Escape to L.A.

Posted in Episode by - March 18, 2023
Escape to L.A.

Aired 29 July 2011


Following their suspicions that PhiCorp is somehow connected to the miracle that has bestowed immortality upon humanity, Jack, Gwen, Rex, and Esther head to California as Oswald Danes and Jilly Kinzinger discover new adversaries in their public relations push in the fourth episode of Miracle Day, ‘Escape to L.A.’ by Jim Gray and John Shiban.

By keeping the impact of the miracle relatively smaller in scale and more in the background and by dedicating the majority of its time to simply moving characters around to service the advancement of its plot that itself has been the result of many convenient happenstances, Miracle Day has gotten off to a much rockier start than should have been expected for an established franchise coming off such a successful five-episode run in Children of Earth. This is accentuated by the fact that Rex Matheson who is obviously supposed to be a heroic figure and who has admittedly shown certain heroic tendencies has been written as a wholly unlikable and self-centred character to this point. That’s not to take away from the performance of Mekhi Phifer who is playing the role with conviction and unquestionably sells the character’s shortcomings and strengths in equal measure, but it’s difficult to support such a deeply flawed character who here has a completely disproportionate and unsympathetic response to Esther’s mistake of visiting her sister and drawing attention to their group. The episode does try to add a little more nuance to the character by having him interact with his father with whom he clearly has issues and who is hoarding stolen PhiCorp drugs, but there’s little emotional impact here and culminates without any real resonance to balance out his incredibly harsh interactions with everyone around him.

On the other hand, Esther’s visit to her sister and subsequent phone check on her situation are much more impactful because they realistically show how this character who is not used to being in the field and ostracized by her organization is struggling to cope. This is certainly the strongest performance from Alexa Havins to date as Esther comes to discover the very dangerous situation her sister who believes in all of the conspiracies regarding the miracle has created for her children, and the internal conflict she has about calling child protective services to fill the void her absence has created offers some of the strongest characterization of this series to date.

Miracle Day hasn’t exactly been subtle with any of its themes or characters, but ‘Escape to L.A.’ does manage to give some further clarification to the thoughts and motivations of Oswald Danes as well. His horrific previous actions naturally mean that he cannot simply resume a normal life in public, and while his ability to sway public opinion to his side during the turmoil of the miracle has been surprising, his commitment to becoming a voice for the people like him who should be dead in order to maintain his public platform is quite well-developed and ensures that he will be a meaningful and integral presence going forward. Bill Pullman already highlighted the furtive menace and malice of Oswald in the previous episode, but Oswald’s scene in the hospital speaking to the infirmed is a brilliant counterpunch that showcases the sense of optimism and dedication he can instill in others. As a countermovement to isolate those who should be dead from those who should be alive grows from the concern about limited space and resources, Oswald remains a surprisingly intriguing character, and it will be interesting to see just how deeply his storyline intertwines with PhiCorp’s as it is revealed that this company is also involved in the proposed overflow camps for the sick, one of which Gwen’s father is being transferred to much to Gwen’s horror.

Though it’s a bit clichéd to have Rex shoot the assassin targeting Jack and Gwen just as he is about to reveal the identity of his employers for no real reason, ‘Escape to L.A.’ at least begins to delve into the mysterious forces behind the miracle that have some tie to Jack’s past. It’s all a bit procedural at this point, but it does add a needed layer to the threat of the week format and at the very least begins to showcase how pervasive this group’s presence is as it looks to advance its agenda while keeping certain elements out of the public eye. Miracle Day still hasn’t quite fully found its footing as it blends its international components with Gwen and Jack suavely performing corporate espionage in a manner befitting of a US thriller being quite jarring in particular, but even with Rex growing increasingly unlikable, this fourth episode regains a strong sense of momentum and finally offers the hints of a greater background threat looming.

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