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Torchwood: Miracle Day, Episode 9, The Gathering, Recap and Review: RTD Channels Ken Russell?

Thompson on Hollywood By David Chute | Thompson on Hollywood September 4, 2011 at 2:48AM

David Chute wishes he was in Shanghai.The plan was to spell out what I meant by that title, but on second thought it might be more fun to make a contest out of it. Readers who figure out the reference and its relevance to the next-to-the-last episode of Torchwood: Miracle Day will receive absolutely nothing for their pains except bragging tights. But when fans gather, isn't that what it's all about?
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Thompson on Hollywood

David Chute wishes he was in Shanghai.

The plan was to spell out what I meant by that title, but on second thought it might be more fun to make a contest out of it. Readers who figure out the reference and its relevance to the next-to-the-last episode of Torchwood: Miracle Day will receive absolutely nothing for their pains except bragging tights. But when fans gather, isn't that what it's all about?

This was the episode in which The Blessing, long rumored, finally made a personal appearance -- a fairly impersonal PA, though, if you think about it, because what the thing looked like (one of the things it looked like) was a cavernous, sparkly geological formation, as if the entire planet was one gigantic geode and we were peering into its crystal-lined depths.

And only a person with his or her mind firmly wedged in the gutter could ever imagine it looked like anything else.

Thompson on Hollywood


What did we accomplish? A texting hipster minion of the Three Families supplied an interesting perspective on how the founders, the men in the basement, divided up the world of influence: "One took politics, one took finance and one took media." (Obviously a man of taste, he also told Lauren Ambrose's electric red Jilly Kitzinger that her "hair is a work of art," which was exactly what we had been thinking.)

We mourned the passing of Gwen's dad, a Category One hauled away by the representatives of the quick-rising fascist government of the UK. We sat through the awkward plot-engineering required to enlist pedophile murderer and global fugitive Oswald Danes (the ongoingly magnificent Bill Pullman), along with Jack and Gwen, in the Torchwood expeditionary force that travels to Shanghai to find one end of The Blessing. We say "one end," because it turns out to be an antipodal globe-piercing formation whose other pole is in Buenos Aires. ("Two of the biggest cities on earth," says Alexa Havins' Esther Drummond, always johnny-on-the-spot with a helpful fact.)

This seems to us to be step in the right direction, a formation that could resonate on a global scale. We hope not morphically, though we fear the worst, because The Blessing generates a wave field that is said to effect every person differently, a field akin to magnetism that "calls to" (their term) the blood of Jack Harkness, causing one cute little CG drop of it to scamper across the floor of his hotel room, pointing the way toward the target.

Despite its occasional silliness, "The Gathering" gave us reason to hope that RTD and company would be able to end this uneven, companionable, infuriating and exhilarating experiment in trans-Atlantic creativity on a majestic note.

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.