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Oswald Danes is a fictional character in the science fiction series Torchwood, portrayed by American actor Bill Pullman. The character was promoted as one of five new main characters to join Torchwood in its fourth series, Torchwood: Miracle Day (2011), as part of a new co-production between Torchwood’s British network, BBC One, and its American financiers on US premium television network Starz. Pullman appears in eight of the ten episodes, and is credited as a series regular. Whilst reaction to the serial and Pullman’s character was mixed, Pullman’s portrayal was praised by critics and in 2012 he received a Saturn Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor on Television.
The narrative of Miracle Day focuses on an event in which death ceases to occur across the world and the gravely-wounded continue to remain alive. On the first day of this phenomenon, the so-called Miracle Day, Oswald, a former schoolteacher and convicted paedophile–murderer, survives his own execution, drawing global attention, and subsequently is released from prison on a legal technicality. After being offered both exposure and protection by Public Relations expert Jilly Kitzinger (Lauren Ambrose), he becomes her client, which helps him gain more publicity. Following a series of events he ends up aiding Torchwood, a team composed of two former alien-hunters and two former CIA agents, on their mission to restore death to the world. Danes is killed off in the final episode of the series; when death is restored he takes one of the Torchwood team’s enemies out in a murder–suicide.
Critics commented upon the character’s resemblance both to horror film killers such as Freddy Krueger and Hannibal Lecter, as well as to American Evangelists and to the biblical Jesus Christ. The series also follows Danes’ rise and fall in the public eye and the precariousness of fame. Though the wisdom of having a paedophile as a character in Torchwood was challenged, the show’s creative team decided to take a strong line on whether the character was likeable or not; he was not to be. In killing the character off, the creative team did not wish to suggest that the character had been redeemed for his earlier crimes, and made sure that this was emphasised even in his final act of self-sacrifice. Pullman has expressed interest in reprising the role in a future Torchwood series.
The first scene of Miracle Day depicts Oswald Danes surviving execution by lethal injection due to death spontaneously ceasing. His lawyers successfully advance a force majeure argument; as a result the Governor of Kentucky is reluctantly forced to release Danes on parole. Oswald accepts an offer of representation from PR guru Jilly Kitzinger (Lauren Ambrose) after his fame leads to him being assaulted in public, leading to him becoming a spokesman for Phicorp, a drug company hoping to capitalise on the absence of death. During Torchwood’s investigations into PhiCorp, Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) confronts Danes, who admits the falsity of his expressed remorse. Tensions arise between Kitzinger and Danes when he is eclipsed in the media by Tea Party politician Ellis Hartley Monroe (Mare Winningham) and her “Dead is Dead” campaign. Danes launches an ad hoc publicity stunt; a video of Danes holding and comforting a baby girl goes viral and results in Monroe’s media attention waning. at the “Miracle Rally” held by PhiCorp in Los Angeles Danes gives an impassioned speech, stating his belief that humanity had evolved into “everlasting angels” and revels in the audience chanting his name.
Danes’ brief media career comes to an end in “End of the Road”. While at a hotel in Dallas, Texas a prostitute named Claire (Megan M. Duffy) tells him that he is due to be classified as “Category Zero”. Jilly reveals that this is a ruling that would have convicted criminals like Danes incinerated, and that Oswald’s moment of fame is over. Following from this, Danes smuggles himself into Wales, where he arrives at the home of Torchwood agent Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles). Having stolen Kitzinger’s laptop, Danes reveals that she left clues to the location of “the Blessing” in mistranslated news stories from China and Argentina. Fearful that Rhys (Kai Owen), Gwen’s husband and father of their daughter, may murder Danes she and Jack take him to Shanghai. In “The Blood Line” Jack straps Oswald with explosives and uses him as insurance against his and Gwen’s lives as they face the Families, the perpetrators of the ‘Miracle’. When death is restored, Oswald detains the Mother (Frances Fisher), the leader of the families, before detonating them both. With his last words he professes that he will again pursue his child rape–victim in hell.
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