Saturday, 20 August 2011


Saturday, 20 August 2011

A resurgence of something resembling the Torchwood fans expected from the misfiring Miracle Day, if still not perfect because of some rather awkwardly-placed flashbacks and a twist everyone could see coming. But by totally ignoring the Miracle Day event, forgetting about child-killer Oswald Danes (for the second week), and keeping new characters Rex (Mekhi Phifer) and Esther (Alexa Havins) on the sidelines, "Immortals Sins" was easily the best episode yet. And one that proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Torchwood has floundered this year because everything Miracle Day-related has been a washout. It's a fantastic premise; but one that makes for a better discussion than it does a television drama.

This week, Gwen (Eve Myles) was forced into kidnapping Jack (John Barrowman) by whomever's controlling her high-tech contact lenses and threatening the lives of her family in Wales. A large chunk of the episode was a simple two-hander between those characters on a nighttime drive to a rendezvous point, punctuated by flashbacks to New York in 1927 where Jack's an émigré being processed at Ellis Island. It's there he meets a dashing Italian called Angelo Colassanto (Daniele Favilli) who tried to steal his fake visa, only to strike up a friendship that quickly turns sexual as they move into an apartment together. Jack's the wise older man, who opens Angelo's eyes to the promise of this New World while being key to his sexual awakening, but who can't quite convince the devout Catholic that what they're doing isn't sinful. Angelo prays for forgiveness every time they have sex, and eventually becomes convinced Jack's the Devil incarnate after witnessing his lover's death and resurrection while working as bootleggers for the mob.

There was just a lot more going on in this episode than usual, and even if it didn't all work perfectly it was a rich oasis of story and character in the narrative desert of Miracle Day. It was a particular relief to have a story so focused on Captain Jack, who's been criminally wasted in his own show for half the season. John Barrowman's hardly the greatest actor in the world, and I find Jack's flippancy and double entendres more embarrassing/uncomfortable than funny, but "Immortal Sins" gave Barrowman halfway decent material to work with. His seduction of the closeted Angelo was handled nicely, and overall you could believe these two men had a strong bond, but that Jack's maverick attitude (born of his immortality) means a relationship is such a struggle to maintain. In fact, Angelo became more interesting in one hour than Rex has in six.

For those wishing Miracle Day had more explicit sci-fi elements to it, the return of Jack's immortality would have been appreciated. A sequence where Jack was hung up and repeatedly murdered by people who think they've caught El Diablo in their basement was gruesomely memorable), and the presence of a giant mind-altering alien parasite in a crate of ice was a fun touch.

We even had a few big clues about Miracle Day's explanation, with three rival Mafia Don's apparently agreeing to utilize Jack's immortality for their own ends—meaning those men must be "The Families" mentioned by the assassin in "Escape To L.A". They even shook hands in a manner that formed a triangle, which explains the rotating triangle logo we've seen a few times. And as The Families were smuggling alien parasites in the '20s, isn't it feasible they found technology that could turn mortality on its head? Jack's torturers also took lots of his blood, so maybe that's been used to somehow turn everyone immortal? And with the last scene reveal that Gwen's puppetmaster Angelo, I'm assuming Jack's old boyfriend ascended to a position of authority as a gangster and then spent decades trying to find Jack? But why create Miracle Day? It can't have been an accident if The Families had PhiCorp stockpile painkillers a year in advance. And when we meet Angelo, will he be a wrinkled centenarian or an immortal?

Overall, "Immortal Sins" was a surprisingly very good episode. It delivered tangible clues and made you think more about Miracle Day's origin and purpose. It's arrived far too late in this disappointing season, but I'm hoping the final three episodes will maintain this quality so the story ends well. If they can just give us a plausible explanation for everything, that would go some way to restoring Torchwood's reputation. It still wouldn't be enough for me to change my mind about this year's output as a whole, but it definitely wouldn't hurt.


  • The biggest reference yet to Doctor Who came here, with Jack talking about his friend "The Doctor" and how he'd travel with a companion.
  • I liked the reveal that Esther and Rex had realized Gwen was being coerced by an outside force. It also made those two characters look genuinely capable and intelligence for once, which was appreciated.
  • Fun to see Nana Visitor here; best-known as Major Kira Nerys from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Continuing the trend of Miracle Day to cast genre faces, from Jurassic Park's Wayne Knight and Dollhouse's Dichen Lachman, to Ghostbusters' Ernie Hudson. I hear we have Star Trek's John de Lancie to come. My guess is he'll be a villain.
written by Jane Espenson / directed by Gwyneth Horder-Payton / 19 August 2011 / Starz