Torchwood: Escape to L.A.
(1 episode, s04e04, 2011)
Assassins and espionage try to cover for a lack of story.
Despite Gwen’s warnings, Esther decides to visit her sister Sarah. The house is boarded up and the door is guarded by a series of locks, but Sarah is at home. Sarah warns Esther that people are looking for her, warning her away from major metropolitan areas like Boston and New York City. Sarah rejects Esther’s comfort and concern about Sarah’s children. Esther promises to return as soon as she can.
When Esther returns to her car, she calls Child Protective Services to help the kids. Esther leaves, unaware of the car following her on orders from their mysterious antagonists.
The Torchwood team travels to Los Angeles, California. Jack gazes upon the Pacific Ocean, musing that he hasn’t seen it for about seventy years. They’re looking for PhiCorp, and despite Gwen’s desire to stay on the sand in the sun, Jack decides to look for a temporary headquarters elsewhere.
Rex finds a flyer for Dead is Dead and calls Vera. The campaign is being spearheaded by Ellis Hartley Monroe on the premise that those who should have died are to be treated as if they are dead, merely waiting for their “pause” in mortality to end. In contrast, Doctor Juarez and the medical panel are looking at an abandoned hospital as an overflow for ICU patients.
Jack secures a hideout and Gwen phones Rhys to check in while Rex wonders if Jack’s goal is to turn everyone he meets gay. Jack quips that it is the plan. The team starts to settle in, tracing the threads on Oswald, Jilly, and PhiCorp.
Elsewhere, Jilly and Oswald continue their public relations campaign. Oswald is enjoying the perks of fancy hotels, but while she remains professional, Jilly can’t stand Oswald’s history. She also brings news that Oswald’s appearance that day has been cancelled in lieu of Ellis Hartley Monroe. Oswald is in danger of being kicked to the curb and into the hands of the waiting mob.
Rex decides to find his father, who is now a thief stealing PhiCorp drugs. The reunion is testy, but in the end Rex ends up with another box of pills.
Later, Esther briefs the team on PhiCorp’s secure server and her plan to exchange it for an empty duplicate. Access is restricted to the biometrics of Nicholas Frumkin. To secure his biodata, Jack and Gwen go undercover Mission: Impossible-style as an annoying American couple.
The new hospital under Vera Juarez’s management is failing miserably. There are no protocols, no electricity, and people just being deposited without permission. Regardless, Monroe stages a Dead is Dead rally outside, which is where Oswald was going to hold a public event. Oswald decides to enter the hospital, drawing media attention as he boldly states that he’s not scared of the people inside. He reinvents himself as the spokesman and advocate — perhaps, even a messiah — for them. Monroe departs in anger, being poisoned on the way by the antagonists.
One of those agents, posing as Torchwood, ambushes Frumkin in a parking garage. The agent secures the biometrics by force, including mutilating him for his eye scan and handprint. Frumkin lives through the torture courtesy of the Miracle.
Gwen goes undercover as Yvonne Pallister, International Sales Representative at PhiCorp. She’s backed up by Esther, posing as Lorraine in Human Resources, and Jack as a delivery worker. The team stages a fire to evacuate the building and uses the biometrics to enter the server room.
As the operation kicks off, Esther discovers that Sarah has been detained for psychological evaluation and her kids are in the system. Rex realizes that someone may have follower Esther during her ill-advised trip and berates her while she works. While Esther balances Rex and Gwen, Gwen is attacked by the bad agent. Jack tries to assist but is knocked out as well. Rex rushes to the rescue, having to climb the stairs all the way with his chest wound, while the assassin monologues to Jack.
The assassin says that the reason Jack is mortal is because of something that happened many years ago. Apparently, Jack caused all this, and the moment has come as they have found “specific geography”. Just as he is about to reveal his employers, Rex comes in guns-a-blazing. The assassin collapses against the wall as Rex demands thanks for saving their lives.
Monroe awakens inside a car that is in a compactor. The poison should have killed her but she was saved by the Miracle. The triangle pattern appears on the car’s screen and a voice apologizes for what is about to happen. They liked her style and acknowledge that they could have been friends, but her methods were exposing their plan. As the voice promises that the “families” will rise, the car is compacted. Monroe’s shattered remains still live in the metal prison.
Back at their base, the Torchwood team discovers the plans for the overflow camps. Unfortunately, Rhys has already schedule Gwen’s father for one of the camps. Rhys is too late to stop the transfer.
Gwen’s father now belongs to PhiCorp.
Torchwood stumbled here with a mediocre story with quite a bit of padding. Getting the team to Los Angeles to pursue PhiCorp was good, as was the spy story to access and swap out the secure server. Adding the assassin to the plot was a great foil and served well to push the antagonists into the spotlight alongside the Oswald Danes story.
It was good to see that Jilly has some semblance of a soul, merely tolerating Oswald to serve her employers. It was also good to see the concentration camp narrative threads continued, as well as seeing Oswald chasing the spotlight to remain relevant.
The points where the story lost pacing were with the family tangents for Esther and Rex. The Esther tangent was tolerable, even though it could have been easily skipped over in exchange for a shorter way for the assassin to track the team, but the Rex tangent was pointless. The parallel between Gwen’s and Esther’s phone usage was important to note, but I think it would have been more powerful if the phone was how Esther was traced instead of by burning precious minutes talking through a barricaded door.
It feels like a lot of missed opportunities were swaddled in unnecessary drama, and the pacing established in the first three episodes was sacrificed in the process.
Rating: 2/5 – “Mm? What’s that, my boy?”
UP NEXT – Torchwood: The Categories of Life
The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.
One thought on “Timestamp #TW35: Escape to L.A.”
[…] New World – 5 Rendition – 4 Dead of Night – 4 Escape to L.A. – 2 The Categories of Life – 4 The Middle Men – 3 Immortal Sins – 3 End of the Road – 3 […]