Torchwood Miracle Day — WTF?

OK, maybe I’m in the minority here, but I’ve actually been enjoying Torchwood:  Miracle Day.  The first episode was crap, sure, but I’m glad I stuck with it, as most of it has been watchable, with occasional moments of downright quality.  It ain’t Children Of Earth (which I think was a giant leap forward for the show), but it’s at least in the same general area, and is still miles ahead of the unevenness of the wanna-be X-Files episodes of the first two seasons.  Torchwood finally found its path in Children of Earth, and I was thinking that Miracle Day was, at the very least, an attempt to be more of the same.

Well, that’s shot all to hell now.  This last episode has made me go back to hating Miracle Day with the intensity of the hatred I had for Rex during that first episode.  Indeed, it has brought back all the things I hated about the first episode and completely erased everything I was starting to dig about the show.

The catalyst was John De Lancie’s character, one CIA higher-up by the name of Shapiro.  We instantly like Shapiro because he hates Wayne Knight’s character (Wayne Knight is here playing the CIA middle-management version of his character in Jurassic Park — one way or the other, you know he’s going to end up getting eaten).  But Knight’s character was giving our heroes a hard time, so it’s Shapiro to the rescue!

Except it’s not.  Although he takes Knight out of the picture (before the “families” take him out permanently), Shapiro is a jerk to the Torchwood team and ends up causing them heaps of trouble — heaps of trouble that he has absolutely no business causing them.  He brushes aside the complaint that the CIA has no domestic jurisdiction although it’s a completely valid criticism.  But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  He “deports” Gwen.  Really?  The CIA can have someone deported?  Isn’t that more a job for ICE?  Aren’t there deportation hearings and stuff?  Don’t you need charges to deport someone?  Charges other than “she’s pissing me off”?  (NOBODY questioned this?  None of Shapiro’s subordinates?  Nobody at the airline?  The TSA?  All of these people just let the CIA buy a ticket for this woman and bundle her on a plane against her will without any complaint?  Gwen was probably yelling — or at least crying — and everyone just LET THIS HAPPEN?  I will return to this theme later, but let’s get back to Shapiro for a second.)

Shapiro won’t let Jack leave, either.  A few minutes before, he wanted Torchwood and the CIA working together, but after Esther stumbled on the bit about the floor, and Shapiro realized Jack might know something about it, Shapiro decides Jack won’t leave the house.  On exactly what basis does he have this authority?  Because Jack might know something relevant?  Yeah, we do that to all our witnesses in the United States — imprison them against their will until they tell us what we think they know.  Looks kind of like an illegal seizure to me.  Again, nobody complains.  Shapiro’s team just goes along with it.  (Although it’s not the main point of my criticism, I also note here that Jack is a big-time hero with centuries of experience and some alien tech on him — and the huge difficulty he has to overcome in this episode is a couple of CIA guys who won’t let him leave a house?  A couple episodes ago, he and Gwen were blowing up incinerators and shutting down death camps, but now he’s stymied by a bureaucrat’s order to stay put?  Have we run out of good ideas?  I digress.  Back to Shapiro.)

There was that one glittering moment when we thought Shapiro was going to be a good guy and demonstrate that somewhere in the CIA, there is intelligence and a respect for the law.  But we haven’t met even one person at the CIA with any authority who has some vague idea of the Constitution (and a passing thought that it should perhaps be followed).  As far as the Torchwood writers are concerned, everyone at the CIA is either: (a) in the pocket of the bad guys; or (b) of the belief that they are simply above the law and can do whatever they damn well please.  It’s starting to look a lot like CTU.  (Come to think of it, maybe the writers are using 24 for inspiration — as Rex seems to be modelled on Jack “forget I was tortured an hour ago, just give me an aspirin and I’ll be fine” Bauer.)

I wouldn’t mind a (fictional) CIA completely filled with traitors and self-righteous rule-breakers were it not for the fact that we know that Torchwood is capable of so much better.  Where is someone, ANYONE, with the complexity of Frobisher from Children of Earth?  And it isn’t just the CIA.  Can Miracle Day show me one American character who is, in any way, struggling with the moral implications of what is going on here?  (Vera came closest, so, of course, they killed her off.)  Jilly Kitzinger is such a deliciously fun character because she has absolutely no moral compass — but that only works if other people in the show actually have them.

In thinking about this, I realize that it isn’t only this episode.  The lack of debate and moral outrage has been simmering in the background of the whole series — I’ve just been overlooking it.  And this brings me back to the point about all of the people in the airport who must have just sat there doing nothing when CIA agents tossed Gwen on the plane:  Where the hell are my outraged Americans?  Jack and Gwen figured that as soon as they went public with the truth about what was happening to the Category Ones, the public outcry would immediately shut down the camps.  And the show seems to suggest that the burnings were, in fact, suspended (at least for now).  But that’s not enough — and it wouldn’t be enough — if this sort of stuff was actually going down in our country.  Hell, we make a Congressman resign over texting pictures of his junk — you don’t think we’d try to impeach a President who approved burning people alive?  If Congress passed this thing without anyone knowing it, we’d very likely have a revolution on our hands.

Torchwood makes it sound like Gwen is the only person who has a relative who has been classified Category One because we’re certainly not seeing the outraged family members storm the camps (or bring the lawsuits. If the Torchwood writers don’t think courts would be racing each other to issue injunctions against this obviously unconstitutional practice, they know nothing about the U.S. legal system.  Torchwood also makes it sound like the general public doesn’t care — that we’re a bunch of sheep who go to Oswald Danes rallies or cheer on the “Dead is Dead” campaign.  Episode One was quick to say some undefined organization made a finding that Danes had to be released since his execution had failed.  (This particular plot device was problematic, to say the least, but I’ve let it slide.)  But now, where is the organization fighting for the civil rights of the Category Ones?  Where is the ACLU when people are being rounded up and incinerated?

What made Children of Earth such a wonderful piece of television was that the real evil in the piece wasn’t the 456; it was the room full of government officials who were forced to make an impossible decision and rationalized their way into making it.  The evil was a government lying to its people and rounding up their children for a fate worse than death.  But the people in Children of Earth fought back — even when they didn’t really know what the government was up to, they didn’t stand still for it.

What makes Miracle Day such an unforgiveble piece of crap is that it assumes that when the people of America know exactly what unspeakable evil their government is up to, they don’t care (and instead want to hear the “bisected bride” speak).  Even that would be acceptable if it was somehow the message of Miracle Day — if the whole point of the show was to demonstrate how easy it is for an entire populace to completely lose track of everything it values when faced with an uncertain future.  But that isn’t the point of Miracle Day; it barely even achieves subplot status.  What the public is doing (or isn’t doing) seems to matter only for what it means for Danes.

That the people of the United States haven’t taken their government out after what the government did in Miracle Day is the saddest, scariest, most sickening element of the plot of the show.  That the writers of the show simply had this occur in the background and just assumed audiences would accept it as normal American behavior is ridiculous.  We are better than that. We deserve better than that.