The Categories of Life

Posted in Episode by - March 18, 2023
The Categories of Life

Aired 05 August 2011


As PhiCorp furtively increases its presence and sway behind the scenes as the world continues to grapple with the continued lives of those who would otherwise be deceased, Torchwood continues to look into the terrifying truths confronting the public in ‘The Categories of Life’ by Jane Espenson.

This episode features probably the most plot progression of any in Miracle Day to this point, and the new categories defining life that are being accepted by the US and European governments with more to follow represent a unique means of finding a solution to the ever-growing population and its myriad conditions. At first glance, classifying individuals as healthy, as suffering from a chronic condition that likely would lead to death under normal circumstances, or as dead for all intents and purposes but for the miracle makes a certain logical sense, but as Jack points out on multiple occasions is also a process that gives far too much power to those in control. Not all people fit neatly into these categories, and this group that has adopted the moniker of Torchwood is determined to find out just what PhiCorp that has been involved with the conception of the overflow camps and the modules that the most affected are transferred to is truly planning.

Of course, Torchwood has never been afraid to kill off key characters to advance its drama and heighten its stakes, and while the miracle inherently takes away that sense of finality at least overtly in the short term, it seems only natural that Dr Juarez would be the one person to seemingly meet her end. This is an extremely intelligent and confident woman who has been quite reasonable with her thoughts and assertions in a world growing more manic, but she is also one who has quite easily gotten into certain situations simply to allow key exposition to be introduced. Her relationship with Rex has never made sense from a character standpoint, but her seeming demise- or at least permanent impairment- within an incinerator module as Rex helplessly watches on and records will assuredly have a monumental impact on Rex who has hardly been the most agreeable or supportive team player to this point. While it is a shame that Juarez should be outmanoeuvred by an overtly chauvinist opportunist who obviously does not have the best interest of anyone but himself at heart, it is fitting that she fell victim to her own character flaw of believing herself to be capable of handling any situation by herself without fully knowing what she would be confronting.

Strangely, Juarez really acts no differently than Gwen and, indeed, Torchwood does in nearly every situation, and while Gwen herself does not suffer any fatal consequences from her rash actions, her father just may. Gwen’s heart is clearly in the right place as she returns to Wales and tries to get her father out of this overflow centre, but nearly getting herself arrested due to an emotional outburst in the process and then seemingly forgetting about her father’s weakened heart as Rhys and she attempt to move him which triggers another heart attack and his reassignment to category one is far too rash even for Gwen. Compared to the suave and stylish bit of infiltration in the preceding episode, Gwen’s rather rushed attempts here pale in comparison and, as such, come off as more of a plot contrivance to further amplify the personal stakes as the world carries on in seeming ignorance of the fate in store for those classified as dead in living form. Still, it is genuinely nice to see Gwen and Rhys back together, and Eve Myles and Kai Owen rekindle their chemistry almost instantly to evoke a strong feeling of traditional Torchwood that, unfortunately, is quite jarring with what has occurred in the American setting to this point.

While it’s not yet known what the ultimate plans- if any- are for those in the burning modules, PhiCorp’s plans are assuredly moving forward just as intended as the world’s governments seemingly begin to fall in line. As expected, Oswald is fast becoming the public face for the company following his speech proclaiming his determination to fight for those who would otherwise be dead like himself, and following a tense exchange with Jack in which Jack pleads Oswald to tell the truth about PhiCorp with the evidence he has accumulated, he instead follows Jilly’s guidance to give PhiCorp its big moment after he goes off script and compares all immortal humans to angels experiencing the next big leap in evolution. He sparks a religious fervor of sorts as he continues his own descent into mania while coming to terms with his new possible position in this world, and Bill Pullman sells that element of the character well even if the sequence does little for Oswald that has not already been achieved elsewhere. Nonetheless, ‘The Categories of Life’ overcomes some rocky elements and gaps in characterization to confidently move its story forward while beginning to reveal more of the deeper layers of the miracle yet to be explored.

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