinedly towards darkness. We’d got the impression last week that the ‘Overflow Camps’ had a sinister ring of segregation and internment like those Russell T Davies had previously created in Doctor Who episode Turn Left. And so it proved, as even before the credits Dr Vera was informed that the medical panels had summarily broken up and recommended that life would now have to be ‘categorised’. This would have been sinister enough without the knowledge that, as Ellis Hartley Monroe hinted last week, those who fit into the category for what would have been death were to be segregated and locked up. Of course, the big question for the audience was, what was going on in these camps? So pretty much the entire team, including new recruit Dr Vera, set about infiltrating them on both sides of the Atlantic.

Yes, Gwen was back in Wales this week on a mission to rescue her father, who Rhys had well-intentionedly sent off to one of the camps. It was good to see the UK shown properly this week, as I’d begun to think the occasional sequence of Rhys on a phone was all we’d see of this side of the pond. But this is a BBC co-production, and just hearing Welsh accents again – other than Gwen’s – made it seem more consistent with the Torchwood of old. For British viewers, it also has slightly more of an impact seeing the events unfold on familiar ground; we’re so used to seeing the US through the prism of films and TV that it seems almost fictional in itself. But internment camps in South Wales gave it a chilly reality that sunny San Pedro didn’t have, for me at least. Plus, seeing aspects of these events unfold in tow such widely separated countries gave a sense of global scale far more effective than the over used device of showing lots of different news broadcasts.

The camps, and their funding by Phicorp, gave some great opportunities for righteous anger at the healthcare systems in both countries. Gwen’s disgust at the glossy Phicorp leaflets distributed in the camps, and her realisation that the NHS couldn’t pay for all this and healthcare had effectively gone private, was oddly timely and relevant. Presumably when Russell was plotting the season, he already had some inkling of the way the incoming Tory-led government was going to try and marketise the NHS. Meanwhile, in San Pedro, Vera got some righteous anger of her own as she stumbled into the second class area of the camp – a festering hellhole where those without health insurance were left to rot, and patients weren’t even categorised properly. It was a neat indictment of the US’s two tier system of healthcare, craftily done in a sci fi setting – George Romero would be proud.

Unfortunately Vera’s righteous anger was also her undoing, in what must be the shortest run for a Torchwood agent ever. Shot by the unctuous, sexist civil servant in charge of the camp, she found herself investigating the mysterious ‘modules’ a little more closely than was entirely safe. Torchwood has never been shy about killing off main characters, and it’s one of the things that has given the show something of an edge – like Spooks, you know that no-one’s safe (well, except presumably Captain Jack). However, with the show’s main premise this year being that no-one can die (except Captain Jack), it’s been something of a challenge to put any of our heroes in mortal danger, leading to rather a lack of jeopardy.

However, as we chillingly discovered what the ‘modules’ were actually for, all that changed. Rex’s musings about them being too small for the torrent of living dead were something of a clue, but as Maloney’s fiddling with the controls was intercut with Rhys telling Gwen about the Welsh facility’s ‘burn unit’, it became horribly clear. They’re giant ovens for burning the inconveniently undead to ashes, where they can’t be a burden any more.

The internment camps in Turn Left were merely talked about, leaving their actual conditions to the viewer’s imagination. Nevertheless, the presumably intentional immediate impression was of a rerun of the Holocaust. Not having to worry about a family audience here, Russell has taken the implicit and made it explicit. The dead are to be segregated in terrible conditions and eventually burned like refuse.

The Holocaust looms large over the last eight decades of history – it’s become a benchmark for the depths of degradation the human race is capable of sinking to. As such, its echoes are prominent in drama of all genres. Sci fi has dealt with it before, notably as an allegory forming the basis of Star Trek’s darkest incarnation, Deep Space Nine, and as one of the planks of the conspiracy in The X Files, with their alien/human hybrid experimentation. Nevertheless, it’s a very sensitive subject that needs to be dealt with thoughtfully, and at least one person I know has already expressed reservations over using such an overt reference to a horrifying reality in what’s essentially a fantasy story. I do think that it’s treading a fine line here, particularly in the actual depiction of crematoria to burn the living dead to ashes; but I think the tone is about right. This season, and this episode in particular, have consciously had a fair bit of social commentary to them – and showing that, given the right conditions, we could stoop to those depths again is a disturbing, if pessimistic, possibility.

Such dark subject matter makes it difficult to be jocular about this week’s offering, but it has to be said that we were again blessed with at least one really cute young man – the rather camp nurse who ‘categorised’ Rex – and one great guest turn from Marc Vann as the slimy, perma smiling Colin Maloney, petty functionary in charge of the San Pedro camp.

Outside of the camps though, it was business as usual for Oswald Danes, making yet another rousing – if somewhat incomprehensible – speech. Bill Pullman, while still not exactly naturalistic, does seem to have permanently pulled back on the exaggerated quirks he gave the character initially, and he now seems even more sinister. And unpredictable – with both Captain Jack and Jilly Kitzinger waiting anxiously to see which of their speeches he’d deliver, he went with one of his own. Man, he told a rapturous audience of Californians, has made a great leap of evolution – to angels. Oswald’s increasing position as a new Messiah is – given that he’s a paedophile and a murderer – one of Miracle Day’s more disturbing aspects. There’s obviously a payoff waiting down the line as to why he’s so central to this, but again, this is edgy stuff – for an American show in particular.

With all that going on, the rotating triangle people did find time to put in a proxy appearance, as represented by a clean cut, Mormon missionary like young man in a suit, who popped up randomly to tell Jilly that she was doing a good job and was being noticed by ‘the right people’. Lauren Ambrose continues to be excellent as the amoral Jilly, and she seemed thrilled by the prospect. Or perhaps she was just coming on to the guy – he was kind of cute, too.

So, we’re at the story’s halfway point and we’ve already reached the stage where humanity is burning people to ashes on an industrial scale. Granted, it took a rather roundabout, dallying route for the story to reach that point, but where can it go next? Children of Earth left the actual capitulation to the aliens, and the giving up of 10% of the planet’s kiddies, to the very last episode. Here, we’re only halfway in and we’re re-enacting the Holocaust. I have no idea how you top that. It might cause a rather unbalanced storyline – or perhaps there’s something even more insane waiting in the wings.

Story spectacle aside though, there’s still plenty of unanswered questions – who are the rotating triangle people? What does Jack have to do with them? How does burning people to ashes benefit them in any way? The show’s had a shaky start this year, perhaps as a result of the radical overhaul needed to co-produce with an American company, but it seems to be into its stride now and the better for it. I don’t think it’s ever going to remembered as a classic – although the next few episodes may prove me wrong I suppose – but it’s never less than watchable, and when it hits the heights it did this week, thought-provoking too.